Dec 17 2009

What I’m Reading Today

Published by at 1:58 pm under Research and Resources,Writing Articles

Building Your Audience

  • Promoting Your Book, Part One and Two–some innovative and mostly free ways to promote your writing.
  • Search Engine Optimization Tips for New Bloggers— this will help you write Google-friendly content, which is helpful if you’re the sort of writer that enjoys having readers.
  • Author’s Guide to Podcasting–this will help you market your writing with online video and audio.
  • Should You Advertise on Facebook?–Therese Walsh talks about her experiences advertising her writing on Facebook. If you’re thinking about ads, I’d recommend checking this out. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical (you only make about $1 in royalties every time you sell a novel, so your advertisements would have to bring in near-guaranteed sales to justify the expense).  I’d have trouble seeing how you could get away with paying less than $.10 per click, so you’d have to sell at least one copy per 10 prospects just to break even.  (Normally, I think 1-2% is typical). I suspect that advertising would probably make more sense for experienced authors with many books to sell.  It increases the potential profit per customer.

Beating Writer’s Block

Miscellaneous Advice on Writing Better

Miscellaneous Advice on Getting Published

  • How to Find an Agent–if you have a manuscript completed and need an agent, I’d highly recommend checking this out.
  • Completing Your Author’s Bio–whether you’re completing an “About the Author” section of your website or preparing a manuscript submission, you’ll probably provide a bio to your readers. Here are some tips.

Advice for First-Time Authors that Want to Self-Publish

  • Don’t. Seriously, that’s probably the best advice you’ll get all day.

Advice for Authors that Want to Self-Publish Anyway

  • Digital Book Formatting for Dummies–you’re not a dummy, but you might benefit from this guide anyway.
  • Designing Your Book–one of the biggest opportunities (or challenges, depending on how you look at it) of self-publishing is that you make your own design choices. Don’t suck.

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “What I’m Reading Today”

  1. timon 17 Dec 2009 at 6:06 pm

    and what’s wrong with self-publishing, i ask of you? 🙂 call it “vanity publishing” all you want – people want to read what i have to say!! Surely a real publisher will pick up my work once they see how awesome it is.

  2. Lighting Manon 17 Dec 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I’m not sure if you’re kidding or not but he lists a multitude of reasons why self-publishing sucks if you click on the link. Self-publishing is a terrible thing to happen to anyone.

  3. Beccaon 17 Dec 2009 at 6:47 pm

    “here’s a seventh one for free: stop reading SN and start writing! SN will be here when you get back.”

    This is good advice for me… hehe.
    And awesome post, B. Mac, lots of useful stuff here. Only problem is, good writing articles mean procrastination for me. But that’s not your fault 🙂

  4. Scribblaron 17 Dec 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Self-publishing is a terrible thing to happen to anyone… ;}

    Okay, I accept your challenge.

    Scott Adams – creator of Dilbert, self-pubbed God’s Debris in 2001 to test market for his new book. Because he had self-pubbed he got an usually good deal from his publisher when he went legit.

    Sade Adeniran self-pubbed Imagine This and won Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for best first novel (Africa)

    Stephanie Dircks Ashcroft wrote 101 things to do with a cake mix and sold 7000 copies (mostly in Utah). It was then in August 2002 published nationally by Gibbs-Smith. By October the same year it was ranked 9 on the NYT ppb bestseller list.

    In 2000, ReShonda Tate Billingsley was getting nowhere with her query letters. So she self-pubbed and sold 15,000 copies in 1 year. Simon and Schuster queried her… and gave her a 9 book contract.

    Richard N Bolles self-pubbed What colour is your parachute? It has been on the NYT bestseller list for 288 weeks.

    The Reese Witherspoon movie Legally Blonde was self-pubbed by Amanda Brown.

    Willa Cather self-pubbed One of Ours and won a Pulitzer.

    Laura Corn self-pubbed 237 intimate questions every woman should ask a man and sold 100,000 copies from the trunk of her car.

    Best yet – in 1980 John Saxon self-pubbed Algebra 1 for high school kids, then from that book built the largest family-owned publisher of maths, phonics and early development books. He has 250 staff and annual turnovers of $75 million.

    I’m not sure I’ll top that. Think about this instead – all the publisher does is give you an advance (which, frankly, I’m thinking more and more is a really bloody stupid idea) and pay for the books to be printed.

    They won’t market it. You have to. And if you self-pub, you may have start up costs (though the way tech is going, you may not) but if you market it just the same you could end up with way more more on the royalties.

  5. B. Macon 17 Dec 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Well, first off, I don’t think that self-publishing is always unwise. In a few cases, I think it makes more sense than seeking professional publishing. For example, if you know more about publishing, about selling books and about the particular field the book is in, then I think that the publisher probably couldn’t add enough to justify its proportions of its earnings. Alternately, perhaps you have something small-scale in mind, like a family memoir meant only for 10-500 people. Probably not enough to justify a professional publisher.

