Publishing Questions and Answers

Having worked in the writing/publishing world for more than ten years, I have noticed massive changes in the way publishing works for both independent and traditionally published authors. After a successful five year indie book campaign, I negotiated a deal with a UK publisher which gave me further insight into this elusive business.

But often for new writers, the area of publishing is daunting altogether, so in good faith I have answered a few questions. (Bear in mind that I am based in the United Kingdom and publishing methods can vary in other countries.)

Lastly, my thanks goes to @crites_es for posting the following questions for me to answer in Twitter, which we both agreed would be useful for others.

1. It’s my understanding that you have to market yourself regardless if you self or traditionally publish. What’s pros and cons for both?

I know that many independent publishers today require their authors to make some considerable effort towards marketing their books. If you don’t have something more to offer them other than a manuscript, i.e. time, personality, drive, confidence… it’s not the most attractive pitch.

Traditionally published authors are stepping up to doing a lot of the marketing themselves, by agreement even, and for many reasons. One is that many independent publishers don’t have the resources or time to do it for every single author they have. It can’t be a bad thing to do a few book signings yourself, talk to reader/library groups etc. So that is a pro. With a good pitch you can attend signings and festivals with a good publisher’s backing. Attending writing groups is also a good way to improve your social skills in this respect.

The con is that if you’re a particularly shy person who isn’t great at putting yourself forward it’s going to be doubly hard. This also applies if you live in a remote area and have little access to venues or locations where you could actively promote your work.

2. If you self publish can you still send the book off to publishers to see if they will accept it?

Some publishers are very strict on this. Others may be open to discussion. It really is a matter of asking.

My publisher offered me a hybrid deal. It suited me because I retain a lot of the control I already had, and get a ‘little extra.’ through true publishing channels. In effect I am both a self published and a published author. This is becoming more common today. My books were re-published with a new ISBN which is required by the publisher for his own trade catalogue. (This is how you come across books saying “First published by.. or Second Edition published by..”) Yes! Books can really do the rounds.

My books were also deposited to national libaries in Oxford/Cambridge in London and distributed in the paperback trade via companies that are ‘locked in’ to publishers only. Those aspects of marketing come under a publisher’s control. How that actually works down at admin quarters, I have little clue because I am not a true publisher, but it is their end of the deal and my book is a product. He sells a few and I get my royalty, so win/win.

At the end of the day, it all depends on what the publisher wants from you and what you are able to offer, and wish to accept. It can be a small bit of support or it can be large.

3. What are the best ways to advertise your work?

Each SP author needs to learn this and it takes a while. It took me over a year to gain traction. Some tips: Make sure you don’t spam. It never works. And it doesn’t really work selling to those who are also trying to sell to you. Seek writers for feedback, book swaps etc. If you’ve done your homework in knowing your target audience you should be looking in those places, for your customers: the readers.

Also beware of rogue marketing claims. How to write a bestseller and make $$ in 30 days. It’s rubbish. The thing with big publishers is that they spend thousands on advertising/marketing. They have experts running campaigns that they’ve been learning to do for years, throwing in vast amounts in advertising, but they also lose just as much. Most indie authors are winging it and then can have varying degrees of success.

In self-publishing standards, marketing your book yourself is a harder task because you may not have the leverage and/or funds to get your books into the mainstream, reviewed by media etc. As you can see SP books have saturated the market. Readers have abundant choice. The only way I have seen that is effective in marketing self-publishing books is by actively ‘even physically’, approaching third parties and networking with those who can extend or provide valuable author opportunities.

4. Is it best to self publish through Amazon or a private press?

I think the large quantity book production tank is a bit of a risk. I personally don’t think it’s worth it. I never did it. But as said, each SP author will have his/her own goal plan and directives.

Unless I had a significant number of buyers and/or pre-order customers it’s just not worth it. I’ve spoken to many excited authors who ordered large quantities of their book, only to still have the majority of them stacked away in a cupboard a year later and end up flogging them to family and friends. It’s deflating.

Print on Demand is a better option for unknown authors, in my opinion.

5. If you publish through Amazon, can someone search Amazon for you or can they only go through a link?

Every author on Amazon can be found on their search engine.  Today each author’s page includes a bibliography, can include a biography, author photo, plus much more. They do not allow outbound links, for obvious reasons. Amazon are getting more tuned in to providing a framework for authors that is not just a platform for book sales but also to showcase their writing careers.

6. How many books sold is considered good?

I suppose it depends on personal expectation. Initially I thought 50 sales of my first book in a year would be fantastic, but then I achieved a few thousand. I could say that was good, but not as good as those authors who sold 10, 20 or 100 times more.

What I do know is that as an independent author, at the end of the day if you base your happiness and fulfilment levels on sales figures and monetary rewards, disappointment is highly likely, and probably inevitable. To look at sales as something that is possible or achievable but not the be all and end all of your writing life, is a much healthier perspective to have. It is always best to focus on the quality of your work for the enjoyment and pleasure in creating it and sharing it with readers, building up a platform, getting noticed, then looking at any future sales as a bonus for the hard work you’ve put in.


