A recent report from Author Earnings confirms that self-published titles are gaining enormous traction in the book market, and in particular, e-book sales. From humble and amateur beginnings only a few short years ago, Indie publishing has reduced the Big Five publishers to only 16% of the Amazon e-book market. While the data is only drawn from Amazon sales, their market dominance is so large that one can easily believe that it represents a trend across the whole publishing industry. But does this mean you can write a book, get rich and say, ‘I’ll give up my day job?’
With this information, it might be easy to conclude that self-publishing, or Indie publishing as it is often called now, is turning into a gold mine for authors. So should you give up your day job, write a book, and instantly become a rich Indie author? Well, no, yes and no.
Self-publishing isn’t easy to define
Self-publishing is not a singular definition. There are many so facets to it and while there are certainly a number authors who work all day and write all night and make a decent side income from self-publishing, there are also those who have tried to make it a full-time career, but failed to make more than a few dollars a month in their first year, so gave up. There are the hobby authors who appreciate the opportunity to publish, but are not dreaming of making a lot of money from their passion but do make a little money each month. Then there are those who think that by tapping out a few words and loading it up onto Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) will make them a killing. Within this group are scammers, Internet marketers and dreamers, and without being unkind, writers who have trouble even spelling the word, writer. Yet they are a very real and important component of self-publishing, as it is the freedom to publish that is at the very heart of this new form of publishing.
At the top of the list, though, are the professional self-publishers, who are a different breed of author to those I listed before. They treat it as a business and invest heavily in book launches, promotion, advertising and media placement. They are often authors who have been published traditionally in the past but have grasped the opportunity to earn far more than was being offered by their agents and publishers, by using their established author brand to self-publish and self-promote their new titles.
Then there is the new grey area, which is Small Press. These can range from well-established specialist traditional publishers, down to one self-published author who uses his or her knowledge and experience of publishing a few books on KDP to help other authors to self-publish. This is becoming more and more common, as those who often have little or no computer knowledge seek free or inexpensive help in getting their book published.
While the report by Author Earnings paints a very rosy unit sales picture of self-publishing against traditional publishing, it doesn’t offer any real information regarding Vanity Publishing.
As the Big Five all have vanity publishing wings now, are these books classed as self-published? There is also no breakdown of the sales data to know which segment of self-publishing is making the most inroads. My instinctive gut guess would be that those who have considerable publishing industry knowledge and acumen would stand the best chance of success. Self-publishing may be new, but publishing is not. The basics remain the same.
So by all means, take the opportunity to use self-publishing to express yourself, get that manuscript that has been gathering dust for years out into the marketplace, and when you have finished, write another book. But give up your day job? No. Not if you only plan to open a Twitter account, a Facebook Page and then believe that your book will sell like hot cakes, without a pound of investment.
Self-publishing is now a very big business with huge potential market. Don’t get too carried away by the suffix in front of the word publishing. Self-publishing is still publishing and that has always been a tough business, even when you know what you’re doing. Just ask the Big Five.
1. Selling books is harder than writing them. There are 300k books published in the U.S. every year. And 30% of Americans read only 1 to 5 books in 2014. Writing a book is purely up to you. But getting other people to buy and read your book is another matter.
2. Everyone obsesses about titles and covers but it’s hard to prove their impact beyond above a basic level of quality. It’s easy to find popular books with lousy titles and covers, and unpopular books with great titles and covers. There are too many variables for magic answers. Publishers exert more control over titles and covers than you’d expect: often authors have little say.
3. Some books, like The Great Gatsby or Moby Dick, don’t become popular until decades after publication. It’s a strange world. Books have lives of their own, typically quiet ones. We judge success by sales, but many factors that have nothing to do with the book itself impact sales. Bestseller lists are not a meritocracy. Sometimes a book is on the bestseller list for a week and never heard of again. Other times a book has steady sales for years but never makes any lists or wins any awards.
4. Your reasons for writing must transcend fame and wealth as neither are likely from writing alone. Most books you read are written by writers who pay their rent through other means. If you want fame and wealth from writing be committed to the long term. This takes the pressure off each book, and you’ll be open to learning instead of foolishly trying to hit a grand slam on your first try.
5. Fame will likely ruin your writing or your life. Study the history of famous writers if you doubt me. Fast fame is a curse, or a trap, as everyone wants you to repeat exactly what you did before.
6. The publishing industry is slow to realize authors need them less than ever. Unlike 20 years ago, you can do much of what a publisher does yourself, perhaps not as well, but that depends on how entrepreneurial and self aware you are. Learn about self-publishing simply to be informed about your business end to end. Some publishers do great work, but many are stuck in an antiquated notion of their value.
