Pronoun, a self-publishing service for authors, is shutting down after promising free ebook distribution for authors. The company, which raised millions in funding and ended up being sold to Macmillan announced the shutdown in an email to authors and on its website.
Two years ago Pronoun set out to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. We believed that the power of data could be harnessed for smarter book publishing, leveling the playing field for indie authors.
We are proud of the product we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community of authors that made it grow. Your feedback shaped Pronoun’s development, and together we changed the way authors connect with readers.
Unfortunately, Pronoun’s story ends here.
While many challenges in indie publishing remain unsolved, Macmillan is unable to continue Pronoun’s operation in its current form. Every option was considered before making the very difficult decision to end the business.
As of today, it is no longer possible to create a new account or publish a new book. Pronoun will be winding down its distribution, with an anticipated end date of January 15, 2018. Authors will still be able to log into their accounts and manage distributed books until that time.
For the next two months, our goal is to support your publishing needs through the holiday season and enable you to transition your books to other services. For more detail on how this will affect your books and payments, please refer to our FAQ.
The decision follows a long and arguably crazy mission to distribute and sell ebooks for free. The company started out as Vook, a service for creating complex and illustration-rich ebooks and slowly pivoted to its free model. Interestingly, the primary and best Pronoun feature for authors was its “free automated conversion tool that made absolutely beautiful ebooks.”
“They were nicer-looking than most ebooks made by people,” wrote Nate Hoffelder in The Digital Reader.
As the Internet moves away from the user-generated content model it will be interesting to see what other “free” content startups hit the skids.
Millions dream of quitting the grind and replacing their income through a rewarding, creative endeavor.
And what could be simpler – and more glamorous – than writing a bestselling novel?
After years of not knowing how the next month’s bill would be paid, thriller writer Mark Edwards is among a new and growing elite of high-earning authors who broke away from traditional publishing routes and self-published online.
His seventh solo book, The Lucky Ones, realized this week, comes five years after he walked out the last in a succession of dead-end jobs that included manning customer complaints line for a rail company.
The average British author earns just £12,500 a year, according to the Society of Editors, while Mr Edwards now takes home a comfortable five-figure income.
And the advent of ebooks played a major part in his success.
“When I started writing at 23 and trying to get published, no-one had heard of Amazon”, says Mr Edwards, now 46.
“I wrote four or five novels over the next five years and spent all that time trying to get an agent. The internet barely existed. You had to buy the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook and write to every agent with a synopsis and the first three chapters with a stamped address envelope.
“You be constantly getting these brown envelopes coming back, thudding onto your doorstep with rejection slips.”
Then, as today, writers need agents to put their work in front of the publishers who hold the keys to bookshops. He eventually got an agent in the late Nineties but it was the first of many false dawns. By 2001 he still didn’t have a book deal, had been “dumped” by the agent and was back to square one.
But his luck looked to have turned when the BBC bought the “option” on Killing Cupid, a new novel he’d co-written with Louise Voss, a long-time collaborator. This meant the broadcaster had the rights to turn the book into a television drama.
“They paid us a small amount, about £2,000, but it was the first money I’d ever earned from writing”, he says.
“But the BBC option never came to anything, as happens to 99pc of these things.”
All this time Mr Edwards was juggling writing in his spare time with a full-time job. First at the Child Support Agency – a now defunct Government body that dealt with child maintenance – and then at Connex, the predecessor to the South Eastern rail franchise.
“I was working on customer services, it was dreadful”, he remembers.
“I was on the phone all day being shouted at by commuters and answering complaint letters which always contained the phrase ‘beyond the wit of man’”.
“But the thing was these were the kind of jobs where you didn’t take it home with you. When I finished for the day I didn’t think about it. I was able to completely separate work and writing time. It also drove me on, I thought there must be something better than this.”
Eventually he got a job he actually liked, at a publisher in London, which presented another problem. More happy at work, he was quickly promoted and spent gradually less and less time writing.
“By 2007 I’d pretty much given up on being an author. I had a career and started having children and I didn’t have the mental energy any more. My day job and family took over my life. I thought ‘well I’ve given it my best shot, it didn’t work out’ but I could go away with some pride at having tried.”
How ebooks changed the game
Then, in 2010, Amazon launched its successful ebook reader, the Kindle, in Britain. Hundreds of thousands of new book were suddenly available far cheaper than traditional paper and hardback copies. Over a million out-of-copyright titles could also be purchased, often for pennies.
The launch fuelled a boom in self-publishing. For the first time there was a route for aspiring writers to circumvent agents and publishers and release their work at minimal cost.
Kindle Direct Publishing, the best known, gives authors two royalty options. Ebooks priced for a minimum of 99p, and less than 3 megabytes in size, earn a 35pc royalty. Or you earn 70pc royalties but the minimum price is higher, at £1.99. (See box for details).
“I read about how American authors were self-publishing and have quite a bit of success. Louise and I decided to publish Killing Cupid, the book the BBC never did anything with.
“I bought a cheap stock image and got my sister-in-law, who’s a graphic designer, to make the cover and I formatted the books myself.
“We priced it at 99p, which meant we got about 30p a copy. On day one we sold two – one to my mother-in-law and one to my boss. I spent all my spare time trying to get people interested, I was using social media and blogger, and completely neglecting my family.”
Eventually the book got into the Top 100 on the Kindle charts. At the same time the pair published another book, Catch your Death, which took off, quickly selling 1,000 copies a day. In a few months, the books were number one and two in the best-sellers’ list.
They were the first self-publishing British authors to get to the top spot on Amazon. Self-publishing was big news in 2011 and TV appearances followed. This led to a four-book deal with HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishers, and an advance of roughly £50,000 each.
It was then that Mr Edwards decided to take the plunge. He quit his job for good and moved out of London, to the West Midlands where property was cheaper, to focus on writing. But again the dream was derailed.
‘The bookshops were full of erotic novels’
“The summer of 2012 was probably the worst possible time to bring a book out. Bookshops were full of erotic novels trying to replicate the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and the London OIympics were on.
“The books came out and disappeared without a trace.”
By the time the third book, All Fall Down, was ready to be released the deal had turned sour. HarperCollins told them no shops would stock the fourth book; Edwards doesn’t think they’ll ever sell enough copies to pay back the advance.
His big break in tatters, Edwards was having sleepless nights.
“I had a mortgage, two children and one more on the way and had maxed out my credit card and overdraft limit. We really were one unexpected bill from disaster.”
In one last throw of the dice he updated a book he’d started a decade a go but never finished. He calculated he needed to sell 20,000 copies of The Magpies at £1.99 to clear his debts.
“I remember lying in bed on Good Friday clicking ‘refresh’ and realising that it wasn’t working, I wasn’t going to get anywhere near the number of sales I needed”, he says.
“But suddenly things turned around. A couple of hours later I hit refresh and I could see sales coming in really fast. The book started going up the rankings. I dropped the price to 99p and it kept climbing until it was number one. It was such an incredible relief.”
At its peak, the book sold 3,000 copies a day for two months. Amazon’s own publishing company approached him and signed him to its crime and thriller brand Thomas & Mercer. Since then he’s had six solo books published and sold over two million books.
Now earning over £100,000 a year, Edwards has bought a bigger house and begun to save into a pension for the first time. He gets monthly royalties from the first four books published by Amazon but says it’s difficult to know how much he’ll be earning beyond the next year or so.
He worries that the public’s appetite for the thriller genre may be waning.
“I never feel like I can rest on my laurels. I’ve seen it go wrong before so I’m determined to keep working, hopefully for ever.”
Mark Edwards’ latest book – The Lucky Ones – is published this week. A psychological thriller set in Shropshire, it follows a detective on the case of a serial killer whose victims die smiling.
Medium plans to start letting more and more authors publish paywalled articles. And to determine how they get paid, the blogging platform has selected a fairly unorthodox method: claps, which are, basically, Medium’s equivalent of a Like.
A couple weeks ago, Medium replaced its “recommend” feature — a little heart button at the end of each article — with a “clap” button that you can click as many times as you want (much like how Periscope lets you send broadcasters an infinite number of hearts). The site wants people to send authors claps to show how much they enjoy reading each article.
Now, those claps are actually going to mean something. Medium pays authors by dividing up every individual subscriber’s fee between the different articles they’ve read that month. But rather than doing an even division between articles, Medium will weight payments toward whichever articles a subscriber gives the most claps to. It’s not clear exactly how much each individual clap tips the scale, but you can be sure that writers will be asking readers to click that button.
It’s a pretty strange way to implement payments, since it relies on a really arbitrary metric that individual subscribers might use in really different and inconsistent ways. Time spent on page and whether someone shared an article probably would have been useful metrics by which to tell how much a reader enjoyed a piece, but maybe that makes too much sense for a startup in the middle of its second business model pivot. On the positive side, claps can help Medium surface content that people are enjoying and get it in front of more readers.
For now, Medium is dividing between writers the entirety of subscribers’ $5 per month fee. Eventually, the company plans to “start covering our own costs,” but it’s not taking a cut for the time being, as it tries to attract writers.
So far, Medium has worked with specific authors and publishers to put their articles behind the site’s paywall. As of today, it’s going to start rolling out the option to more and more of the site’s writers. A representative for the company wouldn’t clarify if all writers would eventually be given this ability, but said Medium is “planning to ramp up quickly” the number of eligible authors.
When Keith Houghton bought his four-bedroom detached house earlier this year, he did a rare thing for an author: he paid cash, with earnings from his books.
Keith who, you may ask? Houghton is one of a handful of so-called “hidden” bestsellers: his self-published crime thrillers are ebooks, sales of which are not monitored by the UK’s official book charts (if they don’t have ISBNs, which self-published titles often don’t).
Houghton made his money over the past six years by selling more than 500,000 books, chiefly through his Gabe Quinn series of thrillers. In a world in which traditionally published authors struggle to make £7,000 a year from their work, it is no wonder Houghton says: “I feel like I have won the lottery.”
And he is not alone. A handful of writers who top the Kindle charts, including LJ Ross and Rachel Abbott, have also defied rejections from publishers and agents to knock out seven-figure sales for their brand of crime and thriller writing. This, in a market where it only takes around 3,000 sales to top the hardback charts.
Houghton’s story is typical of many self-published writers: after notching up more than 100 rejection slips, the Lancashire-based computer repairman decided to self-publish his first Quinn novel, Killing Hope. Mending computers in Leigh may have made him seem an odd fit for hardboiled crime set in LA; at first, readers seemed to think so, as he struggled to sell even a handful of copies online. So Houghton gave them away instead. Within a day, Killing Hope had been downloaded 25,000 times.
“I was stunned,” he recalls – although his shock was as much at the thought that he had given away £25,000 in profits. “But once it reverted back to being paid for, it started to get traction in the charts and within three months, it had sold in to six figures,” he says. “I’m still quite shocked.”
For avid reader and former City lawyer Ross, writing was a distraction during her maternity leave. After she contacted 12 agents with her genre-crossing crime novel Holy Island, she had a couple of potential offers on the table. “But when I looked at the terms of the contract, my husband asked if I had thought of publishing through Kindle, because the terms for authors seemed far more favourable,” she says.
Amazon is once again ruffling the feathers of publishers and authors alike, this time for a change in its policy that allows the “buy button” to redirect to the seller with the best customer service rating and pricing for the item. That’s all well and good if you’re purchasing a kayak from a third-party seller–after all, lower prices and faster order fulfillment are what keep customers coming back–but this change also extends to books.
This change means that the very publishers who sell their own works–whether they are the authors themselves, fully operating publishers, or authors with their own imprint for business purposes–can now be undersold and therefore not be the actual seller when a consumer (oblivious to the rule change) clicks “add to cart.” Unless the consumer takes the time to notice who will be fulfilling the order and then bothers to click for further options in order to find the actual content owner, one of the many “bookshop” sellers who buys a book, undercuts the price, and then makes up for it in outrageous shipping fees can get that sale.
The middle-of-the-fence conundrum is this: what exactly does Amazon “owe” to authors? Yes, it was arguably the authors and small presses who’ve propelled Amazon to its current earning status by selling their content and bringing in customers, otherwise Amazon could have just been another B&N, Borders, or Books-A-Million. But who is Amazon’s favored demographic, writers or consumers?
When Goodreads (owned by Amazon) was facing near-daily backlash for allowing abusive reviews that ultimately ended up on retail channels due to API agreements, the site had a simple message for the victims: “we’re not here for authors to feel good, we’re a site for readers to express their opinions.” Basically, the answer was suck it up, buttercup, and Goodreads refused to take the requested drastic action against members who were seen as unfair in their behavior.
Now, the same is true of Amazon’s retail practices. Their end goal is providing the best possible outcome for consumers in order to retain customers, and less about making sure authors earn as much money as they can. The only recourse at this time for authors who don’t agree is to stop allowing Amazon to be their only retail channel, something that might actually hurt Amazon enough to force a change to this rule. Perhaps it’s time to help the next retail channel grow too big.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in—today, customers and clients demand to work with experts. In some cases, they want to work only with the marquee names in a particular field.
As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to take the right steps to demonstrate your expertise and authority—and, if possible, be seen as a bit of a celebrity in your business.
The best way I know how to make that happen: Write a book. The credibility that you can achieve among your ideal clients and prospects by being a published author is amazing. I know—I’ve written or co-written dozens of books, and they’ve have a huge impact in establishing me as an expert in my niche.
The good news: Writing and publishing a credibility-building book is nowhere near as difficult as it might seem at first glance. I recently spoke with Rob Kosberg to get his advice on generating tons of new business using books as primary marketing tools. Kosberg is the author of the best-seller Life After Debt and the founder of Best Seller Publishing, which helps business owners write, publish and successful market their own bestselling books. To date, Kosberg has helped 300 authors in 25 niches use books to accelerate their success.
1. Everybody has a book in them. The most common response most entrepreneurs have to the idea of writing a book is, “I’ve lead a pretty mundane life that isn’t the basis for a book.” Wrong, says Kosberg. “If you’re a business owner, you’ve had experiences and stories that are book-worthy,” he says. “Even if your backstory isn’t especially exciting, you have examples of how you have helped your clients or customers, and that’s more than enough.”
2. Don’t go it alone. That said, getting your own story and ideas out of you and into a well-written book isn’t an instinctive process. Get help by working with a ghost writer who can capture your stories, your insights and—most important—your voice. A lot of entrepreneurs think it’s somehow cheating or being unethical if they don’t write the book entirely by themselves, but that’s simply not true. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to be the author—the person with the expertise and advice—and work with a writer who can get that information on the page in a way that positions you as an authority. Bonus: A writer will help you get your book done faster than if you go it alone—and can even help make the process fun.
3. Use the book to generate leads. The biggest mistaken assumption that business owners usually make when doing books is that they’ll make a lot of money from book sales. That’s almost never the case, unless you manage to get on Oprah.
It’s OK if your book doesn’t fly off the shelves (or the e-shelves). The reason: Your book isn’t an end—it’s a means to get lots of new clients, get booked for speaking engagements at events, get booked on local radio and TV and generally raising awareness of you (and your expertise) among ideal prospects.
That’s why your book effort should be accompanied by a lead generation strategy—which could be as simple as having prospects call a phone number you give out during a radio show appearance to get a copy of the book and more information. Or you can use various e-marketing and direct marketing strategies.
Pro tip: Be willing to give away your book for free. The leads you can generate from simply getting your book into prospects’ hands are much more valuable than the cost of the book itself. For example, one of Kosberg’s clients used his book to get a speaking engagement at a trade show—the book gave him the credibility to get the attention of the organizers, who had refused to book him in the past. Then he gave away copies of the book to prospects at the event—and ultimately generated $700,000 worth of new business as a result.
4. Take advantage of self-publishing options. In the “old days”—maybe 10 years ago—publishing a book meant going through a publishing company and spending big bucks. They might make you print a thousand copies, most of which would end up sitting in a box in your basement. Now, of course, you can self-publish inexpensively through Amazon and other services. Even better, you can print your book on demand in whatever amount you need.
I know Twitter can be a confusing medium for many authors – what can you say in 140 characters or less to promote your book? In my opinion, Twitter is actually a writer’s dream for those who like to write short, like the absence of a lot of images, and are willing to experiment.
A news service that the users create, Twitter is a great resource to meet other writers, agents, editors, and book bloggers, people who love to read and review books.
10 Tips on Promoting Your Book on Twitter
1. Open an account on Twitter. Choose a name that is easily recognizable, ideally your author name. In the long run, as an author, you are your brand. If you choose a name like “jamie123” this won’t help you build name recognition.
2. Bring in your email contacts. Twitter makes this easy. In this way, you can see who you already know on Twitter.
3. Craft a profile that tells us 1) you’re an author and what genre you write (romance, how-to, memoir, etc.); 2) your interests that reflects your personality; and 3) what can entice us to want to get to know you better. There is a separate field for your website or blog site, so don’t put that in your Twitter profile.
4. Draft tweets ahead of time because you’d rather be writing, right? Use a service like Hootsuite.com, BufferApp.com, SocialOomph.com, or Tweetdeck — all with free versions — to schedule tweets ahead of time. You can also use these tools to reply to people, and follow conversations. More on Twitter conversations below.
5. Spend most of your time interacting directly and publicly with people who follow you, retweet (RT) you, and “favorite” your tweets. You do this by using the @ Connect tab on the Twitter menu. I spend 90% of my time here.
6. Interact in conversations that relate to your book. You do this by clicking on the “# Discover” tab. This is where you can type in a keyword with or without the # sign, or hashtag. Authors often ask me how to use the hashtag. By typing in your keyword with a hashtag, like “#amwriting” — a hashtag used to connect with others writers who are writing — you can stay in touch and be a part of a larger conversation happening around the virtual water cooler.
7. Use the 5-5-5 rule to keep your time focused and limited: Spend 5 minutes responding to tweets, follows, and replies. Spend a second 5 minutes following new people. Twitter offers suggestions all the time on the left-hand side. You can also use the “# Discover” tab. Use the final 5 minutes crafting tweets, thanking, sharing, and inviting.
8. Take risks. Sometimes we don’t know what will work until we try it. There’s lots of room for experiment and play. As long as you are in line with what you stand for (your platform, really), then what you do on Twitter (and by extension the other social media channels), you can feel good about your actions.
9. Learn from the masters or the more experienced authors. When I see a book marketing campaign done by another author that I think is really cool, I try it — with my own spin, of course.
10. Participate in conversations. There is a plethora of hashtags that writers are using to connect, promote, and learn. As I mentioned above, there’s #amwriting. There’s also #amediting. If you’d like to participate in a live conversation, the tool to use is Tweetchat, a free service, at http://tweetchat.com/.
Two other very popular hashtags are #FF or #FollowFriday, and #WW or #WriterWednesday. If you type these in the Search box, you’ll see lots of writers using these. The primary purpose of both of these is to give a shout out to your followers (#FF) and to your friends and colleagues (#WW).
The self-publishing revolution has taken place, in large part, online, with readers discovering books and connecting directly with indie authors through sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Wattpad, Smashwords, and more. In addition to book blogs, online book clubs, and online advertising, one of the central means by which readers learn about self-published books is the customer review. Reviews offer (ostensibly) unbiased commentary about a book, and while positive reviews are undoubtedly more desirable than one-star pans, having a mixed bag of reviews is better than having none at all.
“Along with the cover image, a book’s aggregate review score creates the first impression on Amazon” says Aaron Cooley, who self-published his novel Shaken, Not Stirred. “But the total number [of reviews] is important, too.”
But if customer reviews are, by their very nature, customer-generated, what can authors do to get more of them? Without resorting to “sock-puppet” reviews—that is, reviews written by the book’s author using an alias—how can authors turn that discouraging “no customer reviews yet” message into a smattering of star ratings and commentary?
It’s common for indie authors to reach out to book bloggers to pitch their books for review. If you’ve succeeded in getting your book reviewed—or you’re still shopping for the right blogger—ask the blogger if they’re willing to post their review to Amazon or Goodreads, in addition to their own blogs.
Jane Litte, owner of the popular romance blog Dear Author, says that, when it comes to posting reviews to other websites, “Each reviewer has their own practices and habits. Personally I post a short review of books I’ve read at Goodreads.”
Others will post to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites, such as Shelfari. On The Indie View, a site that hosts a list of bloggers and writers who review self-published books (for free), reviewers specify which sites they’ll post their reviews to.
Paid Review Services
It’s equally common for indie authors to purchase reviews through paid review services. These sites, such as BlueInk Review and Self-Publishing Review, will often post their reviews to commerce sites such as Amazon, or will allow authors to repost reviews to those sites.
