Annually, Smashwords’ founder Mark Coker makes his prognostications as to what the New Year has in store for indie authors. This past December, he published yet another comprehensive listing of predictions, which are informative for writers who like to stay current with what’s happening in the self-publishing space. It provides us with a road map of sorts that’s helpful in guiding us, no matter where we are currently in our career path.
While I suggest you review the entire listing, which entails a dozen speculations as to the challenges and opportunities facing the self-publisher, the one that caught my eye was ‘best practices.’ Why? Because in an industry that sometimes feels like it’s moving at the speed of light, it’s comforting to know there are still some good old ‘best practices’ we can still rely on.
Not Rocket Science
As Coker puts it: ”The formula for bestseller success isn't rocket science. Success is all about best practices. For every well-executed best practice implemented by the author, the author gains an incremental advantage in the marketplace.”
If you aren’t already engaging in some of these tried-and-true tactics, perhaps you might want to start today:
1. The author must write a super-awesome "wow" book that takes the reader to an emotionally satisfying extreme (this rule applies to fiction as well as non-fiction).
2. An author's book should be professionally edited and proofed. And it’s important to note that editing and proofreading are two different services. [In regards to proofreading, see my previous, titled: “Proofreading Requires More Than Just SpellCheck”].
3. The book should have a great cover image. A great cover image makes the book more discoverable and more desirable to readers. Great cover images make an honest and visual promise to the target reader about the experience the book offers. [More on this topic I elaborated in my blog, titled, “Gotcha Covered? Indie Authors Seeking Book Cover Designers“].
4. Coker says, “Price the book fairly.” This is proven out when reviewing Kindle’s eBookstore. There it appears, most self-published books are priced below $5.00, with a good percentage at $.99, or free when published by a first-time writer. Since there’s a marked difference between the overhead of producing a hardbound or paperback, in my estimation eBook publishing will continue to provide indie authors with the opportunity to remain competitive over traditional publishers.
5. Release the book as a preorder. Preorders are one of the most powerful merchandising tools for new book releases. They enable advance marketing of the title and special visibility advantage on the day of release.
6. Avoid exclusivity and distribute your book widely to all retailers. More on this topic here: "Formatting Devices vs Genres.”
7. Write another book, rinse and repeat.
Traditional Book Marketing
What’s old is new again. Just because self-publishing is a by-product of the digital age, doesn’t mean we just discard the entire traditional book marketing tactics of the past.
Jill Bennett is a book-marketing specialist at LitFire Publishing, a self-publishing company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her predictions for 2015 also meld the old with the new.
“2015 will see more social media engagement and activity from businesses, but it will not replace traditional book marketing — marketers will learn to use them in conjunction with one another, which is the recommended practice,” notes Bennett.
So in addition to using the newer “pull” marketing tools that social media brings to the table, she also suggests not losing sight of the old “push” advertising options of the last century. “ A combination of the old and the new will maximize outreach. Traditional tactics include radio media, television advertising, reading tours (and) editorial writing,” adds Bennett.
Authorpreneurship on the Rise
Think about treating your creative ventures as a business. As difficult as that might sound to a lot of creative types [myself included], it’s important that everything you do as a self-publishing author keeps the entrepreneurial side of the equation in focus.
Author-marketing expert, Penny Sansevieri sees it as such: “Self-publishing should be treated as a business. You would never open up a brick and mortar store without doing some competitive research and having a business plan and a marketing plan in place. Yet it amazes me how many times authors launch a book with no idea of the market or how they plan to get it out there.”
After all — by going it alone — you have already eliminated a key component of the traditional process — the role of the publisher. Now that you have donned that hat, the onus falls on your shoulders to take ownership and expand the business of building readership and sales.
Dan Dillon, marketing director at Lulu says: “It’s been very fulfilling to see the concept of the ‘authorpreneur’ take hold in 2014,” he says. By example, Dillon points to the portion of Lulu authors who are utilizing the free tools offered by the site to communicate directly with their readers, which in turn builds loyalty and drives sales.
“The one thing our authors did supremely well in 2014 is they got to know their readers, to understand who they are, and to deliver an ever increasing amount of high quality content to them,” something Dillon says is the hallmark of a maturing and thriving marketplace.
“As 2015 gets under way, we expect to serve even greater numbers of authors who consider themselves the CEO of their book business.” He also notes that, as business owners, authors are also working to develop customer loyalty in order to “keep their customers for life.”
As Old as Time: Be Patient
Perhaps, BookWorks' founder and CEO Betty Kelly Sargent was able to land upon the number one best practice when she conducted a recent survey.
In soliciting feedback at to what kind of advice to give new indie authors, she received feedback from self-publishing veterans such as Hugh Howey, the celebrated author of the Wool and Silo series.
“My one piece of advice would be patience, both in publishing and in expectations of sales. Make sure your work is as amazing as you can make it before putting it out there, and once you do publish, don't worry about how the work sells out of the gate. Books are now available forever. Start writing that next book. Don't be in a hurry,” advises Howey.
“If you ask for ‘self-publishing advice’ [in a Google search] you will be directed to a sweet 3,070,000 offerings,” notes Ms. Sargent . . . [So, instead of investing your precious time in that kind of tedious exercise], “the key is to know what you want, and to be patient” with your attempts at seeking it out.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month