Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 12/04/2015

LET ALL THE WORLD KNOW

 

“There was a MOMENT—just a flash of an idea—that would not let me go.” My friend Lorry Lutz (author of ten books, soon to be eleven) was explaining that she simply had to write her most recent book. “I don’t remember exactly how I came across this woman’s life story, but when I did I felt like I knew her. Her Faith was a passion and her compassion for women who were being forced into bondage led her into many dangerous situations. I simply had to bring her story into today’s world, so people will realize that each one of us can make a difference.”

And, there we have it—the Personal KEYS to writing—the moment (idea flash), the message (expressed through actions/events), the memory (personal connection) and the miracle (making a difference).

For many writers I know, the moment the writing idea formulates is when we’re half-asleep—or half-awake—whichever side of the moment we’re experiencing. Other times of awareness hit us when we’re driving, stopped at a red light and happen to glance across a beautifully landscaped park, or up into the brilliance of an evening sunset. And, of course, there is the shower moment or the kitchen-sink-full-of-dirty-dishes moment or the changing diapers moment. I’m certain that you can add many such idea flashes of your own to this list. The point being—these inspired moments DO come and we need to grab hold of them as quickly as possible.

Grasping the idea is crucial and so exciting! From that momentary idea flash comes the whole.

  • The Headline that will be highlighted on the back cover of your book.
  • The Summary and/or synopsis that will draw readers and publishers.
  • The Heart—or Thread—concept that will carry your main points throughout.
  • The Passion that you will exude when presenting your book to agents, publishers, and most importantly, to readers.
  • The Significance or Take-Away Value that readers will grasp and carry into their own lives.

Author Lorry Lutz will see her book Boundless (her working title) released in December, 2016. The heroine of this historical fiction novel is Katharine Bushnell (February 5, 1855 – January 26, 1946) who became a medical doctor and social activist at a time when very few ladies were willing to take the risks she did. Her desire to reform conditions of human degradation took her to back-country mining and lumber camps in America, villages in China and palaces in India. I hope you will bring Lutz’s excellent story into your homes when it appears online—an exceptional example of grasping an idea and developing it to its fullest.

 

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Lorry Lutz  (courtesy of her Twitter account)

 

Of course, timing is always a factor: the moment in time when the idea hits us, the months and quite possibly years in the research and writing, and the investigation and decision-making season when publishing options are weighed. Authors today have a quiver full of possibilities when reaching the moment to publish. You already know that mainstream publishers will not come knocking on your door to hand you a contract. However, if you know someone (who knows someone) in the big houses, there is at least the possibility that your manuscript will be read and considered. For those of us who are not in that position, the self-publishing presses have multiple packages that will not only get your book in print, but ONLINE for all the world to see. So talk to your author friends, query writing conference directors, read the Writers Market and Writer’s Digest, and discover where you and your book fit. Then … get it published!  ⚓︎

 

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Demystifying the Digital Census : Self Love Levels Drop

Two weeks ago, I launched this series by laying the groundwork for understanding what the FutureBook (and its parent organization, The Bookseller) is all about and, as a result, what the annual Digital Census seeks to measure and comment upon.  (In summary: it tracks emerging and outgoing matters of interest for authors and publishers and other trade experts invested in digital publishing, whether through traditional or indie, hybrid, and self-publishing platforms.)  I also took a quick peek at the FutureBook‘s first confirmed trend of 2015: the fact that mobile has overtaken both tablets and dedicated e-readers as the primary means for reading ebooks.  And last week, I applied a microscope to the FutureBook’s second confirmed trend of 2015: the fact that digital sales are still growing, but that growth is slowing.  

self-love

This week, I’m going to examine the FutureBook’s third confirmed trend for the year.  Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak: “Self-love levels recede as many indie authors report lower satisfaction levels.” The FutureBook publication, which you can read here, says:

futurebook

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You can imagine how deeply sad I feel when I see a well-respected and industry-enriching publication commenting on authors tanking in the self-love department.  As it turns out, the data indexed by the Digital Census isn’t necessarily asking authors to psychoanalyze their performance and self-satisfaction, so “self-love” may be a bit strong of a term––but then again, maybe not.  Many authors do equate self-satisfaction (and their identity, really) with their performance in respect to sales figures.  And that’s a deeply problematic way to measure self-worth, as everyone is well aware … but sometimes we can’t help but believe it to be an accurate yardstick, especially when we’re spoon-fed a certain narrative by the mainstream media: the narrative in which success means J.K. Rowling, means Veronica Roth, means Tom Clancy and P.D. James and Agatha Christie, means George R.R. Martin, means blockbuster film adaptations and interviews with Ellen or Oprah or Jimmy Kimmel.

Maybe other self-publishing authors and bloggers might be content to state that this is wrong and it shouldn’t be the case, but I can’t just let it lie.  Where does the narrative of success originate?  And how can we alter the conversation to reflect a more holistic, life-affirming reality––the selfsame reality that indie, hybrid, and self-publishing authors of great quality and phenomenal worth experience on a day-to-day basis?