BlueInk Review, for instance, offers detailed instructions for uploading a review to the “Editorial Reviews” section of the book’s Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages. Customers of Self-Publishing Review can request to post their reviews to the “Editorial Reviews” sections of those sites, along with several others, as well.
Editorial Reviews vs. Customer Reviews
Whether you’re pitching a book blogger or purchasing a review from a paid review site, it’s important to understand each reviewer’s reposting policy. Some bloggers (such as those listed on Indie View) will post their reviews to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads as customer reviews, which generate star ratings and contribute to the overall rating of your book.
Other reviewers, such as BlueInk Review and Self-Publishing Review, repost their reviews as “Editorial Reviews,” which do not generate star ratings. Both types of reviews are, of course, valuable, but it’s important to know what you’re getting with each. Indie authors in search of star ratings may have to supplement editorial reviews by taking alternate approaches.
Approaching Reviewers on Amazon
Reviews from Amazon customers can be helpful to indie authors trying to drum up conversation around their books. But a review from a Top Customer Reviewer—identified by a small tag next to their name in their reviews, and also listed here—can be especially beneficial. These are reviewers that Amazon has singled out for being highly prolific and helpful in their feedback. Lauren Pepper Wu, writing for the self-publishing blog The Creative Penn, recommends pitching top reviewers: “You can be sure that the Amazon top customer reviewers put a lot of thought and energy into their reviews,” she writes. And since they’ve “proven themselves to be fast…[they] will therefore most likely have a quick [turnaround].”
Top reviewers typically have a profile page containing their contact information, details about their background, and reading preferences. Be aware that some reviewers do not wish to be pitched (and will state as much on their profile), and that not every top reviewer reviews books.
Finding a top reviewer to contact can be time-consuming. In addition to wading through the Top Customer Reviewer list, indie authors can also look at customer reviews of books comparable to their own (whether in terms of genre or subject matter) and see if any top reviewers have reviewed them.
Getting Reviews on Goodreads
There are two main ways to tap into Goodreads’ avid user base and increase your chances of getting reviewed on the site. If you join the Author Program, you’ll have the ability to host a giveaway. Authors typically give away advance copies of their books, and can choose how many books to send out (the site recommends giving away “as many copies as you can afford”). In your giveaway announcement, you can also include a message requesting (tactfully, of course) that winners of the giveaway review the book on the site. (There is, of course, no guarantee that they will or that their review will be positive.)
Another way to reach readers on Goodreads is by joining groups. If, let’s say, an indie author has written a historical novel set in medieval times, she can join the Ancient & Medieval Historical Fiction group and contribute to its discussion boards. As with other online social environments, such as Twitter, it’s best to communicate with other members organically; spamming users about a book is unlikely to generate reviews, and it may result in removal from the group. “Many groups have rules for how authors can or cannot participate,” the site says.
Ultimately, whether online or off, indie authors engaging with other book-lovers about their titles and asking for feedback is the most direct, and perhaps most satisfying, way to get reviews. “I’m always asking people who tell me they love [my] book to please also post a review,” Cooley says.
These days, we hear a lot about book discovery. As more and more books hit the market, readers are deluged with choices and authors are struggling to get in front of new readers and even existing fans. Recently Bowker announced that the number of books published each day in the US is up to 3,500. This does not include all eBook data since many eBooks are published without ISBN numbers that Bowker can track. What this has done is create a strong need for a reader’s voice. Reaching these readers, however, is another matter entirely.
What’s an aspiring publisher or author to do? Well, it’s time to get serious about being seen in places where your reader will find you. It’s time realize the things that are important to your reader: reviews and engagement. Authors who focus on those two things alone are head and shoulders above the rest.
More Reasons to Love Reviews
The other reason to love reviews is that the more reviews you get on Amazon the more visible your book becomes. This is largely due to the Amazon algorithm which is based on a few things, one of which is the number of reviews you get to your page. It’s called Social Proof and Amazon loves it. More reviews on your page push your book higher in search ranking when someone enters your book’s search term into the Amazon search bar.
Different Types of Reviewers, Do They all Matter?
Reviewers, like anything in marketing, are very relationship based. That’s why it’s often easier to get reviews for your second or third book, but first-time authors, don’t worry – I’m going to show you a tip in a minute that can help you double or triple the amount of reviews you get.
There are a few different types of Amazon reviewers. Let’s look at each:
Top Amazon Reviewers: These folks can review anything, not just books, and they often do a lot of reviews. I had one reviewer tell me she once posted 100 reviews a month on Amazon. These reviewers also get a lot of credibility in that their reviews are often accompanied by attributes such as Hall of Fame Reviewer, Vine Voice and Top Ten Reviewer.
It’s a great thing to get a top Amazon reviewer to consider your book but they are tough to target. Does it mean you should ignore them? No. We’ll talk more about how to creatively target them in a moment.
Amazon Reader Reviewers: These are readers who just love books. They aren’t part of the top list like the high profile Amazon reviewers, but they can also review a lot of books. Their reviews are thoughtful, insightful, and thorough. They tend to be very genre focused, which means that they stay true to one genre, possibly two. Many of them are also on Goodreads, which is another reason why it makes sense to be on that site, too.
Consumers: Do consumers review books? Yes, but according to a review statistic I read recently they don’t review a lot. Often only 1% of consumers will review a book they read, but I’ll show you how to quadruple that number for your next book.
Bloggers: We love bloggers. They have this tireless passion for books and if you can get them to review yours, this relationship can last the length of your career. But keep in mind that while book blogger relationships are great, not all of them review on Amazon so if your goal is to really populate that page with reviews, you’ll want to make sure they do.
As you will see, the list has two tabs on it, Top Reviewer Rankings and Hall of Fame Reviewers. The Hall of Fame list is really the top of the top. If you can get picked up by one of those folks, you’re golden. Not all of them review your genre, and some don’t even review books. There are other ways you can reach them, though.
Some authors I know will just find reviewers based on other, similar titles. You can do this by going to books that cover the same or a similar topic and see who has reviewed their book on Amazon. You follow the reviewer’s link to his or her Amazon profile page, look for an email address, and send a pitch. It’s a very time-intensive way to get reviews, though it’s 100% worth it. If you start this process early (i.e. before your book is published), you’ll be able to target these folks as soon as your book is ready to go.
The other way to find reviewers is to use the following search string, which I’ve seen a few times in various formats. Keep in mind that this search string isn’t an exact science, and I’ve also found that it works better for some genres than for others. First, let’s take a look at the search string structure:
1. First is the site you want to search: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers this is the profile link on the Amazon page—that’s the URL you are searching from so you must include this in your search string.
2. Next you want the Top X reviewers, in this case I recommend putting in 500 or 1000. You won’t pull up that many, but it’s a nice high number to shoot for. Why the difference in the number? Because I recommend that you search it both ways. Oddly, though you’re just changing a number, each of these searches may produce different results.
3. Next up is the genre. I put in romance here but yours might be mystery, sci-fi, etc. Whatever your genre is (fiction or non-fiction), put it there.
When you do this, you still have to sift through the results. Keep in mind that not all Amazon reviewers list their email address on their profile so you may have to hunt for them by searching their name and their blog (most Amazon reviewers have blog sites they repost their reviews to).
If you’re willing to continue your search, you can also try this search string:
Note the spelling of the term e-mail. For the purposes of finding the right reviewers, we want to mimic how the term e-mail is referenced on the reviewer site.
This process, while time-consuming, can help you start building your top Amazon review list.
How to Double the Amount of Blogger Reviews You Get
You’ve now identified the bloggers you want to pitch and they also review on Amazon. You know that they get a lot of review requests, so how will you make yours stand out?
Last year I conducted an experiment. I wanted to see if there was a way I could double or triple the amount of reviews I could get if I were an unknown, newly published author. If you’ve ever attempted to get reviews, you know it’s never easy as a first-time author. You’re lucky to get one or two at the most. I always tell authors to personalize their pitches whenever they can because it’ll net more review requests. Most of the time authors sort of nod in agreement, but I suspect that very few actually do this.
I mean let’s face it; it’s a big time suck to personalize pitches, right? You have to go to their blog, find their name, look up some of the books they’ve done reviews on, see if they’re right for your book and then pitch them. Seems like a lot, right? Now I’m going to ask you to take this a step further. I want you to include some personal information on them, too. I did this anytime I could and, as I said, I tripled the amount of review requests I got for this unknown author. In some cases I quadrupled the amount.
Turning Your Book into a Review Machine
We all want to turn our book into a sales machine. Now I’m not taking about turning your book into a cross-promotion tool (though that’s good, too) I’m speaking about getting your book to work for you in other ways.
We’ve worked with many first-time authors, but earlier this year I had an idea I wanted to try. I wanted to find a way to encourage readers to review the book by adding a specific request. We asked the author to include a letter in the back of her book asking for reviews. She reminded readers how important their voice is. Did it work? Yes. In fact she’s got well over 70 reviews of which only 10 were solicited. Remember, this is a first-time author with no history online and this book was self-published. All of these things worked against her and still she succeeded in getting tons of reviews. Were they all five-star? No, but that’s not the point. Let’s face it, a book page that’s populated with tons of five-star reviews is pretty suspect anyway. All of the reviews are authentic, written by real readers the author engaged with. Want to know another secret? These readers are now part of her “tribe;” she stays in touch with them and lets them know when her next book is out.
Keep in mind that as I mentioned earlier, generally only 1% of consumers review books on Amazon. Using this letter helped to beat that average by a lot.
A Little Known Amazon Tool
Did you know that you can respond to a review on Amazon? Using access to your Author Central account you can now write a note thanking the reviewer, or, you can let the various reviewers know that you have another book out and ask them if they want a free copy for review. To gain access to your Author Central Page, go here and log in using your regular Amazon login: https://authorcentral.amazon.com
Once you’re inside you’ll see a header. Click on Customer Reviews. Once you click that button, it’ll take you to this page where you’ll see a bunch of your reviews. Under each review you’ll see “Add a comment”—this is where you want to click. That will let you respond to the reviews. It’s a great way to connect with your readers on Amazon!
Reviews and the process of getting them has gotten more challenging and time intensive as new books continue to flood the market. Reviewers have a lot of choices. But if you’re smart about your efforts, and leverage Amazon’s features wisely, you can really boost your book’s exposure, and your sales. One final note on Amazon reviews. Sometimes in order to get reviews, you need to become a reviewer. I’m not suggesting you compete for their top review spot, but instead help other writers in your market by reviewing their books. It’s not only a great way to pay it forward, but they may offer you a review, too.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from self-published authors who found The Ultimate Book Coach after they published their books is, “My book isn’t selling. Can you help me?”
And 99.9% of the time when I look at their book on Amazon or their website, I can name several reasons why they’re having problems selling their books.
Here are 10 reasons why their self-published books don’t sell, and what you can do to make sure yours does.
1. Obscure subject—Books that do well are those in a popular niche. If you do an Amazon search and find hundreds of books in your niche, that’s a good sign. It doesn’t mean that niche is over-populated, it means that niche is hopping. Think of the diet and food industry. More diet books are being published every day, and they still continue to sell.
If you want to tell your personal story, ensure its success by tying your story into how-to steps your reader can take to change his or her life.For example, if you’re writing your story about surviving cancer, focus on a specific type of cancer (narrow your niche) and specifically tell readers how they can get the same results you did and how you got through it.
2. Poorly edited—Sure your close friends and family will buy your book to support you, but all it takes is one nasty Amazon review from a reader outside your circle to dampen your overall sales. If you have a list of devout followers who hang on your every word, you can get them to give your book five stars on Amazon. However, be careful as too many five-star reviews paired with a lot of bad one- and two-star reviews will tell the truth that your book is poorly edited.
Ensure your book’s content is clean and professionally edited by a book industry expert, and you’ll go a long way toward satisfying your readers and getting complete strangers to sell your book for you by recommending it to their friends.
3. Poorly written—Let’s face it, some books are badly written to begin with. Hiring a professional editor can help, but I’ve read some books that are nothing short of one sales letter after another trying to get me to purchase the author’s or the authors’ friends’ stuff. Affiliate links and recommending programs is fine in a book, it’s even a good tactic for increasing residual income.
But you can really tick off your readers if your advertising copy outweighs your knowledgeable step-by-steps. Ticked off readers leave nasty reviews. Do yourself a favor, and make your book more saleable by delivering solid benefits to the reader, not just trying to sell them more crap. Think of your recommendations for products and services as the icing on your content’s cake.
4. Unprofessional cover design—It’s been proven that a clean, professional, easy-to-read cover sells more books. Initially when self-publishing through vanity publishers started becoming popular in the early 2000s, these books had a bad reputation due to the other reasons in this article, but primarily due to poor cover design. Having studied cover design for over 10 years, I can spot a horrible template cover vs. one done by a graphic designer vs. a professionally designed cover by someone who specializes in book cover design.
And believe me when I tell you, your readers will know the difference as well. A good cover has a lot of elements that draw the reader in to click, learn more about your book and buy it. If you can only outsource one step of your book’s production, hire a professional book cover designer. You won’t regret it!
5. Bad interior design—Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign? There’s a reason book layout software exists. And there’s a big reason why traditional publishers use this software. MS Word is not a page layout program. This is one of the primary reasons self-published books get poor reviews or fail to sell, because books formatted in MS Word scream, “Look at me! I’m self-published!”
A professional book layout designer understands the need for different spacing in the margins, paragraph styles, bulleted lists and the importance of other styles staying consistent.
A huge indication a book is self-published using MS Word is if blank pages still have the header and footer printed on them. Especially if you want your book to bring you new clients, this screams, “I did this cheap to save money.” And your client will read, “I cut corners when I coach you or work on your projects.” With money harder to come by, people are more willing to pay more for a higher quality than waste money cutting corners that should never be cut.
6. Yucky formatting—In the world of eBooks, formatting is key. Bad spacing, words appearing at random, graphics overlaying text, whole chapters bolded and italicized… You name it, it could go wrong in eBook formatting.
The more complex your layout is, especially if you created a pretty print book with a professional designer first, the more you should invest in a good eBook programmer. These programmers specialize in eBook XHTML language (which can be different than your standard website code) and know what it takes to avoid most of these issues.
7. Rush the process—Producing a high quality book that sells takes time. The more corners you cut and the more you rush the process, the more it will show in your finished product.
There’s a reason traditional book publishers take an average of two to three years to take a book from rough manuscript to hard copy. They take the time to do it right. If you want to compete in the market, take time to create a high quality work, both in polishing your writing and producing your final book.
8. Bookstore Requirements—Having a book signing at a brick-and-mortar store can be a huge deal for an author. Not only does it feel great, but many Barnes and Noble stores get their guest authors to appear on local news stations and listed in newspapers.
This is free publicity! By meeting these rigid requirements, other marketing doors will open for your book. If your book doesn’t meet their requirements, you must focus on online sales and any you can sell out of the trunk of your car.
9. Expectations—Many authors set their expectations so high they’re sorely disappointed. You may sell one book or thousands, and what you need to ask yourself is, “If my message changes just one life, is it worth it?” If the answer is, “Yes,” you’ll be surprised once you touch that one life and sales begin to flow. If you expect everyone to come knocking down your door because you just hit the “publish” button on your book, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
If you’re not careful, this disappointment can quickly lead to depression and a sense of failure, and those are emotions hard to keep to yourself. Spread those feelings and no one will want to buy your book, no matter how good it is. Be realistic in your expectations, and surprised and excited at your success!
10. Marketing—If your book meets everything in the list above, it still won’t sell if you don’t market it. Even traditional publishers are reneging on their contractual obligations to market well-established authors’ books. It doesn’t matter how your book gets published, you must market it. You can do everything right, but if you don’t tell people about your book, they won’t buy it.
If you’re afraid of the big, bad “M” word, invest in some book marketing courses and teach yourself out of your fear. It’s the only way you’ll succeed as a self-published author.
Before the digital age, information consumption via mobile devices was considered an optional trend among print content creators and publishers. Now it is practically a professional imperative. In fact, recent studies show that several major traditional print publications regained significant growth by introducing mobile content to their digitally focused audiences.
Today’s professional—and her office environment—are ever-evolving, and so are the ways that she consumes information. Her need to diversify and increase professional development skills on the go makes the need for on-demand, easy access to resources a necessity. This is but one reason why publishers should place emphasis and importance on engaging business and corporate professionals through mobile learning.
A rapidly changing information environment has dictated a shift in the business-learning paradigm, particularly with traditional methods of information consumption. It is predicted that the next few years will see consumers purchasing more personal mobile devices, not consolidating them. This is a key insight for publishers, as the need to provide corresponding mobile content will become essential for effective, continual engagement with target audiences.
Mobile learning is projected to be a $38 billion industry by 2020. Its commercial success and lucrative outcomes are certain to yield stronger figures in the very near future. Likewise, the transition to mobile will create several benefits for both business professionals and publishers.
Mobile access to content, by the very nature of online interconnectivity, will extend the publisher’s reach and increase brand influence beyond that of traditional print means. Moreover, mobile learning via a native app can create innovative, data-driven possibilities for publishers. Device-specific features and functions can be used to naturally integrate into the user’s everyday experience, creating a very organic synthesis between routine mobile activities and new learning experiences via the app.
For professionals, the benefits of mobile accessibility span across business and personal landscapes. The convenience and ease of at-your-fingertips, on-your-schedule access personalizes learning, deepens engagement and understanding, and increases productivity, revenue and positive staff behavior. Simply put, business content that moves with its users can shape a symbiotic interdependence between publishers and professionals that has never been available, until now.
Increase Your Mobile Advantage
Mobile accessibility for business publishers may seem daunting, but there are very simple ways publishers can begin engaging and reaching mobile learners:
● Secure app access. Ensure platforms that you host your content on have dedicated mobile apps. Professionals devoted to your authors’ content will appreciate a dedicated brand resource beyond mobile web access when they are on the go. ● Engage socially! Since 80 percent of social media engagement happens on mobile devices, shrewd marketers should take advantage of promoting professional book titles within those networks. The key is to market where the people are. If your professional audience is on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, or our platform BlueBottleBiz, links to or plugs for your content should be available there, as well. ● Offer exclusivity or extended content. Provide opportunities for readers to obtain bonus information and learning materials via the mobile app on which you house your content. Additional tips, manuscripts or author notes that can only be accessed within the app will transform the app into a content consumption hub. ● Reconsider visual appeal. Mobile applications open up vast opportunities for more vivid presentations. Designing or recreating book covers for the digital space can enhance the curiosity and allure of your print content. ● Think mobile, market mobile. Business professionals are on the move, so you should plan to move with them. Your marketing strategies should focus on places where professionals might have a few minutes en route to download or read mobile content. Consider airports, hotels, coffee shops and other travel-related authorities as hotspots for marketing to your legacy and potential readers.
These key tactics will help you provide the same high quality content for your target business professionals wherever they are, and whenever they need it.
Once upon a time, distribution models for learning information worked under an “if you build it, they will come” strategy. 2017 has shifted that thinking to better cater to the extremely involved, highly nomadic professional. The solution-savvy now know the wiser mentality to have: “Wherever they are, your content should meet them there.”
Today’s business professionals are learning on the go, and they need expert content readily available at anytime, anywhere. For business book publishers, delivering mobile content just makes sense.
You’ve probably been hearing a lot of “New Year, New You” talk recently, from people looking to jumpstart a new, healthy lifestyle to those looking to rethink their finances. This January, I’d like to recommend that all current and aspiring authors apply the “New Year, New You” concept to their digital brand.
The new year is the perfect time to rethink your online presence—whether this means revamping an outdated website, updating a stale blog, or expanding onto a new social media platform. In fact, when I start working with a new client, one of the first things I do is a “digital audit.” By looking at an author’s existing digital assets, I can identify areas of improvement and specific steps that will help build his or her online brand.
While this is certainly not all-encompassing, start your digital audit here:
Website: As you know, I think it’s necessary for all authors to have a website. But it’s not enough to simply create a website and never touch it again. When auditing your website, start with the content that’s “above the fold”—what’s on the screen when you open the page without scrolling. This should contain the most important information and be visually engaging.
Make sure your website has links to purchase or pre-order ALL of your books (not just your most recent), and include links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound. Insert links to your social media accounts. Include any media hits, including links. And if you have a newsletter, make sure the sign-up is clear and easily available.
Blog: A blog is great way to connect with your readers, but you must make sure it’s updated regularly. Is your last blog post six months old? Take the time now to commit to a realistic editorial calendar. Once a month is ok, as long as you stick to that schedule. Make sure the content adheres to your brand, and steer clear of anything that will isolate readers (politics, religion, etc.). Make sure to include graphics with your posts whenever possible.
