Self-Publishing Strategies

Self Publishing is Real! (Now what?)

28 July 2014

From author Andrew Updegrove:

At some point in the last two years self-publishing became accepted as a real, and even preferable, route over the traditional path. That’s great news, but it’s only the first step. What we need now is for a self-publishing ecosystem to evolve that makes self-publishing a more efficient, enjoyable and effective route for authors of all types.

How best to describe what I mean by that? Well, let’s start by describing what the traditional route looked like during the golden years, and compare it to what the self-publishing experience is like today. Back then, here’s what an author could look forward to in a successful publishing partnership:

1. An advance to tide the author over while the book was written

2. An editor to help her improve her book

3. A proofreader to polish it up

4. A designer to package it appropriately

5. A marketing team to put together and execute an effective marketing plan, including , planning book tours

6. A marketing team to promote the book at trade shows and sign up book stores to take books

7. Reimbursement for book tour expenses

8. A printer

9. A business department to manage the printing, get an ISBN number, do the paperwork to get the product into all the right distribution channels, and then manage the delivery, sales, and returns

10. A book-keeper to plot sales against the advance, and forward royalties on regular, if lengthy, intervals

Now let’s look at the current state of the self publishing world and see how an author would go about handling the same needs. The following services are readily available in the marketplace:

2. An editor to help her improve her book

3. A proofreader to polish it up

4. A designer to package it appropriately

. . . .

So what can’t an author obtain in the open market? That would be the following:

1. An advance to tide her over while the book is written

6. A marketing team to promote the book at trade shows and sign up book stores to take books

7. Reimbursement for book tour expenses

. . . .

Happily, with over a billion English-speaking people in the world, an author can be very successful without ever approaching the book store channel at all. This is a huge and empowering change in the publishing landscape, without which nothing would have really changed.

. . . .

So here’s what I think needs to evolve so that authors – and readers – can enjoy a robust marketplace of quality, creative work:

1. A more ordered marketplace whereby authors can find and purchase the quality services they need.

2. A new breed of service providers that provides real and savvy marketing value, rather than people who just go through a punch list of often outmoded standard items (the most notoriously useless of which is the press release, which isn’t even worth lining a parrot cage with).

Link to the rest at Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego

Here’s a link to  Andrew Updegrove’s books

Why I’ve switched to self-publishing

24 July 2014

From author Diana Kimpton via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure:

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I knew I already had two publishers eager to see my first novel for older readers. I knew that if I went with one of them, I’d be likely to get a good advance and good sales.

But I also knew that the world of publishing was changing fast. Self publishing was now a viable option – I’d already tried it with two backlist titles so I knew what was involved. And I also knew that There Must Be Horses was the best book I had ever written. Did I want to hand it over to someone else or did I want to stay in control?

In the end, I decided to do it my way, and I published There Must Be Horses myself in October 2012. The ebook came first, closely followed by a print-on-demand print version and a few months later by a short print run organised and distributed by Troubador because I’d discovered that I hated handling orders.

Almost two years on, I’m convinced I made the right decision. I probably would have sold more copies initially with a traditional publishing deal, but I make more per book so I don’t mind. Despite being self-published, the book has been reviewed in PONY magazine and The School Librarian, and it’s still selling steadily, often featuring in the best selling list for its genre. (It’s topped it once or twice.)

. . . .

Would I do it again? Now’s a good time to ask that as I’ve just had the latest in my Pony-Mad Princess series, published traditionally. On the plus side for the traditional route, the advance for Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan was very welcome. I’ve enjoyed working with a very pleasant bunch of people and the final book looks good. On the minus side, I’ve had to give up the rights to my book for many years to come. I’ve missed the fun and satisfaction of self-publishing and, right now, I’m missing the instant access to sales figures that I get when I use Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace.

That’s why I’ve decided to stick with self-publishing for the foreseeable future.

Link to the rest at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure

Here’s a link to Diana Kimpton’s books


Why I Left My Mighty Agency and New York Publishers (for now)

21 July 2014

From author Claire Cook via Jane Friedman’s blog:

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing constant is change.”