I think a lot of it comes down to the whole do as I say, not as I do syndrome that applies to many other grand social narratives in our modern world.  For example, we affirm again and again to our children that whatever path life takes them on, they have value––as plumbers as well as princesses, as garbage collectors and astronauts––but we flood their lives with films, television shows, and books that highlight the “exceptional” nature of the same “grand narratives” that the world will later try and tell them are impossible to actually attain, in adulthood.  (When was the last time we turned to a college student and said, “You can totally be a princess!” … and actually mean it?)

It’s the same with publishing, including self-publishing: we tell warn aspiring authors again and again that success doesn’t look like any one thing, and it certainly isn’t equatable with sales figures.  But at the same time, the narratives of “successful” authors that we learn about and spread through news articles and social media are almost always about authors who rake in the big bucks and attention from the Big Five publishing houses (after a successful “grassroots campaign,” of course), and about rags-to-riches stories like Andy Weir’s and Christopher Paolini’s.  And I’m here to say: it’s too little, and too late.  It’s simply not good enough to affirm our indie authors as individual successes with trite sayings and cold comfort.  By the time we need comforting, it’s too late.  We have to break the stereotypes and unravel the threadbare story before authors publish.

Otherwise, we’re always going to be playing catch-up and damage control.  I will always, always be on hand to affirm that you’re a success simply because you did the hard thing and you (self-) published your book, but I think we can do more to set you up for a healthy sense of your own value and worth and general excellence, and do it earlier and better.  Let’s start by teaching the next wave of future authors that numbers do not an identity make!

 


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. ♠

From the Archives: “How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?”

Welcome to our new 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: July 13th, 2011 ]

You want to become a self-published author, but you also have bills to pay and a lifestyle to maintain. So you pull up Google (or your search engine of choice), and search for “average income for book authors” or “average income for self-published authors”. You skim the results but can’t find any solid statistics. There’s a good reason why. Ready for it? Authors aren’t paid a salary. They earn royalties based on the sales of their book. These royalties are paid to them on a set schedule – usually provided that they meet the agreed upon “minimum earning threshold”.

So, will I be able to pay my bills if I become a self-published author? That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to it. When you publish a book, you are essentially taking a “gamble” on yourself. Many authors keep their day jobs until they are able to earn enough to support themselves on their book sales alone. One dedicated Outskirts Press author made $100,000 in only 180 days (6 months). However, there are some authors who don’t earn anywhere near this amount in a year. Furthermore, there are some authors who may not sell even one book over the course of a year.

How do you know where you fall? Self-publishing is all about investing in yourself. Given that successfully publishing a book involves 20% writing and 80% marketing, you should naturally spend most of your time/money on promoting the book after you write it. If you need help, you may consider enlisting the services of a book marketing consultant.

The income of a self-publishing author is 100% in their own hands. No one can “predict” how much you will earn as that is only a result of two things:  the quality of your book and substantial effort in marketing it to the right audience.

Moolah

 Four years (and a few weeks) have passed since Elise first posted this blog about potential profits in self-publishing, and everything she wrote about then still holds up today.  But if you were looking for some statistics or some hard data to back up her assertions, consider the following information mined from a 2013 Forbes article:

  • 20% of self-published authors reported making no income at all from their writing, with a median income of under $5,000.
  • traditionally published authors had a median income of between $5,000 and $9,999.
  • hybrid authors–those who self-publish through a company like Outskirts Press–had a median income of between $15,000 to $19,999.
  • of authors who self-published, 1.8% made over $100,000 from their writing (in 2012); of traditionally published authors, 8.8% made a comparable amount; outdistancing the pack, hybrid authors performed the best, with 13.2% making over $100,000 in the same year.

The Forbes article stressed that theirs was an “non-scientific” sampling, so as not to be construed as “nationally representative” or even wholly accurate.  Still, when you look at the data, you can’t help but be impressed by one thing: hybrid authors are making out like bandits, comparatively!  We shouldn’t be discouraged by the first point, as the numbers don’t look all that great for traditionally published authors when it comes to profit and loss.

Take a look at this article from Publishing Perspectives, which includes a beautiful little infographic breaking down earnings by price bracket.  Those authors who make no money at all are fairly similar between traditional and self-publishing groups, but drop dramatically in the hybrid bracket.  On the whole, hybrid publishing platforms tend to spread out the earnings, percentage-wise, whereas self-published and even traditionally-published markets clump authors together into the lower income brackets.  (All but the Lucky Few, that is.)

All this to say, there’s been a shift in the last five years away from “strictly” traditional and “strictly” self-published modes of authorship.  The advent of indie and hybrid publishing–the diversification of the entire publishing system–has created more opportunities and more middle ground for authors who want to remain in control of the creative process.  None of this impacts Elise’s sound recommendation to stick to the 20/80 ratio (20% writing, 80% marketing)–but it does provide food for thought when it comes to offloading some of that marketing to professionals.  It’s no longer a question of “Can I find a niche?” but rather “Who is going to market my book most effectively?”  The answer isn’t always what you might think. ♠

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.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 8/19/14

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 Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

Writer’s Digest Inks Deal With BookBaby on New Self-Publishing Imprint

Writer’s Digest recently announced that the Company has entered a partnership with BookBaby to launch a new self-publishing division named Blue Ash Publishing. This new venture is grounded in what Writer’s Digest does best: educating writers. As more companies such as Writer’s Digest join the self-publishing industry, authors will reap countless benefits and the industry will continue to grow and flourish.