Social media accounts: Look at your accounts with a fresh eye. Make sure you have cover images that feature your books (the same image on multiple accounts is ok). Check that your bios are completed on all accounts, and that you link from one platform to another. And think about a posting schedule that makes sense for you and is achievable. If you haven’t posted on Twitter in two years, but you have a robust Facebook following and post there regularly, it may be time to either recommit yourself to Twitter, or shut down the account altogether and focus on Facebook, where you have an existing and dedicated audience.
The digital audit is the perfect way to work with your fellow authors, so why not execute a digital audit for each other? And while it’s helpful to have a third party conduct this audit for you, if you want to do this alone, you certainly can. Just remember to look at your online presence with an unbiased eye, and you’ll find some quick wins to help enhance your online presence in the new year.
Ricardo Fayet, cofounder at Reedsy, a platform that connects authors to industry professionals as well as offering learning opportunities and editing tools, shares his advice for new writers who are ready to take the plunge.
1. Know who you’re writing for before you start
This tip might seem backwards at first. Surely every bestselling novel started with a story idea so great that readers were naturally drawn to it? Despite what you might think, generally, this isn’t so.
If you plan to publish and sell a book, then step one must absolutely be understanding who will read it, as that will advise all other aspects of the writing and self-publishing process. As ex-Simon & Schuster editor Katrina Diaz says: “Understanding your market is essential if you want to reach the right readers — and everything from the genre categorization, cover copy, book description, cover and interior design, works together to identify that.”
2. Build a solid writing routine – and stick to it
Becoming a successful self-published author is not a casual pastime; it’s an endeavor that requires commitment and discipline. It’s not enough simply to have a brilliant story idea, you need to be dedicated to committing that idea to the page. Therefore, in order to avoid procrastination, it is crucial that authors develop a solid writing routine.
If you want to finish writing a book, don’t wait for the time to do it, make the time, and honor that commitment to yourself. Or in the words of bestselling indie author Shannon Myers (who’s sold over 1.5 million): “Because writing is such a creative job, there’s this feeling that ‘I can’t write unless my muse is speaking to me’. And the reality is: the muse is your bitch, not the other way around.”
3. Send your manuscript to beta readers
Imagine the luxury of publishing your book and then being able to rewrite and alter issues that readers point out after buying it. Essentially, this is the role of a beta reader. These are people that read your revised manuscript with the express goal of providing feedback on what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.
Heed the wise words of freelance editor Rebecca Heyman and take advantage of any readers you have at your disposal prior to publishing: “The reason traditionally published books are so wonderful is because authors have the luxury of many qualified readers prior to publication. Do whatever you can to replicate this process by swapping critiques with other authors, hiring great editors and seeking out sensitivity readers.”
4. Know your budget and do your research
The question indie authors will inevitably ask themselves at the beginning of their self-publishing journey is, “How much is this going to cost me?”
The answer to this will ultimately vary depending on your writing experience, personal objectives, genre, and the length of the book. That said, to give you an idea of what authors should budget on average for producing a book, there is a handy infographic analyzing over 2,000 quotes from professional editors, proofreaders and designers on the Reedsy marketplace.
5. Always hire a developmental editor
Most authors who are taking their initial steps to self-publishing think they just need an editor for grammar, punctuation and typos (i.e. a copy editor). That’s important, but if you’re writing your first book, chances are you’ve made as many plot, characterization, viewpoint, dialogue and stylistic mistakes as you have grammatical ones. This is what developmental editors focus on: the big picture. They will cut, move, shape, and criticize your novel — but they will do so with the aim of leaving you with a piece of marketable work that adheres to professional industry standards and expectations.
Too many authors rush into copy editing and proofreading, then the first Amazon reviews hit and they realize the book has a glaring plot hole. Don’t make that mistake.
6. Never, ever design your own book cover
Just don’t do it. Unless you are already an experienced book cover designer, hire a professional. “Don’t skimp on your cover, it’s the window to your book,” states freelance designer Jake Clark.
If the cover is a glimpse into what your book is about, you want to ensure that potential readers receive an enticing view, one that accurately reflects the contents of your novel and ultimately results in a sale. The point: a good cover is a powerful marketing tool. Invest in it. On how to find the right designer, Jake says, “Look around, do some research. Don’t be afraid to send inquiry emails, we can’t respond to emails we haven’t gotten. And remember an inquiry email is not a signed contract, if you don’t like the cut of their jib, move on.”
7. Don’t think of distribution as digital vs. print
There are a number of online retailers through which you can distribute an e-book. The most popular ones include Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. For a self-published author, selling your novel as an e-book is a no-brainer. E-books make up 30% of all book sales on Amazon — and readers are often much more likely to take a chance on an indie e-book than a print copy because of the cheaper price and immediate possession.
That said, print novels continue to hold more value than just a great smell when you crack them open and flip through the pages. There is still a market for print; and Amazon’s new bookstores will probably create more and more opportunities for indie authors to reach that market.
8. Build your mailing list before you publish your book
Last but not least, mailing lists are incredibly important for indie authors, in order to maintain reader-author relationships at scale. And that’s exactly what a mailing list is: a relationship. Someone has given you their permission to contact them in the expectation that you will be providing them with information of value. If you can continue to provide your list with engaging content, you will earn their trust and develop a list of ready-made readers for any further books you publish.
Every professional should be using LinkedIn, and that goes for writers too. LinkedIn is the online equivalent of real-world networking. As such, it can be used in much the same way. However, LinkedIn goes beyond just meeting new people, and participating in “getting to know you” conversations and lead generating “dance cards.”
LinkedIn for Authors
Here are a few reasons why you want to be on LinkedIn:
Links: Links from LinkedIn to your online content count in the Google search algorithm, whereas Facebook links don’t.
Credibility: Since LinkedIn is a site for business professionals, there is an air of credibility that having a well-ranking profile within LinkedIn grants you.
Research: LinkedIn’s search functions enable you to identify agents, publishers and editors in the areas you want to get into. In addition, though, it also shows you who your mutual connections are, shared interests, and other commonalities between you that enable you to craft an introductory message that breaks the ice, instead of being just another nameless face in the crowd.
Connections: The opposite is also true. People who are looking for what you do can find you via LinkedIn’s search functionality, but only when you have a great profile (otherwise, all of the other better profiles outrank you in LinkedIn’s search result – don’t neglect building a strong profile). I have had a number of clients and booking agents find and subsequently hire me due to LinkedIn.
Make sure that your profile is “complete.” This means adding, at a minimum, your industry, location, at least 5 skills, education, photo, at least 50 connections, a summary, and two past positions. Once it’s complete, LinkedIn will invite you to share your profile on Twitter and Facebook so that your friends can see it.
I can’t say this strongly enough, make sure that your headshot is a good one of you! Don’t just crop a picture out of a recent family photo. And don’t use something so old or grainy that no one meeting you in person would ever recognize you. Make it friendly, appealing, close range (filling the frame), and professional.
Add “Author” and the name of your book to your work experience. Be sure to include a description of the book, and a link to purchase in the work history. Personally, I enter the publication date as the “Start Date” and do not specify an end date. (I’ll always be the author of my books. That will never change. So an end date would just be silly!) You also have the ability to attach a video or photo to each position you hold. Be sure to upload your book cover image and if you have a book trailer, add that as well. If you have a sample chapter you offer, you can link it here as well (or if you want to capture e-mail addresses, to an opt-in page to download it), so that people can get the excerpt directly from your LinkedIn profile.
Update your profile URL to have a vanity URL. People won’t remember the system-generated URL, but they may remember your name. So, update your URL to reflect that. For example, mine is http://www.linkedin.com/in/taraalemany.
LinkedIn allows you to connect up to three websites to your profile, in addition to connecting to your Twitter profile. Point one to your website, another to your Amazon listing and the third to a particularly glowing review, your Facebook page, or something like an About.me page, where visitors can easily access links to all of your other online roosts.
Write your background summary in a conversational style. I use first person. Making your summary conversational demonstrates that you’re accessible and easy to communicate with. I also use this space to note any other names I’ve used during my career (maiden/married name, pen name, etc.). This makes it easier for people who connect with you from various points in your career to be sure they have the right person.
Make sure that the summary includes keywords related to your topic of expertise. Keywords for LinkedIn profiles can be sprinkled throughout the profile (in the headline, job descriptions, summary, etc.), and should be done without naturally. The point here is to attract people, not computers.
Add your book titles to the Publications section, as well as any guest posts you’ve written. Consider this an opportunity to showcase your work beyond what they can find on your website.
Rearrange the sections of your profile in the order that makes the most sense.
Once you’ve built your All-Star profile, meet people who represent your ideal audience, post a “call for reviewers” in applicable groups, and continue to add content and regular status updates. The most important thing of all, consider LinkedIn as a tool for building relationships and reconnecting with people. While you can market your book there as well, that should be a much lower priority. If your focus is purely on the marketing, you’ll lose the attention of the people you want to connect with the most! Give it time, the sales will come. Focus first on the people and the relationships.
Research shows that 81 percent of people say they have at least one book in them, according to the New York Times. As an entrepreneur, a book is a great way to establish your authority in your industry.
It’s estimated that Amazon has earned $5.25 billion from eBooks so far this year, according to George Parker in The New Yorker. For entrepreneurs, this is an opportunity to add income to your business.
The problem is that there are 600,000 to one million books self-published every year in the U. S. alone, according to Nick Morgan. This has spawned an entire industry aimed at those wanting to self-publish a book. It’s also made it very difficult for your book to stand out and sell copies.
When I started my online business in 2011, I started with a self-published book. Self-publishing was becoming popular and stories like Amanda Hocking and John Locke convinced me a self-published book would be a great first product.
That book completely flopped. It sold five copies in the first six months. It’s estimated that the average book will sell fewer than 250 copies, according to Nick Morgan. It’s hard to sell books. Here are 10 hard-earned bits of advice that will help you sell your book.
1. Don’t make your book free through Amazon’s KDP select program. Amazon has a program called KDP Select. When you enroll in the program you have to make your book exclusive to Amazon. You can’t even sell it on your own website. In exchange for exclusivity, Amazon will give you a small portion of their lending program (about $2 per book).
They will also let you offer your book for free for five days every 90 days. The free promotion was a popular strategy in 2011 and it’s still widely used today. The goal is to get more reviews for your book and your book in more readers hands.
The biggest problem is you can’t sell your book on your own website. That costs you the opportunity to connect with your customers directly. You can’t add their name to your email list, you can’t tell them about your other products or services. Amazon gets to do that.
People don’t respect something they get for free and, since there are millions of other free books, chances are they won’t even read yours. During free promotions you give away thousands of books and in return you get maybe a hand full of reviews.
The former publisher of Writers Digest, Jane Friedman, has an excellent article about whom this program works best for. It’s not the average author.
2. You need to hire an editor. When all the big self-published authors are asked what was their biggest mistake, the overwhelming answer is not getting their book edited. Readers notice when your book isn’t edited. They will leave negative reviews about the grammar. That affects your book sales because reviews are the first thing a book buyer looks at.
3. Self-publishing is not easy. Self-publishing has opened many doors and taken away the gate keepers but don’t think it is easy. With a major publisher you write the book and the publisher handles the ins and outs of creating the book. With self-publishing, that all falls on you.
4. You don’t need a physical version of your book. Create Space is an amazing company that can print your book on demand. You can have a physical copy of your book but that doesn’t mean you need one. If you speak at conferences and want to sell your book in the back of the room, that’s one thing. If you just want to sell your book, an ebook works just as good.
5. It’s tough getting your self-published book into book stores. As someone who has a publisher, I can tell you that getting placement for your book in a bookstore is hard. Bookstores only want to give space to proven authors. There’s a self-publishing company called Lighting Source, which has a relationship with Ingram books, the world’s largest book distributor. Ingram distributes books to all the major bookstores. Yes, Ingram can get your book in the bookstores catalog but not necessarily in the actual bookstore.
6. You have to market your book. It doesn’t matter how good your book is, your book will sell or languish depending on the marketing. Remember the (at least) 600,000 books published every year? Many good books go unnoticed. Writing a good book is just the start. Marketing gets the book noticed and persuades people to buy it.
7. Don’t put your picture on the cover. Authors enjoy seeing their smiling face on the cover of their book but book buyers don’t. Your photo on the cover is a great strategy if you are Brad Pitt or someone with name recognition but seeing the picture of some random person actually pushes people away from buying your book.
8. Your book is worth more than 99 cents. With all the competition, you’re told you have to price your book for 99 cents to sell it. As an entrepreneur, you goal is not to be priced at the bottom of the market. Understand the value you provide and price your book accordingly.
Books are generally greatly underpriced for the value they provide. Let everyone else chase the bottom while you enjoy more profit on the top.
9. One book will not make you rich. Successful self-published authors have multiple books. It’s possible for one book to take off but that’s the rare exception, not the rule. Multiple books, especially series, give your other books a better chance to sell. If someone buys one of your books and likes it, they’re likely to buy your other books.
10. You need to launch your book. A book lives and dies by the marketing. To get the maximum exposure for your book you should do a full-blown book launch. What does this mean? You should form a launch team of about 100 people.
These 100 people are bloggers and website owners who will help you promote the book during the launch week. Your goal is to get concentrated sales during a specific week to drive the book to best-seller status and help it in Amazon’s algorithm rankings.
These 100 people will leave reviews for your book on Amazon and anywhere else your book is sold. They’ll promote your book on their social media pages and on their website and email list.
You walk away with 100 reviews and your book exposed on a larger network than you could have reached on your own. During this launch week you should also offer a few freebies to entice people to buy your book. The freebies are what you will give your launch team as a thank you for their help promoting your book.
The former CEO of Thomas Nelson Books, Michael Hyatt, did a great job proving this strategy. I have also used it with tremendous results.
Have a clear plan for your book. As an entrepreneur, a book should definitely be a part of your strategy for business growth. Establish your authority and earn some passive income through your book sales.
Follow this advice and your book will thrive. Take full advantage of the amazing opportunity self-publishing can provide every entrepreneur.
Twenty-six year-old Amanda Hocking doesn’t fit existing stereotypes of Internet entrepreneurs.
Described by the New York Times as a “hipster schoolgirl,” Amanda favors Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts, jeans, and prefers to go sans shoes.
Well, perhaps her fashion sense meets with some entrepreneurial stereotypes.
The similarities seemingly end there when you consider that Amanda is an author of fiction. Specifically, she writes paranormal-romance fiction involving vampires, trolls, and zombies.
Amanda’s been profiled in the Times and many other places because she’s sold around $2,000,000 in ebooks — without a publisher. She was one of the early success stories to come out of the Kindle Store, joining James Patterson and Stieg Larsson as one of the bestselling digital authors on Amazon.
Now, things have changed.
Amanda has a deal with St. Martin’s that pays $2 million upfront for her next four books. Her “Trylle” series of books has been optioned by Hollywood, with the screenplays penned by one of the scribes of the film District 9.
It’s certainly an amazing story. But does she qualify as an entrepreneur, much less an Internet entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.
So, let’s take a look at what Amanda did to generate that $2,000,000 in revenue.
She’d completed her first novel at age 17, which was rejected by over 50 publishers. Years later, Amanda took a decidedly different approach:
In 2009, Amanda started treating writing as a job, not a hobby (it’s a business venture).
She began combing bookstores and doing industry research to see what was getting published and selling, as well as reading a lot in her genre (market research).
She continued to submit her manuscripts to New York, and continued to be denied. Her last form rejection letter arrived in February of 2010 (no access to or control of traditional resources).
In April of 2010, Amanda digitized her book “My Blood Approves” into the new .mobi format for the Kindle reader (adoption of a new technology standard) and uploaded it to the Amazon’s Kindle Store (exploitation of an emerging online marketplace).
She offered her books for $.99 to $2.99 (industry pricing disruption).
On the first day, Amanda sold 5 books. The next day provided similar results.
A couple of months later, things got out of hand:
June 2010, she sold 6,000 books
July 2010, 10,000 books
January 2011, over 100,000 books
Summer of 2011, 9,000 books each day
Sounds Like an Internet Entrepreneur to Me
It seems like a magical story, but Amanda was very deliberate. She treated her book as a startup.
Then lightening struck, which is what would-be authors inspired by her meteoric rise tend to focus on. Most often, that won’t be the case.
Amanda was in the right place, at the right time, with the exact right product. It’s the way markets are supposed to operate if you eliminate all the noise. And make no mistake — a great book that people want to read is still the core requirement.
The opportunities for the authors of great digital books, whether fiction or nonfiction, are still in the infancy stage. But you’re going to have to add one exceptionally important element to Amanda’s deliberate approach.
You can’t depend on the marketplace to notice the book on its own until you’ve sparked enough initial sales. But how do you make sales otherwise?
It’s a classic chicken and egg situation, until you tilt things in your favor.
One way or another, you need to build an audience. And the smart entrepreneurial approach for authors involves creating free online content to build that audience before you try to sell a book (or anything else).
In other words, become an Internet publishing entrepreneur. Your first book is simply your first product, no matter the level of artistry you put into it, and your biggest asset is your audience.
Luckily, this entrepreneurial process can be much more lucrative than the indentured old school approach. Ironically, it’s the traditional publishing industry that gets credit for kindling this entrepreneurial fire among authors.
Big Publishing Drops the Audience Ball
Trey Ratcliff is a photographer who built a blog to showcase his work. The audience that platform attracted resulted in three prospective publishing deals.
Trey went with Peachpit Press, due to their size and reputation in the photography niche. Out to a fancy dinner with some of Peachpit’s top executives, Ratcliff realized the true nature of his publishing deal.
In his own words:
I’m sitting there in a nice restaurant in San Francisco with all these executives of a major publishing house. It’s one of these power dinners of lore. We’re there to discuss the upcoming launch of the book, and I’ll never forget what happened. They asked me, “OK, Trey, what are you going to do to market this book?”
It’s the dirty little secret no one tells you about the modern book deal: it’s up to the author to drum up interest, publicity, and sales for the book, despite the fact that publishers are ostensibly still in the “distribution” business.
It didn’t have to be this way.
To this day, Internet pundits plead with publishers to build “huge, vertical-specific communities, prime them with regular non-book value and establish direct relationships.” But the publishers rejected that very advice over a decade ago, a decision that forced authors to become online marketers, even within the context of the traditional book deal.
Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin saw it happen, upfront and personal.
A former book packager, Seth shifted to the Internet early, founding the email marketing firm Yoyodyne in 1995 and selling it to Yahoo! in 1998 for $30 million.
Godin’s first bestseller, 1999’s Permission Marketing, explained the online marketing practices he developed that allowed direct and profitable relationships with prospects. Moreover, the book itself achieved outsized sales using the very strategies and tactics Seth preached, via an opt-in email list that grew rapidly as Godin gave away a third of the book for free in exchange for an email address.
Seeing first hand the power of establishing a direct relationship with prospective book buyers, Seth tried to help the publishing industry see the power of building an audience for themselves and on behalf of authors.
How could an industry that exists to distribute books not want incredibly cost-effective direct distribution?
Strangely, Seth’s ideas were ignored, and sometimes rejected with the type of venom that accompanies an abject fear of change. Instead, the collective choice among book publishing companies was to throw authors under the bus and see who survived.
“By 2002, it was clear the publishers were not going to build an online audience,” Godin told me for this article. “The authors had to do it themselves.”
Got Audience, Why Stop at Books?
Meanwhile, Trey Ratcliff did some math.
The excited new author went to work, drumming up pre-sales support from his audience with a limited-edition print, along with a signed copy of the book. He promoted relentlessly via his blog and on Twitter. He even arranged and paid for his own book tour.
The book was a roaring success, selling out on Amazon in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. At that point, after all that hard work, Trey realized just how tiny his 15% royalty rate really was. Peachpit kept 85%, which in turn went to printing, physical distribution, big New York offices, staff, lawyers, bookstores, etc.
In other words, no one was making any money.
It was Trey, however, who was in the unique position to do something smarter. After all, he had the audience that attracted the publishers in the first place.
So, he became the publisher by founding Flatbooks. His fledgling ebook business hit 6 figures in revenue almost immediately, and now boasts 80% profit margins.
The best way to successfully market something is to have true believers with big followings talk about it on the Internet. Since we have many authors who are socially popular, a multiplier effect begins to take place.
Notice he said “successfully market something,” which is specifically not limited to ebook publishing. Once you have an audience, the door opens to consulting, paid speaking, software, innovative new platform launches, and more.
