Tag Archives: Online publishing

Writer, you’re an author!

“This is a time to take great care of yourself.”

THERE is nothing quite like hitting the publish button on your own work. It’s an even sweeter experience when you’ve been patient and really done the work on your book, confident that you’ve made it the best it can be with the resources at your disposal. Congratulations, writer… you have transformed yourself into an author! Here are a few considerations your new title brings with it.

The book blues

Many authors draw comparisons between publishing a book and having a baby, no doubt due to the long gestation period and the potential for a difficult birth. There’s also a good chance you’ll encounter something of an anti-climax after publishing a book, particularly after your launch has come and gone, and the initial flurry of sales has died down. This is a time to take great care of yourself. You’ve achieved something major after sending one of your precious brainchildren out into the world. You’re bound to feel vulnerable as your work finds its feet.

Reviews (the good and the bad)

It won’t take too long before you start garnering feedback on your publications, on online book-selling sites across the world, or social media sites like Goodreads. Be prepared for people to love and hate your work in equal measure. Bad reviews hurt, leaving authors feeling misunderstood and disheartened. My best advice on this is to let reviews be. Always encourage readers to write them, but read them very rarely, and never engage in an argument with a reviewer who didn’t like what you wrote. This is an incredibly difficult standard to maintain, and one of the best ways to get through it is to get busy on positive actions around your publications.

Keeping your book (and yourself) buoyant

The great thing about print on demand (POD) publishing services is that you don’t have to sit with thousands of copies of your new book in your office. They can be printed in short runs, allowing independent publishers to plan marketing campaigns that are financially low-risk. Having said that, it’s easy to end up with a few spare new paperbacks on your shelf. Get them out there!

“Share the good news about how you contributed to making the world a better place for writers.”

Direct selling

Readers love meeting authors, especially when there’s a copy of their book for sale. Reserve a weekend, gather up all spare copies of your book, print signs with great review quotes, and hold a stall at your local markets. Ensure you have a special ‘market price’ for your book (such as a discount for buying more than one), and you’ll shift a few copies; but there’s an old marketing saying about never letting a customer go without being able to get in touch with them again!

Connect with readers

Direct selling gives authors an opportunity to begin an ongoing relationship with our readers. There are many ways to do this, such as handing out a business card, or becoming friends on social media. Starting an emailed newsletter allows you to regularly stay in touch with readers and let them know your news about upcoming titles and events you’re participating in. Because avid readers still tend to enjoy the communication offered via email, they’ll often readily agree to giving you their email address. Social media platforms like MailChimp can be used to create free or low-cost email newsletters for independent publishers, but always let respondents know you’re not planning to sell or share their details with any third party.

IMG_1670Shameless self-distribution

Just about any bookshop or bibliographic service in the world will be able to stock or supply your book if it has an ISBN, but independent bookshops and libraries are likely to ask you to arrange for the printing and delivery of your titles directly. Work with them in their way and you’re likely to shift a good number of copies. You’ll also maximise your profits by cutting out the middle man.

Checking out the competition

An increasing number of book trade festivals and competitions are opening the door to independent publishers, who’ve grown from an anachronism into a relevant player in the international publishing industry. Some still have their gates firmly closed to indies and operate on an invitation-only basis, just check their application details and be prepared to travel. Many conferences, conventions and exhibitions are seeking authors to present their work, so think laterally and stay open to invitations.

Marketing madness

Selling stuff takes energy and an iron will. In this era, selling words in any format is in one of the most challenging periods in the history of publishing, as the social media inevitably supplants the mainstream media as the dominant platform for all things newsworthy and literary. Stay agile, take the knock-backs with a light approach and ensure you celebrate your wins. In my first year of independent publishing, I made about one-third of the average income of a mainstream, traditionally published author, with absolutely no assistance from the media or the publishing industries. That left me feeling wiser but also, in my own way, successful. Remember that you define what it successful, not others. Keep to your goals and ignore all the white noise.

Adjust your course

Redesigning a cover, re-launching a title that has not been effective in the marketplace, and re-pricing or rebranding existing work are old publishing industry tricks. Independent publishers can benefit from employing all of them if we find our work doesn’t hit the mark first time around. We can always think again, laterally and creatively!

Conceive another brainchild

As I have written on many occasions in Write, Regardless! no publisher ever releases just one book. One of the best ways to stave off post-publishing blues is to be already well on the way to completing another manuscript by the time they hit. Now that you know the process of independent publishing, achieving your second-born will be all the easier for you.

Recap

WRITE REGARDLESSPublishing your first book, and ensuring it is a high-quality product that delivers for readers, is an incredible achievement. One of the best things you can do when you achieve it is to share the good news about how you contributed to making the world a better place for writers. Write, Regardless! is my way of inspiring wordsmiths to keep putting work out there despite the odds that traditional publishing poses. If I have inspired you, please find me and return the favour!

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Writer, join your tribe!

“If you want to write and publish, join the publishing industry and consume.”