I was cruising along, represented by a powerful literary agent from a mighty agency that I both liked and respected, published by a series of big New York publishers that believed in my books and helped me make them better, and receiving advances for my novels that were substantial enough to live well on.

And then the publishing world began to get rocky, just like the music world and the newspaper world and so many others had before it.

I was one of the lucky authors. I had multi-book contracts, I was still being sent on book tour by my publisher and published in both hardcover and paperback, so I was able to put on my blinders and ignore the changes at first.

. . . .

And then, after years of stability and support, it was jolting when a single one of my novels made the rounds through three separate editors, because the first two left the publishing house. I lost count of the in-house publicists disappearing through the revolving door—even their names began to blur.

. . . .

I think they tried hard with the first book, but the things that used to work for traditional publishers trying to break out a book weren’t working so well anymore. I wrote the second book I owed them. And then I found out that their entire plan for this book was to do all the things that hadn’t worked for the first one.

. . . .

And then my editor went off on a three-month maternity leave that would end just before my book came out, leaving her assistant, a very nice young woman a couple years out of college, responsible for the care of my novel. Less than a month before my publication date, I received an email from this very nice assistant telling me she was leaving publishing to start a takeout food business with a friend.

. . . .

Around this time I started receiving emails and calls from booksellers telling me they were having trouble ordering my backlist books that had been published by my last publisher. And then that last publisher went under and was bought out by another publisher who inherited all their titles.

. . . .

Independent self-publishing had taken off and grown into a viable alternative. Authors in situations similar to mine were becoming hybrid authors—both traditionally and self-published. And in this new world, there was little of the cloak and dagger stuff I’d experienced in traditional publishing where everything from money to marketing was kept secret. Indie authors were generously sharing everything they learned to help others on the same path.

. . . .

So the pieces of my new dream started to come together. I would find a way to get the rights to my backlist books reverted, and then I’d republish them with my own publishing company.

. . . .

And then one day on the phone my agent informed me that in order to continue to be represented by this mighty agency, I would have to turn over 15% of the proceeds of my about-to-be self-published book to said agency. Not only that, but I would have to publish it exclusively through Amazon, because the agency had a system in place with Amazon where I could check a box and their 15% would go straight to them, no muss, no fuss.

There was no deal, no sale. There would be no self-publishing assistance, no special treatment from Amazon to give my books an extra push, no marketing. Why would I pay 15% of my profits—forever—simply for the privilege of being represented by a big name agency? And this might well turn out to be representation in name only, since it was made clear to me that the mighty agency’s subagents could not be expected to devote time and energy to selling rights to works that were not traditionally published.

It was wrong, ethically and financially, and I just couldn’t do it. I Googled and searched message boards and was introduced to the term revenue grabbing.

. . . .

I now own seven of my twelve books. I control pricing and promotion, and I can balance my need to earn a living with making my books available to my loyal readers at the best price I can offer them. I can add fresh content and switch excerpts and change covers any time I want. By the time I have ten indie-published books, I think Marshbury Beach Books and I will be doing just fine.

But already I’m happy. Instead of waiting for the next thing to go wrong, instead of feeling like I can’t get close enough to my own career to move it in the right direction, I wake up every day and get right to work.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Alison for the tip. This post is an excerpt from Claire’s book, Never Too Late.

How to Create, Publish, and Market an Anthology

8 July 2014

From Lindsay Buroker:

Hi, I’m J.M. Ney-Grimm. I write fantasy with a Norse twist. I love writing novellas, but I also produce short stories and novels. This year I edited – and contributed a story to – the indie anthology Quantum Zoo.

. . . .

So, why am I here on Lindsay’s blog? To share exactly how two indie writers collaborated with ten other indie writers to create an indie anthology, along with what we learned from the whole process.

. . . .

 Why Create an Indie Anthology?

Building Quantum Zoo has been a lot of fun, but it’s also been a lot of work. Why did we do it? What did we hope to achieve?

D.J. and I had three goals from the very start.

