Novel ideas: Olivia’s tips for becoming a successful self-published author

99designs Team

Behind every great design is an even greater story. In recognition of National Novel Writing Month, we’re excited to introduce you to Olivia Wildenstein, a self-published author currently living in Switzerland. When she’s not writing, she’s psychoanalyzing everyone she meets, baking up a storm and attempting not to be late at her children’s school.

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Turning the page to self-publication

Olivia has been writing her creative heart out for the past six years. Unfortunately, though, her books were remaining hidden in an electronic stash inside of her computer rather than prominently displayed on the bookshelf. Earlier this year, encouraged by an entourage of fellow writers and her supportive family, Olivia finally took that step all writers long for but fear: publication.

Olivia primarily writes Young Adult fiction (fiction for teens and teens-at-heart). But her latest novel, The Masterpiecers—a gripping psychological mystery that deals with topics like mental illness and prison—is aimed at a slightly more mature audience. She made the decision to self-publish The Masterpiecers for two reasons:

  1. She couldn’t land the infamous agent, still considered the gatekeeper of the publishing world.
  2. Her husband is an entrepreneur, and like all entrepreneurs, considered the do-it-yourself approach the only valid approach.

Much to her husband’s dismay, Olivia hasn’t sworn off the traditional publishing approach just yet—if she lands a deal someday, then great. But she doesn’t actively seek it out anymore and believes that, in time, she will exclusively self-publish because the process becomes easier with each book. She already has over a thousand readers and she’s only published one book.

Olivia’s 6-step self-publication process

Sometimes the hardest part of self-publication is simply making the commitment to put yourself out there. According to Olivia, following the actual steps can be can be easy and exciting:

  1. You write your book
  2. You enlist beta-readers (ie. friends or other writers) to read it and give you their opinions
  3. You do some (often a lot of) rewrites
  4. You find a professional editor and have your book proofed
  5. You find a talented cover designer
  6. You submit it to CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing platform), Lulu, IngramSpark, etc. and they format it into an e-book and/or paperback novel.

The downside of self-publishing, Olivia tells us, is selling your book (and yourself). “I call it a downside because most authors would rather write than send out newsletters, submit their book for reviews and reach out to bloggers for promotional blog tours and spotlights,” she explains, while admitting that the process has become easier today thanks to services Goodreads and NetGalley.

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3 tips for boosting book sales

While many authors have no interest in marketing and sales, Olivia points to a few easy ways that the online world can make self-promotion a relatively painless process.

  1. Offer discounted pricing
    One of the quickest ways to boost sales is creating countdown deals (discounting your books) and offering them up on promotional platforms like BookBub, BookSends and The Books Machine.
  2. Rack up positive reviews
    Landing good reviews is a quintessential part of the process. Olivia suggests either writing to individual book bloggers or offering ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) through NetGalley and through your blog.
  3. Create a compelling cover
    The book cover is the face of your product. It’s responsible for generating curiosity about your story, so Olivia stresses the importance of creating a cover that’s as high quality as your content.

When it came time to design the cover of The Masterpiecers, Olivia ran into a new form of writer’s block. “I had no clue what I wanted and that was one of the reasons I used 99designs: I wanted ideas!” To give the designers a true feel for her story, Olivia was as informative as possible while filling in her online design brief. And after the contest launched, Olivia faced precisely the opposite problem. “The three finalists surpassed my expectations and made it extraordinarily hard to choose one design. So I launched a poll on my Facebook page, Writers Anonymous. I wanted readers’ opinions, and that’s exactly what I got. That’s how I picked ‘the one!’”

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Advice for aspiring authors

Many people dream of writing their own book. Luckily for them, in today’s literary world you don’t need an agent or contract to find success.

“We live in the most propitious time to be entrepreneurs,” says Olivia, who points to easy access to instrumental websites like Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon and 99designs. The advanced opportunities for wanna-be authors make their dreams a reality, though, can also make the competition tougher.

“The key to sustaining your dream is to remember its origin and savor the journey,” Olivia advises. “Obstacles will make you stronger, experience will make you wiser, and dedication will make you cleverer. Good luck stopping a strong, wise and clever person.”

The ‘write’ stuff

Ready to wow the world with your words? Go for it—we’d love to help.

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