You’re really only limited by the needs and desires of your audience.
Three Key Takeaways:
If your goal is to write books and make a living from them, build your audience before you need it. Start today.
Don’t think self-published. Think publisher. Better yet, digital media producer.
Accelerate. Once the audience is on your side, books are only the beginning. Be more like Jay-Z than James Patterson.
Not every author will do this, unfortunately. Many will grasp dearly to the Amanda Hocking story, depending on Apple and Amazon to become the new intermediaries that “magically” make them rich.
But Apple and Amazon don’t make money from caring about you. They’ll aggregate the hopes and dreams of millions along the long tail, letting just enough new stars shine to keep the dream alive.
At least the traditional publishers pretended to care.
Regardless, it’s up to you … now more than ever. Go make an audience happen.
Brian Clark is Editor-in-Chief of Entreproducer, a multimedia email publication exploring the business of independent digital media. Get more related content on Twitter.
Do you download your favorite books to read them electronically or do you prefer the feel of traditional paper when reading?
Social media and internet marketing company, NowSourcing, created an infographic titled, “The Future of Books Print vs Digital” for blurb, a self-publishing website for authors. This interesting infographic shares data and other information which provides a unique comparison of the two types of books.
Print or Digital – The Ultimate Comparison
Many people are heavily divided on this issue with each side providing good points. For example, eBook lovers claim that hefty paper books lack the convenience and accessibility of their favorite reading materials. However, print fans argue that eBooks are hard on the eyes, and the feeling of paper simply cannot be replaced.
Is Print Becoming Obsolete?
A few years ago, people were convinced it was the beginning of the end for paper books. Between 2008 and 2010, eBook sales skyrocketed 1,260 percent following the release of improved eReaders. However, in 2015, the pendulum began to swing back with a blockbuster year for print, a 2 percent annual increase in paper book sales, and a 10 percent drop in eBook sales.
Ebooks Can Be Powerful Marketing Tools for Small Business
Although paper books are popular again, there is one issue that remains. If you are a small business owner with books to offer, you’ll be potentially spending a lot more money having them printed and mailed. Depending on how much you charge for each book, you risk spending more than you earn in revenue.
However, by offering eBooks through your website, people can purchase and download them to their electronic devices without the hassle. It’s a win-win for both sides.
The Future Looks Bright for Reading!
Whether you read or sell paper or digital books, the future of reading is looking bright. People will always want to read good content, regardless of the format. The key is to always provide your audience with the valuable information and stories they want to read.
I’ve always been a bit of a book addict, and although I tend to prefer the real thing over digital iterations, I have to confess: I’m obsessed with audiobooks. Over the last six months, I’ve listened to over two dozen narrations, and after half a year of constant listening, I realized how my audiobook addiction has made me a better reader and writer.
Don’t get me wrong, I will probably always prefer turning the pages of physical books over clicking through digital versions or listening to audio ones, but I can’t deny all of the benefits to the alternative styles of reading. When I’m getting ready in the morning, cooking something in the kitchen, out driving around town, or running errands, audiobooks are an easy way to read all day long. Although multitasking while reading usually doesn’t involve much more than drinking tea (OK, wine) and occasionally fluffing the pillow, audiobooks make it easy to get through your To-Do list and your TBR-list at the same time.
But audiobooks do so much more than that.
Listening to audiobooks has changed the way I experience stories, and in turn, made me a better reader and writer. Stepping away from the traditional form of books has also forced me to step away from my old habits, crutches, and generally bad literary behaviors.
If you’ve considered trying it but haven’t taken the leap yet, here are 5 ways audiobook addiction has made me a better reader and writer.
Although some people may think of audiobook listening as “cheating,” I still consider it actual reading, and scientists agree that your brain doesn’t really detect a difference. That’s why I never feel guilty when my TBR pile grows smaller thanks to my constant reading — er, I mean, listening.
What way to become a better read than to just simply read more? Whether I’m cleaning, cooking, walking the dogs, working out, or just getting ready in the morning, audiobooks make it possible to stay constantly plugged into my current read, which makes crossing new books of my list even easier.
2They make me a more attentive, engaged reader.
While I may be multitasking while listening to my audiobook, I still find myself paying more attention to the story that if I was physically reading it. Unlike physical books, audiobooks aren’t skimmable — you can’t simply skip ahead to the dialogue.
Listening to audiobooks is an immersive experience, one that pulls you into the story fully, even if you’re doing dishes or running on the treadmill at the same time. For me, audiobooks mean I’m more involved, more engaged, and more committed to whatever story is being told.
3Listening to audiobooks have helped me improve my written dialogue.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your business, and improve yourself in the process, take this challenge: write an article every day.
What kind of article? How long? What counts as an article? These are subjective questions that won’t be the same for everyone, but you’ll find many of the same benefits no matter what formats or variables you choose in the process. These should be articles related to your business, of course, and preferably published on your personal blog or company page, but beyond that, there’s a ton of flexibility—the point is to write something new on a daily basis.
Visibility. Consuming content has become a part of our everyday lives, and every new piece of content you produce is another outlet that consumers can use to find you. The more content you have on your site and the more you share that content, the better (provided it’s of sufficient quality). Producing content every day helps you achieve those ends.
Reputation. You’ll also be building both your personal and brand reputation. Throughout your commitment, you’ll delve into deeper subjects, dig up more details, and present more innovative ideas.
SEO and social media. All that content also serves as fuel for your SEO, social media, and other online marketing campaigns. For example, every new article you produce will add to the number of pages your site has indexed in Google, thereby increasing your relevance for at least a handful of keyword phrases. On social media, all your articles can be shared as posts that build your audience and drive traffic back to your site.
However, the article-a-day challenge is about more than just adding to your content marketing campaign. It’s about developing you as a professional, which it can do in the following ways:
Writing skills. There’s no big secret to how to become a better writer—the best way is to just buckle down and write more. The more you write, the more you’ll engage the language centers of your brain, the more fluent you’ll become, and the more aware you’ll be of what people are writing and saying around you. Writing an article every day becomes a form of mental exercise, conditioning your brain to be better at future writing tasks. Eventually, it will come far more naturally to you.
Discipline and focus. Committing to an article each day is demanding, but that’s much of the point. Some days, you’ll be overloaded with work, and others, you’ll be tired of the project and you won’t want to continue. Being able to fight past those feelings is a skill in itself; writing an article every day teaches you discipline and focus, building your willpower and helping you accomplish more in other areas of your life (and career).
Research and information. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to write all the articles for which you have ideas based purely on the information in your head—in fact, that’s a bad way to do things. Instead, even if you’re just fact-checking your own assumptions, you’ll be doing research for the majority of your work. Whether it’s reading the news, reviewing opposing views to yours, or just gathering more information for a piece, every bit of research you do will make you more informed and better-rounded.
Introspection. Writing this significant volume also gives you an opportunity for introspection. What types of titles do you gravitate toward? What words do you use more frequently than others? Where do you usually get stuck? Your writing process has the potential to teach you much about who you are as a person and a professional, so analyze your strengths and weaknesses if you want to get the most out of the challenge.
Interaction and engagement. Once you start publishing, you’ll get the chance to interact with the people reading your content. They’ll be leaving comments on your blog or reaching out to you on social media, so every new reader is a potential new connection in your network. Engaging with people like this will help you become a better writer, but just as importantly, will fill up your professional network with contacts.
Comfort and speed. Writing is difficult for most people—at least, when they get started. After writing an article a day for, say, a month, you’ll be able to go through the process in no time—and it won’t stress you out anymore, either. The more you do it, the more familiar with it you’ll be, and the more efficiently you’ll be able to do it.
The Internet, and the platforms now available to create various online gatherings, have changed our world and continue to do so. New ways to combine the power of assembled individuals—financially, socially, creatively—are being introduced all the time.
Whenever individuals motivated by common interests come together through an online platform, they create a virtual community. Virtual communities are now pervasive and can be found in many disciplines and professions.
The Abrams Community
Let’s start with a virtual community success story, one that comes directly out of the publishing world. The Abrams community is an example of how connections made between people with a powerful shared interest can positively affect personal lives and business. Abrams Learning Trends (ALT), a publisher of supplementary materials for pre-K through fifth grade, launched DIG, a new pre-K program in schools. The program consisted of print books, teacher guides, flip charts, audio recordings, and e-books. ALT was looking to differentiate the program and their digital reader solution to make them stand out in the marketplace.
ALT implemented MyDIGPreK.com, a secure, user-friendly social networking environment for the program’s users. This engagement community was designed for interaction among classroom teachers, students, and their parents, as well as between teachers within the same school systems. Note that the shared interest holding together this community was the desire to provide an optimum educational experience for these young children.
Since the users of the online learning system are all in pre-K, the modules are very basic and easy to use. While the focus of the learning platform is the young students, it is the publisher, parents, and teachers who are actively monitoring the system. There is plenty of opportunity for parents and teachers to comment on their impressions of how the system is working and what is needed going forward. It was ALT’s intent from the start to encourage feedback and recommendations in order to continue enhancing their program and to drive more user adoption. This interaction worked even better than expected.
ALT ensured the platform tracks and measures usage of all the modules. The usage stats, meant originally to be for ALT’s own analysis, attracted the attention of the parents and teachers. Consequently, ALT began getting extremely valuable marketing intelligence from its customers. Feedback provided not only direction for the refinement and development of the site, but also recommendations for new content: parents and teachers began seeing where there was a need for additional titles in vocabulary or math, in addition to those already provided as part of the package. As a result, ALT was able to introduce multiple new titles to the community.
Here is a fine example of a win-win arrangement. ALT succeeds with its business model and receives ongoing feedback for enhancing it. The parents and teachers are given an active role in shaping the curriculum for their children. And the children, we can expect, receive an optimized educational experience. This is what a virtual community does at its best.
Defining Virtual Communities
While Abrams is a great example, the publishing industry overall has been slow to adopt virtual communities. Publishing is certainly not lacking for appropriate groups to engage; we have authors, contributors, vendors, and of course, our customers. Yet, any publisher investigating the introduction of a virtual community into its business will reasonably want the answers to several important questions,
How would it work in my business?
What would we hope to achieve with such a community?
Before exploring the possible uses of the virtual community in publishing, we need to clearly understand its essential aspects.
As a starting point, let’s look at a definition offered by Constance Elise Porter in “A Typology of Virtual Communities”: “A virtual community is defined as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported or mediated by technology and guided by some protocols or rules.”
Note the members of the community are named as “individuals or business partners.” The fact is that the virtual community can encompass personal or business endeavors. Particularly successful communities can combine both.
The notion of a shared interest is key. Having a common goal, or even a common passion, is what helps form a community, keep members motivated, and provide the glue or “stickiness” that holds that community together. Without that common motivator, there is no community, merely an aggregation of individuals.
Community interactions are “supported or mediated by technology.” This is where the role of a shared platform comes in. Each community will require a platform architecture that specifically supports its purpose, as the Kickstarter platform enables interested investors and entrepreneurs to find each other and pool investment funding.
Ultimately, the virtual community gives us many of the virtues we would expect from an actual community. Note this portion of Wikipedia’s definition: “Virtual communities resemble real life communities in the sense that they both provide support, information, friendship and acceptance between strangers.”
The Potential of Virtual Communities Within the Publishing Ecosystem
Initially, appreciating the power of the virtual community in publishing may require some modest changes to the way we now view our customers, authors, and even vendors. In the pressures of day-to-day business, it is easy to look at customers as sales targets, with authors and vendors as contractors. In a community, however, all members are working together with a common cause. In that context, we are partners.
Most publishers have used the power of the Internet to send email marketing blasts to all their customers. Using it to create a community platform for customers around a common interest can positively change the way they regard the publisher. That platform may not always be an immediate path to increased sales, but it can certainly be an immediate boon to customer relations. If built with their interest in mind, a community platform can do more to promote customer loyalty than any marketing campaign could.
Engagement communities provide their members with a platform for ongoing interaction dedicated specifically to their common interest. As publishers, we are looking to bring together our customers and perhaps our authors into an engagement community based on an interest they share.
It is often subject matter from the trade sector—particularly for hobbies and crafts—that lends itself naturally to an engagement community. On a publisher-sponsored site, hobbyists can be encouraged to ask questions of their favorite authors or comment freely on what works best for them. The publisher can release advance articles or chapters to the community and invite reader response. Authors might use reader feedback to guide their writing going forward. The publisher might facilitate open discussions about particular hobbies or crafts, with the authors as moderators. There can even be contests to encourage readers to recommend new subject areas for exploration. The most avid fans will not only have definite ideas of what they want to see published next, they will also be buyers and enthusiastic promoters of the new publications.
Outside of the trade sector, publishers may not as easily find readers who bring such enthusiasm to particular subject areas, and those readers might not necessarily be the best source for new content development. As one STEM executive has noted, “New scientific discovery is hardly appropriate for crowdsourcing.” There are, however, still appropriate engagement communities to target for more academic or scholarly areas.
In the STEM world, for example, there are a number of expert authors who might be brought together around specific topics. Publishers might partner with existing scientific associations already dedicated to specific areas of inquiry, such as cancer research for medical content or nanotechnology for engineering content.
Once again, it would be the publisher’s role to encourage interactions and feedback. There might be sponsored forums targeting subjects in which new research is changing ideas. The discussions could be the seeds of new content. Authors could be encouraged to produce papers on new sample chapters to circulate back into the community and generate more feedback.
The “shared interest” here can extend beyond the intellectual enthusiasm for an academic topic. In scholarly research communities, funding for grants is often tied not only to publication of new material but also metrics indicating how often a particular paper has been cited. Engagement communities can provide researchers the opportunity to pick up new papers and cite one another.
Collaborative communities, unlike engagement communities, are often project-oriented. A group collaborates together toward the completion of a particular goal or goals. In publishing, we are well suited for collaborative communities structured around our own production processes. The creation of books and journals is a team effort involving authors/contributors, members of both the editorial and production departments, and of course vendors. Traditionally, the effort is held together by a project manager at the publisher or the vendor (for full service) or a shared responsibility of both.
As publishers have moved more work into the full service model, there has been a subsequent loss of centralized production control. Authors and contributors often complain about being shuffled about from one person to the next, without being quite certain exactly what is happening with their creation at any particular time in the process. Scheduling seems to be getting reduced down to manuscript delivery date and final file delivery date, with little publisher/author knowledge of what is happening in between.
Consider a platform designed specifically for the various interactions that occur in production. Such platforms already exist commercially and might even be provided by the vendor doing full service work. The first benefit is that the collaborative platform provides a communication system dedicated specifically to the project. All members of the production team know where to look for updates and special instructions. Team members can be assigned roles within the platform that provide them access to documents and processes they need or restrict that access as appropriate. The platform itself tracks all versions of pages. Every member of the team can see where the project stands, and there should be no complaints about publications going into “black holes.”
Looking back at the way ALT assembled publisher, parents, teachers, and children, we see a small but powerful indication of the virtual community’s potential in publishing. There are existing platforms that can meet our functional needs, and there are plenty of opportunities for creating communities. Now it is time to start connecting the dots between them.
Tell me how many times you’ve heard this one: your friend calls you up, says he’s got 1,000 copies of his masterpiece just sitting in his garage that could make him a millionaire if only he could figure out how to sell them. If you don’t want to be that guy— and, believe me, you don’t want to be that guy— then you have to get started marketing your book as soon as possible.
Many self-published authors have no interest in sales, advertising, or business in general, as they tend to be altruistically artistic. But it would behoove them (and you!) to involve themselves in the process as it will directly affect their book’s success. While writing tends to be a solitary endeavor, marketing is the process of communicating with potential readers, which means putting your book out there for the world to see. If your future #1 fan never even hears that your book exists, there is no way for her to discover your work and share it with her friends.
Start Marketing Before You Write the Book
Many self-publishers (especially those who are writing non-fiction) give themselves the best chance of success by thinking about marketing before they’ve even begun to write their books. Why is this? The reason you are writing your book and what your readers have to gain from reading it are the essential questions that determine how you are going to market your book. Knowing:
who your market is
what they want
what you want from your book
will give your writing and your marketing strategy direction.
Check out the list of articles I’ve compiled below to learn more about how to begin your book marketing campaign.
Book Reviews as Book Marketing
Often the first form of marketing turned to by self-publishing authors, book reviews are very persuasive to readers as the review is editorial, not promotional. Getting honest reviews of your book will help your book be seen by readers who are looking to read it. Below I have linked some resources for how to get your self-published book reviewed.
Online Marketing for Self-Publishers
The biggest challenge faced by new self-publishers is predicting what kind of marketing effort they need to get the word out about their book. Luckily for us all, the internet provides a relatively level playing field. Online, self-publishers are more easily able to compete with full-fledged publishing companies.
Although it takes a fair amount of work to gather the knowledge and skills necessary to create effective online marketing campaigns, it is a very useful tool to have in your arsenal. Online marketing is cheaper and, when done correctly, often more effective than traditional marketing strategies. Doing things like:
building your author platform
using social media to market yourself
the ways in which you choose to distribute your book
will all come into play if you choose to market your book online.
Check out the links below to gain a better understanding of how to market your book online.
How to Get to the Top With Your Book
Ultimately, the question that every self-publisher wants to ask is “How do I make by book a success?” It can help to examine other self-publishers’ successes (and even failures), to guide your marketing choices.
Look through these interviews and guest posts from about their path to success.
The Bigger World of Book Marketing
Sometimes it helps to look at book marketing as what it really is— a business. Book publishing companies have been working for centuries to create effective book marketing campaigns. Marketing is essentially a communication between parties about what they stand to gain from making a deal. When you are deciding how you’re going to market your book think about:
the reason you wrote it
the people who will be helped by reading it
Knowing those two things will directly improve your marketing campaign because book marketing is intrinsically about communicating to your reader why they want to read your book.
As with everything in self-publishing, the successful self-publisher is always one that solves this problem differently, often with surprising ingenuity. Authors might derive their success from online traffic keyword strategies, others through their online social media following, while others still become experts in their niche fields such as, for instance, independent book publishing. And some find their readers by putting their books on library, bookstore, or even grocery store shelves, or by peddling their books in backrooms of workshops, conventions, or presentations.
The point is, there are a million or more paths to success. You will discover yours when you find a method of effectively communicating with your readers.
So, don’t end up like the guy with a thousand copies of his book gathering dust and no idea who to sell them to. Take this free piece of advice and think through about marketing as soon as you can. Identify your future readers so you can find the right way to reach them. That is the first, most essential step to marketing your book. After that just follow the plan, make adjustments when necessary, and listen to your readers!
When he was growing up on the Isle of Bute in Scotland’s Firth of Clyde, Laurence Howell spent a great deal of his spare time in the Rothesay Library. His bibliophilic tendencies continued into adulthood: since 1990, he has worked his way from being a bookseller at Waterstones to non-fiction buyer at WHSmith and then, since July 2011, to the Amazon-owned Audible, where he is director of content.
The spoken-word audiobook and radio show platform has been growing rapidly. In 2015, its global membership surged 40 per cent year-on-year, with users downloading an impressive 1.6 billion hours of audio compared to 1.2 billion the previous year. Howell’s role puts him at the very centre of creative decision-making.
“From the early days of Homer, the origins of western literature have their basis in oral storytelling,” the 52-year-old says. “Over many centuries, we have told stories to each other and we still retain a love of a great performance, whether that is being read to as a child or listening to audiobooks.” In 2016, Howell has paired famous voices, such as that of Emma Thompson, with classic works of literature, such as Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.
The London-based creative thinks audio’s strength is the ease with which consumers can integrate it into their lives via digital channels. For that reason, its appeal is unlikely to diminish. “Having a voice piped directly into your ear is an incredibly intimate experience,” he says.
Audible, the Netflix of digital audiobooks, has just announced they’re releasing an audiobook of J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts library book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and that it will be narrated by Academy Award-winner and the star of 2016’s film, Eddie Redmayne. The audiobook will be released on March 14, and will feature six new beasts, a new foreword by Newt Scamander and an elaborate sound design.
Redmayne expressed his excitement over the announcement in a statement, saying:
Before I was cast in the film, David Yates told me about Newt and this textbook. I found it so funny and so enchanting and really wittily written. But it wasn’t until I started reading it out loud for the audiobook that I realized how tricky and poetic J.K. Rowling’s use of sounds and language can be. There are some really great tongue twister words in here! Occasionally, I had to stop recording just because I was incapable of saying the words without either laughing or getting my tongue in a muddle. I enjoyed the challenge and hope listeners can sense that in my narration.
