Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 2)

Last week, I launched a new summer series on self-publishing, particularly as regards publishing and marketing your book during this busy time of year–and how to take advantage of our July theme of freedoms and independence while doing so!

Today, I want to talk about the flip side of freedom.

You might call it … UNFREEDOM*.

(*After all, there has to be some sort of language to describe the opposite of ‘freedom’ which isn’t problematically tied to this nation’s long and deeply troubling relationship to captivities of various kinds … right? I’ll make the attempt, while recognizing and honoring the tight spot into which the English language … and the history of American expansion … has put me. Here goes!)

Point: Self-publishing authors are constrained by their circumstances, and therefore limited as marketers of their works. Let’s slow down and look at some of the speed bumps in our way!

independence, bird

Time.

The first constraint you’re likely to hear about when talking with self-publishing authors about their marketing attempts is how difficult it is to find the time to market well! After all, most indie authors aren’t living lives of leisure; they’re working, sometimes multiple jobs, to pay the rent and bring in the groceries. They usually have families; often, young kids and sleepless nights are also on order. In this kind of typical environment, it’s hard enough to find time to sleep much less write much less market your books for sale to the general public! And this problem also often inspires a great deal of self-doubt and frustration, as the marketing goes on.

Why don’t people just buy my book already? Hint: if it were that easy to sell books, traditional publishing houses wouldn’t have dedicated marketing staff, either! As a self-publishing author, you’ve written and signed a contract with yourself to do whatever it takes to become a published author … and that includes signing away a large chunk of your time.

Suggestion #1: Protect your time by slowing down long enough to sort out your priorities, and set a schedule that is both ambitious … and attainable.

Money.

Here’s the other big speed bump, right? If you don’t have the time, energy, skills, or access to do what needs doing in order to market your book, you’re going to have to fork over some cash to make it happen! Of course, how much you spend is going to vary greatly depending on what path you take towards publication; vanity presses often tout their marketing successes, but often prove disappointing in results anyway, and the really good self-publishing companies–with dependable, expert staff who’ve been in the business long enough to give you a really good leg up–cost a pretty penny.

Spending some money is unavoidable. Breaking the bank … is.

Suggestion #2: Guard yourself against both amazement and disappointment by doing your research ahead of time. Don’t trust a company’s own press releases for your data, either! Do your due diligence and check out customer reviews, and as with my suggestion for time, go ahead and slow down long enough to plot out what services you can take care of effectively on your own … and which ones you really need help with!

Energy.

Alright–it’s time to take a deep breath and feel your body for a moment. Are you sitting in a chair? Criss-cross-applesauce on the hardwood floor? Hanging from the rafters? Are you comfortable? Are you feeling … a little … sleepy?

We’ve mentioned this every now and again on SPA, but it’s always worth mentioning again: a person doesn’t wake up each morning with endless energy! Energy is a budgeted resource, and your body has no qualms about letting you know when you’re close to running the tank totally dry. Like, right now, my eyes are burning from having worn contacts all day, my knees are aching from walking in to work, and I can’t stop yawning no matter how hard I try–all of which are signs that I’m about a half hour from keeping the neighbors up with my zzzzs.

As a self-publishing author, you need to pay close attention to your energy level: it comes at a premium, and just like time, once it’s spent you’re done. There’s no writing when tired, and even coffee will only get you so far. Sleep, my friends, is inevitable!

Suggestion #3: Build some select mindfulness-based practices into your daily writing routine. Check in with your body when you sit down in your chair. Are you actually feeling good and comfortable–and energetic? If your body is screaming “NO MORE! I CHANGED THIRTY DIAPERS TODAY!” then it may be time to back off, allow yourself to get some sleep, eat the right kind of meal, and do a thing which brings you joy. Make a promise to yourself to come back the next day in a better frame of mind and body, and I guarantee you’ll produce better work–work you can be proud of!

Skills.

Look … we’re not all born with a Wacom tablet or a Master of Business in our hands! It’s okay if you don’t know how to set up social media accounts … THIRTY DIFFERENT WAYS … or how to design your own book cover, including blurb, ISBN, LOC numbers, and so on and so forth.

Knowing what your skill set is, and how best to take advantage of what you already know how to do, is absolutely imperative! So, too, is knowing where your skill set runs out, and therefore when you ought to turn to established and verifiable experts–such as those employed at various self-publishing companies, or working on a freelance basis.

