More Challenges Faced by Indie Authors

ChallengesThis is the second in a series of posts centered on the challenges faced by indie authors as we try to compete in the vast ocean of competitors/cohorts that is filled with sharks and other predators. Here are more that I’ve come up with to get you thinking and to foster a discussion:

bad reputation speedometer illustration designThe Stigma of Self-Publishing

I refrain from calling what we do self-publishing. I am an independent author. My publisher is Amazon. Instead of having services provided to me by a traditional publisher, I outsource them to providers that fit within my budget and style.

I recall trying to join a local author group and being refused because I was “one of those self-publishers”. Truth be told, I had essentially published more books than the total of all of the authors in the group. Many of them were waiting for some big publisher to say yes. Of those that had been “fortunate” enough to land a publishing deal, my sales were much higher then any of them. The reviews I’ve received for my books were also very positive.

Yet, despite my “writing resume”, I was snobbishly turned away for being an indie.

So, what is the root cause of this stigma? Books published by indie authors range in quality from poorly constructed pamphlets and short books to masterpieces that stand together with any traditionally published author. The differentiation, besides stories that appeal to the masses, is often the quality of the work.

You’ve seen me repeatedly post on the benefit of having an editor, quality book cover, good formatting and other items that improve the overall professionalism of indie author books. These things are not free. If your book is traditionally published, you might think these services are fee, but they are not. They are deducted from the profit you might otherwise realize on your book. The results of these services are also usually beyond the total control of the author. In the indie publishing world, you control everything. This is one of the best and worst aspects of being an indie.

Cheap Vs Expensive See Saw Balance Comparing Prices CostsIt’s Cheaper, Right? Right?

If you landed on self-publishing thinking you can save money by editing yourself, creating your own book cover, and recording your own audiobook, well, you can.

You just might not sell many books (see the previous section on the stigma). You could be an English major with an impeccable understanding of every nuance of grammar and punctuation. You’ll probably make a great editor…of someone else’s books. There is scientific proof that when you read through something that you wrote, your brain will subconsciously skip over errors that are blatantly obvious to someone else looking it over.

A second set of eyes (and maybe a third, fourth and fifth) is an essential part of producing an independent work. Don’t trust yourself to edit. You will miss something.

If you insist, however, (I can see some of you rolling your eyes) put the manuscript aside for a couple of months without looking at it. When you read it, it will seem fresh to you and you may (emphasis on may) find the majority of your mistakes.

As for your cover, unless you are adept with programs like Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator, I would leave this to an outsourced expert. You can find experts in graphic design lining up to create an excellent cover for you on services like fiverr.com, experteer.com and freelancer.com. I’ve had good luck with these services. I’m especially proud of the latest cover for my book, Extra Innings. The cover designer hit my vision dead on.

If you create your cover on your own using the KDP tool from Amazon or your own software, be prepared to have your book skipped over. I’ve been able to have a great quality cover designed for under $50 for my books.

Am I Good Enough Question Speech Bubbles AdequacyAm I good enough to be published?

My initial answer to this is, who cares. Are people reading your books? Are you getting reviews and useful feedback? Do you feel good about what you produce?

If you can answer ‘Yes’ to these questions, then I invite you to say ‘who cares’. The myth that only published authors are successful depends on how you measure success. If you made more than you spent, you are ahead of the game. Sure, traditionally published authors get advances (sometimes). Those advances, however, are not very large for most authors and aren’t earned until enough books sell to cover them. After the advance is covered, authors typically make 10-15% of the book’s cover price in royalties. If you sell a $20 book, you make $2-3. I’m no genius, but if I sell a $20 book on Amazon as an indie publisher, I make $14.

You might counter with, “I’m not going to sell that many books on Amazon as an indie published author.” Well, with that attitude, your not. Is there a magic formula for selling a million books. Not really, but it has happened for indie published authors.