Cross-pollinate reading audiences 

We figured that some of my readers would become his readers. Some his readers would become my readers. Some of our readers would go on to read the works of the other writers contributing stories to the anthology. And vice versa. All of us would increase the size of our audience.

Experiment with new marketing techniques

I’ve been following the more conservative approach recommended for writers with patience and a desire to be frugal with time and energy: write the next book! I write, release, announce, and repeat. Yet I’ve harbored a secret yen to try some bolder and more direct promotional techniques. This would be my chance to approach vast numbers of blogging reviewers and hold a Facebook launch party. ;) D.J. has always been quite open about his desire to experiment with different marketing projects.

Learn from the project and report back to the indie community

We hoped to learn more about what kind of promotion was effective and what wasn’t. Naturally we’d use that knowledge to better guide our own publishing careers, but we’d also share what we’d learned with other writers. We envisioned our anthology project as benefitting many, not just ourselves.

. . . .

Decide the genre and theme for your anthology

How easily you manage this will tell you something about your partnership right off the bat!

Readers generally don’t want a random assortment of stories in an anthology. Would-be anthology builders must decide what the unifying principles for their collection will be.

Genre was easy for us. We both enjoy speculative fiction, reading it and writing it.Quantum Zoo would be science fiction and fantasy.

Selecting a theme was a little more challenging. D.J. and I held several brainstorming sessions. We wanted a prompt that would be fun to write about, had a broad range of applications, and would work equally well for both sci-fi and fantasy authors.

TIP: Be flexible and don’t lock in on a theme right away. Play with ideas for a while.

I’ll confess that I had a story I was longing to write that stemmed from the concept of living exhibitions. But D.J. agreed that “zoo” was an excellent prompt when I suggested it. I’ve never asked him when the inspiration for his “Echoes of Earth” arrived. Now I’m curious. Was it when we were brainstorming? I’d love to know!

Link to the rest at Lindsay Buroker

Author Janci Patterson Goes Indie

19 June 2014

From author John Brown:

I met Janci Patterson a few years ago when she was shopping her book Chasing the Skip to NY publishers.

. . . .

I loved the premise. Traditional publisher Henry Holt loved it too and thought Janci had done a great job telling the tale, so they made her an offer that Janci accepted. It was published in 2012.

Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?

Well, Janci just released another book called Everything’s Fine, a mystery about a girl named Kira.

. . . .

Another great premise. And this book won the Utah Art’s Council award for Best Young Adult Novel. Clearly, Janci can tell a story. But Janci didn’t take this one to NY.

She’s publishing it as an indie.

Here are her own words explaining what helped convince her going indie was doable.

. . . .

For years I refused to think about self-publishing. This wasn’t because of the stigma, honestly, but because of all the work I watched my self-publisher friends put into creating, shipping, and marketing their books. I couldn’t do that! I told myself. I wanted to be a writer, not a publisher.

When it became obvious to me that self-publishing was the next logical step in my career, I was terrified. Having published with a big publisher, I wasn’t willing to skip steps in the publishing process–it was my editor’s keen eye and the rounds of revision we did together that transformed CHASING THE SKIP from a messy draft into a product I was proud of. I wanted to be just as proud of my independent work, and for that, I knew I’d need help.

. . . .

Self-publishing felt even more impossible than selling books in New York–I knew how I wanted to do it, but I didn’t have the resources.

. . . .

I’d been working with the New York publishing paradigm for fourteen years. And in that world, there are very few ways to be published. You query agents. You send books to publishers. You do your very best to follow all of the guidelines and to do everything perfectly right, hoping to minimize the barriers that stand between you and success as a writer.

But this self-publishing thing was a whole different game. I sat in the audience at the workshop, stunned. That was the moment when I finally realized this truth: there are as many ways to publish as there are people who are publishing. There is no one right way to do it. There are so many things you can do that can help you succeed. It’s better to do something than nothing, because nothing is never the road to success. Even if that means you’re doing it wrong.

So when I got home, I made a list of my assets. Forget about what I lacked. Forget about what I didn’t know. What did I know how to do? What resources did I have access to? And, most importantly, who could I ask for help?

