Is it bad to promote your own books?

Hi everyone,

RecommendA while ago I had an interesting e-mail exchange with someone who also writes books. This happens in writer circles, would you believe it? In one of the mails he wrote, “I’d like to recommend some of my books but since I’m the author…”

This raised the next  question with me:

Is it bad to recommend your own books?

Self-promotion and self-publishing.

I know, it’s bad to say self-publishing since it’s preferred to say Indie publishing. But that would make the first part “Indie-promotion” and that looks weird, doesn’t it?

So, back to self-promo for self/Indie publishers.

Promotion

After some thinking of the brainy kind I reached the conclusion that it’s not only a smart thing to do but even a necessary thing to do. It’s not done trying to flog your books to other writers, but there is a difference between “Hey, you, buy my book!” (which feels as if there is an “or else” coming up right after it) and talking about a specific, interesting kind of book and you’ve happened to have written some stuff in that realm.

And why is this a smart and necessary thing to do, you might ask.

Well… self and indie publishing kind of says it all, doesn’t it? You do it yourself. Independently. Which makes it easy in the following way:

If you don’t do it, who will?!

If you don’t open your trap about what you do, no one will do it, except your fans. Don’t just rely on your fans. Some are quiet so there’s not always much to hear from them. Self-promotion is part of marketing and marketing is something most writers aren’t good at. I mean, look at me: I don’t do nearly enough in that field so do as I say, not as I do, okay? (And let me know how you succeeded!)

Recommend. Really. Do it.

Tooting your own horn isn’t considered the nice thing to do but unless you have horn-tooting folk who can, want to and will handle that for you, it all comes down to you. Even if you have horn-tooters who stand up for you, it’s good to stand up and tell the world, “Hey, world. Listen up. Look at me and look at what I did.” It’s part of your branding. (Note to self: read this later. It looks damned helpful.) It’s not the book or books you are selling. You’re selling yourself.

So recommend your own work if and where you can. Do keep an eye on the circumstances. Don’t recommend your book on second degree algebra in a discussion about game consoles. This is highly recommended.

Recommend

 

Libiro.

Dear Reader,

 

Do you know Libiro? Probably not. Libiro (http://www.libiro.com) is a new e-book store, started by a British independent writer named Ben Galley. His approach to independent works is one I like very much: only independent authors are allowed to publish their books via Libiro. Large, established companies have no reason to go there, they won’t be accepted.

That, for me, is a good reason to start selling my books via Libiro as well. Some titles are there already, like The Devil’s Diary, Green Haven and Hilda the Wicked Witch book 1. Also my new title, The Story of the Mimosa, is available through Libiro.

If you feel warmly towards indie writers, have a look at the selection at Libiro. You may find your next book there!

Self-Publishing: No Longer Just A Vanity Project

Dear reader,

Via NPR.org I found this interesting article on self-publishing:

They used to call it the “vanity press,” and the phrase itself spoke volumes. Self-published authors were considered not good enough to get a real publishing contract. They had to pay to see their book in print. But with the advent of e-books, self-publishing has exploded, and a handful of writers have had huge best-sellers.

TV blogger Alan Sepinwall’s self-published book, The Revolution Was Televised, came out just before Thanksgiving. Within two weeks he had a review in The New York Times — a positive review — by the widely read and often critical Michiko Kakutani, who also named it one her favorite books of the year. This is what book publicists and their writers dream of, and Sepinwall didn’t even see it coming.

“I was sitting at my computer on the Monday, the day before it ran,” he says, “and all of a sudden I see an email from aTimes photo editor saying, ‘Hi, The Times will be running a review of your book tomorrow, we need an author photo. Can you help us?’ ”

Turns out Kakutani is a fan of Sepinwall’s popular blog,What’s Alan Watching?, and her review almost immediately helped boost sales of his book. But that doesn’t happen to most self-published writers. Hanna Brooks Olsen was happy just to see a published version her book, Hanged Man’s Leap.

“It was way more exciting than I thought it was going to be,” she says. “I immediately told any of my friends who I knew had e-readers, and I obviously emailed my mother too, with a link.”

Brooks Olsen wrote about her self-publishing experience for the online magazine LitReactor. She got editing help from her parents, and her boyfriend designed the cover; but otherwise she did it all herself. E-publishing is the quickest way to go, and Brooks Olsen chose Amazon’s Kindle Direct service because it seemed easy to use — and she liked having the power of Amazon behind her. “And it does sort of get sold randomly at times,” she says of her book. “I’ll get a direct deposit from Amazon every now and then for $10 or $15, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I must have sold a couple more that month.’ ”

But the process wasn’t problem-free. There were formatting issues, and Brooks Olsen had to wade through a lot of legalese to figure out the contract with Amazon. She sees the process as an experiment, but says that if you’re more serious about selling a book, you might want some help.

And help seems to be out there. Do a quick search of the Internet and you’ll find lots of help for writers who want to self-publish, from companies like Smashwords, which publishes and distributes e-books; to Lulu, which publishes both electronic and print books, and offers a range of services that cost up to $5,000.

“It’s everything from website design, to social media strategies, to cover design, to editing packages,” says Lulu marketing director Brian Matthews. Lulu has been around since 2002, long before the current self-publishing boom. Matthews says a lot of Lulu’s customers just want to print a few copies of the book for family or friends, but others have seen all the self-publishing success stories and think they can duplicate that.

“Obviously … the percentages are small, but in the democratized world of self-publishing, there are very low barriers, and if someone has a good story to tell, is able to tap into a community, an interested set of readers … they can find that success,” Matthews says.

(The article goes on, please read the rest at NPR.org.)

B&N Announces First Author to Sell a Million eBooks via PubIt

from The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder

Remember how Amazon used to make a big deal about the Kindle Millions Club, a group of self-published authors who have each sold more than a million Kindle ebooks? They have not announced any in a while (I guess the novelty wore off), but the idea must still seem fresh and new to B&N.

Barnes & Noble sent out a press release today touting Barbara Freethy as being the first self-published author to sell a million copies of her ebooks via PubIt. Freethy is the author of 31 novels, including the 17 titles from her backlist as well as 3 new works which she has uploaded to sell in the B&N Nook ebookstore.

According to her blog, this milestone comes a few short months after a similar one in the Kindle Store, making this author the first to proclaim achieving the one million mark in both major ebookstores.

Note, though, that Amazon hasn’t announced her induction into the Kindle Millions Club. I guess Amazon lost interest after the first score of authors.

Still, congratulations are in order. Barbara has achieved a goal that many other authors would trade their souls for. Well Done!

B&N Announces First Author to Sell a Million eBooks via PubIt is post from The Digital Reader

Authors Behaving Badly; Booksellers Behaving Worse

In the past couple months I’ve posted a few times about things authors shouldn’t do like respond before you understand the situation, be pushy on Twitter, and send dunning letters to book bloggers.  I have another regrettable tale of misdeeds today, only this time the author was the lesser of the problems.

Self-published authors need to be forward to get attention; that’s a basic fact of marketing. But they don’t always pick the right technique or venue. Take, for example, David Eckhof. He’d recently self-published a humorous political novel via Amazon, and while looking for ways to promote it, he hit upon the idea of leaving cards in a local Waterstones bookstore near similar titles.

Naturally the booksellers in the store didn’t appreciate the idea, so after they removed the cards they sent him an email telling him so. Normally the story would stop here, and it would be a story that would hardly be worth a mention. But what caught my eye with this story was what the Waterstones booksellers did next.

According to The Guardian (and confirmed by a Waterstones  spokesman), one or more of the Waterstones staff retaliated. A couple negative and trolling reviews were posted on the books listing on Amazon.co.uk. David connected the reviews with Waterstones bookseller, and after complaining to Waterstones the review was removed. A couple more troll reviews were posted, but after David complained to Waterstones they too were removed.

And in case you were wondering, at least part of this story has been confirmed by Waterstones:

“If the leaflets had just been about his book, then obviously they would still have been looked for and removed and we’d put it down to an over-enthusiastic new author. But including the encouragement to use a major competitor is just rude and surely obviously inappropriate, which is what prompted a polite email to the author asking him not to use our shops in such a way,” said the spokesman.

“Unfortunately, it subsequently emerged that staff at the shop had taken matters into their own hands and indulged in some completely inappropriate behaviour, as pointed out to us by the author. We took action to identify those involved and have the offending material removed, and dealt with the situation accordingly, and of course we are sorry that members of our staff acted in such a fashion.”

So what we have here is an author who was overly-enthusiastic and booksellers who were vindictive. Whiel there are misdeeds all around, I would think the author was the lesser actor.

The thing is, I have had authors leave spam comments on this blog before which promote their books.  These comments were spam because they were unrelated to the post in question, but I’ve never gone beyond simply deleting them.  Seeking out the author’s book in order to punish them would obviously have been inappropriate, so I never did.

But clearly someone at Waterstones didn’t think so, because here we are. According to David, Waterstones did apologize and offer to carry his novel on their ebook site by way of apology. the ebook is up, but David has not seen a boost in sales.

via www.guardian.co.uk / www.thedigitalreader.com

Publishers – Writer Beware

Publishers are just middlemen. That’s all. If artists could remember that more often, they’d save themselves a lot of aggravation.
– Hugh Macleod, How To Be Creative

Ah, the lure of the publisher, the allure of the printed book sitting there in your hands, beckoning to you. Isn’t that the stuff of every author’s dreams? An e-book is great but don’t we all long to hold a book in our hands with our name below the title? I know I did. There’s also the sense of security and the idea that maybe we won’t have to work quite as hard, that they’ll pick up some of the load of marketing.