7. Many authors are lazy. They’re arrogant too. They don’t want to do PR, they don’t want to do their homework and they are in denial of how many other authors there are. They, like some publishers, believe in romantic notions of how publishing works.
8. Some publishers/editors/agents are amazing. Some are bad and incompetent. YMMV. Don’t judge them all by the one you worked with. My agent, David Fugate, is awesome.
9. A great editor at a mediocre publisher can be a better situation than a mediocre editor at a great publisher. Editors represent you for dozens of decisions the publisher makes for your book that you can’t participate in.
10. Many editors don’t “edit”. They’re more like strategic project managers. There are three roles editors play, often played by different people. Acquisitions editors sign authors. Development editors help you draft your book. Production editors are the ones who spend the most time with your words, and even they depend on copyeditors and proofreaders. Many people will touch your book.
11. Don’t believe everything depends on finding agents or publishers. They both want you to already have a fan base, which is a paradox. There are many paradoxes to face in trying to break into any field that many people want to be in (e.g. being a movie star). To find an agent requires hard work and this is on purpose. There is a far greater supply of people writing books than demand from publishers.
12. Always remember you can upload a PDF of your book to Amazon and have it on sale on Kindle in minutes. Don’t get lost falsely depending on others. No one can stop you from writing a book and selling it except yourself. Promoting a book well is another matter (see #1), but publishers struggle with that too.
13. No one will come to your book reading/signing unless you are already famous. The packed author readings on the news are only packed because the author is already very well known. It’s another paradox related to #1. Read The First 1000 copies by Tim Grahl, or APE by Guy Kawaksai for a good start on how to market books. Book readings at bookstores are among the worst uses of time for a new author.
14. Publishers only invest in big PR for famous authors. For new authors there’s little reason to believe the investment will pay off. Would you spend 50% of your annual marketing budget on an unknown? Neither would a publisher. Publishers do love authors who invest their own time and money in marketing, and will help with and add to your investment.
15. Most people think they want to write, but really they just like to think about writing. If you have a 6th grade education you know how to write. The question is are you willing to put in the hours?
16. You can spot these people because they spend more time complaining about how hard it is to write than doing it. Or they endlessly stroke their idea as if it can someday magically transform itself into 300 pages. Don’t complain. No one is making you torture yourself but you.
17. Distractions say more about your lack of commitment than anything else. Learn to concentrate. Concentration is a skill anyone can develop and if you are serious about writing you should see this as central to your ambitions. If you were starving to death and writing a book would get you food, you’d write. We are all capable of writing if suitably motivated.
18. Which means that anyone with sufficient commitment can write a book. It might not be a good book, but most books by published authors aren’t that good either. What makes for a good book is highly subjective anyway.
19. A publisher is a venture capitalist. They are giving you money before your work is done. Before you complain about the size of the investment they are willing to make (or not make) in your book, are you are willing to make the same financial investment? Few authors are. It’s a business. They owe you nothing beyond what they agree to.
20. Your friends, family and colleagues are you best assets for finding an audience for your writing. Everyone has friends and family. Ask for their help. Make it easy for them to help you. Reward every new fan as if they were your only fan (because at first they will be).
21. Learn to take feedback well. By this I mean you want to be a better writer on the next book than this one, yes? That only happens if you listen for ways to improve. Arrogant writers, and they are legion, rarely improve.
22. Learn to take rejection well. It will be everywhere. If you think rejections from agents and publishers are tough, wait till you get rejected by reviewers and readers (e.g. The Great Gatsby has 235 1 star reviews). Look for a nugget of merit in every mean-spirited critique you hear as the mean people might have more honest insight into your work than the nicer people. Be grateful anyone read your book at all.
23. Stop looking for secrets and tricks. You’re a sucker if you think there’s a trick as every great writer in history never found one that let them skip the work. Tips only help if you are writing every day and can put tips to use.
24. You build a following, or in publishing jargon, a platform, by publishing regularly. There is no magic place where people will come to you just for showing up once. It doesn’t matter where you publish, but put something into the world regularly. Be willing to learn as you go and experiment. There are many ways to build an audience but they all require effort.
25. Publish once a week on a blog. You want to build an audience before your book is finished, not after. Write briefly about topics that relate to your book. Share excerpts and ideas you’re working on. Read other bloggers who write about subjects like yours and get to know them. Invite people you know to be interested to follow along. It will feel weird at first but work to get comfortable with being visible and making connections, as you’ll need those skills when your book is out in the world.