Suggestion #4: Before you sit down to submit your book for publication, sit down and sketch out all of the different little processes which go into making a book, from start to finish. EVERY SINGLE ONE. (There ought to be at least thirty!) Only then can you come back and say–“Ah, yes, I can easily take care of those, but not anything to do with Goodreads giveways or writing a press release!” Listing everything will feed straight back into allocating where you spend your time, money, and energy … so make sure you get it right before the wheels are in motion and momentum is pulling you in another direction!

Access.

Last but certainly not least, one of the most oft-mentioned barriers to self-publishing–an unfreedom–is the strictures placed upon indie authors by those with the knowledge and access to make things happen. Indie authors are often left out in the cold, with no recourse but to generate their own networks and influences from scratch … which, yes, can work but often doesn’t. Meanwhile, traditional publishing houses–who have, by the way, refused to evolve to fit the changed world around their signature markets!–snigger behind their hands and offer little or no help at all … because, I assume, they don’t want the competition.

Oh, if only you could imagine all the wonderful ways we might help each other!

But what a pipe dream. Traditional publishing houses have good reasons (from a business point of view) to try and uphold their monopolies by restricting access and denying support to indie authors looking to break out. I’m talking about everything from email lists of potential customers who they hold in reserve, contracts denying their authors from collaborating with self-publishing authors, and so on.

Access is a big problem for indie authors. If you don’t know who to get in touch with to get this certain thing done, it doesn’t get done.

Suggestion #5: Don’t despair. As I’ve mentioned, some authors have made it! There are some existing networks and resources in place to help you … but just don’t expect to find easy access to knowledge and the means to act upon that knowledge within more “mainstream” or “traditional” circles. I mean, take us for example. We’re here for you–every week!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 1)

july 5th fifth

We all know that self-publishing and independence go together, right? Or at least, that’s the general idea, and the ultimate goal. We kick off the constraints of the traditional publishing houses, their heavy-handed contracts and royalties disputes, and waft our way over to the Elysian fields of indie bliss ….

But that’s not how self-publishing works, is it? Yes, you’re independent, but independence comes with a price tag. And this isn’t some fatalistic attempt to push you, our readers, towards traditional publishing (believe me! we hate it as much as you do!). The fact remains, however, that when it comes to self-publishing, you get what you pay for, and the rest you accomplish through elbow grease.

So … how does one market as an independent, self-publishing author? Is it even possible to rival the promotional work of the Big Five when all you have is a halfway decent laptop, debatable graphic design skills, and very little free time? How do we break free from Big Business but still sell books?!

The simple answer is: it’s hard … but totally possible. And we’ll dive into some of the pros, cons, and various logistics over the Wednesdays to come. Stay tuned for more musings on a marketing theme! (And say that ten times fast.)

Tomorrow, Royalene will be talking about how self-publishing intersect with the personal freedoms we so value here on our side of the pond. Watch her space for more excellent “independence” advice on Friday mornings this summer!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

From the Archives: “By virtue of the term: Self-publishing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: October 14th, 2010 ]

Digital democracy. iTunes changed the record business forever. Blogs have reshaped the landscape of traditional print news. YouTube challenged the way television and advertising CEO’s communicated with the viewing public. Who would have thought even ten years ago that a majority of users would value a user-generated encyclopedia over Britannica?

Technology has quickly and powerfully changed the way we think, enjoy, communicate, and create. Across each industry one thing holds – a democratization effect – where artists make the rules.

On-demand and digital self-publishing is equally shaking things up. As the WSJ notes, “once derided as ‘vanity’ titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”

“Playing God” in his book Mickey Mantle is Going to Heaven, former Yankee pitcher opted to self-publish in order to maintain his content control. A wise move that is rumored to have been opted into a movie project reuniting Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

democracy definition

The democratization of self-publishing is a big deal, even seven years after we originally mentioned it. With our current grab-bag of print on demand services, self-publishing companies and vanity presses alike, we have an enormous quantity of titles available to readers for affordable consumption–and while few of them get printed in any quantity, is that really an undesirable thing? I mean on a large scale, not an individual one. Clearly it’s better for the individual to have more money in the wallet than otherwise. But a democratic system is a diversified one, with products and services to meet every preference. And that’s where we are, more or less!

So how does this democratization help authors? As someone who has dabbled in both nonfiction and memoir, here’s one way:

Traditionally, nonfiction authors were required to draft outlines and preliminary chapters, submit these to agents and publishing houses for review, and hope that someone would like that material enough to give them an advance–money to help them do the research required to write the rest of the book. Research, generally speaking, is expensive–especially because for nonfiction it usually requires travel, lodging, meals, and subscription or access fees to information repositories like museums and so forth to complete. Many wonderful nonfiction books have not been written simply because authors weren’t able to give publishers a real sense of what their book was about because the money had to come first in order to really do so….