 

The Decision to Self-Publish Your Book

When I was deciding whether or not to self-publish my book, I searched high and low for a definitive answer to my question.

I kept asking people if it was the right thing to do. The replies I generally received were, ‘We can’t answer that because we really don’t know. It’s your book. It’s totally up to you.’

The only people who had some over-riding opinion on the matter were the general marketing companies, faux-publishers, or profiteers who I very quickly felt weren’t genuine, and didn’t come anywhere close to caring about my work as much as I did. Continue reading “The Decision to Self-Publish Your Book”

Amazon Academy Helping Independent Authors

 

 

18671791_10154326454567003_7491416425630861029_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An event to help authors discover and/or improve their careers in the book publishing world was held yesterday at the International Conference Centre in Edinburgh. The first half of the morning was applied to the projection of KDP images on to a screen for the benefit for those who may not be familiar with the process involved. A very surprising,  but delicious, complimentary buffet lunch followed, including the chance to network. The second half of the morning included a panel of KDP authors offering advice and tips on how to make a success of their self-published books.

Tips included the many ways  an author could promote their newly published book that can tend to initially sink into a deep well. Amazon’s KDP platform has in place a certain number of promotional tools at the author’s disposal, however some authors found that this was not really enough. The problem many authors find is the one of being ‘seen’ and ‘found’ amongst a huge database of books.

One of the reasons for this is that the e-book market has become heavily saturated. I stress that  Amazon is primarily a ‘retail store’ not a ‘publisher,’ where the latter works to provide individually targeted marketing to its authors. Having said that, once a book has proved it’s metal in the marketplace Amazon begin to advertise it more often to readers that have read and enjoyed books within a similar genre.

My novel “The Last Gift” picked up tremendously in sales once it had received enough five star reviews for Amazon to deem it good enough to promote further.  How that algorithm works exactly – who knows! But Prime readers can now, for instance,  see my novel suggested to them via their kindle applications and Amazon’s own email marketing directives. A consistently poorly reviewed book would not (of course) be in Amazon’s interest to try and promote. Why would they? So the onus is down to us. Quality work needs to be produced for others to have faith in it.

I personally think it is fair that authors promote their titles via the various (and many) channels available today. Marketing/advertising, blogging, social media posts etc are all easily tapped into.  KDP charge no set up fee for an author to be able to use their tools to upload and sell books and they also offer two options within their percentage royalty scheme. The newly introduced KENP is another good way for an author to amalgamate additional earnings. I see the spike on my KENP graph can be as little as two pages to a 1000 read pages in one day. It is a random figure but you can earn a nominal amount for every SINGLE PAGE that is read on a reader’s kindle application if your book is purchased by a reader through the Kindle Library Lending Scheme. The amount is then paid back as royalty payments.

With regard to success and the build-up of sales, if your book sells well you will see a “boost” in rank, though you will receive MANY more sales than reviews. Statistics vary but a few online sources that I have found quote that less than 1% of purchasers actually leave a review of the product. So you may need to sell 1000 copies of your kindle book to see just 10 reviews. Sadly, getting feedback is extremely hard for authors that are self-published or otherwise. (Readers please take note) but it is essentially this which helps your book along, as well as your overall drive and determination.

As mentioned at the event too –  books are being  churned out for just  99 pence, even more books in the thousands are available for free,  It is not an investment in money we are asking from the reader today, we are asking the reader to make  an investment in TIME. A reader would never be able to read as many books that are available on the market now in an entire lifetime. Even if they read 1 book per DAY! Therefore readers have the liberty to be extremely picky and fussy with their choices.

Unless authors are published by major publishing houses independent authors need to build up a following of readers that are loyal to their work. This takes time, effort, practice, trials that go beyond the pain of physical torture (hell, it feels like it sometimes) to eventually cashing in from your days and months of hard work. As little as twenty years ago having an option to write/publish/sell without any main publisher involvement, or a huge investment, was completely unheard of. For the majority of independent authors it takes a long time, and many more will quit at the running post, but  for some very lucky, driven and smart authors – real success is out there.

My view is that KDP is a good and trustworthy independent publishing platform, but you must be prepared to establish your own personal goals and these must be realistic and reasonable. Don’t jump into bad choices and always look to improve your craft. No book is perfect. No author is perfect – but no-one can stop you improving if you want to.  As an indie author you make decisions for yourself, being the editor, cover designer, marketing manager, accountant and advertising expert in all things. Research your market! Know your target audience and only hire vetted and reputable services to help.

Lastly, whatever your personal choice is, do not skimp out on quality. If you get it wrong, don’t quit. Try again. This is the biggest mistake an indie author often makes from the outset. Quality shines, and quality work takes time.

Amazon Academy in association with https://www.enterprisenation.com/

AmazonAcademy_016-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Source ((c) Amazon Academy)