Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How the Business of Self-Publishing Has Changed - Authors Have to Embrace the Business Side of Self-Publishing

When I bravely ventured into self-publishing some eight years ago, I read Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon. This self-publishing classic still has a lot of valid advice for authors considering taking the plunge into the world of Indie publishing. Print-on-demand publishing through first Lightning Source and then Amazon's own CreateSpace made it possible for authors to publish their work and make money. Morris Rosenthal's Print-on-Demand Book Publishing was also required reading back in those days. Aiming at Amazon provided authors with a detailed marketing strategy using POD to publish and print books and selling them on Amazon. 

The focus of Aiming at Amazon was marketing, particularly the idea of driving all print sales to Amazon and ignoring brick and mortar bookstores, and provides still valuable insight into how Amazon works as a means to promote and sell books..  Print-on-Demand Book Publishing provided authors with a detailed understanding of how the entire POD model worked.

Of course, this was all before the ebook revolution, in particular Amazon's Kindle. With the bar to publish lowered, thousands of authors took advantage of the opportunities provided by Amazon and other ebook publishers. The result, to the dismay of many, was a dramatic increase in competition as the number of new books being published has mushroomed with the advent of ebooks.

I was able to compete quite effectively when POD was the only option available to authors who self-published. Following the advice and strategy provided in Aiming at Amazon, it was possible to drive your book up the all important sales rankings and generate a reasonable return on your efforts as an author.

Today, the process of entering the business is quite a bit more complicated. Simply writing the best possible book, editing it, getting a great cover with a well designed interior and publishing it are no longer enough to produce sales. Truth be told, it was never that simple, but it certainly seemed that way.

For a book to succeed financially, meaning sales, an author must delve into the business side, or at least the marketing side, of publishing. Regardless of how your book is published, traditional or indie, today's authors are responsible for marketing their own book. Only proven best selling authors receive any marketing help from traditional publishing houses.

Marketing a book has to start long before it is ready to be published. As I am in the process of having my first work of fiction edited (The Predator and The Prey: Book I of the Thomas Sullivan Chronicles), I have been focusing on what has come to be called building my Author Platform. In theory, this process will allow me to provide my book with the best possible launch.

In order to meet my self-imposed deadline of publishing The Predator and The Prey in February of 2017, I sat down and made up a list of tasks that have to be accomplished. For the benefit of authors new to this process I have included this list below:
  • Obtain domain name 
  • Register with hosting company
  • Website/Author platform
  • Obtain custom e-mail for domain name
  • Register with e-mail service - find a free one to start
  • Rewrite after receiving manuscript back from editor
  • Finish first chapter of next book in series for inclusion in The Predator and The Prey
  • Interior design - POD
  • Interior design/conversion - ebook (mobi, ePub and Smashwords)
  • Back cover copy for POD edition
  • Cover design - POD and ebook
  • Amazon Author Central Page
  • Kindle Keyword research
  • Write book synopsis for Amazon and other online book retailers product page
  • Research ebook promotion sites
  • Obtain ARC POD copies to send out to potential reviewers
  • Research generating ebook edition reviews (behind on this)
  • Have ebook file for uploading on Smashwords professionally formatted - upload after KDP exclusive period ends.
This is not a complete list and I have done a reasonable amount of items on the list. I have also already made my decisions on an editor and cover designer.  

All of this takes time, and in my case involves a learning curve. In order to save money to invest it where it will do the most good (editing and cover design) I am going to really stretch myself and build my own website using WordPress. Supposedly, it's easy. I've heard that before.

I am quite certain I have left tasks I don't yet know I need to accomplish off my list. When I first started in 2008, I only wrote my manuscript, made the corrections asked for by the editor and approved the cover design. I uploaded my files to CreateSpace, wrote the book description and waited for the 24 hours for the book to go on sale.

Things have changed.