Self-publishing, however, has co-evolved with a whole host of crowdsourcing options. I have at least one friend who financed her book over Kickstarter with some success, and others who have been even more creative. (But that’s for another post. Soon, I promise.) These alternate revenue streams mean that self-publishing authors don’t have to wait on anyone’s say-so, and they don’t have to sacrifice any creative control over the research, writing, and publishing experience to an institution which will always value its own success over its authors’. So nonfiction authors, in this situation specifically, benefit a great deal from not being dependent on an advance. The same holds true for fiction authors in all of the most important ways, and you only have to follow the career of poet Rupi Kaur to see how self-publishing can indeed be more than congenial to that third great genre.

Of course, the idea and status “commercial author” may be on the way out, or at least these authors who’ve chosen to struggle through the traditional publishing model may have diminished opportunities. Fewer authors each year see the virtue in being one of these so-called “starving artists,” who make their way in the world based on an antiquated publishing model which never treated them well in the first place. This is okay. It’s also okay to be a starving artist, by the way. I just wouldn’t want to be one, and it’s no longer the only model of a successful artist anymore.

Self-publishing still has its flaws. But anything that makes publishing possible for more authors, more affordably, and guarantees them more rights and freedoms, is a democratizing influence. And I love democracy! The fact that self-publishing also makes reading more affordable and a more diverse experience can only lead to good things.

 

Fun Note: A quick foray on Google reveals that as of 2015, at least, Peterson’s book is still under development by Affleck and Damon, so that’s another ray of good news.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

In Your Corner: Know Thyself … And Thy Readers!

There once was an ancient Greek aphorism: “Know thyself!” It was inscribed over the entrance, or forecourt, of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi–where the ancients used to go in search of supernatural wisdom or before battle, in hope of a cheerful word from the oracle. Socrates the philosopher invoked it, and therefore millions have read it down through the years:

socrates know thyself

What does Socrates and the Delphic maxims have to do with self-publishing? Quite a lot actually, if you ascribe to my theory, which is that to sell books you must know your readers and how to target them precisely, and if you want to know your readers you had best know yourself pretty thoroughly, too.

Perhaps I’ve been influenced by the resurgence of interest in mindfulness, which these days is often closely associated with meditation, spirituality, and environmental justice. Those are all great things, and while I think self-understanding is probably a crucial part of all three of these things, they’re not what I’m primarily interested in today. Today, I’m interested in examining the nexus between self-published authors and their readers, a nexus which we are bound and required to understand if we want to break even on our publishing expenses. In this context, being mindful of both your own self and your readers is critical.

(Boy, do I feel callous saying that. But it’s true.)

The fact of the matter is: selling books is dependent upon this peculiar relationship, and as many counselors and therapists are likely to tell you, while you can’t control the other person or persons in a relationship, you can control what you do.

So how do you get to know thyself?

  1. Make comparisons. Not, like, in terms of quality of your book! But identify a handful of books which are similar to your upcoming one in theme and content, and start jotting down characteristics which they seem to share. And … yes, you need to do this before your book comes out. Ideally, long before your book comes out. It will help you frame your promotional work as you start seeing what material these authors are putting out–blog posts, newsletters, YouTube video updates, etc–to reel in their readers. Experiment with these modes, and hone a few new skills. Nowhere does Socrates say that the self is monolithic and unchanging!
  2. Listen up. Yeah, this one seems totally obvious, but a lot of authors tend to find a system that they feel comfortable with and stick to it, even as it slowly becomes apparent that they’re not actually reaching their readers. So, listen. Listen, and be willing to alter your attack vector when it comes to marketing. Don’t keep doing a thing just because you like it or because you’re comfortable with it. Your feelings don’t sell books; your readers’ do. A part of self-knowledge is understanding what you’re feeling at any given moment, and simultaneously recognizing that others may or may not share these feelings.
  3. Go for the soft sell. Self-publishing is all about the relationship between you and your readers, and you’ll get nowhere by pushing your agenda (selling books) over developing real and authentic relationships with your readers. If you’re not willing to partner with your readers in this endeavor, then that’s something you ought to know about yourself, and adjust accordingly. As in, find yourself a marketing coach or perhaps even a social media manager to do some of this work for pay.
  4. Plug the gaps. Not like a boy with his thumb in a hole in a dike (man, where did my parents come up with some of their little anecdotes? It’s amazing what sticks!) but as a student of the self and and of relationships. Where are your weaknesses? A hint: usually they’re somewhere close by when you find yourself uncomfortable with some particular aspect of the publishing and marketing processes. Pay attention to feelings of discombobulation and discomfort, and either by yourself or with an expert sit down and start drawing up a list of skills to develop or strategies to adhere to in order to accommodate these weaknesses. For me, structuring my day-to-day routine is a nightmare, and this leads to spotty engagement online. That’s a weakness. But it’s a weakness that, like most other weaknesses, can be dealt with using a jot of foresight and good planning.

If you know yourself, you’re most of the way down the path to knowing how to reach your readers. And as Dean Koontz says:

dean koontz readers quote

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

From the Archives: “The Vook? Yes, Vook.”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: January 27th, 2010 ]

There will likely be a good deal of hype this week about a cool new multimedia option called the Vook.

What will this do to the self-publishing industry, and will yours be the first independently published piece available?

Whatever happened to Vook, with all of its big dreams and potential for self-publishing authors?

vook

Well … it’s complicated.

Once upon a time, Vook began as a response to what NYTimes author Motoko Rich called an “increasingly elastic” notion of what makes a book … well, a book, and as publishers began to “mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment.” His words, not mine. (I don’t think books are archaic, at all!) Still, a Vook offers … more.

Take, for example, several ‘vooks’ which Rich details in his article, vooks published in partnership with the traditional Big Five publishing house, Simon & Schuster:

In one of the Simon & Schuster vooks, a fitness and diet title, readers can click on videos that show them how to perform the exercises. A beauty book contains videos that demonstrate how to make homemade skin-care potions.

Not just how-tos are getting the cinematic work-up. Simon & Schuster is also releasing two digital novels combining text with videos a minute or 90 seconds long that supplement — and in some cases advance — the story line.

In “Embassy,” a short thriller about a kidnapping written by Richard Doetsch, a video snippet that resembles a newscast reveals that the victim is the mayor’s daughter, replacing some of Mr. Doetsch’s original text.

And even when he published his article in 2009, Rich was recounting some degree of success, at least on the part of the author, publishing partner, and Vook itself:

Bradley J. Inman, chief executive of Vook, said readers who viewed prototypes of “The 90-Second Fitness Solution” by Pete Cerqua or “Return to Beauty” by Narine Nikogosian “intuitively saw the benefits of augmenting how-to books with video segments.” Mr. Inman said readers then “warmed to” the fictional editions.

Jude Deveraux, a popular romance author who has written 36 straightforward text novels, said she loved experimenting with “Promises,” an exclusive vook set on a 19th-century South Carolina plantation in which the integrated videos add snippets of dialogue and atmosphere.

Ms. Deveraux said she envisioned new versions of books enhanced by music or even perfume. “I’d like to use all the senses,” she said.

So what happened to the Vook? Well, as we reported in 2015, it became something else. Not for lack of enthusiasm or some sense of failure, but after successfully raising financing in 2010, partnering with major publishing houses in 2011 and 2012 to release several popular vooks, launching a brand-new self-publishing platform in 2012, acquiring a digital imprint (Byliner) in 2014, and rebranding itself in 2015 as … Pronoun.

Which was promptly acquired by Macmillan.

That’s what happened to Vook. Instead of becoming something great and unique and a friendly face in the self-publishing community, it took another path. Pronoun still purports to be a self-publishing platform, but the jury’s still out on whether it will make enough of a profit for the Big Five publisher to continue providing it as a service down the road. When it comes to traditional publishers buying out self-publishing platforms, historically, things have not gone all that well. You only have to look to Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions in 2012, which got lost in the shuffle when Penguin and RandomHouse merged the following year. It still exists, but authors have seen a steady decline in the variety and quality of services offered, while Penguin-RandomHouse has primarily used the service as an “audition” tool rather than a genuine self-publishing service. In other words, the parent company isn’t all that interested in seeing your book hit the market unless it’s likely to make them a lot of money. And what if you weren’t interested in writing a blockbuster?

Seems mighty limiting to me. So we’ll see where Vook goes from here.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

From the Archives: “Traditional Publishing: Hard Facts”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: October 17th, 2008 ]

We are in ongoing exploration of the advantages leading self-publishing options offered for publishing authors. Collectively, what are the advantages of self-publishing in general over the long established alternative? Here are some hard facts on Traditional publishing.

