From the Archives: “There is No Such Thing as Free Lunch”

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: May 28th, 2012 ]

Have you heard the cliché “There is no such thing as a free lunch”? Everything has a cost, even if it appears to be free. This true for self publishing as well as all other areas of life.

While there are companies who say they publish your book for free, there are still costs to you. For instance, you may have to buy large amounts of merchandise after the book is printed, or you will have to spend vast amounts of time marketing your own book. In addition, a “free” publishing company could harm your reputation has an author if your book is not of professional quality.

Authors who want their books to be taken seriously need to invest in their projects. This means you’ll at least need a good copy editor and possibly an experienced graphic designer. Depending on your skills and goals, you may also require marketing services. Not all self publishing companies offer these extra services.

Authors should invest in their books by choosing a full-service self publishing company that offers a variety of production and marketing services as well as excellent customer service. This will ensure that you have access to skilled professionals who will help make your book a masterpiece.

I’d love to know, what additional services do you plan to use when self publishing your book?

– by Wendy Stetina

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While a good (almost) five years have ticked by since Wendy first wrote this post, much of what she has said remains true. Yes, you still need to watch for hidden fees tucked into your self-publishing contract. Yes, you still need to guard against paying for any package that leaves big gaps for you to cover, especially if these gaps coincide with a lack of experience or expertise on your part that you can’t hope to redress in time to sell your book effectively. And yes, many of these issues naturally resolve themselves if you take care and exercise sound judgment in choosing the finest self-publishing company you can.

And since you’ve opted to pursue self-publishing, clearly your judgement is a finely-tuned instrument to begin with!

But I think Wendy had another, greater point buried within her original post, all the way back in 2012. The point of reputation. Your reputation is, for all intents and purposes, inseparable from your personal brand. And your personal brand is what, in the end, sells books. In an age where boycotts have been proven an effective means of communities exercising influence over what works of art get funded and produced, an author’s reputation means a lot. A lot. So much, in fact, that it might as well mean everything, because once it’s even faintly tarnished, it’s rather a complete loss.

The natural end of this formula (a + b = c) is that, yes, the self-publishing company you choose is fundamental to either losing or building a stellar reputation. While self-publishing authors and companies don’t have exclusive ownership of this formula (consider the rage boiling over a certain Twitter troll’s contract with Simon & Schuster, for example, which will affect both of their reputations in the long run), the self-publisher lives and operates an awful lot closer to the line of no return.

And several self-publishing companies have mistreated their customers. This is a sad fact, and not at all indicative of the general trend (which we hope we espouse) towards respectful and honest, unilaterally positive treatment … but even one rotten apple in a bushel is enough to inspire caution, isn’t it? (Or maybe a carton instead of a bushel. I cracked open a rotten egg a week ago, and let me tell you, I have struggled to walk through the kitchen ever since. The memory sticks.)

My point is this: listen to reviews from authors who have self-published already. Spend some time sussing out the dark corners of the internet to verify the company of your choice is, in fact, generating the kind of reviews it should be. Don’t pay any attention to general naysayers who give all self-publisher’s the middle finger, but do listen to articles and posts that are company-specific, and rooted in individual experience.

There’s no margin of error when it comes to your reputation and its relationship to your decision of where to take your next self-published book. Take it somewhere where it–and you, and yes, your lunch–will be in safe hands!

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.

Self-Publishing News: 12/21/15

‘Twas the week before Christmas,

and all through the blog,

not a book was neglected,

not even the news …

[we just couldn’t help ourselves! – SPA]

This week in the world of self-publishing:

“Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand?” asks Anastasia Crosson in this December 18th article for the online journal, Business 2 Community. She advocates for anyone seeking influence in a public conversation to make personal branding a priority: “A brand can make all the difference in standing out in a crowded marketplace. A brand can make a lasting impression. A brand can grow your network and business.” She particularly emphasizes the value of self-publishing “through blogging, or whatever medium is the best fit” for a person or author to share “content that tells a story about your work and shares your unique insights. […] Becoming a contributor to a publication you trust and respect is another great way to amplify your personal brand.”

Says Crosson, we indie authors can’t forget the importance of authenticity: “You don’t have to take yourself too seriously, try to fit a mold, or fall into the imitation trap. Your personal brand should look and feel like the best representation of you.”  There’s a lot to be said in defense of brand marketing, particularly when you’re an indie author looking for that breakout moment!  To read more of Crosson’s excellent article, follow the link.

In this week’s featured interview with an indie author, we’d like to point you to Meagan Meehan’s December 18th conversation with self-publishing groundbreaker, Ally Nathaniel, for The Examiner.  In her prelude to the interview proper, Meehan writes that “Indie publishing is becoming more and more commonplace, in large part due to Amazon’s accessible and easy-to-use self-publishing platforms […] which have opened the door to many people who are turning their love of writing into a full-fledged, full-time business.”