Link to the rest at John Brown

Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing: #8… I’ve Missed the Boat

16 June 2014

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Myths ignore facts. Myths are often beliefs built from fear or past actions.

In this series, and in the previous series of Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing, I call the myths that control writers “Sacred Cows.”

Writers hold onto myths like lifelines that are keeping them from drowning in a raging river of information. Sometimes sane people in the normal world will follow a publishing myth that makes no sense at all because it has something to do with the publishing business. And they follow the myth without thought.

So this new series is an attempt to help the new world of indie publishing with the growing list of myths that plague it.

The eighth myth to hit Indie writers and publishers is this:



This myth, of course, has a lot of origins, but the biggest one is the totally false thinking that this indie world is a gold rush. Nope. It’s not anymore. Indie publishing is now a new part of publishing here to stay for any foreseeable future.

And it might, if some people are correct, become the dominant form of publishing. Who knows.

. . . .

But this new world has made it very, very possible for writers with no knowledge of the publishing business to get their books to readers directly. That ability for nonprofessional publishing professionals and writers has only been around since the KDP program started up.

Those early few years of this new wave happened fast, first with the KDP program, followed by Smashwords, and then B&N opening up their bookstores. That was followed by the POD programs to get paper into regular bookstores. All those changes happened seemingly instantly and every indie publisher seemed to be in a huge hurry.

Kris and I were no exception to that in those first few years. It felt like a gold rush, no doubt.

But then everything settled. The explosive growth of electronic books has slowed to a tiny and healthy growth. We are now in a new normal.

Granted, there are major changes coming in publishing because of disruptive technology hitting big companies not capable of handling the changes. But for indie publishers, we are now playing on a level field with all traditional publishers.

. . . .

— First off, stop comparing yourself to other people.

Look around at what other indie publishers are doing and learn and adapt ideas that work for you and ignore all the rest.

— Ask yourself a simple question. “Do I want to be in this exact spot five years from now?”

If the answer is no, then start figuring out where you want to be in five years and in ten years. For those of you without any sense of business, this is called “Making a Business Plan.”

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

Breaking Free – What Happened when I left KDP Select

7 June 2014

From author Nick Stephenson:

“KDP Select is evil”. “Free promotions are pointless”. “Nick, you’re an idiot”. These are things I hear on a daily basis, the latter usually being something I say to myself when I’m looking in the mirror. As for the first two, I talk to a lot of authors who have a strong opinion on the relative merits of signing up for 90 days of exclusivity with Amazon, and the words “shackled” and “dungeon” come up a lot. It’s the same for free days – half of authors think they’re a God-send, the other half would rather cut off their own limbs with a rusty spatula than offer their work gratis.

. . . .

The two main strategies for free books I see most often are:

A variety of titles signed up to KDP Select, with rotating free promotions on each book. This is pretty easy to do with the 5 free days you get to play with under the KDP Select contract.
Titles NOT in KDP select, and up on other vendors, with the first book in the series permanently free. This is also pretty easy to do.
There are pros and cons for both approaches, but last month was the first time I’d tried option number (2).

. . . .

[T]his was another month where I had a free promotion with Bookbub. You can see clearly that, while immediate results were lower than before, the residual effect is lasting much longer (and has carried over so far into June). Overall, the total income from the promotion is about the same, but the sales increase is far more consistent. And this is a good thing – I’d rather have a bunch of sales spread across a month, rather than just a couple of days. It helps with boosting visibility with Amazon’s algorithms (which largely discount anomalous spikes in favour of consistent performance) and helps keep things going when I’m not actively promoting or advertising.

Next month’s figures will be more illuminating – I’ll be able to see just how long the sales boost lasts. I’m expecting things to drop off pretty quick, but, so far, things are looking good. More importantly, this strategy has really opened up the UK market for me, as well as Nook and iTunes (Kobo is a bit of a graveyard). I’m looking forward to my other 3 titles dropping out of Select, so I can get them up on the other sites too. The non-Amazon-US avenues are now accounting for roughly 50% of revenue, which is cool, as I’m less vulnerable to sales fluctuations in one market – I’ve got others to back me up.