7 – Traditional publishers lose money on over 85% of the books they publish, so they only accept 2% of those that are submitted.

6 – They typically accept manuscripts only from established authors who have demonstrated a proven track record.

5 – Authors lose all control of their content during the editing process.

4 – Authors must still invest an enormous amount of time, energy, and money promoting a traditionally-published book.

3- Authors typically receive 5-10% royalty on the wholesale price of the book, and from that have to give 15-25% to their agent. Do the math.

2 – The majority of books published by old-fashioned publishers go out of print within 3 years. Many books that are stocked on book shelves remain stocked for as little as five weeks before being returned, unsold, to the publisher.

1- Old-fashioned publishers acquire all rights to your book and keep them, even when the book goes out of print or the publisher goes out of business!

– by Karl Schroeder

On Advances & Other Things

First off, it’s worth noting that the numbers are all over the board here, and that while the industry’s most reliable source of yearly hard data–the annual Author Earnings Report–isn’t out for this year yet (which makes sense, since we’re only a few months in) it isn’t set up to gauge that kind of question to begin with. Publishers understandably have a vested interest in fogging up the data around advances, especially how many people actually earn them back, because the facts of the matter are such that:

  • It’s a much smaller number than Karl reported back in 2008, probably closer to the 2 to 5% range;
  • Advances protect some authors from facing their own losses, but they also cheat some well-performing authors out of representative royalties in a classic case of “settling for a misleadingly presented benefit”;
  • A high percentage of unmet advances equals a lot of waste, and in an industry which is barely scraping by as-is, this would be a major blow to certain publishers’ reputations as champions of the everyman;
  • A high percentage of unmet advances also equals a slippage in the market, and publishers have to maintain intense competition with each other in order to attract that small number of well-performing authors who do make back their advances, and in so doing make a profit for the publisher as well. Lose a couple of big-name authors because their reputation is slipping, and the rest might flee as well … and the publishing house go under.

So it’s not data that publishers really want to broadcast.

All of this to say, publishers do indeed prefer established authors who have proven track records as blockbuster bestsellers, and newer or more typically performing (“midlist”) authors are left to struggle along with substandard marketing and promotional help, because the publisher doesn’t believe investing more will pay off. These midlist authors must carry the burden of self-promotion themselves, even if they supposedly have the might and muscle of a major publishing house behind them. Only the guaranteed successes are guaranteed significant assistance, and there are very few guaranteed successes, aren’t there?

Control will always be an issue. Perhaps you might consider giving up control, if you knew that you were putting your book into good hands of great skill and leaving your book with a team who really had its best interests at heart. But publishing houses aren’t like that; they have to think about the bottom line at all times, because the industry is so competitive and they’re so often at risk of losing everything. So they make the call on your book cover, maybe even your book title, and on all sorts of marketing and promotional decisions which you may or may not agree with in the first place–because they have to keep the machine moving, and the assembly line in motion.

You might have guessed the preferable option, seeing as how we’re a blog about self-publishing. But we don’t just have a vested interest; we want to lay out all the options, with all the facts, so that you can choose the one best suited to you. And if you know your book is a guaranteed blockbuster success, then traditional publishing may well be a good route for you! But if you’re publishing a book with narrower appeal, maybe more specialized material, or with the goal of reaching a certain fandom–well, self-publishing is an effective and efficient way of doing that, while ensuring you retain full creative control.

That, we can get behind. (And we do … a lot. Sorry about that!)

hard facts child

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

From the Archives: “Bestselling Author and the BIG Move to Self-Publishing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: November 4th, 2010 ]

Ten years after the success of his debut novel, bestselling author of “Kidnapped,” AJ Davidson, has made the switch to independent self-publishing. With the availability of full-service publishing options on the rise and the high profile moves of established authors to independent publishing, AJ discusses the increasing appeal of this new model for traditionally published authors.

Q: What was the deciding factor for moving to independent publishing?

A: Initially I wasn’t entirely sure if Indie publishing was right for me. The deciding factor was how traditional publishers seem to be narrowing the range of their lists with each passing year. I recently compared 1970s best sellers with the 2010 best sellers and was staggered to realize how many of the chart-topping writers of yesteryear are still there four decades later. Kudos to the authors for consistency, but the dearth of new names is a sad indictment for the publishing world. The smaller presses are more adventurous, but more often than not the marketing will be left to the author, and if that’s the case, then Indie publishing is the way to go.