Have you ever heard of Hugh Howie, Andy Weir or Mark Dawson. They are just three example of indie authors that have hit it big, really big. They are also some of the most generous in terms of passing along tactics that worked in their own success. Mark even has a podcast designed to help indie authors and a series of courses on marketing that are intricate and extremely useful.

The chance of success is out there for indie authors. You have to be in the right situation at the right time with the right book…pretty much like traditional publishing…except the potential rewards are much higher.

I hope this post generates some discussion. Share what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you. If any of you have done both the traditional and indie routes, I’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

The Top Myths Of Self Publishing – From The Uncensored Writer Blog

While I’ve been writing about publishing a lot lately, I feel like there is still one last thing that needs to be addressed before I wrap up my thoughts on the whole thing.

When you say the words “indie author” or “Self-Published author” to someone, you can almost see the judgemental preconceived notions flash across their eyes. It isn’t their fault though. We’re all human, and we all have our own set of beliefs that informs the way we view the world. It’s not as much our own fault as it is the circumstances that shaped us as people.

The only things we can do to combat these negative judgements are to give the facts and to point out the myths. I feel like I’ve adequately done the former, but what about the latter?

Today’s post will focus on all the myths around Self-Publishing and just how ridiculous some of them are.

Let’s jump straight in!

via The Top Myths Of Self Publishing

Book Review – The Experimental Notebook of C.S. Boyack

 

csb1

Goodreads Blurb:

A speculative fiction selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of short stories, both creating and reading them. The problem is, not many writers do them well. Stephen King has published several collections and even his stories are sometimes hit and miss.

This is not the case with C.S. Boyack. In his Experimental Notebook he scores with one great story after another. Many of them have a pattern of reeling the reader in and then leaving you breathless with a surprise ending. From the very first story, Jack O’ Lantern, to gems like The 50 Gallon Drum, Boyack sets up the reader and then delivers some surprise that leaves you smiling.

For anyone who enjoys short stories, this book is a must. One bit of false advertising appears in the Goodreads blurb. The author states that the book was designed to provide short reads. I stayed awake in my hotel room telling myself, “just one more” until I had finished the book and then downloaded the second one.

I highly recommend this book and will be reading more by this author. He shows a depth and breadth to his writing seldom found in the indie author community. Please give his stories a try and spread the word like wildfire.

 

Indie authors, do you read work by other indie authors?

Over the past two years, I have done book reviews sporadically on my blog. Mostly the reviews were for detective/mystery novels by well-known authors. As an indie author, I avoided reading work by other indie authors. I made some exceptions early on reading books by Nicholas Rossis and my good high school friend Nick Davis. Both of those reading experiences were positive.

Lately, I read works by John Howell, an author and blogger well known to many of you. I enjoyed reading his work and I believe the reviews I posted resulted in some positive exposure for John.

This led me to approaching the reading of work by indie authors in a different light. I’m going to continue to read and review work by indie authors as another outlet for helping the community. I am going to lay out some ground rules, however:

  1. I will not have a set schedule for reviewing indie works
  2. I will not accept requests to review books. I want it to be spontaneous and something I continue to enjoy
  3. If a book is not at a a certain level of quality in terms of formatting, story telling, grammar, etc., I will likely not finish it and will not post a review.

I really want to continue to help indie authors and I think posting negative reviews will defeat that purpose.

Anyway, I’m already in the process of reading an indie author’s book and will be posting a review sometime this week. Hopefully some of you who do not generally post reviews will emulate this process and pick up one of my books or another indie author that needs some exposure.

If you have thoughts on this, please let me know.