Link to the rest, including sales graphs, at Nick Stephenson

Should Self-Publishing Authors Hire Editors, Producers and Cover Designers? Team Publishing vs. DIY

13 May 2014

From Digital Book World:

Self-publishing is something of a misnomer, given the various ways that authors can publish books outside of a traditional publishing relationship. In particular, we might consider two modes of indie publishing, do-it-yourself and team publishing. DIY is for authors who go it entirely alone. Authors who seek to make their projects team efforts may engage others to help them with various aspects of publication, whether those teams are groups of freelancers and friends or companies that have formed for the purpose.

Are there benefits to indie authors to outsourcing different aspects of their projects, especially those that emulate the services provided by traditional publishers, or are authors better off saving their money?

. . . .

 Just under half of the self-published authors surveyed had hired someone or contracted with a company to help them self-publish their last book. Among those who hired services, the median expenditure was in the range of $500- $999, and the median number of services used was 3. The most popular service outsourced by authors was cover art.

. . . .

[T]he greatest differences between those that had no income and those that earned $10,000 or more from their latest book related to cover art and editing. Among authors making no income from their latest book, 22% contracted cover art, compared to 52% of those making more than $5,000 and to 63.6% for those earning $25,000.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Mystery Of The “Hybrid”: Just A Phase For Authors?

1 April 2014

From Thought Catalog:

Everything is changing amazingly fast for writers. Procedure; publishing patterns; “best practices” that won’t be best in 10 more minutes; broken rules; and lady-or-tiger options—say the secret word and you either get kissed by an online promotion or eaten alive by an algorithm.

It’s one of the reasons that authors spend so much time reading each other’s blog posts. They’re searching for answers no one has. Never has so much wisdom been offered to so many by so many others who knew so little more than the first many. (And thank God Churchill didn’t live to read that mess.)

It’s almost preposterous how many writers are writing books about how to write a book—the #bookbooks, I call them. Is it a bit cannibalistic, writing these things to sell to your fellow writers? Yes, it is. We had enough #bookbooks ten years ago. They’re all here, thank you. “Why do all the ladies of my parish bake cupcakes once a month and sell them to each other?” asks Rev. March in John Updike’s The Centaur. Maybe because it’s easier to sell to each other than to strangers. And maybe it’s more comfortable to sell books to other writers than to readers?

. . . .

The idea is that as an author, you are neither all-self-publishing nor all-traditionally publishing. You are both. You’re a “hybrid.” Case-by-case basis. If your agent turns up his nose at your latest masterpiece, you just publish it yourself. So there. But if your agent likes it and can sell it to a publisher, then that’s great: all those “author services” (editing, cover and interior design, formatting, and no marketing) are done for you by the publishing house.

Authors have learned to make sure their traditional contracts allow them to moonlight in this way.

. . . .

The hybrid=good formula has looked so stable that it may come as an unsettling surprise to some that North Carolina cozy queen Elizabeth Spann Craig now is questioning how the hybrid birdbath looks in her own backyard.

In Must a Writer Go Hybrid for a Higher Income?, she writes:

Maybe my main point is that you don’t have to remain a hybrid writer. You could start out as a hybrid author, soak up all the knowledge you can, and then self-publish afterward.

Uh-oh. What new heresy is this? Actually, it’s considerably well thought-out stuff and has drawn some 50 comments to Craig’s blog (“Mystery Writing is Murder”), which is well-read but not always so heavily yakked up.

. . . .

Somewhere in an office in Manhattan, coffee just paused on its way across the desk. An “I Heart Books” mug is being set back down.

I feel that the benefits that I’ve received are winding down.  I’ve gotten a great education from my talented editors.

Craig has written a Dear John letter.

And if anything can make the publishing establishment listen up, it might well be this: a highly successful, dependable, cozy-writing champ near the line between North and South Carolina announcing that she’s had just about all she needs, y’all, from the industry! the industry! 