Q: Now that you manage the marketing independently as well as the publishing, do you find it difficult to switch back and forth between writing and marketing?

A: I have found the change in my writing to be a dramatic one. In the past I was the only one I had to please with a piece of prose. Now I’m much more aware of the readers’ attitudes. As I write I find that I ask myself constantly how the readers would react. This transformation is due largely to the immediacy of Indie publishing. With a traditionally published book there can be years between writing and publication. Your agent might suggest minor changes. It may then take time for the manuscript to be accepted. The publishers will nominate a slot, often a year or more in the future. Libel lawyers may have to cast an eye over it. Copy and proof editors will refine the work. Artwork will be done. By the time the book hit the shops, the writer will have moved on, often immersed in another project. I often felt a sense of detachment from a book by the time it was published.

Q: The list of well-known authors that are moving toward Independent publishing structures continues to grow. Do you think this is opening up possibilities for less established authors or monopolizing what was formerly their only option?

A: I’m optimistic about the future of Indie publishing and would buy shares in Smashwords faster than in Barnes & Noble. The fate of the traditional bookstore will be down to specialization. I doubt if they can continue being all things to all people. We already see some very successful stores concentrating in one or two genres. This genre specialization will develop, and no doubt the giants of the retail industry have a trick or two yet. I expect some form of stratification will enter Indie book publishing.

Perhaps a division between the one book author and the multiple author. Certainly we have seen a rise in the popularity of book series in the last decade and readers do enjoy embarking on journeys with writers they admire. It is anyone’s guess where will this leave the authors of a single text. Bad news for the Harper Lees and Margaret Mitchells.

Q: You give your work away for free. Can you explain your strategy on this?

A: Giving away the occasional free book is an established marketing tool. The first Walter Mosley book I read was a magazine freebie, and I became a huge fan. It’s a great way of increasing consumer awareness. I have had readers read my free e-books, then go buy the paperback. I still have the Mosley book, but I also bought another edition of it.

Q: How relevant is your success with traditional publishing to your reputation as an independent author?

A: Being a traditionally published author who switched to Indie does lend a degree of credibility. But reputations do not sell books. Positive word of mouth is the magic key to high number book sales and the only thing that will generate that is a damned good story. Admittedly the snowball rolling down a hill effect will be faster for a moderately well known author. It would be nice to be still amongst the best sellers in forty years time.

From the Huffington Post, October 29th 2010

So how did that work out, anyway?

Pretty good, actually.

When you visit AJ Davidson’s website now, it’s not a flashy page full of advertisements for his books––it’s a blog, a simple blog hosted by WordPress and packed with useful tidbits of information, including the latest gem from January 17th of 2017:

AJ Davidson has become the second Irish writer to join Radish, the serial fiction platform based on the incredibly successful model used in China and Korea. Paper Ghosts, Davidson’s most downloaded book (1,400,000) will be available in the near future, closely followed by a sequel released on a serial basis.

Can you imagine––almost one and a half million downloads of just one book? Yeah, Davidson may not be making the news the same way (after all, to do so, he’d have to self-advertise and aggressively) but he’s being productive in the way that counts most for an author: sales and distribution.

AJ Davidson
Author Photo

So why revisit this blog post?

It’s because we’re so used to stories of self-publishing authors “gone big,” gone over to traditional publishing after having been scouted by some enterprising soul within that industry. And don’t get us wrong, we love the stories about Andy Weir’s The Martian and Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle as much as anybody––but they’re not the only Cinderella stories out there. We have people like AJ Davidson, too, who defected from traditional publishing to move into the world of indie books because he saw the value in shaking off old modes of thinking. (And yes, there are other authors who defect for other reasons, including neglect or downright mistreatment from their publishing houses and marketing teams.)

The story of self-publishing and who chooses to do it is more rich and varied than we ever could have imagined, in 2010. Some indie authors have risen up who never knew any other way of life and publishing, and some have crossed over in each direction from traditional to indie and vice versa, and some still perceive it as the last haven of the desperate. But the stigma is fading, both as the tools for self-publishing improve each year, and as people begin to realize what many of us have always known: Everyone has something to say worth hearing, and self-publishing is the most effective, affordable, and natural way of saying it.

The news may seem a bit bleak overall just now, with political upheaval across the globe and many people still mired in despair, but there is a ray of hope. It may not be able to touch everything––but maybe it can, at that. The future of self-publishing is secure in people like AJ Davidson and in you, and your stories have a home.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.