Indie Author/Publishing News

Independent Publishing Awards for New Telos Press

http://www.telospress.com/independent-publishing-awards-for-new-telos-press-books-by-ernst-junger-and-carl-schmitt/

Book Deal For What? How To Self Publish Your Book

http://www.essence.com/2016/04/07/book-deal-what-how-self-publish-your-book

A Trip Through Self-Publishing Hell

http://www.chicagonow.com/raising-hell-or-raise-them-well/2016/04/self-publishing-hell/

Published Author of Good Books for Teens Dispels Self-Publishing Myths

http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=202729

 

Hugh Howey – Hero of the Indie Author

hugh howeyIf you are an independent author and you don’t know who Hugh Howey is, you should. He recently gave an interview to Digital Book World and he doesn’t back down on his opinions about independent publishing. I hope you enjoy this interview:

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2016/dbw-interview-with-hugh-howey-author/

 

What Steps Do You Follow Leading Up To A Book Launch? – Part 1

I’m about to launch my eighth book in a month or so. As I start laying the ground work to get to that goal, I’ve been looking back on the steps that I’ve taken with each one. I want to look at what’s been successful and what hasn’t. Trial and error has been my method and I’ve tried to hang on to the things that work and that fit in to my schedule.  I’ve tried to look at where to spend some money and where I can do things on my own.

In laying these steps out for you, I’m going to separate things into what worked, what didn’t, what you should pay for, what you shouldn’t, and what order you should do these things in.

Disclaimer: These steps assume that you are an independent author (I prefer this term to self published since we are not physically printing and binding books). If you are a traditionally published author, congratulations to you. I was too old when I jumped into the writing pool and I’ve already had enough rejection to last me a lifetime, so indie-publishing was the ticket for me.

The First Draft

What do you do first? This question may not be as easily answered as you think. You’re probably thinking write the book. That may indeed be the first step. For my first book, it definitely was. I started writing it and soon began to question my sanity. Why was I spending my free time while on glamorous (not) business trips writing a book while all of my co-workers were out having fun. There were many reasons, but above all, it felt like something I should do.

The first draft was written completely longhand in notebooks. Although I would not do that again (my writing is hard to read), it was like taking a first draft and editing it when I typed it in. In this first effort, to my editor’s horror, I punctuated every bit of dialog incorrectly. I could have sworn that the period went outside of the quote.

At any rate, I turned this first manuscript over to my wife first. After 30 years of marriage, I knew she wouldn’t spare my feelings if the book sucked. To my delight, she loved it. This gave me the courage to turn the book over to a generous friend of mine who is a talented editor. She agreed to edit this first book for free (with the promise of later riches).

I highly recommend getting an editor you are comfortable with. My editor’s process is to read the manuscript as a book first and give me her impressions of things that do and don’t work. She then goes through it in iterations for punctuation, grammar and usage. These latter things have gotten better on the first pass with each book. Luckily, I have not run into any insurmountable story elements that have required a massive rewrite.

Cover Design

Traditionally, when I turn that first draft over to my editor, it’s time to get the cover design nailed down. For my first book, I designed my own cover and it looked like garbage. Check it out below: FS Book Cover

For one thing, I am not a big fan of the color yellow, and for another it doesn’t say anything about the story. When I published on Amazon with this cover, the sales didn’t exactly jump through the roof.

I decided to try out one of the freelance sites. I used Fiverr.com. This site offers all kinds of services. Of particular interest to indie authors are the book cover design, editing, and book trailer services. I was particularly lucky that I picked a cover designer for the Frank Rozzani series that really nailed it. For $50 he provided a fully editable, multi-layer .PSD cover for the print book and a front cover for the eBook.

The book is about a young girl that is kidnapped. Behind the scenes, the main character, Detective Frank Rozzani, has mob figures from his past haunting him. From this brief description, I ended up with this cover instead:

Newcover - Small

I was very pleased with it and have used this designer on every cover up until my most recent two books. He was from Pakistan and has disappeared from Fiverr. I was fairly happy with the cover of my last book, which was not one in the Frank Rozzani series. My upcoming book is, however, and I had a great deal of back and forth getting it finalized with the designer.

That’s enough for this post. In my next post on this topic, I’ll be talking about getting a book trailer completed along with getting your social media platforms ready for a new book.

Upcoming posts will talk about press releases and tricks for getting newspaper and television interviews.

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