Yacht Captain Turned Bestselling Self-Published Author Tells All

This interview with NY Times bestselling self-published author Hugh Howey shares his writing journey and advice. He discusses his views on traditional publishing, his secrets to success, the film based on his book, and more.

Kindle Direct Publishing Unveils Pre-Orders for eBooks

Amazon has finally rolled out their pre-order program for all authors who distribute through the Kindle Direct Publishing. Self-published authors will be able to start selling their title before its officially ready, giving them the ability to hype the book in advance and start capturing sales. All self-publishing authors should check out this opportunity.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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 at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Are Self-Published Authors Successful?

I’ve heard many writers ask, “Are self-published authors actually successful?” My answer is always the same: Yes! But let me explain further…

What is success?

According the dictionary, success is defined as the accomplishment of one’s goals. This means that the definition of success is personal and depends on each individual’s goals. While one author may define success has earning a certain income, another author may define success as something entirely different. Some common definitions of success among self-published authors include:

  • Sharing their story with family and friends
  • Reaching a niche market
  • Finishing and publishing their manuscript, regardless of how many books they sell
  • Gaining fame
  • Earning an income
  • Increasing their business
  • Building their following of readers
  • Adding to their resume
  • Getting picked up by a traditional publisher
  • And many, many more

Self-published authors are capable of doing all of the things on that list.

How do you define success?

In order to be successful, you need to figure out how you define success. What do you want to accomplish by publishing your book? Are you looking to earn an income? Improve your professional career? Simply finish the manuscript you’ve been working on and see it in print? Share a story with your children?

Now, set your goals based on your definition of success. For instance, if earning an income is your ultimate goal, set goals to market and promote your book. Aside from writing and publishing a great book, you will need to focus on how you’re going to sell your book.

Earning money and gaining fame are not easy tasks, but they are possible. There are plenty of successful self-published authors who have proven this. For more information on becoming a successful self-published author, check out this great book: The Highly Effective Habits of 5 Successful Authors. Available at http://tinyurl.com/heho5sa

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Self Publishing is Easy, Standing Out Isn’t

While there are many perks to self-publishing — easy to do, higher royalties, no rejection letters, and more — there is also a major drawback: competition. Self-publishing has become very popular, and it seems like everyone — new authors, previously published authors, professionals, even children — is doing it. While it is great for writers to have the freedom and control that self-publishing offers, it also makes the publishing industry even more competitive.

I’ll be honest about something — the majority of self-publishing authors aren’t best selling authors who make millions of dollars. That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, but it does mean you need to understand the market, have realistic expectations, and work hard to make your book stand out. The solution is “simple”: write a great book, publish a quality book and do a great deal of marketing and promotion.

1) The Writing

Consider submitting your manuscript for a comprehensive, professional and unbiased review before having it published; actually the more reviews you have done, the better. They help you fine tune your manuscript to make it the best book possible.

2) The Publishing

As part of the publishing process, be sure to invest in professional copyediting and a custom cover.  If your book is riddled with typos and grammatical errors, it won’t be taken seriously.  If your book has a plain Jane cover, it could be overlooked.

3) The Marketing

This is the part many self-publishing authors miss.  Along with self-publishing comes self-marketing.  It’s not enough to just have distribution. The most successful self-published authors understand the importance of great marketing. Some self-publishing companies offer services to assist you with your self-marketing. Whether you choose to do it on your own, pay someone to help, or do a combination of both, this element of the process is an absolute must.

Don’t be discouraged!  There are many self-publishing authors who have had success, and you can too if you approach the process correctly.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 12/10/13

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 Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

Companies book profits from self-publishing

This USATODAY report talks about a social worker who self-published her books, sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and made millions. It also discusses the success of other self-published authors and self-publishing statistics.

Guess Which Amazon Top 100 List Self-Published Women Dominate?

At a recent trade conference, Amazon.com divulged that roughly 25 percent of its U.S. Kindle Top 100 list for 2012 was composed of self-published and “indie” authors. According to stats from this year’s current list, those numbers don’t seem to be budging. This is good news for self-published authors and independent publishing houses across the United States, but the big winner in this news seems to be women authors. This article is a must read for self-publishing authors.

The Self-Publishing Debate: A Social Scientist Separates Fact from Fiction (Part 1 of 3)

The author of this article begins by saying, “If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you that self-publishing was the road to nowhere.” She goes on to share her research on self-publishing and how her perception of self-publishing has changed. This is a fascinating read for self-published authors.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the 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 at http://kellyschuknecht.com.