This is a pretty exciting announcement for fans of both the film and the book, allowing them to dive even deeper into the Potterverse than they they might have otherwise. It’s also a smart move for Audible to cash in on some of that Potterverse fever, because it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Said Audible’s Chief Content Officer Andy Gaies in a statement:
We are thrilled to offer Audible listeners, the most voracious readers there are, the opportunity to enjoy a brilliant performance of yet another essential component of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World seamlessly through the Audible service. We look forward to bringing even more listeners to this richly imagined universe through our effortless and affordable service. Ever since we first made the Harry Potter series available on Audible in 2015, they have been consistently among the highest rated, most downloaded, and most listened to audiobooks in our store.
Given the fact that bonuses have been banned by regulators and spreads are becoming tighter and tighter, thus preventing brokers from competing on price alone, one of the most effective ways in which to increase your conversion rates and build loyalty is by providing your customers with added value, and the most successful way of delivering value is through educational materials. Publishing an educational E-Book is a great value for your marketing buck, but simply writing an e-book won’t magically improve your conversions. Here, we compile our 4 top tips for creating E-Books that convert:
Don’t write what you love. One of the first pieces of advice you may hear when you begin thinking about what to write about will be “write about what you love”. Well, I call it BS. Writing about what you love will appeal to you and while it is true that that love will shine through your words, you should be writing about what your audience loves. Figure out what your audience’s pain points are, why they want to invest in FX, what are their fears in doing so, what would make them say “yes” and then write about what they want to learn.
Solve problems. The captain of a vessel once had an issue in one of the turbines of the ship. He called several engineers and specialists, all of whom spent several hours attempting to fix the turbine, but to no avail. They each sent a bill for their time, even though they had been unsuccessful at fixing the problem and got paid for their efforts. Nearing desperation, the captain was referred to a specialist in this particular brand of turbine. Incredulous, the captain hired the specialist, who spent 5 minutes inside the engine room and successfully fixed the turbine. He proceeded to send a bill to the captain of the ship almost tripling the amount of money the others had charged. The captain, upset, called the specialist to dispute the bill thinking how could he pay so much money for just 5 minutes of the specialist’s time. The specialist quickly replied “It’s not about the time I spent, it’s about knowing how to solve the problem.” If you solve your customer’s problem, you are providing value that is worth beyond any amount of money.
Don’t over do it. We often believe that in order for a book to provide value, many trees (albeit virtual ones) have to be sacrificed. The truth is that as long as the information you provide can solve your audience’s problem, then 10, 20 or 50 pages at most will be worth it in the eyes of your customer. Too much information, can backfire, as it can make your e-book overwhelming and unappealing.
Demonstrate credibility. What makes you an authority in the subject you are speaking about? Why should readers believe what you have to share? Don’t be shy about sharing your credentials and what others have to say about you. Awards, client testimonials and endorsements are a great way to build up your reputation as a preamble to what you have to say.
Now we know. Sesame Street is just around the corner from Ocean Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, down one of the long blocks where the houses with the stoops are, not far from the tan-brick apartment building with the awning, the gas station and the carwash.
We know this because Brad Meltzer said so. Ocean Avenue in Sheepshead Bay is where Mr. Meltzer, a best-selling novelist whose thrillers usually have twists involving law or history or maybe classified documents, lived when he was a child — in the tan-brick building between Gravesend Neck Road and Avenue W. No wonder Ocean Avenue in Sheepshead Bay figured in his explanation of a sideline, a children’s book that presents the creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson, as a hero.
“You couldn’t get to P.S. 206” — his elementary school, about four blocks from the Ocean Avenue building — “without walking past what looked like the entire set of ‘Sesame Street,’” he said. “‘Sesame Street’ was a mirror of my life. It had crazy characters who were just like my friends and family.”
It left him longing, by the time he was a grown-up, “for a world where you can dream and hope and pretend.”
It is a world he has tried to create in a series of children’s books that he sees as antidotes for a society that has “confused fame and hero” and that lionizes people who are “famous for being famous.” He does not mention any names, but he is no fan of reality television stars or how reality television differs from what he remembers watching when he was a child.
“Our kids are being fed garbage through their eyes,” said Mr. Meltzer, 46. “When I was 5, Jim Henson taught me you can use creativity to put good in the world.”
“The magic of Jim Henson is not a funny voice or the ability to make a cute puppet. It’s dreaming. It’s pretending. It’s that there’s nothing wrong with being a do-gooder.” That is a word Mr. Meltzer is unapologetic about.
Turning out children’s books is the latest plot twist in his life as a writer, a calling he credits to a ninth-grade teacher — “the first person who said to me, ‘You can write.’” The publishing world discovered him in the mid-1990s, when he was that rarest of creatures, a law student who did not write like a lawyer.
“If I was a smart person, I should write more thrillers — they pay me far more” than children’s books, he said. “But now I have kids.
“I watched my daughter go through her princess days looking at reality TV stars and thought, is this the best we have?” he continued. “I watched my son watch anyone who plays professional ball in the N.B.A. or the major leagues and thought, is this the best we have? My daughter loves reality TV. That’s her ‘Sesame Street.’”
And that, he concluded, was not good enough. He decided to “fight back and show a little bit of a better world” by writing children’s books about heroes.
“Heroes are never what we want; they are what we need,” Mr. Meltzer said. “In the Depression, Flash Gordon — it was depressing. As World War II comes, Superman. It’s not that he was the most entertaining, he was what we needed. It’s why all these superhero movies have taken off. We still need someone to come save us.”
He started with “Heroes for My Son,” which he worked on between thrillers. Then came a daughter, and “Heroes for My Daughter.” Then he began the “I Am” series with “I Am Abraham Lincoln” and “I Am Amelia Earhart,” both published in 2014, before the world was struggling with fake news and alternative facts.
“The appeal of these books is these things really happened,” he said, telling the story of a young reader whose father is a friend of his. The little girl reached the last page of “I Am Rosa Parks” and asked, “This is real?”
It is said that everyone has a book inside them just waiting to get out, and thanks to advances in self-publishing, getting that book out is easier now than ever. Authors who have previously experienced slammed doors from the gatekeepers (agents, editors, publishers, etc.) are skirting around these middlemen by going indie. By doing this, they are experiencing a multitude of benefits. Authors who self-publish can:
– write about whatever they want instead of what a publisher deems marketable. – own complete control over the book process from start to finish. – keep up to 70% of their royalties instead of paying the majority of the book’s profits to the gatekeepers. – can publish as fast or as slow as they want. – aren’t under contract.
Of course there are plenty of downfalls to being a self-published author, as well. An author who goes indie is in charge of making sure their book is formatted properly, has an enticing cover and title, is professionally edited, and so on. As you can imagine, this process can be quite costly. Producing just one book can cost more than $1,000. On top of that, the majority of self-published authors, especially those just starting out, won’t make back that amount…often not even close. (Check out northcoaststories.com for an example of services for self-published authors.)
Then there’s the purpose of those gatekeepers — there are many self-published books that should be edited and rewritten several times, but are still being published. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many self-published books that are wonderful reads. But there are also many that are, well, NOT. These books are the ones with the bad covers, the odd titles, contain spelling and grammar mistakes, and could probably use a few cuts.
Plus, self-published authors must do all of their own marketing, which is something that’s completely unnatural for writers. Often this can look like “Buy my book!” in a series of Tweets.
So what if you go traditional? The reasons to find a publisher are solid. With the backing of these book professionals, you get the golden stamp of approval that your book is quality. While a few lemons still squeeze by, in general terms, a traditionally published book has a good storyline, is free (or mostly free) of errors, and is an enjoyable read for those in its demographic. A traditionally published author doesn’t have to deal with much more than writing the book, as a team of professionals will edit it, format it, and give it a gorgeous cover. These authors have a straight shot to book stores and libraries, and they also land some pretty awesome speaking gigs, depending on the awesomeness of their agent. They have a team of professionals who want their book to succeed, as they all have a vested interest in this book.
However, traditional authors are not free of some of the harder aspects of the book business — namely, marketing. Both traditional and self-published authors must market their own books, and it’s in their best interest to have a solid platform (mailing list, social media followers, etc.). For traditionally published authors, this is even more important. I’ve heard some publishers refusing to even talk to an author unless they have at least 50,000 fans on Facebook. That’s a hard number just to get in the door, especially for an author who is just trying to get discovered.
A traditionally published author may find they have less control over their books than they want. They may be on contract to write a certain number of books, or to slow down their publishing process. They may be told they can’t write a certain book because it’s in direct competition with one of the publisher’s other authors. They may be told the story needs to lean in a different direction to match the market, even if the author disagrees. They may not even be able to write what they want at all, just to be able to continue working with that publisher.
Finally, there’s the money thing. Sure, there might be an advance, but it’s usually small. Plus, selling enough books to make up that advance is no easy feat. Once the gatekeepers have been paid, there really isn’t much left over for the author.
So which is better? As a self-published author myself, I still lean in that direction. Sure, I’ve yet to hit the big time. However, I love the control I have over my own books, and I can still see the possibilities. If I go traditional, I might make more money. But I just can’t fathom giving up that control.
Former Hollywood Exes star Mayte Garcia is putting the finishing touches on her forthcoming memoir, The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince.
Prince’s first wife, Garcia took to Instagram to share the intimate details surrounding the book and revealing it’s release. A summary for the 304 page book reveals that it shares everything “from their unconventional meeting backstage at a concert (and the long-distance romance that followed), to their fairy-tale wedding (and their groundbreaking artistic partnership), to the devastating loss of their children that ultimately dissolved their romantic relationship for good. Through it all, they shared a partnership unlike any other in Prince’s life.”
Inspired by Prince’s 1995 single, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” the memoir will also share never-before-seen letters, photos and memorabilia.
Mayte Garcia, who spoke openly about her relationship with Prince on VH1’s Hollywood Exes, was married to the iconic singer from 1996-1999, and welcomed one son Boy Gregory, who passed away one week after his birth.
The Most Beauitful: My Life With Prince is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and is slated to hit stores in April 2017, close to the one-year anniversary of Prince’s untimely death.
Our national palate owes a vast debt to African-American cooks and chefs who’ve largely been whitewashed from the history books, but a growing number of scholars, bloggers and authors are bringing new attention to those hidden hands.
Adrian Miller, author of the new book The President’s Kitchen Cabinet, dissects the social and political considerations that saw African-American contributions minimized or outright ignored as they fed the First Family, from George Washington to our first black president, Barack Obama.
“Black hands — enslaved and free — wove the fabric of social life in the nation’s capital, and black people, widely considered by whites as inherently bred for servitude, were integral to cementing a white family’s social status as an elite household. Our presidential families were no exception,” Miller writes. “Many presidents went out of their way to reassure the public that they loved the homey dishes prepared by their African-American cooks, though they rarely dignified these cooks by referring to them by their full names.”
For hundreds of years, slave-owning white families depended upon African-Americans to grow, prepare and serve their food. Washington himself brought slaves to the executive kitchen (he was the only president to not live in the White House, as he died before the federal government formally moved from Philadelphia) and complained bitterly when his cook ran away after a decade of servitude. Washington spent a year trying to track down Hercules, also known as Uncle Harkless, referring in a letter to a friend about the “inconvenience” his family suffered at his slave’s freedom.
Thomas Jefferson’s slave cook, James Hemings, trained in France while Jefferson was working there on behalf of the United States in the late 1780s. James Hemings, the brother of Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s African-American slave mistress, then returned with the soon-to-be president and helped introduce the country to that most American of dishes: macaroni and cheese. Hemings, whom Jefferson ultimately freed, ran a cooking school at Monticello.
Historians believe Hemings was in the kitchen on the day in 1790 when Jefferson and longtime enemy Alexander Hamilton settled how to pay for the Revolutionary War and decided to site the nation’s capital permanently in what would become the District of Columbia. On the menu that momentous mid-June day? A fest made in Heming’s signature half-Virginian-half-French style: capon stuffed with Virginia ham, chestnut puree, artichoke bottoms and truffles, served with a Calvados sauce, and beef à la mode made with French-style beef bouillon instead of gravy.
“Because of the social dynamics of the time, people wouldn’t even think of crediting the cook,” Miller says in an interview in Denver, where he returned after working in the Clinton White House on the President’s Initiative for One America, an outgrowth of the President’s Initiative on Race. Miller is also the author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, which won a James Beard Foundation book award. He is a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge and former Southern Foodways Alliance board member.
Washington D.C.-based Michael Twitty, who runs the Afroculinaria blog, posits that the legacy of those African-American slave cooks lives on in product brands like Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima. Those products serve as a visible reminder of the “faithful black servant who cooks so well,” he said.
“For three centuries, that’s what black people were: servile, submissive and ‘naturally gifted’ at certain things,” Twitty said. “Enslaved cooks of the South … they were famous in their own right, in their own worlds. But they were never going to attain anything more than a certain amount of limited respect.”
Growing up, Wolfram Eilenberger was like a lot of young Germans — he dreamed of playing soccer professionally. He loved to read, too. But he always thought he’d have to choose between his two passions. “Either I read and I’m a nerd, or I play soccer and I’m a sports guy,” he remembers thinking.
In the end, the decision was out of Eilenberger’s hands. One day, he realized: “I’m not good enough. I won’t make it.” Which, for a soccer-obsessed teenager, was devastating. “There’s a great emptiness that haunts you when you’re 17,” he said.
Eilenberger decided to replace soccer with books. He eventually got a PhD and became editor of Germany’s largest philosophy magazine. But then, a decade ago, he learned that a group of authors had started a soccer team: the Autorennationalmannschaft, or “Authors’ National Team” — Autonama for short. Books had led Eilenberger back to his favorite sport.
Autonama first got started when a playwright named Thomas Brussig received an invitation to play in a tournament against Italian writers. Brussig wrote to a few German writer friends, and pretty soon, he had enough players to compete. “It was like a dream come true,” said Andreas Merkel, a novelist who was present when the team was founded in 2005. “It’s, I think, the dream of every German child soccer player to play once in a German national dress, and hear the anthem, and play in a stadium.”
The team’s first practice was held on an improvised soccer field in what was once East Germany. Most team members, however, were better at wordplay than actual gameplay. “Our first guy got hurt after five seconds of training, and broke his arm,” said Merkel, with a wry smile. “It was a big laugh for us.”
Still, with help from a well-known professional coach named Hans Meyer, Autonama took second place in Italy — and that was just the first trip of many. In recent years, the team has traveled to Norway, France and Cyprus. They’ve also competed in Brazil, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Once, they faced off against a team of crime fiction writers based in western Germany.
Autonama’s literary bent sometimes adds a philosophical air to their weekly practices, which take place on a soccer field in the heart of Berlin. Team members can be heard shouting instructions to their teammates and cursing when the other team scores a goal.
“I think that soccer is a game that is essentially about failure and emptiness,” said Eilenberger cheerfully. Soccer players try to control a ball with their feet, he explained, but most of the time they end up losing control. “The very fact that life is failure, and your everyday experience is failure, is somehow symbolized by the soccer experience.”
Most of Eilenberger’s teammates aren’t quite so pessimistic about a game beloved by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. “Writing is a very lonesome activity, said Florian Werner, who has published nonfiction books about cows and snails. “You’re sitting at your desk and you’re struggling against yourself. And then, on Monday nights, we can come here and let that all go.”
Right now, Autonama is a men’s team. But team members do hope a women’s team will get started in the future. Eilenberger says that might require a change in German soccer culture because there’s still a stereotype that German soccer fans are all men — specifically, men who don’t read.
For that reason, Autonama often visits schools, in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of writers and philosophers. “You don’t have to choose between literature and sports,” Eilenberger said. That’s a lesson he wishes he learned sooner. “It might be a better and richer life if you just choose both.”
What excerpt will they use from this biopic of you as a famous author? What’s really driving you? Do you know the reasons writers write?
What’s at the Heart of YourStory?
A clip could show:
A scene from the traumatic childhood you had to overcome
The tearful goodbye as you left your job and love interest to focus solely on achieving your goal
The day you won that writing prize and proved you were an awesome writer
The long days crafting your writing (for older writers, the film can show a wastepaper bin filling with discarded pages)
The impact you had on a grateful reader, who clutches your sleeve, proclaiming, “You changed my life!”
While the end product for writers is the same–a piece of published writing–our individual motivations for writing are very different. Our sense of achievement is triggered by different aspects. Identifying what most satisfies us about writing helps us to find the right support and to understand what holds us back.
The 5 Reasons Writers Write
Those five imaginary film scenes reflect the variety of motivational drives we have as writers.
1. To Overcome
We can’t choose what life throws at us, but some of us are spurred by obstacles and opposition. Writers with this motivation love to take on the ignorant publishers who reject them and the mean one-star reviewers. They get immense satisfaction from proving the doubters wrong.
2. To Achieve the Goal
Do you like to have a clear goal to aim for? A lot of writers thrive on specific challenges like “500 words a day,” or National Novel Writing Month. They get their deepest sense of accomplishment from knowing they’ve fulfilled their goal or completed the task.
3. To Win
Few of us would turn down praise and prizes, but for some writers, beating the competition is the chief motivation. They’re motivated by a need to be the best, to stand out from the crowd, to gather accolades. They know their sales figures and Amazon rankings exactly!
4. To Create
Some writers get their chief satisfaction from the process of writing. The means matters more than the end. They spend hours if not years perfecting their prose and are avid users of writing how-to books and sites, which help them keep improving.
5. To Have an Impact
Writers with this motivation want above all to leave their mark. They’re focused on getting a response from readers or inspiring change. Sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing the impact being a writer has on their own lives.
We all feel these motivations to some degree, but there’ll be one or two which are present in everything we do because we can’t help ourselves. These are our key motivational drives. They drive us forward as writers, and they’re behind the greatest satisfaction we get from writing.
What Holds You Back as a Writer?
Knowing our key drives helps us understand what holds us back. For example:
Someone who’s motivated by the process of writing and perfecting their work, gets stuck because they’re constantly revising. They have to learn to accept “good enough.” I plead guilty to this!
Someone whose main motivation is to complete the task, rushes to publication without revising enough.
A writer whose deepest satisfaction comes from getting a positive reader response, rests on their lowly laurels. I do this, too. It’s as if one nice comment satisfies my reason for writing, so there’s no need for any more marketing. This is not good!
A writer whose chief motivation is to be a published author with his name on the cover, doesn’t want to waste time editing what’s inside the book.
Someone focused on his performance becomes self-critical and finds it hard to cope with not being good enough.
A writer who wants to have an impact goes too far and ends up shocking or alienating people
Do You Know Why You Write?
Which of those five motivational drives is strongest in you?
What is the most demotivating thing that can happen to you as a writer?
When have you felt the deepest sense of satisfaction as a writer–that moment when you experienced the buzz of “Yes! I did it” … “I got there” … “It happened!”
What film highlight will they show at the Oscars when the Biopic of your life as a writer is up for an award?
There are three main things about writing that make it lack the social proof people expect of professional activities.
It’s intangible – Many people don’t seem to consider writing a proper job, maybe because often writers type away for days with apparently little to show for it. Yes, there may be the occasional article in a newspaper, possibly even a published book you can actually show people. But even then that small book, an object you can hold in one hand, isn’t a good indication of the many hours, months or possibly years of work that went in to actually writing it. .
It’s unpaid – This is true even of successful, established and published writers, people like Zen Habits and Write to Done founder Leo Babauta who still regularly give away his writing on his own blogs and elsewhere. Many writers have blogs they write unpaid and if you’re not paid for something then other people tend to see it as a hobby and an unnecessary indulgence when for most writers creating a blog is a carefully planned career move. .
It’s intellectual – People see hard work as being physical like laboring, or stressful like being a fighter pilot. They don’t realize the kind of mental determination that writing calls for, the inner motivation that’s required to get you writing and keep you going until you actually finish the work.
No wonder writers often struggle with motivation.
Writing is a common dream for people. Yet most people who dream about writing don’t actually do it. Some of them hardly even read. Meanwhile writers who do actually earn a living from their work still struggle to stay motivated and keep writing.
Faced with all this opposition, both external and internal, how can we motivate ourselves to get writing and keep at it?
Here are six ideas that work :
1. Get motivated Accept responsibility for you own actions. Acknowledge that you’re the only person who can do this. That if you don’t glue your backside to the chair and first start, then finish writing your article or book, no one else is going to do it for you.
