As I explained in my last blog post, I’m beginning a new mini-series on my Writing as a Business blog outlining a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. Before we begin the main guide, however, I need to make sure that you are in the proper mindset when it comes to self-publishing. Consequently, the last post and this post deal with several self-publishing myths. If you haven’t read the first three self-publishing myths, I suggest you do that before tackling the ones today. For those of you who are all caught up, let’s continue.
Myth #4: If You Publish It, They Will Read
In the beginning of the self-published book gold rush during 2008-2011, tons of indie authors hit pay dirt just by writing books and clicking the “publish” button on Amazon. Now, not so much. The book market is flooded with tons of self-published titles now and that makes it all the more difficult to compete with your own work.
Indies’ saving solution to this problem is direct marketing and networking. Since self-publishing cuts out the middleman (publishers) between authors and our potential readers, it means that direct marketing is one of our best options to engage readers. Thanks to the internet and social media, authors and readers can enjoy a more direct relationship than ever before. Direct contact to readers allows authors the ability to find out what readers want and when they want it.
However, direct marketing gets tricky. The last thing most readers want is to be spammed with “Read my book!” every time they turn around. Instead authors need to use social media to build relationships with potential readers around common interests. That is time-consuming work, but part of being a professional author is being sincere and truthful with your readers in every piece of writing you create—whether it’s a novel or a text message. After all, readers are the reason writers exist, so they deserve our best efforts.
Again this is a slow-growth game. Since most authors—indie or traditional—start out with zero marketing power behind their names, we all have to rely on direct marketing and networking to reach potential readers. The simple act of being available on social media is the first step toward finding like-minded readers. Through natural discussion, we can build relationships with those potential readers. As with anything, we must prove ourselves to be trustworthy toward others. Only after we build that relational trust in ourselves, will we begin to see readers’ trust in our products.
So what does this all mean in terms of your writing and publishing career? It means that you must be prepared to make a monetary loss on your first few books because beginning relationships with your clients is more important than profits at this point. You need to be willing to invest money to insure product quality without expecting an immediate return on investment. You need use the quality of your books and the sincerity of your actions to build reader trust in your unique products and the brand that they represent: you.
Myth #5: Self-Published Books Don’t Have Much Value
In ancient times, the written word was hand-copied and distributed as tablets, scrolls, and, much later, leather-bound books. This painstaking process meant that books were scarce and therefore of high value and price. For millennia, only the nobility and the rich owned books and benefitted from their information. This began to change as advances in printing press technology and the rise of pulp fiction began to make books much more affordable for the poorer masses. Gone were the leather bindings and hand-tipped gilt pages in favor of full-color paperbacks. The downgrade in material quality paired with cheaper prices and wider distribution meant that more people of less financial means could read and, possibly, better their circumstances through the education gleaned through books.
Fast forward to today when the cheapest and most cost-efficient book format choice is e-books, which don’t even incur a cost for printing on paper. Now, anyone with a smart phone and an internet connection can read hundreds of books for cheap or free. Thus the once-prohibitive cost of education and entertainment via even paperback books has once again plummeted for readers. Does this mean that e-books are worth less? Not remotely. The gilt pages and hand-tipped illustrations may be gone from the pages, but what they leave behind is a great story. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that readers buy a book for the story or information that it holds, not the pretty frills that it includes. This is one thing that makes e-books such a powerful tool for indie authors.
Even more important than this, though, is the fact that e-books enjoy far greater distribution to a worldwide audience through internet distribution than any book in hardback or paperback has previously enjoyed. This huge customer-base and high demand means that what self-published books lack in price, they can make up for in sales volume. This means that my self-published books can be read by people I will never meet in countries whose names I might not even be able to properly pronounce. It means that a worldwide reading phenomenon like the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series can and will be repeated with more and more frequency as readership expands across the globe.
Even with the cheaper prices requiring bulk sales, I’d argue that the perceived value of a good book is a thing measured by more than just dollars and cents. After all, I can still remember the name of the book that first turned me into a lifetime reader as a young girl. I also remember the name and the author of the book that started me down my writing career path. Such books are almost as precious as long-time friends to me—as they are to any reader whose life they’ve helped improve. If written, edited, distributed, and marketed well, my own self-published books have the potential power to help someone else find hope and better education in the darkest and humblest of circumstances. That is a priceless fact.
Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better.
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!