Sunday, May 20, 2012
5 Things Every Author Needs to Understand About Self-Publishing
So now you are either self-publishing or thinking about self-publishing.
Yes, welcome to the world of everybody.
I have a question for you. Do you actually want to make some money at it?
Here’s the good news: your ficus can make money self-publishing. Your cat, Jingles, can make money self-publishing.
Of course, by money we are talking about enough scratch to buy some Bazooka at your local 7-Eleven. Or maybe a Venti White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks. That’s not bad. It’s something.
But if you want to make some real dime, and keep it coming, there are a few things you need to understand.
1. You are going into business
The authors who are making significant money self-publishing operate with sound business principles. Which makes many other authors as nervous as Don Knotts.
“I’m just not wired that way!” they’ll say. “I want to concentrate on my writing! I haven’t got the time or inclination to think about business decisions.”
But guess what? Even if you have a traditional publishing contract, you’re going to have to give time and attention to business, namely marketing.
What if you spent a little of that same time and effort learning the principles of successful self-publishing?
Of course, a lot of authors now want to go right into digital. Well, don’t do it until you fully understand that it’s a business you’re going to be running. That business is you.
Learn how. The basics are not that hard. In fact, I’ll have a book out soon that’ll help.
2. Your mileage will vary
No one can replicate another author’s record. Each author and body of work are unique. Innumerable factors play into the results, many of which are totally out of the control of the writer.
If you go into self-publishing expecting to do as well as author X, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Instead, concentrate on being the best provider of content you can be. See # 5, below.
3. This isn’t get rich quick
In the “early days” of the ebook era, those who jumped in with both feet (Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, John Locke) and those who had loads of backlist (Bob Mayer) or caffeinated series ideas (Lee Goldberg) got some nice returns.
Now, the future for the overwhelming majority of writers is about quality production, consistently and over time. A long time. Which is fine if you love to write.
4. You can’t just repeat “buy my stuff” and expect to sell any of it
We have left the age of sales and are now in the age of social. The way you market today is not by hard sell but by relationship. Even if you’re putting together sales copy, you have to think about how it offers value to the potential reader.
What isn’t valuable is a string of tweets that are little more than “buy my stuff” or “please RT this” messages. Some authors think it’s a numbers game and repeating these messages will work over time.
They won’t. They’ll annoy more people than they’ll attract.
5. It is first, and always, about the book
I don’t care if you can out promote and out market anyone on the internet.
I don’t care if you can afford to spend $100,000 to place ads for your books.
If your book fails to catch on with readers or, worse, turns them off, you’re not going to do well over the long haul.
Which is how it should be, after all. The quality of the writing itself should be the main thing in this whole crazy process.
So you should concentrate a good chunk of your time, even more than you do on marketing, on a writing self-improvement program alongside your actual writing output.
One of the reasons I’m conducting intense, two-day writing workshops this year is to take each and every writer who attends to that next level, where green is earned year after year.
Now is the best time in history to be a writer. No question about it. The barriers to entry have been destroyed and opportunities to generate income have taken their place. But you have to think strategically. Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, puts it this way: "The biggest challenge faced by self-published authors, it’s not marketing, it’s not discoverability, it’s adopting the best practices of the very best publishers. It’s about becoming a professional publisher."
Of course, if you have trouble with that, you can always partner with your cat Jingles.
We’re fast closing in on the Austin, TX 2 day fiction workshop, June 16-17. To get the special room rate, sign up with the hotel before June 1. Details here.
I’ve posted a new writing video on Agents. If you want to know what a pitch session feels like, tune in.