2. Create tight imaginary deadlines for yourself to spur you on. Try pretending you only have one hour to write today and that can be a good incentive to get on with it. Or ask yourself what you’d start or finish writing if you only had a month to live.I motivated myself to write a 70,000 word manuscript by telling myself that if I didn’t write it that year I never would. These scare tactics do work and best of all no one has to die in the process.
3. Commit to your writing. Work out how much time you can give to your writing and when. Schedule it in your diary it. Make it a part of your routine and keep at it until it becomes a true habit.Now stay focused. If it’s a book you need to be able to maintain your focus for months. For a shorter piece like a blog post or an article you need to focus for one or two hours.
4. Remove all distractions. You know what they are. Unplug the phone, turn off your router, find a place where you can write away oblivious to the household duties which are being neglected.Try using a kitchen timer to keep you seated and writing. Set the timer for an hour and write away. When the time’s up have a five minute break then repeat until the piece is finished.
5. Use motivational tools. Don’t dismiss Twitter as a waste of time waster or, at best, a simple networking tool. I’ve found it a powerful way to motivate myself and other people. It surprised me too but here’s how it happened.I followed a well known novelist and journalist called John Birmingham @johnbirmingham on Twitter.I noticed that he constantly tweeted how many words he’d written on a project and how many he was about to write. He’s prolific and his word count put me to shame so I decided to try his tactic and see if it helped me.First thing in the morning, I’d tweet:”Three jobs: edit chap two of fiction manuscript, finish short story for the competition, write blog post for Get In the Hot Spot.”Then I made updates on my progress via Twitter, as the day went on, such as:”Chapter two edited and looking good. About to update my blog now. Hope you’ve had a productive morning too.”I know this sounds ridiculously simple and unnecessary too, but if it works as a motivational tool, that has to be a good thing.
6. Try co-motivation Sometimes on Twitter I’ve challenge other writers or bloggers to a word race if I know they’re in the same boat as me. As we both write more than we would have otherwise, we both end up winning. I’ve found that innocent bystanders who’ve seen my word count tweets are motivated and inspired by that just as I was by John Birmingham.This type of motivation even has a proper name. Appropriately enough for writers it’s called “bookmarking”.Basically, you tell someone your goal and then update them regularly on your progress. It may be a friend, but it can be anyone, and it can also be done on the phone, with a text message, face to face, or on Twitter where you don’t even need anyone specific to report too.One brilliant side-effect of this is that as well as John Birmingham motivating himself and me, my progress reports have motivated other people too.One man told me that my tweets about writing and my word count have inspired him to start writing again. Another Australian writer Peter Moore @travdude who’s published six travel books, emailed me saying”I’m impressed that you’re knocking out those kind of numbers in a family environment.”
Writing takes commitment, self-discipline, and desire. Don’t let other distractions get in the way of your writing goals–set aside time every day to write. When you are tempted to make up an excuse as to why you can’t write today, stop yourself. Only you can write the rest of that chapter you’re working on or meet your deadline. Remind yourself why you are passionate about writing. Plus, look to these 10 tips for writing motivation from Writer with a Day Job by Aine Greaney.
10 Tips For Daily Writing
Make a date with yourself. Yes, I know your schedule is jam-packed. But you deserve a writing rendezvous with yourself. We owe ourselves some creative, meaningful time in our lives. So make a date and keep it. Oh, and show up on time.
Right brain. Right time. Is there a time of day when you’re naturally more whimsical, more in tune with your inner or imaginative self? First thing in the morning? Last thing at night? Right after your morning yoga? Immediately after your lunchtime jog? Sitting at your son’s hockey practice? If there’s a time when you believe that writing will come more easily, make this your daily writing time.
A clean, well-lit place: It doesn’t have to be a custom-designed artist studio with an ocean view. But your daily writing spot needs to make you feel comfortable and happy, and it needs to match your personality. Even if it’s just a table in the corner of your shared bedroom, this spot should make you feel free to be yourself. It should fit the creative you. At a minimum, make sure that your writing spot is free of any negative associations or memories.
Tell your family or friends. You may want to be a mystery writer, but you don’t have to a mysterious writer. Because it’s a new surprising side of you, because it’s a new personal that your family may not have encountered before, you may be shy about saying to your family, “I’ve started writing.” Quite simply, it may make you feel vulnerable. Or you may feel that it sets some kind of expectation for blockbusters or huge advances, or that you’ll start to walk around talking to yourself. Or you may fear that your friends and family will see this as time away from them or a set of shirked household duties. Actually it will. Beginning a writing life means sacrificing or cutting back on other things, including your social life. But share your writing dream with your family, friends, or roommates. A real friend will support you. A fake friend will laugh, tease, condescend, or try to discourage you. Or worse, these friends or family will make it all about them (“but what about our Thursday night movie?”). Believe me, every writer needs a cheerleader or two or three. Also, rearranging your schedule to find some writing time will require the support and cooperation of the other people in your household.
Same time. Same place. Set up a place where the writing is going to happen. By going to that same spot with the same view and smells and general feel, you give yourself some sensual and spatial prompts to start writing. Yes, we’re Pavlovian creatures, and this is especially true in writing. “Oh right,” you think, as you sit in that plastic seat inside your usual window at McDonald’s. “I’m here. So it must be time to write.”
Switch off all electronic communication. Take this as fact: e-mail, iPhones, Blackberries, text messaging, and any other electronic-messaging system are the enemies of writing. First, all that time spent reading and responding to messages eats into yours precious writing time. And second, those bleeps and pings and newsy e-mails distract you into completely different mental space—a place far away from your writing mind. However hard it is, even if you are chained to your work or personal electronic device, switch it off. All those messages will be there when your writing time is over and complete.
Write naked: Say a prayer to the writing gods. Develop a prewriting ritual that works for you—even if it means wearing a Stetson hat or writing naked (not in McDonald’s, please!).
Set a daily quota or word count. As you look at that calendar or day planner, you may automatically allot a time to writing—a half hour or fifteen minutes or an hour. This works in terms of finding and assigning a regular writing time. But when I’m starting a new project or a first draft, this never works for me. Quite simply, it’s just too easy to say, “I spent a half hour at my writing desk today.” But that half hour doesn’t count if half of it was spent checking the online headlines or just gazing at the computer screen. Make your writing slot work. Set a word quota.
Praise! Alleluia! Keep a little calendar about your desk or, at the end of your writing session, open up your online calendar or online to-do lists to record today’s completed word count. It will serve as a time sheet—and a rewards system to praise yourself for your excellent discipline.
Allow yourself to write badly: At least for the early drafts, you need to just write. If you stop to judge, edit, delete, and rewrite, you will be spending all your time playing reader or critic, not writer. Trust me, you and your work will have enough critics later when you finish your final draft and put it out there for public consumption.
Last Friday I learned I’ll soon be writing a second book for a traditional publisher. I couldn’t feel more proud and excited. And I couldn’t feel more afraid and overwhelmed about being a multiple-book author.
I probably have about seven or eight books I want to write and publish. Not all of them will end up with traditional publishers. Like the 10 short books I’ve already self-published, many of them will appear under my own imprint, I’m sure. And while no one else pushes me to write and publish all these books, I do.
Why Write More Than One Book
Here’s a fact you should know: The more books you sell, the more books you sell. That means the more books you write and publish, the more books you sell.
With each new book, you gain more readers. Those readers might also decide to purchase your other books if they like the first book they read. You also become a better writer, learn more about what it takes to become a successful author and increase your expert status. All of these factors add up to more book sales and a more rewarding career for you as a writer.
That’s why it’s important to consider becoming a multiple-book author. It’s also why most nonfiction book proposals include a Spin-Offs section. In this section you describe several additional books you want to write. This proves to the publisher you are not just a one-book wonder. Publishers want to invest in an author long-term; they want good publishing partners.
What it Takes to Write Multiple Books
I have to admit that the I never put a lot of effort into marketing my self-published books. They were primarily created to help me build platform as a speaker. I need a book to say I was an author and to get more speaking gigs. (However, they sell better today because of my traditionally published book.) Because a traditional publisher had invested in me and I made promises about the book, I felt the need to do more promotion–and to sell books. I had to live up to my commitments. That meant I had to do a lot of work in addition to or besides writing.
Many writers say they want to write a book a year–and some do. Many, like me, have written multiple books. Doing this is not as easy as it sounds (or maybe it doesn’t sound easy to you). Here’s what I think it takes:
Determination: You must be determined to achieve your goals and to fulfill your purpose as a writer and an author.
Commitment: You must commit to your goals, purpose and path as a writer or author, just like you would commit to a marriage partner.
Perseverance: You must be willing to persevere despite difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement—no matter. And that means no excuses.
You also have to be able to move through common issues that arise as you find yourself with more than one book to write and promote at any given time.
Overwhelm: It can feel like too much, but know you can ask for and receive (pay for) help. Remind yourself you are creating the life of a writer and author.
Fear: Fear of success as well as fear of failure can stop you in your tracks–even cause writer’s block. You need to constantly remind yourself of why you write and take baby steps forward. Remind yourself, “I can do this. I must do this.”
Hard Work: Sometimes it will feel too hard. I have days when I work so long…(you don’t even want to know), but the fact that people read my blogs and buy my books, that my book has remained an Amazon bestseller for 29 weeks and that a publisher is about to contract me to write another book makes it worthwhile. (So does seeing a video like this ones in which someone features my book! Pay attention to the books on the desk and the one Don Power picks up.)
Plus, remember that at the end of the day, knowing your books (plural) are out of your head and in the hands of readers–or at least available for purchase–leads to an important aspect of being a writer and author: fulfillment. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to write and publish multiple books (and, yes, in multiple genres). In this way I truly fulfill my purpose and my potential as an author.
And don’t let anyone tell you you can’t write a book a year–or shouldn’t–or more than a book a year. I say, write as many books in a year as you feel inspired to write. Just be aware of what it takes–and prepared–to be a multiple-book author.
According to the New York Times, over 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them. According to Bowker, America’s publishing industry researcher, there were 1.4 million books published in 2013 (total of traditional and non-traditional publishers). In addition, the number of non-fiction business, self-help and inspiration books published is on the rise.
There are many reasons that entrepreneurs write books. Those reasons include increasing credibility, increasing awareness of their core business and building a speaking practice. However, the number of new books being publishing is growing faster then the number of new readers. All of these statistics mean one thing — it is becoming more difficult than ever to make money selling books.
Running a major hybrid publishing company has given me the opportunity to experiment with new, out-of-the-box, strategies to generate book sales. Here are three of the techniques that seem to be working.
1. Give them away.
I meet so many authors who are their worst enemies. They start their project under budget, they are rushed to get the book to market as fast as possible, and they cut corners in the editing process and end up with an inferior products. When I try to coach them to give away books in advance of the release as an awareness technique, I am always met with resistance.
The idea of giving books away stems from the traditional act of sending out advanced reader copies (ARCs) during the publishing process. For decades, publishers have been sending out ARCs to get reviews and alert the market — so why not continue this before and after the release?
Consider printing 1,000 copies of your next book just for an awareness campaign. Identify the place online where your ideal readers are hanging out. Advertise for a period of time before the launch where you will give a copy of your book away for free. Donate copies to entire university classes, book clubs that focus on your type of book and any other large groups of influential enthusiasts.
In return for the free copy, simply get their email address and ask them permission to email them on the day of release, so that they could share the book with their friends. We have found that you cannot give away too many copies. Giving away books to the right people will create an exponential demand.
2. Make an audio book.
Even more importantly, launch the audio book at the same time. The amount of audio books being purchased is growing every year. Most good publishers today will offer a discounted service for your audio book if you do it at the same time as your print book.
If you release the audio book at the same time, it allows you to do package offers, to offer buy one, get one free offers and so much more. Research also shows that a significant amount of people who buy the paper book also pick up the audio book and vice versa.
3. Be your biggest advocate.
Your job is just beginning the day that the book is released. If you truly hope to compete in the new world of book sales, then you have to decide to be your own biggest advocate. There are new places to promote your book, appearing everyday online. You need to spend every spare minute in a day promoting your book — and then the sky is the limit.
If you hear of breaking news, and you can spin your book topic in some way that is related to the news, position yourself as an expert on that topic, call your local news broadcaster and pitch them on appearing on radio or TV to give your opinion on that topic. They will always mention your book title when they introduce you.
Find new websites to promote your work. Reader’s Legacy is attracting thousands of avid readers by their offer of community and free books. They give authors the ability to promote their books directly to readers — and they pay you, even though they may give your book away. There are many opportunities just like this on the internet, waiting for you to discover.
These are just three tips that can help you to sell more books. The bottom line is that you have think outside of the box. People will buy your books, if they admire you. Best-selling authors are constantly thinking of new ways to get to their ideal reader and add value. You should be thinking this way too.
Pen names, also known as pseudonyms and noms de plume, are more popular than ever. Like brand names, they are designed to be catchy, memorable and suited to the genre. Writers switch genders and nationalities. Plain-Janes leap into exotic personas. X-gens with hyphenated surnames opt for something short.
I am often asked if using a pen name is legal. Will a writer be accused of identity theft and fraud? Will he be sued if he uses the name of a real person?
Using a pen name is completely legal. In fact, it is often a wise business choice. But writers should take a few common-sense steps to avoid confusion and protect their rights.
Why Use a Pen Name?
Privacy If you are a surgeon, do you want your patients to know you crank out high-body-count thrillers? If you dabble in bondage fiction, do you want to share that information with neighbors, employers, and your church group? Privacy is one of the main reasons writers choose pen names.
Branding In deciding on pen names, writers try to evoke the right tone, whether it is mysterious, authoritative, or lovable. They may have different pen names for different genres. A writer with an audience in romance will choose a different pen name for a dark, dystopian fantasy. Writers who have bombed under one name start over with pen names.
Avoiding confusion I recently co-wrote an ebook with Jessica Brown, and we discovered there are at least three other Jessica Browns selling books on Amazon. If a writer has a common name, or the same name as someone famous, a pen name avoids confusion.
Easy-to-Read The marketplace has changed. More people shop for books by scanning online thumbnails instead of browsing bookstore aisles. Writers are selecting short pseudonyms that pop from the screen.
Collaborations Two or more co-writers might pick a single name for publication.
How to Choose a Pen Name
Choosing a pseudonym is a creative process, and many writers find selecting a pen name more difficult that naming a character. The e-book Pen Name: How to Create Yours by Jennifer Blanchard lists 31 ideas for generating your perfect pen name and is worth a look.
Once you decide on a short list of possibilities, do the following:
Research. A pen name should be unique. Research the internet and bookselling sites. Avoid any name already used by a writer, since that is likely to confuse readers. Do not use the name of anyone famous. If you write a book under the pen name Taylor Swift or Derek Jeter, you may be accused of trying to pass yourself off as the celebrity. I also suggest a trademark search through the U.S. Trademark Office. If you use the name of registered trademarks, you risk getting a cease-and-desist letter. Search for available domain names, because you want to buy a domain for your pen name.Try to avoid using the name of a real person. If you happen to use the name of a real person, you are not committing identity theft. Identity theft involves intentionally acts to impersonate someone for financial gain. But if your writing affects the real person’s life, consider changing your pen name.
Claim the name. Buy the domain name. Also file a Fictitious Business Name Statement if you will be getting payments made out to your pen name. I explain the process in my blog.
Be open with your publisher. Usually, you will not be able to hide your real name from your publisher since contracts are signed in your real name. The exception is when you form a corporation, LLC, or other entity (as I describe below), but even then, most publishers want to know their authors.
Register your copyright. You may register the copyright of your work under your pseudonym, your real name, or both. Here is the screen shot of the registration application page for identifying the Author.
If you write under a pseudonym but want to be identified by your legal name in the Copyright Office’s records, give your legal name under Individual Author and click on Pseudonymous and provide your pen name/pseudonym as well.
If you do not want to have your real identity revealed in the Copyright Office’s records, then click on Pseudonymous only and insert your pen name. Leave Individual Author blank. If you fill in your name, it will become part of the Office’s online public records, which are accessible on the internet. The information cannot later be removed from the public records.
I recommend that authors register their pseudonymous works under both their real names and pen names. This creates a permanent record of ownership, and few readers are going to research copyright records and find out.
There are downsides to registering the copyright under a pseudonym only. First, it may prove difficult to prove ownership of the work at a later date. Second, the life of the copyright will shorter: 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from its creation, instead of 70 years after your death.
What Not to Do When Using a Pen Name
Don’t go overboard in creating a fake identity. Never claim credentials you don’t have. Be cautious about creating a fictitious bio. If you are exposed, your readers may feel betrayed and dump you.
Don’t use a pen name to avoid a pre-existing contract. If you have granted a traditional publisher first-refusal rights or have signed a confidentiality agreement as part of a legal settlement or employment agreement, a pen name won’t change anything. You are still breaching your obligations.
Don’t expect a pen name to protecting you from defamation claims.Most likely, you will be found out either through legal process or technology.
Decide How Secretive You Want to Be
Most authors find openness easier to maintain than secrecy. At book signings, they use their pen names, but at conferences they use their real names with a reference to their pen names. The web pages for their pen names are often linked. For example, Dean Kootz lists his various pen names on his website.
Some authors are more discreet. They try to maintain their privacy, but not to the point of lying. They don’t put photos on their books and blogs, do not link their websites, and limit public appearances.
Other authors put up roadblocks. They set up corporations and trusts to hold the copyrights and contracts. This is the most expensive alternative and may require an attorney. Even then, someone will know who is behind the corporation, and word may leak out. Remember what happened to J .K. Rowling? She tried to keep quiet about her pen name Robert Galbraith, but it was leaked by, of all people, her lawyers.
After all, there is something quite human about sharing secrets. Isn’t that what writers love to do? I believe it was Truman Capote who said, all literature is gossip.
Kobo claims to offer one of the world’s largest e-bookstores, with nearly four million titles available across 68 languages and 190 countries. Kobo Writing Life offers a user-friendly, five-step process for uploading e-books, and the company will convert your manuscript into an e-pub file for free with no additional cost to the author. Kobo has recently simplified its royalty structure, offering authors 70% of the list price on books priced $2.99 and higher with no cap. Royalties are 45% for books priced between 99 cents and $2.98, and authors can also choose to offer their e-books for free. Unique to Kobo is its partnership with the American Booksellers Association, which means thousands of independent bookstores make Kobo e-books available for purchase on their Web sites, helping enhance discoverability. Kobo also sponsors author events at independent bookstores
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon’s KDP lets authors convert and distribute their e-books across all Kindle devices and Kindle apps for free. Amazon offers two e-book royalty rates: 35% of list price in all territories or 70% of list price minus delivery costs in set territories (and 35% of list outside those territories)
The 70% royalty option comes with pricing restrictions: books must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 to qualify for the higher royalty rate. Authors can make changes to their book at any time, and the publishing process is one of the quickest available, with books appearing on Amazon within 24 hours.
KDP Select (kdp.amazon.com/select) allows authors to opt in to a 90-day exclusive digital distribution deal with Amazon in exchange for a few perks. These include KDP Select making authors’ e-books available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, where Amazon Prime members can check out their books for free with no due dates. Authors earn royalties on every book borrowed. The program also offers authors the choice between two promotional features: Kindle Countdown Deals or free book promotion. Authors are also eligible for 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico. The big catch to all of these benefits is that while enrolled in KDP Select, authors must agree to distribute their e-book exclusively through Amazon.
Smashwords is one of the world’s largest distributors of indie e-books with distribution to retailers like Kobo, iBookstore, Nook, and, just recently, Scribd. The company does not currently distribute to Amazon. The advantage to using a distributor is that it saves authors from having to upload their book with each retailer separately. Smashwords also offers consolidated sales reports, which allow authors access the sales information from various retailers all in one place. Smashwords offers royalties of 60% of list price from major e-book retailers and 85% net from sales directly from Smashwords with some exceptions. The company offers global distribution in 51 countries. It offers free conversion to various e-pub formats from a Word doc but requires authors to format the pre-conversion document themselves. It offers a free style guide for this purpose or it will provide a list of recommended e-book formatters who charge a small fee. Authors have the option of selecting a free sample section of their book for readers to give their book a test drive before deciding to purchase. Smashwords also offers a free marketing guide by the founder of the company that includes 41 marketing tips.
Blurb places an emphasis on its print book options, but also offers fixed format e-books, which are sold through the Blurb Bookstore and Apple’s iBookstore. Blurb charges a one-time $9.99 e-book publishing fee. While more limited in discoverability than other platforms, Blurb is ideal for authors who have a design-heavy project like a cookbook or children’s book, and authors can also create enhanced e-books with audio and video. Authors are able to choose from existing design templates using the company’s Bookify tool or opt for more options with the downloadable application BookSmart. Royalties are 80% of list price minus Apple’s 30% fee from books sold via the iBookstore—payments are either made via PayPal (subject to a $1 processing fee) or check ($5 processing fee). For authors who are looking for a supportive online community, Blurb also offers an inspiration hub with creative writing exercises, a tips and tutorials page with numerous webinar tutorials, and the Blurb Indie café, which gathers together indie publishing resources and tips.