And while Nathaniel is certainly a case study in proof of this statement, she is also as Meehan points out, a kind of pioneer and indie mastermind: “Ally has literally written the book on self-publishing, and built a business for herself,” writes Meehan, all while “guiding other authors through the process and helping them self-publish their books too. Ally has turned her business into a cottage industry.”  The interview covers a number of topics ranging from Nathaniel’s inspiration and reasons for electing to self-publish to her ongoing and upcoming projects.  Hint: they’re all interesting!

Innovation in self-publishing doesn’t stop with words on a page, as Susan Lahey of Silicon HIlls fame reports in this December 17th article: indie authors and entrepreneurs continue to push the evolution of their own platform, as Monica Landers has done in co-founding Authors.me.  Landers, a producer for ABC News, pitches her website as a “platform to connect writers to agents or publishers.”

According to Lahey, Authors.me “helps writers create a profile with all the information agents and publishers need, and can arrange the connection between, say a Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy writer and the companies that are looking for that kind of book. Since the site launched in July, they’ve facilitated 15 book deals.”  Thankfully, it’s not all about a numbers game, as Lahey explains: “It’s about user experience.”  Citing the traditional publishing process as a “soul crushing experience,” Landers (through Lahey) also touches on the difficulties inherent to reading and writing within the indie universe. Landers’ website, which “gives both parties a place to communicate without a hailstorm of emails,” serves as a discovery tool for both readers and publishers to filter through the maelstrom of self-published work out there in search of new material. And a new discovery tool is always good news!

It’s not every day self-publishing is mentioned in the Chicago Tribune, but in a December 17th article, contributor Sara Clarkson has proven herself a firm (if occasionally skeptical) advocate.  Writes Clarkson, “The tired Scrooge in me has latched on to this quote from poet W.H. Auden: “Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation.”  She goes on to explain that she is in the habit of giving books for Christmas gifts, and lists those she’s already purchased for the purpose.  “Though my list this year is small,” she writes, there are still some books worth passing on.  But how to discern “the worthwhile from the worthless?”  Especially when it comes to the famously gatekeeper-free indie market?

“This is where our librarians step in,” says Clarkson, “especially those librarians who have an interest in the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project.”  The project is accepting e-books through January 4th of 2016 from Illinois authors with self-published works in the adult fiction genre.  The only requirements?  The authors must be from Illinois, have already self-published a digital copy of their adult fiction work, and be willing to promote that work “at libraries and other locations throughout the state.”  The books can be either purchased online or read for free at local public libraries.  According to Clarkson, the Soon to be Famous competition serves an excellent starting point if you’re looking to break into the indie market as a reader or author–and we couldn’t ask for a better Christmas gift!


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT 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.

6 Ways Watching Real Housewives of New York Can Help You Market Your Book

Do you watch Real Housewives of New York? If not, surely you’ve seen all the press about the show. Did you know that you can learn a lot about how to market your book and build your author brand by watching it? Here are just a few of the lessons to be learned when watching the show for any period of time (some old and some new):

  • Follow trends: Take note from Ramona and her jumping on the “renew your vows” trend. Sure, it is a good idea to be unique most of the time, but sometimes you have to “do the stuff everyone else is doing” in order to get your momentum going. After all – it works well for everyone else – isn’t it at least worth a “try”?
  • Defend the grapes: Bethenny offered to “stomp the grapes” to make wine. Not if Kelly had anything to do with it – she planned to eat those grapes. If you take a stand on some issue or cause that you really believe in and make this public knowledge, that’s a good way to network and build demand for you and your book.
  • Start your own team: It works for the Twilight saga (remember “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob”?) and is even working for RHONY with the “Team Blonde” and “Team Brunette” fiasco. Have you considered starting “teams” for the main characters in your book? This will build audience excitement for sure because people love to choose sides.
  • Refer to yourself in the third person: Did you see how Sonja referred to herself in the third person on the recent reunion show? Well, don’t do it that way, but this is a great way to write an effective author bio that will stand out amongst the crowd. Author bios should never be written in first person (neither should social media profiles and the like).
  • Toss modesty to the wind: Also in the recent reunion show, Kelly mentioned that Cosmo rated her as one of the Five Nicest Celebrities. Why can’t you do the same as an author? Naturally, you don’t want to tout your achievements at inappropriate times, but don’t be afraid to brag a little – especially when it comes to your bestselling author status.
  • Wear cream to the wedding: This is not the best thing to do in “real life”, but it can be very effective when promoting a book. Don’t allow other authors in your genre to get all of the spotlight. It’s OK to steal the show just a bit for yourself.

Many newly-published authors are faced with the question of: “How do I market my book?” Believe it or not, your answer could be as close as your nearest TV set.