Let’s say that you are an author who is about to self-publish. You’ve worked long and hard on the manuscript that you are about to upload to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, am I right? You yearn for recognition and a respectable level of financial success from your efforts. . . again, am I right?
Are you aware there is one element that is going to stand in the way of your achieving your goal of being a richly rewarded, highly recognized author?
What is that one element? The Competition.
Have you been examining new titles that are releasing in your genre as you nudge your manuscript down the publication assembly line? Do you track the pricing, the design, and the product promotion pages of your fellow authors?
If so, possibly we have noticed the same thing: Over the past year the competition, even in the world of self-publishing, for best-in-show for newly released books is getting pretty stiff. Of course one expects quality and top-drawer presentation and promotion from Hachette, St. Martins and the other Big Six publishing houses, whose customary charge for an eBook is $12.99. But increasingly even the $3.99 indie-authored books are looking pretty spiffy! You see fewer and fewer text-box cover design, typos, grammatical errors – slush pile quality is melting away. But, why is that?
Where did this season’s authors learn the maxim that in order to grab the limelight one needs at least (a) knock ‘em dead designs, (b) classic-quality reading experiences, and (c) loyalty to following? I’ll tell you. . . these authors learned it from the publishing houses that formerly distributed their work! Hundreds, if not thousands, of various-sized publishing houses have gone out of business in the past two years, leaving agency-represented authors whose ambitions are to continue publishing one option: To ‘Go Indie!’ . . . of course, while keeping an eye on legacy publishing opportunities.
If you think that the competition for your piece of the $3.99 royalty split is coming from a founding member of Self-Publishing Review or The Starved Writer – think again. Not only are authors who are no longer contracted to publishers crossing over to self publishing; but many experienced, sophisticated authors – with agency and publishing house background – have decided to try their hand at publishing independently. Barry Eisler, Nathan Bransford, Lisa Gardner, Kevin Myers, Nancy Naigle, and most recently Jacqueline Collins are leading thousands of former publishing-house-authors to Amazon, with its 70% royalty rate.
You don’t think these publishing-trade experienced authors are cutting and pasting their book covers, do you? Or using clip-art to sell their wares? They most certainly are not foregoing peer review, editors, and book designers. Hop on over to Amazon Books and peruse the book designs – do the sharpest designs have the highest rankings? How many clip art book designs are in ANY genre’s Top Ten?
I wager that the new ‘volume-sales model’ will be ebooks that sell NOT because they are free (and/or $.99) but sell because they are the smartest, sexiest looking product! Remember: Self-Publishing does not mean DIY! Self-Publishing means smart design, smart product, smart publishing decisions.
Here are my tips: Start your book marketing – horn blowing, making new friends – six months before your book is published; Invest in a book cover designer; Have your work peer-reviewed; Hire/barter with an editor who is NOT someone you sleep next to; Plan out your next three books and your next 10,000 words.
Pay attention to the competition – in fact, why not. . .BECOME the competition? Smart design, smart product, smart publishing decisions make long-term authors.