26. Don’t be precious. No one is going to steal your ideas. Ideas are easy, it’s the work of delivering on an idea in 300 pages that’s hard.
27. Get feedback on your ideas and drafts early. Find people who are honest with you – they are hard to find. Grand praise of your drafts does not make them better. Separate useful critiquing (“this section didn’t work”, “you should read Rushdie”) from the moral support your friends give over beers (“you can do it”, “keep going”). Get the tough feedback early enough that you can still do something about it.
28. Only your name is on the book. Your publisher will publish dozens of books every month. You will publish one book every few years, or maybe just once in your life. They will never care as much as you do about your book. You have the right to veto and argue, politely, with anyone who works on your book. Stand up for yourself, but earn that right by taking writing and publishing seriously. Do your homework. If you don’t take shortcuts, no one will try to take shortcuts on you.
You may be familiar with the phrase “we don’t take unsolicited manuscripts” on publishers’ websites. It can be a disappointing sight for an aspiring writer yearning to be published. Fortunately, publishers are always soliciting; you just need to know how to get your work into that category.
1. LITERARY AGENTS
While many publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, some literary agents do. Literary Agents are there to connect writers with publishers and to help handle the legal documents regarding copyright (including print, film and radio) and royalties.
Entering writing competitions is a great way to get your name and work in front of publishers. Winners and those short-listed are often named in literary media—the same media that publishers read.
In addition to the publicity, some competitions also offer publication as a prize. The publication could be in media such as a magazine or newspaper, or it could be as a printed anthology or book. Manuscript competitions and awards have also helped many first-time writers publish.
Publishers and editors may not have time to read manuscripts, but they do have time to listen to pitches. A pitch is a short, sweet and powerful way of sharing your manuscript. If you can capture the essence and selling points of your story in a quick and compelling way, you could get someone willing to read your whole manuscript.
A portfolio is a collection or sample of your work. If you are a long-prose writer it might be beneficial to work on your short-prose skills, as portfolios usually aren’t made of novels. Portfolios can be attached to your resume, but if you want a publisher to notice you, you want it out in the world.
Lastly, but certainly not least, you need to know the right people. If you want a publisher to hear about your manuscript, you want to tap into that publishing network. Pitch your manuscript to the right people, and they might know a publisher who could be interested and pass it along.
For more tips and tricks on how to get your foot through that door, visit the rest of the article here: http://writersedit.com/5-simple-ways-take-manuscript-unsolicited-solicited/
Never give away your book rights for nothing
There are so many avenues available now for authors to publish a book.
At the top of the list, of course, are the five big publishers and their myriad of imprints, followed by medium and small press publishers.
Then there is a long list of hybrid publishers, micro-publishers, vanity publishers and lastly, untrustworthy charlatans.
For a new author, it can be daunting to know which is the best avenue to take, especially for those not confident in taking the self-publishing route.
Whenever an author considers using a publisher, the most critical element is making a decision will be in regard to the author’s book rights. Whether in part or in total, publishers will always want the rights to a book before they publish.
Generally, if a publisher is offering an advance, then it is logical to expect that an author would agree to sign over the rights to a book. But advances are a rarity in today’s publishing world.
For new authors, the far more common occurrence is that a publisher will demand the rights, but offer no money in return. In an increasing number, due to a lack of financial resources, small publishers ask for money from the author, to cover a part or even all of the publishing costs. This is definitely a danger signal.
Signing up with a publisher might sound exciting, but signing away the rights to your book without knowing how financially sound a publisher is, or checking on how successful they have been, can lead to serious problems.
Almost every day there is news of publishers going out of business, and this is when trouble can really strike. Getting your book rights back could take years, and that may even be optimistic.
So what can a new author do to avoid making a huge mistake? Find out here: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/book-rights-and-wrongs-and-traps-to-avoid/
There can be many reasons why a book fails to grab readers, and while this blog concentrates mostly on the technical aspects and marketing side of self-publishing rather than the actual writing process, the choice of book genre can have major implications on both writing and marketing.
Writers often start writing a novel without giving their end product much thought, so when finished, it may sometimes be difficult to find a precise category or book genre for the book when it comes time to publish.
So here is a useful guide which explains with absolute clarity what the major genres represent, and what readers expect from each genre:
One of the common questions from new writers is, “How do I stop people pirating my work?”
Many of them are even concerned about sending a manuscript to an editor, just in case it ends up on Amazon as a bestselling book under another name.
But authors should be more concerned about obscurity than about piracy, as Robert Kroese discusses today.
Everything you need to know about Self Publishing, right here: