David Neth Guest Post: The Differences Between Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishing

It gives me great pleasure to introduce an up-and-comer, David Neth:

The Differences Between Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishing, by David Neth

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Lately the publishing industry has been divided between authors going the indie route and those still pursuing the traditional route. As someone who has received his master’s degree in publishing in NYC (whose teachers worked at some of the largest publishing houses in the world), it might come as a surprise that I’m choosing the independent route to publish my work. Confused? Let me explain…

Throughout the time I spent learning (and discovering) the publishing industry, I found out that self-publishing was a force to be reckoned with. Fifty Shades of Grey had just been picked up by Random House at the time and was blowing up the bestseller lists. My teachers (the traditional publishers) were discussing how they were looking into other self-published titles for the next hit.

Fast forward to that following summer, when I first decided to try out the self-publishing route, I discovered Joe Konrath’s blog and was obsessed. This guy had been traditionally published and switched to self-publishing in its infancy and was making bank. Way more than he was when he was traditionally published. My publishing education was expanded further as I embraced self-publishing.

Previously I had been shocked and dismayed that the publishers on Fifth Avenue were so dismissive to authors. Not all of them, but the vibe I got from the classes was that the authors spit out the first draft and then let the publishers take it from there without any input from the author on the cover design or style changes. That wasn’t the way I wanted my books to be handled. Not only that, but we had several entrepreneurs and innovators that came to guest speak in my classes and they inspired me. I wanted to forge my own path, my own way. I wanted to carve out a lifestyle that would work for me and would enable me to do what I loved to do.

It’s important to note that indie publishing isn’t all bubblegum and rainbows. Equally, traditional publishing isn’t a horrible route to take. It just wasn’t going to work for me. I wanted to make a career as a novelist. That just wasn’t possible with traditional publishing. I knew my book wasn’t a runaway hit like Harry Potter, but it was at least publishable. I knew I enjoyed it and someone else must, even if it was a midlist book. The problem with midlist books is that they don’t make traditional publishers a lot of money. In fact, they cost publishers money. It’s a business risk they don’t want to take so understandably they’re picky with their selections. If they don’t think it might be a hit, it’s rejected. No matter how well-written it is.

With indie publishing, I’m the one taking the risk on my own book. Since it’s my baby, I have the passion and enthusiasm behind it to push it to its best. Traditional publishing houses don’t always carry the same enthusiasm, especially if they feel your book is only going to land on the midlist.

Whether you choose to publish independently or pursue the traditional paths to publication, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each. Here are some key points about the differences between indie publishing and traditional publishing:

– Production:
With indie publishing you handle everything, unless you decide to outsource it, but that costs you your own money. With traditional publishing, they handle everything and you anxiously await the final proofs and product. This is different for each person. While it would be nice to have complete creative control over the final product with indie publishing, you may lack the skills necessary to make it a stellar product comparable with a traditionally published book. Likewise, while you lose your complete creative control over the final product (publishers may consult with you throughout the process, but they get the final say), the product is designed by professionals who have been working in the field for years and years. Not only that, but the bill is footed by the publisher.

– Advertising/Marketing:
Again, with this it depends on the publisher if you decide to go traditional. If they view you as a midlister, your advertising and marketing dollars drop significantly. You might as well be self-published and on your own with the budget they give you for advertising and marketing. However, if they think your book is the best thing since sliced bread, you’re going to be all over the place. You’re going to be the center of creative marketing and interviewed by newspapers, blogs, and magazines without having to ask. The publisher will take care of that for you. With indie publishing, you need to discover and beg, plead, and steal to get any sort of free promotion. In the end, hopefully your hard work (and possibly money) pays off since you’re also battling the stigma of self-published authors.

– Publishing Schedule:
The traditional publishing cycle, from acquisition to publication, is 18 months at the fastest. That’s a new book every year and a half. While that time is good for building hype and having a massive release day, it’s still a long time between each book. This is where indie publishing shines through. When you self-publish, you put out a book as fast as you can produce it. However, be mindful of the frequency at which you’re putting books out. Readers will come to expect it and then abandon you when you eventually burn out and miss your typical publication date. Conversely, they may abandon you if you saturate them too much. Think about it when all your favorite musicians decide to put out new albums around the same time. You either go broke or you pick and choose which ones you can’t live without.

Fortunately, neither path is the end-all-be-all. There are successful hybrid authors putting out books independently and traditionally. If you’re good at it, this might be the sweet spot. You get the attention and free promotion on your traditionally published books and those eyes will be led to your self-published books. It’s a win-win.

This post avoids the most obvious difference between indie publishing and traditional publishing: the royalty rate. Indies earn 60-70% royalty on their titles while traditionally published authors see 20%, which then needs to be split with their agent (since you can’t get a book deal without a literary agent). This is also something to consider when deciding which path to choose, but it’s certainly not the only thing. Create a list for yourself and determine what’s important to you. Are you looking to create a career or fulfill a hobby? Do your research and make a decision for yourself. Which path will you choose?

