From Jane Friedman:
Over the last four days, I’ve been attending and speaking at the NINC conference, which is open only to NINC members. To be a NINC member, you must be a novelist with at least two books published. Most members have published far more than that—even over a hundred titles.
While NINC is not limited to women, most authors at NINC are in fact women who actively publish romance and women’s fiction. While a mix of traditionally published and indie published authors attended, most sessions were heavily oriented toward self-publishing and digital distribution.
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This was my first time speaking at NINC, and it’s by far the most professional and established group of authors I’ve ever spoken to. The absence of the aspiring or first-time author was especially stark for me, since that’s who I’m much more accustomed to encountering.
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1. The Importance of Series in Marketing, Promotion, and Overall Career Growth
My guess is that the large majority of NINC members are actively writing at least one series, if not more, and also releasing new titles on a very regular basis (every three to six months). Having more titles gives an author far more flexibility and options when it comes to marketing. You can make your first-in-the-series book free (to bring in new readership to a series), run more types of promotions because of more diverse pricing across your list, and do bundling and box sets.
The branding and promotion benefit offered by a series is a huge advantage; authors of standalones are hard pressed to match it unless they’ve managed to build up significant brand awareness or strong direct reach to readers. Years ago, when I first talked with Sean Platt (before he released Yesterday’s Gone in episodes and seasons), he was convinced that the path to success was following the narrative model that’s evolved for binge-worthy TV, with seasons-long story arcs and episode cliffhangers.
Sometimes in the industry we divide authors into indie versus traditional or genre versus literary. The more important difference I’m seeing is series versus standalone, not that one must choose, but when trying to gain any traction as a new author, publishing standalone after standalone feels much more Sisyphean than starting with a series.
I’m starting to hear established authors advise new indie authors to wait to go to market until they have three titles ready to publish. When first-time authors come to me for marketing advice, more and more I feel at a loss to help them. I’m inclined to say “Come back when you have a few books, all targeted to the same readership, and maybe we’ll have something to talk about.”
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3. Where Innovation (and Power Plays) Happen: Ebook Retailers and Distributors
As I mentioned in the opening to this piece, nearly every ebook retailer, distributor, and service provider was at NINC to meet with authors and to discuss large-scale trends, metadata, title optimization, new features, and merchandising/promotion opportunities.
Not that long ago, it would’ve been unthinkable that an author would be able to talk directly with a retailer or distributor about sales optimization. (Not that your average non-entrepreneurial author would even be interested in the first place—that’s traditionally the domain of the publisher.) Now you’ll find retailers and distributors assuring authors that they’re working on new features and innovations to help sell more books. I sat in on a session presented by Draft2Digital (an ebook distributor), and it became clear the service was beloved by the NINC membership because they are so customer-service oriented, make the authors’ jobs easier, and continue to innovate. (I’m pretty confident even traditional publishers would love to have some of the features offered by Draft2Digital for their own digital housekeeping purposes!)
Yet—and this is not to undercut the very real advances made by ebook retailers/distributors—we’re still talking about rather simple, commonsense improvements, e.g., alerting customers when their favorite author releases a new book. (A no-brainer, I think everyone would agree.) Such progress receives overwhelmingly positive response from authors, but we’re truly in the early days (dark ages) of what’s possible in ebook retailing.
Also, whereas authors were overly dependent on their publishers for success prior to the ebook revolution, will power now overly shift to these services? Obviously, people often talk about Amazon as having too much power, but it’s not necessarily just Amazon who can and will affect how well authors sell in the digital market.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Laura for the tip.