BookBaby offers global distribution to the major e-book retailers including Amazon, Kobo, Nook, and iBookstore. With three publishing packages to choose from, authors can supply their own e-pub file for free or opt to pay $99 for the conversion. Royalties are 85% of net for the free and standard packages and 100% of net with the premium package ($249). All packages include access to the company’s Book Promo program, which includes a social media marketing guide, coupons for book trailer production companies and publicity services, and “guaranteed book reviews.” A great feature is the free “BookShop” page, which includes information about the author’s book and buy buttons for the various retailers. BookBaby can assign e-book ISBNs for $19. E-books take from five to 10 days from upload to appearing in stores, depending on whether the author supplied a file that needed conversion. BookBaby also offers basic cover design for $149 and deluxe cover design for $279. Once authors have published their books they will incur a fee for any subsequent changes to the text (10 changes costs $50, for example). Like Kobo and KDP, BookBaby offers authors additional marketing opportunities to promote and sell their work.
iBooks Author allows authors to create and publish their own e-books for sale in Apple’s iBookstore. The process is a bit more involved compared to other e-book services, but it’s a great option for design-savvy authors with multimedia-heavy books like children’s books or cookbooks. Authors can choose from several templates, including classic textbook, cookbook, or photo book and have the ability to add charts, tables, audio, and video to their books using widgets or “drag and drop.” To begin, authors must fill out a Paid Books Account application, which is reviewed in approximately two business days. Once authors receive a confirmation email, they must download a “delivery application” in order to deliver the book. Authors must have an Apple ID along with a valid credit card on file to sell books. iBooks Author does not offer a conversion service, but Apple does offer a list of approved “aggregators” who will format and deliver your book to the iBookstore for a fee — these include Bookwire, Ingram, INscribe, Smashwords, and BookBaby. Royalties are 70% of list price with no fees. ISBNs are not provided.
Lulu offers four levels of e-book creation and distribution services, ranging from a free do-it-yourself version to the $219 Amplifier, which includes one paperback copy of your book and the option for print distribution to Amazon and BN.com. Lulu offers e-book distribution in the Lulu store, B&N’s Nook bookstore, and Apple’s iBookstore. It does not currently offer distribution to Amazon. Royalties are “90% of the revenue from sales of your e-book” less the commission from sales through B&N and Apple. If a document has images, tables, and footnotes the company recommends contacting Lulu customer support to find out about its “premium” package. E-books take from one to two weeks to be reviewed, approved, and uploaded to the author’s Lulu account for distribution, which makes the wait period a bit longer than other options. Any revision to the text after initial publication requires initiating a new “creation process.” If you haven’t opted for the free DIY service, you are required to purchase a new package in order to make your changes.
NOOK Press is the e-book platform from Barnes and Noble and its e-books are available for sale in the United States and the United Kingdom through BN.com, NOOK.co.uk, NOOK Reading devices, and NOOK apps. Launched in 2013 as an upgraded and rebranded version of PubIt!, NOOK Press offers a free, simple interface that makes it easy for authors to convert, upload and edit their work. Nook offers two royalty levels based on list price: With a list price between $2.99 and $9.99 royalties are 65%. With a list price below $2.98 or greater than $10.00 (but not more than $199.99 and not less than $0.99) royalties are just 40% which is just a bit higher than Amazon’s 35% for the same price range. There are no deductions for delivery fees. Nook Press offers “Live Chat” support services as well as a collaborative social networking option (similar to Wattpad or Scribd) that allows authors to work together and comment on or edit one another’s work.
This design-oriented digital and print publisher distributes across all the major e-book retailers as well as the Vook bookstore. Vook provides free ISBNS although its publishing packages are among the most expensive in the marketplace. Authors can publish their e-books starting at $299 with add-on services like marketing consultations or copyediting available. The basic package includes conversion from most file formats to an e-pub file, two free previews and rounds of revisions, daily sales tracking, an optional (very basic) free cover design, and the ability to include up to 10 images and three audio/visual clips in the text. Additional changes after publication will incur a fee determined by the production coordinator. Authors can track the sales of just one book for free and additional books for a $9.99 monthly fee. Authors can run price promotions and have the ability to offer the book for free. Vook takes 15% of revenue from titles sold in its storefront.
eBookIt is a straightforward e-book service that distributes to Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google, Sony, Ingram, and Kobo. The company offers a free DIY guide to formatting your own e-pub file and a free conversion service although there is a one-time $25 distribution fee. For full formatting and conversion it offers a paid service of $149 plus the $25 distribution fee. ISBNs are provided. Custom cover designs are available for $99. eBookit keeps 15% of the net profit and payments are made to authors using PayPal. Additional paid services include audiobook creation as well as press releases and media blasts. The eBookIt CEO also authored a free e-book sharing 50 of the best promotional and marketing ideas for independent authors. The eBookIt bookstore is a bit difficult to navigate with a limited selection of titles in list format with no cover designs, descriptions, or pricing visible. Authors looking for a design-oriented distributor bookstore that encourages discoverability might want to look elsewhere.
Scribd has long been the go-to spot for sharing text-based documents, but it’s been in the news recently for its new, subscription-based premium reader service (unlimited books for $8.99 a month). Now that the service has been monetized, e-books are available either to purchase separately (outside the subscription model) or via its subscription service and are available in both the Scribd store and Scribd apps with royalties at “80% of revenue.” Unlike with other publishers that require an e-pub file, authors can upload any file type (pdf, word doc, rtf) for free and make changes easily by uploading a new file —while still retaining the document’s statistics, comments, and URL. Scribd emphasizes its facilitation of discoverability with over 80 million monthly readers and a curated homepage of selected titles based on the subscriber’s interests. It also bills itself as a social publisher that supports comments on author’s work and allows embedding of documents in blogs and other websites. Authors must register for a free Scribd account. Authors control pricing and preview options and have access to “instant analytics.”
AuthorSolutions and Its Subsidiaries
This e-book platform from self-publishing giant AuthorSolutions (now owned by Penguin) distributes to all the major e-book retailers including Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon as well as Penguin’s Book Country bookstore. Booktango offers free ISBNs and five publishing packages ranging from a free DIY version to the $359 Eye Catcher. Royalties are some of the highest rates on offer with 100% of list royalties on books sold through Book Country and 100% of net on books sold through Booktango’s online retail partners. An extensive selection of add-on services are available, including book trailers, a publicity team, an author website, and a service that promises to get your book in front of “Hollywood agents, producers, directors, and writers.” Booktango is a straightforward platform that emphasizes the importance of authors getting paid for their hard work. Free guidelines and video tutorials are provided.
Trafford offers e-book conversion and distribution as part of its standard print publishing package. E-books are automatically priced at $3.99 and royalties are 50% of net. Full distribution takes about 4 weeks from time of upload and e-books are available on Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, and Scribd, as well as in the Trafford bookstore. Considering that the basic print package runs $549, along with the lower e-book royalty rate compared to other publishers, this would be an option for authors whose primary concern is a print edition.
This is another pricy option from AuthorSolutions that focuses mainly on print publishing but also offers e-book conversion and distribution. Packages start at $899 and many add-on services for editing and publicity are available. iUniverse sets the default and maximum price of all e-books at its discretion and royalties are 50% of net. With terms and royalties similar to Trafford, iUniverse might also be of interest to authors who are primarily interested in print editions of their work.
Reading, contrary to previous reports, is not dead. In fact, it’s very far from it.
Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has legions of readers. His best-known book The Alchemist, the story of a young Andalusian shepherd on a personal quest, spent almost eight years – two presidential election cycles – on the bestseller lists. It was translated into 81 languages.
But The Alchemist is only one of Coelho’s more than 30 works. The Spy came out in November. All told, the writer has sold an estimated 350 million books. Yes, books, those dead-tree, multi-page objects that people were supposed to have long ago abandoned for screens large and small. And Coelho has company.
Horror master Stephen King, with more than 50 titles, has also sold an estimated 350 million books. Dan Brown has millions of readers as well. The Da Vinci Code alone sold 80 million copies. Books such as John Grisham’s The Whistler and King’s End of Watch are now doing great business.
There are best-selling authors, and then there are mega-best-selling authors: writers who have sold 100 million copies or more, such as Ken Follett, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer. And there may be more of them now than ever.
We live in a time of disruption in entertainment, when many people no longer go to the movies or buy CDs or watch television on television, and younger generations seek amusement largely through their phones. Yet there are still people who buy countless books, often by authors who don’t so much visit the bestseller list as dwell there.
Mega-best-selling authors don’t just have readers. They have fans, the way rock stars have fans. Their readers are collectors, determined to own every title. They make pilgrimages to author events – often, as in the case of Nicholas Sparks, in tears.
These authors’ books are sold everywhere: In discount warehouses. At drugstores and supermarkets. They’re as much a staple of airport stalls as those curious neck pillows.
Their astonishing sales are, in part, due to improved technology – e-books and the speed of printing and distribution. Not so long ago, booksellers and readers often had to – gasp – wait for additional printings of a runaway hit novel. Today, if you want a copy of Patterson’s Cross the Line or Sparks’s Two by Two and the local bookstore is out of stock, you can download an e-book in minutes or order a hardcover from Amazon to grace your doorstep the next day. Or your neighborhood bookseller can generally get a copy by week’s end.
The success of these works can also be attributed to the cumulative power of the international marketplace, although because of multiple foreign imprints and varying publishing formats (hardcover, paperback, e-books) total worldwide sales can only be estimated.
The mega-sellers’ ranks include romance writers (Roberts, Danielle Steele, Debbie Macomber), a goosebumpy spinner of creepy stories for children (RL Stine), a laureate of love (Sparks, who eschews the romance label), a Muggle of British wizardry (JK Rowling, selling more than an estimated 450 million books), a provocateur of shades of kink (EL James) and, more than any other genre, practitioners of suspense and thrills (Grisham, King, Brown, Dean Koontz, Jeffrey Archer, David Baldacci and Mary Higgins Clark).
Elite readers may scoff at consistent best-selling writers, few of whom will ever win coveted awards or land on best-of-the-year lists. But tent-pole authors are the powerful engines that keep publishing houses profitable and able to float authors who win acclaim but not necessarily large sales.
How do you get to be a blockbuster author? Typing is not enough, though some of these novels certainly read that way. The writing quality and storytelling vary tremendously, but there are some similarities among hit writers.
Chiefly, they’re extraordinarily productive. They publish with Swiss-clock regularity – once a year, twice a year, monthly if it’s Patterson, who’s an industry unto himself, with a stable of writers working for him. Or Robert Ludlum, who continues to publish his “Bourne” series and other books long after his death in 2001, thanks to multiple authors writing under his name.
“You can’t be a one or two-book wonder,” says Jamie Raab, president and publisher of Grand Central Publishing, which acquired Sparks’s The Notebook. “Authors like Sparks tend to attract a lot of readers at the beginning, and then keep them,” says Raab, whose imprint also publishes Baldacci. “They give the reader what they like.”
Moreover, Sparks is “very strategic. He know how to keep his core fan base”, says Raab. “He’ll write younger characters, which brings in younger readers.”
In the same strategic fashion, King’s Charlie the Choo-Choo, Grisham’s Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer series and Patterson’s Middle School and Treasure Hunters series are geared to younger readers who have a tendency to grow up to become adult buyers.
The big writers rarely take their popularity for granted. They go where the readers are and continue to make appearances long after they’ve become established and wildly wealthy superstars. In June, for End of Watch, King toured Dayton, Ohio; Tulsa; and Salt Lake City, places that more literary authors tend to fly over. Mega-sellers also maintain thriving websites and a massive presence on social media. Brown, for instance, has 6.5 million likes on his Facebook page.
Most of all, though, the top sellers deliver a terrific story. In their novels, especially thrillers and science fiction, plot is paramount. The heroes tend to be relatable – shy, clumsy, anxious, myopic, in recovery, short-tempered, middle-class, broke – but their stories are fantastic, over the top, a wild ride and a welcome escape from a reader’s quotidian life. In romance, the love is for the ages, destined, the opposite of casual. The story does not bog down with the challenge of dirty dishes or tax audits.
“You can’t underestimate the value of entertainment that these guys are delivering,” says Suzanne Herz, executive vice president of Doubleday, which publishes Grisham and Brown. “There’s usually a David-versus-Goliath theme. You want the hero to come out on top.”
In 1973, the Brazilian writer Raduan Nassar quit his job. After six years as editor-in-chief at the Jornal do Bairro, an influential left-wing newspaper that opposed Brazil’s military regime, he had reached an impasse with one of the co-founders, who was also his older brother. The paper had until then been distributed for free, and the brothers couldn’t agree on whether to charge subscribers. Nassar, then thirty-seven, left the paper, and spent a year in his São Paulo apartment, working twelve hours a day on a book, “crying the whole time.” In “Ancient Tillage,” the strange, short novel he wrote, a young man flees his rural home and family, only to return, chastened and a little humiliated, to the place of his childhood.
“Ancient Tillage” was published in 1975, to immediate critical acclaim. It won the best-début category of the Jabuti prize, Brazil’s main literary honor, and another prize from the Brazilian Academy of Letters. In 1978, a second novel appeared in print; Nassar had written the first draft of “A Cup of Rage” in 1970, while living in Granja Viana, a bucolic neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. It, too, was received euphorically, winning the São Paulo Art Critics’ Association Prize (acpa). “Those two books had a very strong impact,” Antonio Fernando de Franceschi, a poet and critic who became a close friend of Nassar’s, told me. “They are small, hard rocks. Everything is concentrated there.” Last year, Nassar’s two novels were translated into English for the first time, for the Penguin Modern Classics Series—New Directions will publish them this month in the U.S.—and “A Cup of Rage,” translated by Stefan Tobler, was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.
Nassar’s novels quickly caught the eye of publishers in France and Germany and, by the early nineteen-eighties, with two short books that together amounted to fewer than three hundred pages, he was already being hailed as one of Brazil’s greatest writers, mentioned in the same breath as Clarice Lispector and João Guimarães Rosa. On visits to Paris, he was invited to speak at the Sorbonne, and doted on by the publishing heir Claude Gallimard and the famous Catalan literary agent Carmen Balcells. A close friend to Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Pablo Neruda, whose estates she looked after, Balcells is often thought to have been responsible for the vaguely defined but highly marketable concept of the Latin American Boom, a growth in the global appetite for the region’s literature during the nineteen-sixties and seventies. Back then, she sought out Nassar to join the club. “She expected something big,” he told me last year, when we met for the first time, at his home in São Paulo. “She was a very generous person.”
Nassar was forty-eight and at the height of his literary fame when, in 1984, he gave an interview with Folha de São Paulo, the country’s biggest daily newspaper, in which he announced his retirement. He wanted to become a farmer. “My mind is lit up with other things now; I’m looking into agriculture and stockbreeding,” he told the interviewer. Many were baffled. Nassar kept his word. The following year, he bought a property of roughly sixteen hundred acres and began to plant soy, corn, beans, and wheat.
“I gave up a lot of things then, you have no idea,” he told me that afternoon. Nassar, who is now eighty-one years old, lives alone in a discreet, red-brick building in one of the quieter parts of Vila Madalena, a bohemian neighborhood on the city’s west side. In 2011, after almost three decades spent tending to crops, Nassar donated his land to the Federal University of São Carlos, on the condition that they build an extra campus to give better access to rural communities. The campus is now up and running; Nassar spoke of a former farm employee whose daughter was studying there.
Nassar’s living room is sparsely furnished, with an old, yellowing clock on the wall and a black-and-white portrait of his parents above his desk. There are no bookshelves in the living room, but there was a short row of books on the mantelpiece: André Gide, Dostoevsky (a writer he especially loves), and many old volumes of Caldas Aulete, a Portuguese dictionary. I noticed haphazard piles of crisp new books on his side tables and couch. “Those are gifts,” he said. “I tell people I don’t read anymore, but they never believe me.”
Just 1% of UK internet users aged 12 and over read “at least some” ebooks illegally between March and May 2015, according to the Intellectual Property Office’s study into the extent of online copyright infringement in the UK. This compares favourably to other forms of entertainment, with 9% accessing some of their music illegally, 7% television programmes, 6% films, and 2% computer software and video games.
Kantar Media, which carried out the research, estimates that 7.8m, or 18%, of UK internet users aged 12 or over have accessed at least one piece of online content illegally over the period, with 6% exclusively consuming illegal content.
When researchers looked at “all internet users who consumed content online over the three-month period,” (rather than all internet users over 12), they found that 31% accessed at least one item illegally. Readers, however, still had the lowest incidence of illegal access, at 11%, compared to 25% for people watching films and 26% for people listening to music.
“More ebook consumers paid for some content (69%) and for all of their content (47%) than consumers of any other content type”, the survey found.
The award-winning science fiction author Nick Harkaway said it was no surprise to find that ebook piracy is so uncommon.
“I think there are cultural reasons – mostly around the way in which people view books and authors as lonely artists rather than multinational industries – and some that are more practical,” he said. “It’s very easy to get ebooks from legit sources, and very quick. Cory Doctorow has been saying for years now that discovery rather than piracy is the issue for most writers, and I’m sure it’s true. I frequently miss publications of books by authors I really like. There’s still no really good discovery mechanism.”
Lloyd Shepherd, who confronted an internet user looking to pirate his novel The English Monster three years ago, said that ebook piracy had fallen “to almost zero”. “I really don’t think ebook piracy is a major issue in the UK – it’s a much bigger issue overseas,” he said. “I get Google alerts all the time about my books popping up on dodgy sites with exotic URLs. But I don’t worry too much. I know some people get incredibly upset, but I think that I haven’t sold the rights in Indonesia, for example, anyway.”
Shepherd would not go as far as Coelho, who actively encourages piracy. “I think it’s easy for those guys to say that, because they’re already selling lots of books,” he said. “The biggest issue is still getting noticed … and I suppose the only thing worse than being pirated is not being pirated.”
The novelist suggested that DRM [digital rights management technology that prevents unauthorised copying], rather than piracy, was the problem. “You could say that piracy is not an issue, but can we get rid of DRM?” he said. “Piracy would go up, but so would everything else.”
“DRM, of course, is both easily beaten and effectively helps tech companies to hold customers publishers to their locked-in formats,” said Harkaway. The Tigerman author added: “I always feel piracy is a red herring. It’s something the traditional industry focuses on when it should be looking at how to get out ahead of the tech curve. Every time I turn around, Amazon’s trying something new that publishers could have done. Ebook subscription schemes, for example: how is there not a Penguin Classics subscription? Or an Oxford Classics one? Same with book-matching – you shouldn’t have to pay full price for a book you’ve already bought in another format.”
At the Publishers Association, chief executive Richard Mollet said the IPO study “shows that the main reasons why readers prefer legal services over illegal ones are convenience and availability”.
“The fact that from the outset there have been so many great ways to get pretty much any book online is one of the reasons why publishing suffers comparatively less than other sectors,” said Mollet. “However, publishers do have to continue to work extremely hard to ensure illegal activity does not deprive authors of their due rewards.”
Increasing your author visibility through different online channels allows you to meet readers, cultivate an audience, and increase your discoverability to sell more books. But finding your ideal social media channels is not the easiest thing to figure out and implement.
That’s why I’ve reached out to some experts for advice. I asked six different platform-heavy writers — three nonfiction, three fiction — for their best general advice in terms of using social media. Here’s what they had to say:
Do you have any general advice for writers looking to market themselves and their work via social media, promotion and platform?
“I think you really have to enjoy interacting on social networks or you won’t do it well or stay with it. You can’t force yourself to do it; you have to find the things you like and do those even if they aren’t the most popular. For one person it might be Twitter, for another LinkedIn, for another YouTube, for another podcasting, and another blogging.
Also, I think some authors are too afraid to ask people to buy their book. I spend hours (and hours and hours) of my time answering people’s questions without compensation, so when I have a new book out, I don’t hesitate to post about it. I believe I’ve earned the right to market my products.
On the other extreme, I see a lot of authors jump into Twitter and immediately start doing nothing but push their book. They haven’t earned the right to market their products, and all they do is turn people off.”