David’s first book is up for pre-order now

David Neth book

The Blood Moon by David Neth

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I interview the enigmatic CN Crawford

Thank you for coming over to this blog. Sorry for the mess, been bit of a dump around here lately. Uh, have a seat between the ferns. So, what’s with the parrot?

We have a bird thing going. Book three is going to have some pirates, and probably some parrot familiars. It’s like the old adage says, “put a bird on it.”

That video. lol. So the CN in C.N. Crawford is two people apparently. Explain why you’re not crazy.

Either there are actually two of us, or it’s just me in a yellowed wedding dress with a moldering rat-eaten cake screaming into a dead garden about a husband. I’m not going to tell you which of these is true. 

Since you’re not crazy, why is there a knife in both your hands? I don’t do interviews like this.

It’s for your own good. There’s a better place for you than this world. Or at least better than Canada. 

*Whistles Canadian anthem* Since you’re definitely not crazy or murderous, tell us what roles each of you serve in writing the book.

Nick started working on the book, with the idea that it would be about a witch-boy traveling from a magical world into ours. It began with a crow flying to a creepy old school in Boston. I started doing some world-building, which was very history-focused since that’s my main interest. Then I started taking over the writing of the story. Apart from a few scenes that Nick started, mostly I would write a draft, and Nick would go over it after. The plot came out of discussions between the two of us.I’m gradually taking over almost all of this series, but Nick has another series in the back of his mind, which I’m excited about. He’s an evolutionary biologist, and he’s working on an idea for a thriller about a genetic researcher who uncovers a supernatural conspiracy.

How violent is your working relationship? If it’s not violent, can you make something juicy up? This is practically Jerry Springer here. I mean, look at the raving loons in the audience.

It was pretty tame for the writing, but making crafts for our giveaway was awful. There were super-glued hands, tables getting bumped, bubbles in the resin… It was brutal. Sometimes Nick still wakes up in a cold sweat, shouting, “So many microbeads glued to my fingers!” Never make crafts with a loved one. Just don’t.

No crafts with the wife. Got it. So I bought and read The Witching Elm and really enjoyed it, particularly how Toby and Fiona grew on me as the story went along. It’s a best seller in the occult subgenre, with excellent reviews. How does it feel seeing your baby do so well?

It feels great! It’s hard sending it out into the world, but I’ve really enjoyed reading people’s responses. I especially love when people home in on my favorite things about the book, which are the humor and the creepiness. 

How would you describe your book to a new reader in the genre?

One of the blog reviewers described it as “what we would have had if Joss Whedon wrote Harry Potter,” which might be my favorite description, since I love Joss Whedon. A few other people have noted comparisons to the show Sleepy Hollow. I haven’t see the show yet, but I think it also draws on morbid American history in its world-building.

Speaking of Potter, if Toby [lead protagonist] got in a fight with Harry, who’d win?

Toby would eat him alive, assuming he had his pike. Toby’s often missing his pike, though he will gain access to weapons in the sequels. As a psychologist, the phallic reference is not lost on me.

What type of person is NOT going to enjoy your book?

Someone who’s dead inside. Or I guess, someone who doesn’t like dark fantasy.

The story is set in Boston. Give me two lines in a Boston accent.

We’re evacuatin the youngest philawsiphas. You three ah goin to Boston fuh safety, to Mathah Academy. Now get me a spuckie and take a dudley, ya haw-mongas.*
 
*(That last line is not in the book, and is in a deep boston accent decipherable only to the inititiated). 

Why do you write?

I think both Nick and I need a creative outlet for surreal ideas and concepts, or our weirdness will start to come out in other ways. And writing is much less rage-inducing than crafts.

I’ve got a set of questions I ask all authors: If you became very rich, what would a typical day look like for you?

My son would wake me up at 7, and then I’d pound a few cups of coffee. The nanny would come to play with my toddler while Nick and I sat around making up stories about tree gods and witches. It would look very much like a day now, except Nick would be home, and we’d have a nanny, and our light switches would work. 

What’s been your greatest challenge in life?

For me it was probably moving to London when I was 21 with only $500 in the bank. I stayed there for over 8 years, and for at least a few of those I was on minimum wage in a very expensive city.

And of course first few sleepless months after having our baby were a challenge for both of us. 

How much of you is in that werewolf character?–just kidding, that question was asked of Chris Fox, who wrote some book about werewolves.

Chris Fox actually based the werewolf character entirely on me. Little known fact.

What do you hate most about the publishing process?

There is a lot of multi-tasking involved, and sometimes you feel like you just want to focus on one thing at a time. You end up juggling social-media, learning new software, finding cover designers, getting feedback–all while trying to keep the focus on writing the next book. But the varied tasks definitely keep things interesting.

What do you love about indie publishing?

I love the flexibility. For example, a couple of the reviewers were confused by the first few pages, so we were able to clarify things and re-upload the book really quickly. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of publishing their book independently?

My main advice is to find a way to get as much feedback as possible for the first books, and listen to people’s input. There’s a lot of advice out there to just “write write write,” and there’s a lot of focus on word counts and cranking out books. I would counter to say–at least for a first book–take your time, and make sure you’re getting it right. Don’t try to edit it yourself, even if you’re an editor, and don’t design your own cover. Unless you’re a designer. If you’re totally broke there are still ways around these things.

What are you going to to do after you’ve won your second pulitzer?

Do they give pulitzers for books? Shows how much I know. I thought it was a newspaper thing. Well anyway I’d definitely insert it into every possible sentence for the rest of my life. “As a two-time pulitzer winner, I would like a fish sandwich with fries.”

Punchable face. Name one. Explanation optional.

Dapper Laughs, a British “cheeky chappie” “entertainer.” I would also like to punch the phrase “cheeky chappie” in the face.

Ask yourself a question and answer it.

Best book you’ve read in the past year? I have yet to read Arcane, so I’m going to go with Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell, which is a fantastic historical fiction book about Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry VIII’s advisors. I love the Tudor-era books.

C.N. Crawford is not one person but two. Christine (C) grew up in the historic town of Lexington, and has a lifelong interest in New England folklore – with a particular fondness for creepy old cemeteries. Nick (N) spent his childhood reading fantasy and science fiction further north during Vermont’s long winters. Together they work to incorporate real historical events and figures into contemporary urban fantasy novels.

An interview with the accomplished Chris Fox, author of the amazon kindle besteller No Such Thing As Werewolves

All right, Chris, the mic is in your face, the camera lights are on, and you have one sentence to introduce yourself to an audience of gazillions. What’s the quick version of your story, man?

I ended up on the back of a milk carton at age 8. A year ago I developed an iPhone application that was used to scope Stephen Colbert’s ear. I’ve also published a novel called No Such Thing As Werewolves. You’re probably expecting me to say ‘one of these things is a lie’. Nope, all true. I’ve led a very interesting life.

If you became very rich, what would a typical day look like for you?

Very similar to what it looks like today. I wake up, work out and then write. When I’m finished I go to work at a startup called CellScope, developing the aforementioned app. Eventually CellScope will get acquired, after which my day will look largely the same. The locale might change though. There’s a lot of travel I want to do, from Cairo to Lima. I’m fortunate that both my passions can be done from anywhere in the world.

What’s been your greatest challenge in life?

Limiting beliefs. When I was a kid I decided I wasn’t a good athlete, and that I’d never be a good dancer. So I didn’t even try. A few years back I picked up a book called Talent is Overrated, which reversed my outlook overnight. I enrolled in a dance class and am a pretty good dancer now. I also became a power lifter, which never would have crossed my mind before. I was a self-avowed geek and just assumed I could never be good at those things. Imagine my surprise when I found out practice really does make perfect.

In 2010 I joined Toastmasters and became an accomplished speaker. I set the bar a little higher and taught myself iPhone development. At the time I was working in a dead end collections job, so that was quite a step up. Especially since I’m a JC dropout. My next challenge is writing and *crosses fingers* so far so good.

I just finished reading No Such Thing As Werewolves and was struck by how much of a fun cross it is between Tomb Raider, Stargate, and Predator. What was the inspiration behind it?

I’m totally going to cheat. I wrote this blog post  about the inspiration. For those who want a shorter answer I wanted to re-invent werewolves. To do that I took a Sci-Fi approach, which is unusual as most werewolves are fantasy. It required me to explain things like how it’s possible genetically for them to change, why moonlight affects them and how the disease spreads.

Anthropology and Egyptology are also huge passions of mine, and I’ve long wondered if there were cultures that predated recorded history. What if they were far more advanced than we are? No Such Thing As Werewolves answers that question. It’s my attempt to make werewolves not just scary, but also logical and understandable.

How would you describe your book to a new reader in the genre?

It’s like Indiana Jones went through the Stargate and ended up in Aliens Versus Predator.

What type of person is NOT going to enjoy your book?

People who don’t enjoy intricate plots with multiple points of view. There are a fair number of characters, and more science than you’ll find in your average fantasy novel.

How much of you is in Ahiga, that bad-ass werewolf?

You might call him a reflection of me. He’s sacrificed everything to secure the future of our species, only to see it all wasted when he makes a single mistake. His name is from the Navajo language, and I spent a little time on a reservation as a child. I drew on those experiences as well.

What do you hate most about the publishing process?

Editing. I love the writing and sometimes the re-writing is fun, but the endless editing and proofing really wears on you after you’ve been working on a book for five months.

What do you love about indie publishing?

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was six. My mother still has the first short story I wrote on that very day. As an adult I went the traditional publishing route and it took years to get my first short story out there. Once it was published I never even knew if anyone read it, much less liked it. With Indie publishing I put my own novel up with no gatekeeper to stop me. I’m able to see fan reviews, and even get the occasional fan mail. It’s surreal. So I guess the short answer is I love that indie publishing made it possible for anyone to become a novelist.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of publishing their book independently?

Read. Write. Publish. Repeat. Then sign up for the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast. Lastly, sign up for Kboards. Those three resources will give you a solid foundation in indie publishing, and you’ll be miles ahead of someone just tossing their book up and wondering why it isn’t selling.

What are you going to to do after you’ve won your second pulitzer?

Take Lisa on a cruise to Alaska while we still have glaciers.

Punchable face. Name one. Explanation optional.

Justin Bieber. No explanation needed.

As a Canadian, sorry. Our petitions to have him extradited failed. No one wanted him.
So What’s next for you?

I’ll be publishing Deathless Book 2: No Mere Zombie in late April. I still cannot believe I’ll have two novels and a novella out.

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By day Chris Fox is an iPhone developer architecting the app used to scope Stephen Colbert’s ear. By night he is Batman. Ok maybe not. He can dream though, right? Chris has been writing since he was six years old and started inflicting his work on others at age 18. By age 24 people stopped running away when he approached them with a new story and shortly thereafter he published my first one in the Rifter.  Check out his fiction at Chris Fox Writes.

No Such Thing As Werewolves on Amazon

No Such Thing As Werewolves on Goodreads

Fair and Honest Marketing Strategies for Indie Authors

Last updated March, 2015

I first posted this in Goodreads (twice actually, expanding it the second time). Some of it I posted on kboards too. All in all, I spent way too much time on it, so I might as well post it here–revised and updated–to benefit some of my author friends, especially those starting out.

To begin with, I firmly believe that in the world of self-publishing, we are each other’s mentors, and paying it forward is how we give back. The knowledge below, besides being earned through trial and error and sweat and tears, was also gathered whilst standing on the shoulders of gentle giants (you know who you are).

Book promotion is a tricky thing, and not all of book promotion is actually promoting. You need a strong foundation.

– First, the pillars of a strong release:

  1. A killer book. Goes without saying, right? Superbly edited, superbly written. The kind you can’t put down after starting. The kind strangers say they can’t put down. Exposition, passive voice, character depth, all that is well and truly behind you. If it isn’t, don’t read on. Fix this first. Without it, the rest is a complete waste of your time, and your time as a writer is precious. Your book is the foundation for your career. Start it right.
  2. A killer cover. People judge books by the cover. Thy just do and always will. Make sure it screams your genre. Make sure it’s professional and can compete with the big dogs. Make sure it has your target audience exactly in mind. A killer cover that misses its target audience usually fails. Best thing to test this is post it publicly without hinting genre, and ask who target audience is, age group, genre, etc.
  3. A killer blurb. This one is tough. My advice is to throw it up on a forum for public critique. Keep weaning it down until it’s a sculpted beauty.
  4. An optimized, strong set of keywords. Read Evenstar’s forum post to start.
  5. A killer first line and first chapter. Has to have a hook. Has to draw you in. Has to be snappy. No exposition. No passive voice. Throw it up for public critique in the appropriate forum and see what people say. When you get a “wow”, you’re ready.
  6. Flawless editing.
  7. Flawless formatting.

Now on to some basic marketing. Too many authors end up spamming people and (rightly) getting everyone annoyed, not to mention putting self-published authors in a bad light. Hence this list–thought it might help a little. Here are the methods that have worked for some writers, including myself (though mind you I have not tried all of them yet):

– Stagger your promotions/ announcements Goal is to have at least one sale a day after launch. Mailing list mailout day 1. Facebook post a few days later. Then Twitter, etc.

– Bookbub ad (you have to apply to get in, and it can be pricey, but has been known to work–I just got my second rejection from them actually, and expect more.)

– Netgalley review services (very pricey, and it’s just to garner industry reviews, but it too has been known to work for certain authors). Note that review services tend to be harsher than natural reviews (as reported by other authors).

– Google Adwords You’ll need the help of a pro to set it up. Make sure whoever does it though, only uses keywords that have to do with people looking for exactly your type of book. Can’t stress that enough. And have multiple ADs and keywords competing against each other. Set 5 bucks a day or more if you can afford it for those two weeks. Hint: just because a keyword is giving you clicks, doesn’t mean it’s translating into sales. You have to find keywords that have a low CPC, high CTR, but also are the likeliest to actually translate into sales (for example, “buy latest YA paranormal” is a keyword phrase someone used when looking to actually purchase a book. You get the point). Turn off extended networks too. Only pay per click, not impressions. I started a forum post on the subject here that I update now and then.

-Facebook advertising Specify by country, target carefully, and make sure you set you google multiple sources. Study it like an exam you need to pass to graduate.

– Goodreads advertising I just started this with no results yet, but as soon as I figure it out, I’ll post on it. RESULTS: A massive fail. Pulled my money out. I do not recommend until they update their architecture.

– Advance Review Team Build buzz by sending advance review copies to fans (if applicable)..

– Blog interview tour If you have a lot to say, this works very well. Always better to get to know the blogs and people behind those blogs first.

– In-person events (book signings, forums, etc.)

– ACX Audiobook (pricey but has been known to give consistent returns)

– Post on your blog consistently (I still struggle with this one) and with quality content

– Do a Goodreads book giveaway

– Setup social media accounts. If you haven’t already, create a public facebook author page, start a Twitter account, start a Pinterest visual inspiration account for your book (mine looks like this, for example: http://www.pinterest.com/sbronny/ ), and especially, make an author profile both on Amazon and Goodreads (as opposed to a regular user account). There are a slew of other social networks. Use as many as you like, but try to have them synched so you don’t post on each one, but rather from one source that posts to all of them (use Hootsuite to do just that).

– Twitter: Use Hootsuite to load up on Tweets for the day ahead (only regarding your book). Try to keep it to 2 robo tweets a day, else you’ll get muted by your friends. And retweet your friend’s important tweets (the tweets that you know are important to them), and don’t forget to have fun and interact. I started this thread looking for other twitter hints.

– Rafflecopter promo (you have to be clever with these, but they’re amazing for getting author signups and stuff).

– For the love of all that is sacred, create a mailchimp account and put the shortlink at the end of your book. Mailchimp allows your readers to receive emails from your newsletter, so you can inform them of your next release. It’s SOOO simple. For example, mine looks like this: http://eepurl.com/HIxzX And also make sure to give impetus to join the list by offering them either a free book, or a discount on the next one, or something like that. This is critical to making it work.

UPDATE: And regarding the newsletter, author Wayne Stinnett chimed in to me with the following: “Without doubt, a strong mailing list–with highly interactive readers–can take a release and launch it straight into the top 3000 within 24 hours. By interactive, I mean readers who write back after every monthly newsletter. I usually get a hundred return emails and answer every one of them. Visibility is key and those on your mailing list are already waiting to buy the next book. If they all do so at about the same time, it could be a couple of hundred sales on launch day. I do a soft launch at $0.99 that lasts only 24 hours. This is my way of thanking my loyal readers; but truth be told, I want that high debut rank. Fallen Mangrove debuted at just above #17K and broke the #2000 barrier within 12 hours of release. And the only ones that knew about it were my mailing list.”

UPDATE: Many of the successful self-published authors use paid advertising and loss-leaders to chart. Once the book charts high enough, Amazon’s internal marketing engines help boost it even higher. Don’t be afraid to experiment and lose a couple bucks to see what works. Simply publishing a book and hoping for the best is a recipe for disappointment. Combine your paid advertising with blogging, a mailing list, and the many other marketing strategies posted in the forum, and you stand a much higher chance of success. And if I recall correctly, Amazon’s algorithm penalizes zero sale days by halving the next days’ sales’ impact against ranking. I know, I worded that terribly, sorry. Essentially, for every day you get zero sales, the algorithm penalizes you by making it twice as hard to chart the next day. So four days in a row of zero sales makes it like sixteen times as difficult to chart when you make a sale.

This is why marketing is so crucial, and what makes a release so damn nail-biting. The point is to avoid zero sale days like the plague. The more time you spend planning your marketing, the better chance you have of avoiding this. A lot of authors push for writing more books and less marketing, and that’s a very fair point too, so you have to make up your own mind as to what to do.

– Setup a Call to Action button on your facebook page. It’s the one beside the “like” button. Have it point to your Amazon page, or to your mailing list, or even website. Here’s what mine looks like.

Gather reviews. The going rate is for every 100 people that read your book, one will review it. You can pay for reviews, but from my observations, they tend to be harsher. Try approaching select reviewers on Amazon / Twitter / Goodreads / blogs and offering them a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, following these Dos and Don’ts guidelines.

– Have your own author webpage with all your social media links at the top (examine mine here at severbronny.com for an example – notice the social media buttons and how easy it is to connect?) People are fundamentally lazy, so make it as easy as possible for them to connect with you on their favored platform.

– Kindle KDP Select adverts (you get your choice of one of two different kinds of promotional tools per three month signup. These are the best possible promos you can do, from what I hear). One is the FREE version and one is the countdown.

– Print cool business cards or bookmarks advertizing your book and give them out like candy. (Wait till you see my bookmark! *Swells with pride*)

– Throw a release party in your house or a pub. Invite the public and all your friends. Make it a fun thing, not just about selling books. Make it about CONNECTING to people. Those connections are key. Take photos. Blog about it.