It also seems as if there are so many new choices these days – not just the Big Six, independent, e-presses and small presses, but all kinds of hybrids, include publishing groups and co-ops (where the responsibility for creating a book is shared). And not all of them are truly looking out for your best interests. A number of writers have found themselves contracted to a publisher with no easy way out. I did.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls?

(For our purposes, we’ll leave out the Big Six, the pros and cons there are known – advances (now much smaller), a huge pool of talent in which your book can get lost, gatekeepers with a narrow eye, six months to respond, a year to two years to reach print.)

First, do your homework. Google the company name. If you find that they’re listed on Preditors and Editors or Writers Write, run away. Are there complaints against/about them? Do they sound valid, consistent? Go to their website, find a book that looks and sounds interesting to you. Does the cover look professional? Are there spelling and grammar errors in the blurb (the back cover information)? Where can you buy it? Only from their website? Those are huge red flags. You want your book to look as good as possible and to be available to a wide audience through established booksellers like Amazon.com, B&N and iTunes. If there’s a feature like Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book”, use it. Are there a bunch of basic grammar errors? Is that the kind of book with which you want to be associated?
So, it all sounds good and looks good. Too good to be true? Then it probably is. How’s your gut? Getting some trippy vibes? It’s time to start asking questions…

  1.  There’s a standard rule in publishing that money flows from the publisher to the writer, NOT the other way around. Anyone who tells you different is blowing smoke. I don’t care what name they call it. If you’re paying them a percentage of your book that percentage is supposed to cover what they’re supposed to do for you – editing, cover art and marketing at the very least. By its very definition in a co-operative environment each writer donates their time and skills to the group as a whole, each contributing to the success of all. But the first rule still applies. If you’re paying any percentage to the publisher, those ‘fees’ should come out of their pocket, not yours. Otherwise, what are you paying them for? Their name? Make up your own.
  2.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pay for your galley or proof copies. No reputable publisher will ask you to do this. That’s the cost of doing business. You’re providing them with their commodity, books. Without you, they wouldn’t exist. To ask you to pay for your own proof copies, even at a discount, is wrong. If they don’t believe enough in your book to invest in it, they shouldn’t have bought it. No reputable publisher will insist that you buy your books in bulk, either, even for a book signing. On those occasions they should provide them – unsold books should then be returned to the publisher or used for subsequent book signings.
  3.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pay for services you can do yourself. See below.
  4. Editing. Read the excerpts. Is that your style? Is it overly simplistic, too Dick and Jane? Or too dark? (I submitted one book to a publisher like that but I had a pretty good idea it would be rejected. And it was.) Are the stories remarkably similar, too generic? Is the quality good? Are you seeing those grammar errors? In a recent post I commented on a reader who was surprised to find an erotica book so literate. (I don’t just write erotica, I’m actually more of a fantasy writer, but that is where I’m published traditionally.) Is most of their work adult, but you write YA? Make sure that publisher is a good fit for you.
  5. Are they making a huge fuss about numbers, rankings and so on? Is the fuss legitimate? If you’re #4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Kitchen Appliances, is that a valid ranking for your contemporary romance, Cooking Class? Not really. Outside of the kitchen appliances listing, notice that it says Nonfiction. Yes, you want to market where people share the same interests as your book but if your book is the only fiction book in ten listings… being #4 isn’t all that great.
  6. If they’re offering to put your book in print, who is doing the printing? I honestly never considered asking that question. I didn’t think I had to, after all, they were a publisher, right? So therefore they had a printer. To my surprise, one company was using CreateSpace to do their printing. (See Rule 3) I already had two books in print through CreateSpace on my own but that publisher made it sound as if he had a local printing company. Never assume. You know what happens when you do.
  7. Ask what their pay schedule is and what your percentage is for e-books or print. Is it different if you do book signings? WHEN do you get paid? Smashwords pays quarterly, most regular publishers pay monthly, but both will provide you with a regular accounting of how much money you can expect to receive. The same should be true of any publisher. You have a right to know when your first paycheck will arrive. After all, you have bills just like they do. If they can’t give you that information, if they waffle about how they can’t give you accurate figures, that they have to account for returns, etc., RUN. At absolute worse they could simply deduct a return from your next check but a reputable publisher wouldn’t – returns should be few and they accept that as a loss, as the cost of doing business. (If returns are excessive, someone needs to look at the book.)
  8. What is their marketing plan? How do they market their authors? (Again, see Rule 3) Is it largely through Facebook, Twitter and blogs? What else do they do? You want a concrete marketing plan that will take you beyond what you can do yourself. Does it mainly consist of book signings which you have to arrange, not them? Then you’re in the wrong place.
    And if you hear pie in the sky promises – I can get you on Leno, for example – ask yourself how many authors Jay Leno has on his program? None. It’s all smoke. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.
  9. Check out their Facebook pages. Is there chaos and drama around them? Do you want chaos and drama in your life? If not, then walk away.