    However, in most cases I think that an author trying to make a career of writing should probably look into professional publishing rather than self-publishing. The main advantages of self-publishing–creative autonomy and the ability to take a larger proportion of each sale–are only really worth anything to someone that knows enough about publishing to call the shots and make sales on his own.

    I would hazard a guess that the proportion of self-published authors that go on to sell 20,000 or more copies is close to the proportion of American Ph. Ds that go on to win a Nobel prize or MacArthur grant. It’s kickass for the few that make it, but it’s sort of a lot of work for a crazy-low percentage of success and you might well blow a ton of money on a book that is not good enough to sell. In contrast, with professional publishing, the only things at stake are your time, fear of rejection and pride (in probably that order).

    The publisher’s advance (and LIMITED promotional assistance) is helpful, but I think that the biggest contribution the publisher makes to an author is credibility. It is frightfully difficult for a self-published author to get his books stocked in stores. Also, a lot of readers have preconceptions about the quality of self-published works.

  6. Scribblaron 17 Dec 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Aah, I actually agree with what you posted. But… advances in digital media will soon change this. Have you heard of Smashwords?

  7. Beccaon 18 Dec 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Question: could you hire your own publicist to market your book once it’s been published, or would the publisher assign you a publicist and you would work with them or what have you? I know someone who was a publicist for David Suzuki’s books/other media and I wonder how that works.

  8. Lighting Manon 18 Dec 2009 at 6:54 pm

    “Scott Adams – creator of Dilbert, self-pubbed God’s Debris in 2001 to test market for his new book. Because he had self-pubbed he got an usually good deal from his publisher when he went legit.”

    He had been being published on a regular basis for twelve years prior, his some-what celebrity status also helped his case, as did his financial status no doubt. Stephanie Dircks had an established fan base from teaching cooking classes, and her book had the benefit of being non-fiction. Billingsley, by all accounts that I found, enjoyed a local level of celebrity due to her being a news reporter for a Houston based Fox station. Willa Cathar had been published both serialized in a magazine and in novel form before she wrote One of Ours, again, implying a reliable level of celebrity.

    You are right though, there are some people that have legitimately gotten lucky self-publishing, but the luck comes is in the form of getting published by an actual publisher, so ultimately, queries and self-publishing are two different paths to the same end, the problem with self-publishing is that if everything comes up aces, you’re golden, but if everything comes up goldfish, you’ve potentially marked yourself as a unsellable commodity, you’ve definitely marked the book as unworthy of another look and you’ve wasted whatever money you did put into it.

    I prefer to think of it as similar to the fact that some people have swam in oceans for decades and never been attacked by a shark, then there are people that are attacked by a shark the first time they enter the water. I’d rather just not risk it and keep several thousand miles between me and the ocean.

  9. B. Macon 19 Dec 2009 at 12:23 pm

    In most cases, Becca, a first-time author would be too low on the publisher’s list to warrant much publicity assistance. (Unless they have some unusual reason to think that a first-time author will sell a ton of copies– see this this article by Pimp My Novel to learn more about why they might think so).

    If you don’t get much publicity support, your options are probably limited to…
    1) Do your own publicity. To some extent, this is virtually required.
    2) Get unpaid help from a friend in the field.
    3) Pay for your own publicist.

    I think that paying for your own publicist would be rather expensive, probably in the thousands and certainly in the hundreds of dollars. You could ask around on pricing, but personally I suspect that it wouldn’t be warranted for the typical first-timer.

    Also, you have to consider your book’s potential for publicity. A first-time fantasy author won’t get booked on Oprah (or anywhere else significant) unless he has some freakishly newsworthy biographical detail (such as being a 12 year-old terminal cancer patient, a Navy SEAL, or both). However, if your book is unusually timely, it might have some potential.

    However, even the smallest-time professionally-published author has SOME publicity potential. If your town has a local newspaper, call them up to share the good news. If you live in a major metropolis, you probably won’t get in the New York Times or Houston Chronicle just because you’re a hometown author, but then you can try local newspapers. For example, I’d kill to get in the Chicago Tribune, but I know I can get a profile in the Buffalo Grove Herald. (If you’d like more advice about working media outlets to publicize your book, please see this article on press kits by PR expert Bill Stoller). Or you could try the more low-key B. Mac approach of writing page-long letters to local journalists laying out what your story is and why they should care about it. (For example, if you’re a 17 year old that got a publishing contract, the story of how you got published will probably be interesting).

  10. B. Macon 25 Dec 2009 at 1:27 am

    I think the three main problems limiting self-publishing authors are a lack of 1) professional quality control, 2) perceived credibility, 3) professional assistance (particularly in design, binding, sales and distribution) and 4) adequate budgets. I don’t think that a self-publisher can solve these problems without becoming very selective.

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