– Hone your craft. Assume you’re a terrible writer. Read as many how-to-write books as you can, from trusted sources. I can’t recommend Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story enough, for example, or Elizabeth Lyon’s A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, or even Renni Browne’s Self-editing for Fiction Writers. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Quality is paramount, especially for your first book. It is the foundation of your brand and empire–woe be to your career and soul for presenting a weak product. I’m not saying I’m any good as a writer (that’s for the public to decide), but I am saying I damn well did my best to be prepared!

– Whatever you do, DO NOT PAY FOR FACEBOOK LIKES (or twitter followers for that matter). There’s already plenty of evidence out there indicating the likes come from places like India or other click-farms, and they actually reduce your exposure to your true followers because those fake likes do not pay attention to your page post-liking it.

– If you’re self-publishing, make DAMN sure your formatting is spotless. Use Guido Henckel’s guide

– Have a physical copy available.
It makes your book and brand look professional, and also makes the digital ebook price look like a bargain. It’s not as hard as I thought to format the thing for print, though you’ll have to do a little bit of research on how to do it right. I used createspace.

– If you have large page counts, for the love of all that is holy, check the template restriction page count on your print-on-demand printhouse! Turns out, at 5 x 8 inch format, max page count with createspace is 700 pages. Luckily I caught this in time and shrank my font size to 10 for book 1, so that it can stay uniform with book 2, which is twice as large. I have my wife to thank for spotting that one actually.

– Run one last spell check on the final product POST FORMATTING. Formatting can bungle a few words here and there, so it’s critical you do one last run-through before publishing. And for the love of all that is good, order a physical copy proof!

– If you can do formatting, you can avoid the mass distributors too (Smashwords, Draft2Digital, etc). Why give away 10% of your hard-earned income to a middle-man? From what I’ve been hearing from fellow kboarders, it’s not too hard at all to upload to Kobo, Apple, etc. It’s not for everyone, but it’s closer to the DIY route. Then again, it takes a lot of time, so …

– FRONTMATTER Have your copyright, Library Archives (CIP data in Canada), ISBN etc sorted out at least two months ahead of publishing. Do the same with your cover and proof copy (that last one I’ve failed at–MISERABLY).

– BACKMATTER Make sure there’s a call to action for that mailing list of yours. Give them a reason to sign up (free book, discount for next book, etc). I’m getting a 14% signup ratio versus sales for mine. I bought some of the bestselling author’s works and learned from their backmatter.

PUSH YOURSELF! My goal this year is to complete my series for 2015, and have at least four of the books published. That’s a substantial increase considering I’ve been working on them for three years without publishing a thing. And FYI: Goals only count as goals if there is a clear time frame and a clear outcome.

Respond to people! I learned this with my music, big time. When a reader sends you an email or a private message, it is CRITICAL for you to reply courteously. NEVER ANSWER REVIEWS. NEVER BE RUDE. From my experience, once you respond, you’ve increased the chances of winning them over for life by magnitudes.

– Don’t get too caught up with word count. This is a tough one, but I’ve discovered that writing for the joy of it is far more productive than trying to hit a daily word count (not to mention your output actually increases–just avoid looking at the actual total if you can). Find your joy and follow it. You make this all about performance and money and output, you’re going to be one miserable you-know-what. If you love what you do (which will be writing 75% of the time, barring release weeks), then it’s not a job at all, is it? It’s a passion.

Avoid browsing the internet while writing. Scientifically, your brain actually changes when surfing the net. Each link provides a small endorphin rush, and so you are rewarded for skipping around. This is not conducive to long bouts of steady concentration on one topic. This point requires discipline. And yes, I still battle with this one like an angry chihuahua.

– Read self-help books. Often the things that prevent us from succeeding have nothing to do with our craft or abilities. They’re subconscious self-defeating loops, or mannerisms passed down from our parents, or assumptions we made about ourselves, etc. This point is a lifetime study, but makes a huge difference. If it’s something you think you’re capable of, I highly recommend it. It’ll give you that edge over those incapable of bettering themselves. A transferable skill, so to speak.

BUT WHAT WORKS THE BEST?

Honestly, interacting with people works best, from my experience at least. Being interested in their lives and what they’re up to is key. You ever go to a party and there’s that one guy who just talks about himself? It gets tedious really quick. Communication is a two-way street, and the more you ask about the other person the better off you’ll be.

How do I know this? I used to have a music career, selling digital music all over the world. The fans that I interacted with honestly were the ones that were the most interested, and oddly enough, they were the ones that went out of their way to help me succeed. Some of them have now begun following my author career even.

Yes, it can be tiring sometimes, but people are actually interesting, if you take the time to listen to them. Too many authors (and especially musicians) make it about themselves, and it just gets in the way of their success.