“I have gotten flack for saying this before, but I am sticking to my guns: do it well or don’t do it at all. There are billions of blogs and websites out there. On the Internet, if you build it, they will not automatically come. You have to give people a good reason to spend their precious time on your real estate.
Don’t blog or tweet or Facebook because you think you have to. Your reluctance will ooze from the screen. Don’t engage if you can’t keep it consistent, both in terms of timing and in terms of quality.
Figure out what you’re best at, then do that well and forget the other stuff. You should have some online presence, but you don’t have to jump into everything all at once, especially if you’re going to do it badly or irregularly.” (Like this idea? Click to tweet it).
“Stay true to your integrity. I can’t tell you how many times I have said no, even though it sounded like such a good platform-building opportunity.
Listen to your gut (which I call your “inner pilot light” — that wise part of you that really knows what’s best for you, your body, your relationships, and your business). Don’t let fear rule the show.
In the beginning, I said yes to everything because I was afraid I’d miss an opportunity, and I wound up quickly burned out, depleted. But you can’t lead or heal from a place of depletion. You must heal yourself first in order to change the world. That’s the one lesson I’d share with aspiring authors/visionaries/healers.
Don’t let platform building spiral you downwards. Fill yourself first. Learn to say no. Create healthy boundaries. Raise your vibration. Attract others who share this vibration. Avoid the temptation to get sucked into doing everything for everybody. You are enough doing exactly what you’re doing. Resist the urge to continually do more.”
“Whether fair or not, getting your good story into the hands of the public now depends in large part upon your reach, and your reach depends in large part upon your savvy with blogs and social media. That can be a scary thing.
Writers are notoriously withdrawn and even shy. The idea of having to ‘put yourself out there’ can be tantamount to having to tap dance in front of a firing squad. But it can be done. I promise that, and I offer myself as proof.”
“My biggest warning is that you can’t do it all. I’ve tried to approach platform building like organic farming. I’m cultivating what grows (my audience, hopefully), but I’m trying to do so without gimmicks and with integrity and respect for the writing itself. I hope that this is a sustainable method that will also bear fruit, so to speak, with a faithful and steadily, if slowly, ￼growing audience.
I think a lot about limitations and possibilities. If I limit my time platform building, I open up time for family or exercise or working on a larger project. If I focus on the possibilities of platform building, I limit my time for those other things. I try to keep it all in balance rather than thinking that I can, or should, do it all.”
If you could go back in time and do it all over again, what would you tell your younger self in terms of platform?
“I knocked myself out for a year doing my email newsletter every day and for one quarter doing my podcast twice a week — and in retrospect, I don’t think it was worth the effort. Weekly is enough. The benefit from publishing daily and podcasting twice a week was minimal.”
“This may sound like bad advice but: Blog less! I was killing myself trying to blog three times a week at Kidlit, then I added two extra blogs and tried doing those twice a week, too.
The result? I’d travel or freak out and let the blogs go to seed for a while, and that was altogether worse than blogging less frequently because dead blogs and silence are the ultimate online networking sins.
It’s very possible to have a platform with the ‘less is more’ philosophy, as long as you focus on the absolute quality of your efforts.”
“I would tell myself that helping others succeed would translate into the biggest personal success. I would tell myself to go ahead and build my wings on the way down, and not to stress over every little number, setback, or failure.”
“Oh, if only someone had told me to put a free opt-in in the upper right corner of OwningPink.com three years ago! After two years of great traffic, we had only 1,200 people on our newsletter list. (The sign-up was buried way down on the page and there was no free gift to entice people to fill it out.)
The minute someone told me to offer a free gift, we got 5,000 new sign-ups in a month! Free teleseminars and telesummits (I’m about to do my first) are another great way to grow your newsletter list quickly.”
“I would have definitely started building my platform earlier. My younger self was stubborn and ignorant. I was one of those people who thought I could buck the system. And yet everything I’ve been able to achieve to this point is the direct result of finally understanding the importance of platform.”
“My greatest success has been my blog. I’ve wasted time speaking without pay, especially when there is travel involved. I’ve also wasted time (and money) creating a website. Don’t get me wrong, I needed a website, but I should have been far more realistic about how much time it would take and what that time is worth.
In addition, I would have begun blogging and writing short essays from the start. Not only would I have gained readers (and perhaps a book contract) much earlier, but I also would have benefitted as a writer from blogging.
Blogging has improved the quality of my writing, and it also gives me a place to try out ideas. Most days, I write something, and two or three people comment on it and a few dozen share it through social media. But every so often, I write something and it provokes dozens of comments and hundreds of shares. I pay attention to that type of reaction because it means I should possibly write more about the same topic.”
James Brendan Patterson (born March 22, 1947) is an American author. He is largely known for his novels about fictional psychologist Alex Cross, the protagonist of the Alex Cross series. Patterson also wrote the Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, Daniel X, NYPD Red, and Witch and Wizard series, as well as many stand-alone thrillers, non-fiction and romance novels. His books have sold more than 300 million copies and he holds the Guinness World Record for being the first person to sell 1 million e-books. In 2016, Patterson topped Forbes‘s list of highest-paid authors for the third consecutive year, earning $95 million. His total earnings over a decade are estimated at approximately $700 million.
In November 2015, Patterson received the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation, which cited him as a “passionate campaigner to make books and reading a national priority. A generous supporter of universities, teachers colleges, independent bookstores, school libraries, and college students, Patterson has donated millions of dollars in grants and scholarships with the purpose of encouraging Americans of all ages to read more books.”
Patterson has been criticized for co-authoring many of his books, and for being more of a brand that focuses on making money than an artist who focuses on his craft.
In an interview for USA Weekend, Stephen King referred to Patterson as “a terrible writer but he’s very successful”. Patterson said of King in a Wall Street Journal interview, “He’s taken shots at me for years. It’s fine, but my approach is to do the opposite with him—to heap praise.”
Legal thriller writer Lisa Scottoline said in a review of Patterson’s Kill Alex Cross, “They used to say that 50 million Elvis Presley fans couldn’t be wrong, and James Patterson makes 50 million fans look like a good start. He has sold more than 230 million books, and his fans aren’t wrong, either.”
In 2013 Patterson drew varied reactions when he took out ads titled “Who Will Save Our Books? Our Bookstores? Our Libraries?” in Publishers Weekly and The New York Times Book Review, which employed the text, “If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature? Who will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important books? What will happen if there are no more books like these?” Patterson called the ads an attempt to “stir the pot a little bit.” Digital Book World called the ads, “refreshing, really. And brave.” Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association, told the Tampa Bay Times she was in the process of writing James Patterson a thank-you letter.
In 2016, at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Patterson said, “Never become a writer, you’ll never make it.” Teachers at this school became extremely angry, as they were worried this would discourage students who were writing novels at the time.
“James Patterson Explains Why His Books Sell Like Crazy”. Wall Street Journal. March 30, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
When you first read that headline, you probably thought I was going to say I’m doing it because I’m dying and want to rush and get my books out there before I kick the bucket. And well, you wouldn’t be totally wrong.
I am dying.
But so are you.
And that’s what I realized a few months ago. I was sitting around, dreaming about the success I want to achieve as a self-published author.
Dreaming, not doing.
That’s not to say I’m not an action-taker. I am. Always have been. I’m one of those high achievers who thrives having way too much on my plate. Most people would never be able to handle the volume at which I write and create.
But I wasn’t seeing the success I dreamed of.
Sure, I had five books published (4 eBooks and 1 novel). My books were selling OK. I was making like $30-40 a month on Amazon.
Except that wasn’t enough for me. Not even close.
‘Cause I want the big time. I want a huge catalog of self-published books, nonfiction and novels. I want a massive, raving fanbase full of ideal readers who buy all my books. I want a traditional publisher to come to me with a million-dollar book deal. I want Hollywood knocking down my door for the movie rights.
So I had to take a hard look at where I was at and where I wanted to be. When I did that, I realized I didn’t have the success I wanted, because I wasn’t aligned with it.
I was playing small. Publishing maybe one book a year, if I got around to it. Acting like I have a million more years to live my life as me. Except I don’t. And neither do you.
Which is why I decided to totally overhaul my writing life — including my habits and my mindset — so that I could finally align with the success I wanted to create. And in doing that, an idea hit me…
Write and publish MORE books. All of the ones that have been dancing in my head and my heart for months and YEARS of my life.
I could write and publish them. All of them. Right now, this year.
And since making that decision, everything changed, and lightning fast.
I’ve already written and published two new books. The third comes out tomorrow and I’m already working on the fouth.
You’d think that would be enough. To just write and publish and get my damn books out there finally. But the crazy part is, by getting aligned with the success I wanted to create, incredible magic has happened.
In May, my eBook, Align Your Writing Habits to Success, hit number one in multiple categories on Amazon over multiple days. (And it’s still hanging out in the top five of its category.) I became an Amazon Best-Selling author. In June, I sold 1,007 books. In a 30-day period.
And it’s not because I’m doing anything different than I was before, other than writing and publishing more books.
I created this kind of success because I decided to. Plain and simple.
Anything you want to create for your writing life is totally possible. But you have to decide that it’s a done deal. That it’s non-negotiable and you’re not willing to accept anything else.
I’ve now skyrocketed up the ladder of successful self-published authors. I’ve smashed the limits of what most people say is the potential a self-published author has (which, in the opinion of most, is not much). I’m making a big splash.
And people are taking notice.
Since I’ve stepped up, my entire writing community has stepped up. I’ve seen writers who’ve been asleep for years finally wake up to the fact that they have what it takes and they want to make it happen.
I’ve watched on-the-fence writers finally go all-in and self-publish and launch their books. Success. Happiness. Fulfilment. It’s happening all around me now.
All because I was willing to get out of my own way, step outside my comfort zone and take control of my writing destiny. Which then inspired others to do the same.
And you can too.
I’m no different than you. I’ve just given up my bullshit excuses and stopped sabotaging myself with bad writing habits.
It was a choice I made, to follow my dreams and not let the limiting beliefs of the outside world (or in my head) get in my way anymore.
That choice is available to all of us. But you’ve gotta choose it.
What can you do, right now, TODAY to step up and fully go after the writing life you dream of?
For the last few years, alternative avenues to publication have become widely accessible. While traditional publishing remains the first choice of many writers, other options include self-publishing, co-publishing and e-books. The wildly successful “50 Shades of Grey” series by E.L. James, whose career path reads like a Cinderella story, motivated many writers to consider nontraditional publishing.
James took an unexpected route to become an international bestselling author. She began by posting her story on an online fan fiction site and then later as an e-book. Strong word-of-mouth recommendations and high demand ultimately led to traditional representation and publication by Random House’s Vintage Books imprint. Then came the movie deals. Although James launched her books in a nontraditional manner, Publisher’s Weekly named her the most significant person in publishing for 2012.
Several local writers agreed to give pointers from their experiences in both traditional and non-traditional publishing. In the category of traditional publishing, small independent presses may be a more realistic choice than the big-name publishers. Most importantly, do your own homework to decide which publication path is right for you. There are pros and cons to any form of publishing.
The Road Builders by Joy Chrisman Welch (Bellamy-Fleming Publishing) is the Lexington author’s first book, a young adult novel about a family that survives an apocryphal event in central Kentucky and looks to rebuild their lives. The earth’s poles have shifted, creating major earthquake damage and wiping out every bridge along the Kentucky River. Years later, the main character seeks to find her parents, hoping that they somehow had survived.
Working without a literary agent, Welch queried Bellamy-Fleming Publishing, a small independent press based in Clay City, Ky., that accepted the manuscript and handled editing, design and other aspects of production. The press publishes Appalachian authors in multiple genres including fiction, children’s books, memoir and self-help. Their website is at http://bellamyflemingpublishing.com/
After the novel debuted, Bellamy-Fleming nominated the new author to be part of the 2016 Kentucky Book Fair. And while Welch is pleased to see her book in print and out in the world, she’s exploring options for her next one. She realizes the value of traditional publishing but believes she was wrong about the stigma associated with self-publishing.
“I chose traditional publishing because I was under the misconception that the only people who self-published were those who could not do it by traditional means. I have found that it is not the case. There are some individuals who do quite well [in self-publishing], but they go into it well informed and with a quality work,” Welch said.
She and other members of her writing group have noticed a trend at the book conferences they regularly attend.
“The sessions on self-publishing are full. Our small group has decided that educating ourselves in self-publishing is critical,” she said. If she self-publishes, Welch understands that she’ll be responsible for work normally handled by the publisher in a traditional arrangement.
“I have paid a copy editor to edit my text. I’m trying to find someone to create a cover, and I will require help with transposing the text to a PDF file for Amazon. Those tasks do not begin to include marketing,” she said.
Kentucky writer Angela Correll worked with an agent on her first book, Grounded. The agent suggested Koehler Books as a good fit for her manuscript. Koehler Books calls itself a “collaborative book publisher.”
“On my first book, they offered me a co-publishing deal after their acquisitions editor recommended Grounded. The routine worked as it would with a traditional publisher being responsible for all the editing and artwork, but I did put up some money to offset the risk of being a new author. I got all my money back plus in sales,” she said, adding that the arrangement sometimes helps an emerging author get a first book into print.
With good sales on the first book, Correll was offered a traditional publishing contract for her second book, Guarded. She was not required to invest her own money to get the book printed. In fact, she received an advance from the publisher to sweeten the deal.
Both Grounded and Guarded involve the New York City-based flight attendant Annie Taylor who leaves behind her city life to regroup at the family farm in Kentucky, a place she’s avoided for years.
Zeke Stage One by Ward J. Pyle (Next Century Publishing) is the Indiana writer’s first novel, a first-person narrative about a kid who makes his way through life with unexpected personal abilities. Zeke is an underdog who overcomes his challenges.
Pyle describes self-publishing as a learning experience.
“As a self-published author, you are in charge of every issue and decision pertaining to your work. And I mean everything! You…make every decision as to every detail of your publication, down to every punctuation and spelling of all items,” he said.
He decided to self-publish after researching his options. “I found that self-publishing would give me 100 percent ownership of this thing and get a decent percentage of the profits after sales are accumulated,” he said.
He acknowledged that the editing process was difficult at times. “I felt it was painful in a way because I didn’t see a reason to change, move, or delete very much of the content from my original manuscript,” he said. The sequel Zeke Stage Two is forthcoming and he plans to self-publish it as well.
Louisville author Kenn Grimes has worked with a variety of publishing arrangements. His new book is Strangled in the Stacks: A Booker Falls Mystery (Cozy Cat Press), a novel that involves an unsolved murder of a Michigan college librarian.
“My arrangement with the publisher is not a strictly traditional one, as they retain all royalties on the print copies and I retain all royalties on the e-book sales,” he explained. He also reserved all movie and audio book rights. He is able to purchase copies from the publisher at cost and sell them himself.
Grimes self-published The Other Side of Yesterday, a time-travel novel in set Kentucky, through CreateSpace, which meant his book was immediately available for sale on Amazon.
The major drawbacks of self-publishing? “Marketing, as many bookstores and libraries are reluctant to handle self-published books. The initial outlay of self-publishing could be considerable or minimal, depending on what company one goes with,” Grimes said. He noted that many bookstores will only sell self-published books on a consignment basis, which requires significant bookkeeping.
“I no longer sell on consignment, but only straight purchase. Consequently, not all bookstores will deal with me. Either by consignment or straight sale, expect to receive only 60 to 75 percent of the list price,” he said.
He’s considering traditional publishing for his next book. “I have several unpublished manuscripts that I will approach traditional publishers about. If I am not successful, I will seriously consider self-publishing.”
Ray Peden of Frankfort has self-published two suspense/thrillers in the last couple of years. One-Tenth of the Law (Mulholland Beach Press) came out in 2015 and Prime Cut was published in October (Writeontheriver).
In Prime Cut, a drive-by shooting at a Lexington animal rights rally leaves two people dead. The central character in both novels is Patrick Grainger, whose daughter is wounded in the crossfire. The story also involves a mammoth slaughterhouse and a multinational empire that feeds millions.
“I spent five years learning the craft, attending writing conferences, reading as many books on craft as possible….I always felt I was a semi-accomplished wordsmith, but learning the importance of story structure and the psychology of leading the reader through the story was a huge revelation. It made the difference between mediocre and professional,” Peden said.
Peden offers advice for a writer considering self-publishing. “If an author is willing to put in the time to learn the processes and if they have the computer skills, self-publishing takes a lot less time to get a book to market. And they retain complete control of their work. This can be a good thing but often it is not, especially if an author is not accomplished,” he said. And above all, pay for proofreading and editing assistance.
“All authors require proofreading services. Most new authors also absolutely need a professional content editor at $1,500-1,800. Those that ignore these services do so at their peril,” he said, adding that of the two million books published every year, most never sell more than 100 copies.
Local writers, publishers at AWP
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference and bookfair is the largest literary conference in North America. This year’s conference marks AWP’s fiftieth anniversary and is set for February 8-11 in Washington DC.
Each year the conference attracts more than 12,000 writers, teachers, students, editors and publishers for four days of presentations, networking and access to some of the big names in contemporary literature. Last year’s conference featured 2,000 presenters and 550 readings, panels, and craft lectures. Over 800 presses, journals and literary organizations attend the event. For more information or to register for the conference, see https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/.
If you’re a Kentucky and Indiana writer or publisher, let me know if you’re presenting at AWP, individually or on a panel, or if you’ll be reading your work during the conference. Share your AWP news with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2012, a month after the publication of her memoir, Wild, Cheryl Strayed was on a book tour, soaking up the wonder of her first big success as an author, when her husband texted her to say that their rent check had bounced. “We couldn’t complain to anyone,” Strayed told Manjula Martin, editor of the new anthology Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living: “My book is on the New York Times best-seller list right now and we do not have any money in our checking account.”
Few connections are more mysterious than the one between writing books and making money. Strayed most definitely did make money on Wild,which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film with Reese Witherspoon, but she didn’t get her first royalty check for it until 2013, “so it was almost a year before my life actually changed.” Yes, there was that $400,000 advance—an amount to make any aspiring memoirist’s eyes go dreamily unfocused—but Strayed and her husband had run up so much credit card debt that almost all of the money went to paying it off and supporting her family while she finished writing the book.
Book advances, which are advances against the royalties that will be earned after the book is published, aren’t forked out in one lump sum, either. The payments come parceled out in (typically) three or four checks paid on signing the contract, on delivery of the manuscript, and on publication. The writer’s literary agent then takes a percentage of that. When Strayed sold her first novel a few years earlier for the seemingly handsome sum of $100,000, the advance amounted to, as she puts it, “about $21,000 a year over the course of four years, and I paid a third of that to the IRS … it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn’t enough to live off.”
It’s worth leading with all these numbers because, as Scratch repeatedly demonstrates, the nitty-gritty on this stuff is in short supply in the wider writerly imagination, while fantasy, evasion, and envious brooding runneth over. Strayed is among the few prospering contributors to this collection of essays and interviews who speaks so explicitly. (“We’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money,” she told Martin.) Another is Roxane Gay—author, columnist, editor, publisher, professor, public speaker—who reports that she made approximately $150,000 in 2014.
That’s a good income by almost any standard, but does it match your sense of Gay’s prominence and productivity? (Surely there are plenty of professors who make that much, or more, from their academic work alone.) Depending on your media diet, Gay may or may not constitute a “famous writer” in your eyes, and depending on how much you think famous writers must earn, her income may strike you as surprisingly modest. Or perhaps this entire topic offends you. There are still a few idealists out there cherishing the belief that writing, as art, mustn’t be contaminated by filthy lucre.
Like most anthologies, Scratch is uneven; not every contributor is equally talented and none is able to drill very deeply into the relationship between work and money in writers’ lives. The book originated with a (now defunct) online magazine of the same title, developed—as Martin, who edited both, explains—“out of a need for greater transparency in the discussion about work and money within the community of writers.” But if the mission statement of this anthology is to demystify “how, exactly, literature and the people who make it are valued,” many of the pieces here seem to deflect away from transparency as if repelled by a magnetic field.
If their authors set out to write about money, they end up spinning their wheels on the more formulaic and far less interesting subjects of self-discovery, dream-following, and “career”—a label given, often by wooly-headed Brooklynites, to an amorphous blend of personal reputation and public persona. Writers know so little about how other writers make ends meet that it’s difficult for them to have much perspective on their own ability to do so. But even when you find out that Strayed nearly sunk under her debts while Yiyun Li enjoyed a relatively stress-free transition from pre-med to fiction writing—three years after making the jump, she’d published in both the Paris Review and the New Yorker—the sum of both their stories still doesn’t offer a stable picture of how most writers make a living.