Make no mistake, this is a business. Books are mega money and a huge global industry worth billions of dollars and growing. So when you decide to put your book out there against the rest the world has to offer, you are redefining David and Goliath somewhat. Imagine David as a microbe and Goliath a galaxy and the scale starts to come into focus. But don’t despair, you can succeed and the recent success of ’50 Shades of Grey’ and the two other books by the same author, selling some 34 million copies and many of them originally as self-published eBooks, gives everyone heart. I mean it proves the writing doesn’t even have to be much good so long as the topic is one the public will lap up and erotica seems to be the vampire romance of 2012.
If Proof Were Needed
eBooks are big business, if they weren’t there is no way two of the Big Six, Random House and Penguin, would amalgamate to take on Amazon at its own game. Perhaps because they had so much invested in turning trees into profits, mainstream publishing houses were somewhat dismissive, even derisive of eBooks a decade or so back. The growth of the category thanks to Amazon and BN and others, as well as the developments in eReaders, tablets and mobile applications has changed the playing field entirely. Big publishing has been trying to grab their share (and everyone else’s as usual) and turn what used to be a great place for indie publishers and self-publishing authors to get their books out there and read instead of dancing to the tune of the agents and big publishing into another corporate profit center.
At first they laughed us off but it didn’t take long before they had to take us seriously because the book buying public certainly did. Although no doubt staffed with many book loving employees, make n mistake these are businesses, big businesses and they are all about the bottom line. So should you. Take a leaf from their book, pardon the pun, and stick it in your own. You need to think business when selling your book. Even if you wrote it as literature for a higher cause and not crass commercial success, it is just such crass commercial success that pays the bills, feeds the family and lets you write another great work to add to your oeuvre.
Get Serious, Spend A Little
You should never attempt to start a business without any capital behind you. Money to cover expenses, set-up costs, the first six months of salary and so on. even if you already have your writing machine and internet access is free, there are costs to cover. Depending where you live you might need to register a business name or form a company. I keep it simple and have an ABN (Australian Business Number) and a registered business name and trade as me, trading as Streetwise Publications. It is simple and while I prefer the protection and capability of a Pty Ltd (like an LLC or Pte Ltd) company, income doesn’t justify the expenses. While minimal, any expense you can do without is a good thing.
Sadly too many save on the essentials and splurge on the trappings. They have a nice office and a flash car but write on an old laptop or refuse to pay for someone to proof and edit their work. Sometimes investing in good editorial services will make all teh difference between a good book and a financial success. even just proof reading, you can’t detect 100% of your own typos and we all make them. There are people out there who you can outsource your editing to who will do a great job for a fair fee. You just have to find them and you can always hunt on Elance or Odesk, Fiverr.com or FiveUp.com.au. These crowd sourcing sites also have cover artists, layout artists and many more skilled professionals looking for work at very reasonable rates.
It costs money to make money so when you have written your manuscript and are looking to turn it into the next best seller, consider your budget. If you don’t have any money to invest in the production and promotion of the book that is fine. You can do everything for nothing and I usually do. I know I had to in the beginning and now I have developed the skills where DIY for me is a viable and responsible option. Having said that, I wish I could outsource a lot of the work. I had the money I would set a $2,000 budget for each new title. $500 for the cover, $500 for editing and $1,000 for promoting it and so on. A very modest budget but for me a substantial one. If I were selling an eBook and making just $1 a sale, I would need to sell 2,000 copies just to recoup the publishing budget. Most eBooks don’t sell anywhere near that number but hopefully the money invested in promoting it will pay off in better sales figures.
There has to be a point where the cost of doing it this way passes the profits earned from a DIY virtually cost-less title, otherwise why bother? I know John Locke outsources his editorial, cover art and layout/formatting and he has sold a million copies of his series of novels while I’m not sure if Amanda Hocking did it all herself before she signed the big contract. The secret is in the cover and the coverage, meaning the cover art must appeal and the book must be found for the cover to do its job. Of course you need to be writing in the genre of the moment, whatever it might be and it does change from time to time although some genre seem timeless. Erotica, fantasy and the supernatural all seem to do well, as does romance and to a lesser extent these days, crime.
Once you have your genre and your cover, get it out there! I am presuming you have made sure the text is all correct, grammatical errors and punctuation problems fixed and typos kept to a bare minimum. Once all that is done,the only thing remaining is to promote and sell the book. Locke does it via bombarding Twitter and building up a following. I tried that but all I found was that I was being followed around by other authors with their own books to sell. They never pass the collection plate through the choir so why preach to them? You need to build up a readership base and get a series going and work it! I look at the shelves of book stores and the best sellers are all books with more than one title in the same series. Once someone finds a hero or author they enjoy they tend to stick to them and read everything they write, I do and I’m far more average than I like to admit.
Once the book is on sale, be businesslike. Always be looking for ways you can promote it. Every sale helps but give a few reading copies away in exchange for reviews. Some distributors require a reviewer to have purchased the eBook or something else form them (like Amazon where you can have bought cosmetics then review and revile someone’s book!). Smashwords allow you to give out a code to reviewers so they can ‘buy’ the book for nothing and then be eligible to review it, a 100% discount kind of thing. You can get involved with Goodreads and other social media sites and build up a following as you help others build up theirs.
Certainly investigate Facebook and YouTube and learn the ropes, then put them to good use, as well as Twitter and LinkedIn and Google+. Social media networking is the current buzz so get into it and make good use of it. I need to invest a day doing nothing but learning all I can about these facilities I already use but not to their maximum potential. All the tools are out there and you can do it all yourself but it is time consuming, even just to learn what to do and how to do it. Still, that is what self-publishing is all about and we should be grateful we live in this moment.