Anyway, just my two cents. This list is by no means all-encompassing either. If you have a strategy that works, please feel comfortable to share :)

My results (post launch, first book):

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 10.03.27 PM_#1 HNR #1 US

2015_01_05_US_1687_rank_#1_#8_#9

Book 2 launch:
2015_02_27_Riven_rank_#3_#8_#10_1783
2015_02_21_Riven_hot_new_releases
My books:
Arcane (The Arinthian Line, Book 1) on Amazon
Riven (The Arinthian Line, Book 2) on Amazon

So what worked for you? Have any tips? :)

My Open Source Low Budget Self Publishing Author Marketing Campaign

I’m fine-tuning a low budget marketing campaign for Arcane, my debut fantasy-adventure novel from The Arinthian Line series. The aim is rather simple: gather 50 core people that enjoy the book enough to talk about it.

This is a fluid list as I come up with more / better ideas, and will take into account suggestions from others.

What I have so far, in order:

  1. Cover + blurb reveal on kboards (with release date?)
  2. Cover + blurb reveal on facebook / twitter / myspace / my music website / this blog / my email list (with release date?)
  3. Post a 50 page sample (at end of sample give link to buy rest of book – if logistically possible, give discount for buyer)
  4. Announce release date on all relevant social media (and update gravitar / widgets / connect blog to google+, etc. The key is uniformity of message.)
  5. Respectfully solicit reviews on Goodreads / Amazon / twitter / LibraryThing / relevant blogs (emailing a free copy of book). Or maybe just email the book and not ask for reviews; if it happens, it happens. Choose either Goodreads or Librarything (I don’t have energy for both).
  6. Find influencers (regular people, not industry pros) in my genre and give them a free copy to read. Look for ordinary people who can’t help but tweet about their favorite fantasy books. [EG: Search for “fantasy reader” on twitter and add them]
  7. Politely ask other Fantasy authors to contribute an endorsement tagline
  8. Reddit: Been a redditor for 2 years. Only post to r/fantasy after months of spending time there, and only then — so this is a maybe right now, depending on time constraints. For anyone else even thinking about posting on reddit, read THIS first. I’ve witnessed plenty of crash and burns, so tread at your own risk.
  9. Small Blog tour (maybe 2-4 a month). It has been suggested I do more. (Oh, and I still have to learn exactly how to do a blog tour, hehe).
  10. Print business cards of book and give them out like candy
  11. Go to this board and ask these guys where to get the word out. It’s a java based irc applet, but those guys know fantasy.
  12. Paid advertising: ENT, BookBlast, KindleBooks, Bookbub (with enough reviews that is).
  13. Go to the Kboards Tips & FAQ and carefully read and implement all points.
  14. Possibly do a small print run of 50-100 copies and hold a physical book launch in ONE local store and invite ALL my goo friends. I could offer said bookstore exclusivity to sell it in town. (Opinions?)
  15. RELEASE THE BOOK! (oh God, what do I do for release day — get drunk?)
  16. You may post one thread about your book, in the Book Bazaar board (again, kboards). You can use that thread to introduce your book, include a brief review, etc.
    – Price: $2.99 for a 98,000 word ebook (and when three in series are released, make 1st one perma free)
    – Should there be the demand, release a print book and an audio book (will use funds from sales).

The Russell Blake rule: After release, spend 75% of my time writing book four in the series, 25% on marketing.

That 25% will consist of the following:

  1. 90-95% of the time tweeting about my indie publishing journey / things I’ve learned / fantasy / writing how-to’s / advice columns / advice blogs; the remain 5%-10% on my personal book and blog. Tweets scheduled using Hootsuite (I love that app!).
  2. Blog tour / commenting on other blogs I find interesting
  3. Be a little more social on facebook (sigh … I hates FB)
  4. Post photos of the writing life in all it’s glory (don’t read into that you)
  5. Be creative — come up with a video for book (and if you haven’t seen my last video for my music, it’s HERE)
  6. Build email list, only emailing for releases
  7. Blog Once a month (I’m a convert of slow blogging, as introduced to me by Anne R. Allen in this post).

So did I miss something? Have a trick to add to this list? Let me know! And of course, use what you like for your own campaign :)

Thanks to the following for throwing in ideas for this specific post:

Cindy Johnson
Kathryn OHalloran
Pamela Kelley
Joe Nobody
jtbullet
Sandra K. Williams

On Becoming a Self-published Author from Scratch — Goals and Checklists

Greetings!

This is my first blog post for an entirely new endeavour: becoming an author. I’m starting completely fresh, though some of you may already know me from my other project, Tribal Machine. So allow me to introduce myself with a …

SUPER BRIEF HISTORY

For many years I pursued music as my only career. It surpassed all my expectations — I made the record of my dreams, “mastered” by the best in the world; I had my music placed in a full-length feature film (The Gene Generation); I independently (and laboriously) accumulated half a million plays on Myspace; I went on live radio; I had my ego stroked and destroyed numerous times; I had mind-blowing moments on stage (as well as some horribly embarrassing ones); I met and recorded with some amazing people, and I got to play on the road.