MANY writers struggle alone with the task of marketing. Writing an entire book is enough of a challenge for even the most experienced wordsmiths, so when we’re expected to run the marathon of multiple drafts, then turn around and create a publicity campaign for our work, we tend to stick our heads in the sand and hope like hell that something about our work will render all marketing efforts unnecessary. Here’s a refresher on how you should already have started marketing if you’re writing a book, and the good news is it involves interacting with other people.

Marketing from day one

Write, Regardless! has one fundamental message on marketing: to sell your book, you need to be actively promoting while you’re writing and packaging it. This process takes a degree of multi-skilling which is akin to juggling, but adopting it removes the terrible feelings of exhaustion that result from completing a manuscript only to find you’ve run less than half the marathon. Marketing starts on day one of writing a book, and, for as long as you want others to buy and read your work, it never ends. Break through this mental obstacle and you’re halfway to an effective marketing campaign.

Accessing word of mouth

The simple act of one person reading your book and recommending it to their friends is the oldest form of marketing in the world, and it’s still (relatively) free. Entire advertising industries are built on convincing people they need to part with their money in order to generate word of mouth, but the good news for independent publishers is that the social media is built to facilitate infinite word-of-mouth experiences. If you’ve come this far in Write, Regardless! and somehow decided not to build your social media web of fabulousness, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Going tribal

It’s time to take your facebooking up several levels and find your social media tribe. Facebook offers facebookers a sophisticated search engine. Take some time to seek out others who think like you. This could be political groups, social networks, or book clubs… anyone gathering for a common cause which relates in some way to the subject and/or genre of your writing. Sometimes these are closed groups, and you simply apply to join. Sometimes, these groups allow participants to post without permission, following a set of group rules and guidelines. Other groups are managed by an ‘admin’ person or persons, who you can send messages to, requesting they ‘share’ one of your posts. Admins have replicated the role that editors fulfill for news sources, aggregating content for group followers, and they are often hungry for relevant contributions. This is where you come in, providing articles that relate to, mention, provide extracts of and links to, your books. Never do the hard sell in these forums. The soft sell is generally more persuasive. Don’t tell me you can’t do this because you’re not a journalist: you are, and here’s how.

Tasting the spam

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be used autonomously by writers marketing books – you simply post material about your titles whenever and however you like. A small warning: many social media participants are wary of spamming; and you don’t have to do much for people to think you’re a spambot. Endless sales tweets or filling your Facebook timeline with posts about your books is a big turn-off for many social media consumers. It’s the social media, remember? The emphasis is on being sociable. You can market like those who hand out business cards at birthday parties, sure, but you’ll start to notice your number of followers dropping. Selling all the time is very one-note. Mix it up with content that is not about your latest book.

penguin_book_cover
PERFECT PAPERBACKS Penguin’s paperback brand has been a publishing success since the 1930s.

Branding like an expert

Independent writers can tend to overlook tried and true marketing tools, such as brand management. It sounds a bit cold and corporate, but writers who publish our own work need to keep half an eye on how it sits in the marketplace. Ever since independent publishing began, centuries ago, writers have published work in serialised form. Think of the success of Mills and Boon and Penguin Books as a publishing brands: readers know exactly what they’re buying (and they buy it often) plus they know how much they’re paying; there is a consistent look, length and format, and there will be more of the product to purchase in the future. Think about what you want to achieve with your writing. Do you have a series in mind? Could you visually link different titles with a similar design palette? Can you position yourself as an expert in the field you’re writing about?

Reading the marketplace

It’s easy for writers to forget about reading and consuming in the same marketplace we plan to sell product within. If we avoid bookshops and book reviews, we can quickly lose touch with publishing basics, such as the current price of eBooks and paperbacks, or the evolution of publishing genres and writing styles. Keep your book-lover’s antennae attuned for shifts in the book trade, and check the date of online articles you stumble across – years have passed since it was claimed eBooks would knock printed titles into oblivion, a prediction that turned out to be incorrect. The publishing industry, like all industries, moves the goalposts annually. What worked three years ago may not work now. If you want to write and publish, join the publishing industry and consume.

Hiring help

“Decide what will make you feel successful, and share that with your readers.”

For some writers, running a marketing campaign is too much of an ask. They decide they have neither the time or the energy to promote their own work, and they seek to hire a publicist to generate sales. There is no standard fee for publicists, and the scope of their role varies, but expect to pay thousands of dollars. Some believe this scale of fees is justifiable since publicists are effectively selling access to a network of publicity that they’ve built over many years; but, as always, the onus is on you to be upfront about the cost, the terms and the outcomes. Do your homework and ask for references and testimonials before paying for a publicist’s services: you may well be hiring someone who is an independent author like you making a sideline income. Always create a contract with a publicist, laying out the parameters of the agreement, and hold them to account.

Deciding what ‘success’ means

It’s been my experience that independent publishing success means different things to different readers and writers. There are few benchmarks outside the usual ‘bestseller’ lists, so it’s helpful for independent publishers to set the bar for ourselves by deciding what we view as successful outcomes. For me, gaining independent reviews and mainstream media coverage for my titles means I have succeeded in doing all that I can to promote them in the marketplace. When I have placed my paperbacks with major city bookshops, I feel I have succeeded in putting them in the pathway of readers. Anything less, for me, does not feel like success. Work out what success will mean for you, and keep it realistic and measurable. This will help when you’re feeling challenged by what you have started, and I assure you there will be many such moments.