 

Indie publishing is hard enough without people making it more difficult, or outright ripping you off. I have yet to see the money from my book and I have a pretty good guess I never will. Despite it being a legitimate Amazon best seller. It regularly floats in the Amazon Top 100. I haven’t given up entirely but that’s the price you pay for not doing your ‘due diligence’ – your research.

There are people out there more than willing to prey on our hopes and dreams and many authors will pay almost anything to realize those dreams. I know one writer who put thousands of dollars of his own money into a print version of his books. I don’t know how many are still in boxes. Print books are much more difficult to sell. Getting bookstores to take a chance on giving precious shelf space to an unknown, independent writer is difficult. So many authors do that and their garages are filled with broken dreams. Many walk away, their hopes dashed.
For a while I struggled, trying to fit myself into a round hole when I was a square peg. I put my hopes of seeing my books in print under a publisher’s name…until I learned all the lessons above. Now I’m experiencing the delicious freedom of being able to write my books the way I want to write them. If I’m going to do print, I’ll do them myself. And I won’t have to share a penny. No one will make money from them besides me…in tandem with Amazon and CreateSpace, or B&N, Smashwords, etc., of course.

That’s not to say that the traditional way is wrong, but unless what a publisher offers you makes your life easier, what do you need a middleman for?


This post originally appeared on the weblog of Valerie Douglas, member of the Alexandria Publishing Group.

A self-publishing success

Amanda Hocking, the writer who made millions by self-publishing online

A couple of years ago, Amanda Hocking needed to raise a few hundred dollars so, in desperation, made her unpublished novel available on the Kindle. She has since sold over 1.5m books and, in the process, changed publishing forever.

Woman makes millions from self published books
Amanda Hocking: ‘I didn’t have a lot of hope invested in ebooks’. (Photograph: Carlos Gonzalez/Polaris)

Read the entire article at The Guardian.

Self-publishing and pricing

On the blog The Bliss Quest, a blogger who goes by Athena writes a lengthy, thoughtful post looking setting a price for her self-published book. After her last publisher offered her a contract that would only pay her 5% of the book’s cover price (and her editor actually told her “Writers don’t write to make money, they write because they must”), she started looking longingly at the 70% revenue that self-publishing would offer her, and trying to figure out just how many copies she would need to sell at what price in order to make back minimum wage for the time spent writing the book.

She was looking at pricing it at $6, but the problem she runs into is that a lot of the people she talked to who might be inclined to read e-books are cheapskates—they only want to pay $4.99 or less. Athena finds this rather frustrating—as she points out, depending on reading speed, $6 for a book is often less than $1 per hour of entertainment, and people pay a lot more than that for movies.

If writing (my book) does not pay for me to survive well enough to write the next one and the next one – I’m clearly in the wrong profession. If my writing can’t entice people to pay $1 an hour for entertainment – then I might as well be doing something else. If people will pay 12$ for a two hour movie like Transformers 3 or the newest haunted flick, but they won’t pay 6$ for a book – then I’m not doing my job well enough.

I can certainly sympathize. As an unknown independent author, the problem she faces is not just a matter of price, of course. It’s a matter of all the competition out there at all price ranges, and the competition for people’s time from non-book-related activities. And from an economic point of view, it’s hard to figure out how to reach the optimum point on a price-demand curve since every book is going to have a different appeal and thus different demand.

But the question of what price to set is one that every self-publishing author is going to have to face, and nonetheless it’s interesting to see Athena’s thoughts on how to approach it. Hopefully she can get some good advice from writers who’ve gone that way before.

(Via Teleread).

3 Out of Top 10 Best-selling Kindle Books of 2011 Are Self-published

via Ebook Friendly » Tips & More by Piotr Kowalczyk

Darcie Chan / Photo: author’s page at Amazon.com

As Amazon published a list of best-selling books of 2011, everyone is pointing to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. It’s the top bestseller of combined print and Kindle lists.

When you take a closer look at the list of Kindle bestsellers only, you’ll discover that there are as much as three self-published titles on top:

The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan
The Abbey by Chris Culver
Caribbean Moon by Rick Murcer

The list is unnumbered, but Amazon points out to The Mill River Recluse as the best-selling Kindle ebook of 2011. Following that, we could say that self-published books by Darcie Chan and Chris Culver occupy two first places! Continue reading “3 Out of Top 10 Best-selling Kindle Books of 2011 Are Self-published”