Except I lost all interest in touring, which is a minor complication if you want to have a successful band in the digital age. But it doesn’t matter — eventually I’ll take up music again. I’ve just been doing it for so long (and life is really short) I want to pursue some other dreams of mine — like writing.

Even while I was making music, I knew that one brave day I was going to write. That day came three years ago, though I’ve kept very quiet about it — only a few people knew I was writing, even fewer that I was writing fantasy. I’ve written three books in a series, the first spanning 100,000 words, the second close to 200,000, and the third as yet undetermined (still editing). For reference, the first Harry Potter book, The Philosopher’s Stone, is 76,944.

About ten years ago, I began writing a dream novel. I was about 20,000 words in when the computer crashed, garbling my beloved manuscript (my preciousssssss).
I was crushed, though I learned a harsh lesson: always backup your data. It wasn’t a total loss, however — that idea went on to become The Orwellian Night, a full length industrial-rock concept album.

NEW BEGINNINGS

It’s absolutely terrifying and exciting to impart on another new adventure, especially one that, when muttered in private company, draws knowing nods or skeptical looks (or the infamous “Look over there!” distraction escape method). Even the words “self-publishing” have an arrogant flair to them, as if the wannabe author dares to presume himself worthy of joining a most prestigious and elite club.

That said, there are plenty of authors nowadays that choose the self-publishing route over the traditional one (here are six stories of success — but there are many more). There are also a great number of guides and message boards dedicated to the subject. Generally, the community of self-published authors is open and giving, sharing their numbers, successes and failures. I hope to continue that fine tradition.

So, what’s going to be the focus of this blog? Simply put, I’m going to share my exploits in self-publishing from the perspective of a learn-as-I-go newbie.

All right, I’m not a total “noob”. Prior to this blog post, I’ve read numerous books on how to self-publish, edit, etc. The one I’m currently reading is David Gaughran’s Let’s Get DigitalI’ve also done a lot of forum reading. Nonetheless, I haven’t actually put any of this knowledge into practice.

So let us begin with …

THE PLAN

– Self-publish multiple fantasy books in series (3-7 books or more per series)
– Learn
– Interact, share, blog about the process
– Write a lot
– Learn some more.

DESIRED OUTCOME

– A dual career in writing / music (though at this time, I am strictly concentrating on authorship).

LONG TERM GOAL FROM WRITING

– Earn at least $1000 a month through writing

WRITING SUCCESSES

Finished two books already, third nearing completion.
Best average: 5000 words a day.
Best day: 9000 words.
Best month: wrote 100,000 words.

THE SELF-PUBLISHING RELEASE CHECKLIST
Please visit HERE for a frequently updated version of this list

– Finish a book (done: finished three)
– Edit at least three rounds per book (done: 8 / 4 / 2 respectively)
– Domain registration (done)
– WordPress blog (done)
– Twitter account setup & sync (done)
– Mailchimp setup & sync for both Tribal Machine and Sever Bronny (done)
– Register blog with google (done by default)
– Read 20 recommended books on publishing and self-publishing (done)
– Discover 50 great bloggers
– Establish a regular blog schedule and number of blogs / month
– Print custom new business cards with book info
– Announce release date (shooting for sometime in December for book 1; books 2 and 3 every two months thereafter)
– Final beta read
– Final read through
– Final professional edit book 1
– Final professional edit book 2
– Final professional edit book 3
– Officially name series
– Officially name book 1
– Officially name book 2
– Officially name book 3
– Blurb
– Start an indie publishing company
– Hire cover designer
– Format for publication
– Smashwords registration
– Amazon registration
– Create Author Central account
– Create Goodreads account and link blog
– Pricing strategy
– EVENT: blog posting announcing release
– EVENT: Release party (optional)
– Update blog widget sidebar with all relevant info about book (cover, price, retailers, etc)
– Social media pre-release (see marketing campaign)
– Link to first chapter(s)
– Update links to book in all forum avatars
– RELEASE FIRST BOOK IN SERIES
– Implement Marketing plan
– Establish 75% / 25% writing to marketing ratio after first release
– Write at least 2000 words per day post release of first book
– Develop a deeper understanding of the blogosphere
– Blog tour
– Release book two in series
– Release book three in series
– Write and release 2-4 books per year
– Learn how to conduct a successful independent marketing campaign
– Respectfully solicit reviews on Amazon

Phew — that was tough to assemble. Anyway, the above checklist is ongoing and will be available in the “Checklist” link above. It will be updated as I go.

Now I realize I have zero subscribers on this thing (it is, after all, only day 1), but should you, dear reader, come across this post at some unknown pre-apocalyptic future date, I’d love to read about your goals and checklists :D

Also, for anyone interested in my fantasy-adventure series, you can subscribe to get an email of release here (I will only email when I have a release – no damn spam!).