Recap

WRITE REGARDLESSIndependent publishers do not operate in isolation, we are part of an international network creating product for a hungry audience that is increasingly diversifying the ways it accesses books. Replicate what has already worked for that industry through branding and word of mouth. Join the club by ensuring you buy, read and review books. Participate in social media groups and networks, not just by promoting your work, but by promoting the work of others too. Decide what will make you feel successful, and share that with your readers – they love knowing when the risk they took on you pays off!

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Writer, don’t rest!

“You’re a writer, right? Keep it up.”

SO, you’ve completed multiple drafts of your manuscript, you’ve reworked its plot and tweaked its narrative, and it’s been sent to beta readers to see about its readability. You’ve done the work. Excellent. Here’s a list of things to be getting on with while your book is off your desk.

Write another book

Writers are always getting ideas, and the chances of finding inspiration for more books while writing one is very high. Act on that motivation by sifting through ideas for what’s got legs. Now that you have one book being read, maintain your regular writing schedule by getting another manuscript down. You’re a writer, right? Keep it up.

Second book syndrome

Invariably a malady of high-maintenance, traditionally-published authors who find their creative well has run dry with all the attention, ‘second book syndrome’ strikes when writers have too much thinking time and allow their writing schedule to go by the wayside. Instead of indulging in a round of writer’s angst, a good fix is to just start writing again and never allow space for this first-world problem to get a grip. If you’re keeping up with Write, Regardless! you’ll know that a regular writing schedule is a must. What better way to avoid second book syndrome than to have one written by the time you’ve published your first?

How’s your list looking?

No book publisher in the world prepares just one title and focuses all their attention on marketing it. All publishers, large and small, release annual lists of titles. If you are heading for the independent publishing pathway, you’ll need to publish a list. If you plan to persist until a publisher accepts your manuscript, you’ll need more books in the pipeline, in fact their very existence may sway a publisher’s view of your viability. Readers love to be loyal to their favourite authors. When they find you, ensure you have a list of titles on offer.

Get reading

Even better, beta-read for another writer, there really is no better way to see how plot and narrative work. When they say that good teachers learn as much as their pupils, this is what they mean: reading another’s manuscript will shine a strong light on your own. Spend some time reading published books. With your new writing knowledge, you’ll probably learn something fresh from an old favourite, or you may notice how the ‘latest, hottest thing’ in the book trade is not all that hot or new: maybe the writer is simply adept at good plotting and narrative, and found original ways of utilising established storytelling techniques. Reading will show you how far your writing has come.

cardsCards close to your chest, writer!

The great temptation, in this isolating, internet-driven world, is to tell everyone you’ve finished writing a book and bask in the encouragement your peeps are bound to bestow on you. There is nothing more dangerous for the emergent writer than this kind of public display. It builds an expectation of you and attracts the inevitable question: “So, what’s your book about?”, which you might be prepared for, but will take a chunk of self assurance out of most writers each time it’s asked.

A brainchild is born

There are times and places to share the news of a book’s birth. Join a writer’s group and let everyone know of your completed manuscript (a great way to find beta readers); or tell select friends who respect your creative boundaries (but be very sure they do). If you are planning to independently publish your book, you’ll eventually need to make an announcement to your social media network, but now is just not the time, when you don’t even know for sure what the book will be called. Don’t confuse manuscript completion with the start of a book’s marketing campaign. For now, just keep marketing yourself as a writer in your fields of expertise. Readers will assume you have books in the pipeline.

Extend your networks

By now, you should have a growing social media presence, fed by your regular online articles. During this process, you’ll have naturally seen and read work by other writers, published in other networks. Set aside some time to research and send your work to these websites and social media feeds, particularly if they are linked to your subject matter.

Offer articles for free

“Focus your energies on creating more work and increasing its reach.”

The people behind websites and social media groups (who sometimes identify themselves as editors) will appreciate an approach from a writer offering free content, which is as simple as them sharing your posts. Some feeds will allow you to self-post while following a set of group guidelines; others will offer you access as a site author or ‘admin’. Ensure your work is quality journalism and always has a link back to your website or social media assets, which will allow readers to find you, follow you and therefore access your published works down the track. The value of your posts being published is not in charging per word, but in increasing your social media following: your future audience.

Review a book

Preferably an independently-published book. Whatever path your writing career takes, the most generous thing you can do as a participant in the publishing industry is to regularly review books. Critical responses are a great way to fill your online publishing schedule with content that reflects on you as a good writer and increases your reach to potential readers. Here are my tips for good reviewing.

Recap

WRITE REGARDLESSIn terms of announcing your book is in a complete form, less is more at this stage, which is the antithesis of the ‘share everything’ world we have made for ourselves; but your work and sense of wellbeing as a writer depend on a bit of containment at this stage. Focus your energies on creating more work and increasing its reach.

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.