Dean & DeLuca coffee is cooling fast as Craig goes on:

I’ve received exposure in physical bookstores and libraries and an introduction to a dedicated reader base.  I hate to sound like I just want to take my ball and go home, but that’s likely the ultimate direction I’m heading in.

Coffee now? Ice-cold:

Mainly, now…I feel as if my self-publishing production is slowed down because of traditional publishing.  I wince as I say that, but it’s the truth.

Link to the rest at Thought Catalog and thanks to Randall for the tip.

PG says the article points out an uncomfortable myth Big Publishing has sold itself about hybrid authors. They’ve regarded it as the literary equivalent of an open marriage. Sure, an author will go for a weekend fling with self-publishing, but, after a little playtime with Amazon, will return to the welcoming bosom of tradpub.

PG warns that the tradpub contracts can be more of a problem than the article implies if the author isn’t careful, but Elizabeth Craig is far from the only author coming to this conclusion. People who are selling very nicely for tradpub are coming to the conclusion that there are diminishing returns to staying there.

Reputation built? Check. Faithful readers in place? Check. Library patrons can find some of your books? Check. Nothing new that Big Publishing can offer? Check. Want to permanently trade ebook royalties of less than 15% of selling price for royalties of just under 70% of selling price? Check.

First known pattern of authors exploiting big publishers instead of the other way around? Check.

Somebody will think PG messed up his royalty numbers. After all, it says in all Big Publishing contracts that the author will receive a 25% ebook royalty. Knowing PG quit taking math classes after advanced algebra, a numerical error might not be a bad assumption, but he’s not wrong in this case.

When an indie author deals with Amazon, he/she receives 70% of the ebook selling price (less delivery charges). When a tradpub author deals with a publisher, he/she receives 25% of what the publisher receives from Amazon, not 25% of the ebook selling price.

Here are the numbers, assuming the publisher is selling the ebook for a 70% royalty from Amazon (not always a good assumption):

Selling Price $9.99
Royalty % 70%
Amount received by Publisher $6.99
Author’s gross royalty % 25%
Gross royalty to Author $1.75
Agent’s % 15%
Agent’s share $0.26
Author’s royalty received $1.49
Author’s net royalty % 14.88%

PG hasn’t included Amazon’s delivery charges, assuming they’re likely to be pretty much the same for tradpub and selfpub.

Why I Choose to Both Self-Publish and Traditionally Publish

18 March 2014

From CJ Lyons via Jane Friedman’s blog:

Since 2009, after the release of my second novel, I’ve been a so-called hybrid author, working with New York publishers as well as self-publishing. I’m often asked why I chose to combine these two seemingly disparate publishing careers, juggling twice the work.

The answer is simple: It’s not twice the work or two different careers. It’s one career—my career.

But that’s not even the right question to ask. It’s not about me or New York. The right question—in fact, the one I asked myself before embarking on self-publishing—is: What is the best way to get my books in front of my readers?

At the time I had two books in a series published, but the books were being brought out one a year and readers were clamoring for more. My agent and I had many discussions with my editor, including a face-to-face meeting with her and the publisher. We explained the difficulties of building a readership and keeping my name prominent in their minds with such a slow release schedule.

Their answer: that’s the way their production schedule worked.

. . . .

Frustrated at my inability to provide my readers with what they wanted—more stories from me—when e-book self-publishing opportunities arose, I jumped right in. I never considered making money; I only wanted to get more books out to my readers in the hopes that they’d remember my name by the time my next New York–published book eventually hit the shelves.

With that decision, I not only created a massively successful way to grow and serve my readership, I also took control of my career. I finally realized it wasn’t up to New York to decide how many books a year I published or what genre my books were categorized as or even how they were distributed.

. . . .

So I made my choice. To embrace the world of possibilities and form my own Global Publishing Empire. As CEO, I decide whom I want to partner with.

. . . .

Currently, my strategic partnerships also include New York publishers. Why? Because they can still serve my readers via their distribution channels and marketing as well as serving me via their editorial guidance to take my craft to the next level. And traditional publishers are still the best at turning a book into an event.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

CJ was just named to the Executive Council of The Authors Guild

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