Had I written the seminar title in full, I would have needed an extended title space. The full title is ‘Top 10 Tips for Self-Publishing from Two of the Top New York Times Bestselling Indie Authors’. See what I mean?
The two authors who gave this excellent seminar were Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy.
I made notes throughout the seminar and have written them up here. I must confess that there are one or two terms with which I’m not familiar, and it’ll be my homework to find out what they mean. A note of caution (well, perhaps that’s a bit too strong). Barbara and Bella are American, and some of the sites to which they refer may be effective only for novels that originate in the US.
Barbara and Bella’s credentials are eye-wateringly impressive. Both were traditionally published before going it alone, and both now count their sales as indie authors in the millions. I heard this, licked the top of my pencil, and prepared to learn. This is what I found out:
1. BRANDING is all important. The brand must be recognisable, able to be identified at a glance, be honest about the nature of the novel, be consistent (in font, art, titles, etc) and be fluid enough to change with the ever-changing market.
a) The NAME OF THE AUTHOR, when creating a brand, is the most important thing on the cover.
If the author writes books in different genres, there should be a different author’s name for each genre. To build a brand and make it a success, though, you should write 5 or 6 books in a genre before trying something else. You will, however, make more money by staying in one genre.
Choose an author name that communicates the genre to a potential reader.
The name of the author should be short enough to be written large on the cover.
The picture on the cover should evoke the emotion of the novel. (Some people outsource cover design; Bella and Barbara have learnt how to do it and do it on their own)
b) TITLE LINES. Titles lines are a part of the branding. The line should tell the reader what the book is about. Watch the sales’ figures and, if necessary, alter the title line if you think it might be holding the novel back.
c) Try to spot a HOLE IN THE MARKET, and plug it. Barbara and Bella spotted that a wave of anti-chick lit criticism had resulted in a slump in the number of chick lit novels being published, but their instinct told them that there was a demand for such novels. The demand from readers wasn’t being met, so they wrote and self-published their own chick lit novels. The title, cover, title line and author’s name proclaimed the genre. Their instinct had been right, and their novels sold in huge numbers.
d) THE POWER OF THE SERIES. Series’ novels are extremely popular – they’ve become a part of our culture now. (I’m butting in to tell you that at the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention in Kansas City in 2013, I was amazed to see the popularity of series’ novels. Readers couldn’t put them into their trollies fast enough at the Grand Book Fair.)
Don’t write yourself into a hole. Don’t give so much away about a minor character in one book that you close your options for using that character in another book. Keep your novels open-ended when concluding your novel. The conclusion should be satisfying for the reader, but you should leave something in the background that can be developed into another novel for the series.
2. FREQUENCY OF PUBLICATION
Aim for one novel every 2-4 months. You need a consistent production schedule – consistency in all aspects is all important.
3. EXPANDING YOUR MARKET
Look for ways in which to increase your revenue. While you can learn a lot from things such as youtube, for example ebook formatting, you won’t be able to do everything yourself and you may do well to take help. Pick what you’re good at to do yourself, and hire in the people to do the things you can’t do. The increase in income will justify the initial outgoings. Barbara and Bella’s advice – THINK BIG!
Things you can do are:
Bundle your novels together.
Print as a subsidiary right
audio books, which can be lucrative (which can also – apparently fairly easily – be put inside the print book). ACX.com has opened up to UK authors now. This is the only site available for royalty split deals right now.
4. RETAIL DISTRIBUTION
You will have to choose whether to go direct or whether to use a distributor. Bella and Barbara do it all themselves. You can go direct to Amazon KDP, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble NookPress (which has now opened up to authors from outside the US), iBooks, Kobo, google.
The pros of going direct are that:
* it’s easier to change prices, cover, sales’ description, keywords, blurb, and so on. Both authors closely watch their sales and if they feel that their sales are sluggish, they can easily make any changes that they think will enhance their sales
*you have easy, speedy access to sales figures as there’s no middle person. This enables you to spot any sudden changes and to respond quickly to them.
*you can build a good relationship with the retailer
* you will develop the ability to understand the sales’ patterns on specific retail sites, which can be useful.
The cons of this are that:
*you are taking on a lot of work
*you have to learn different forms of conversion.
Bella and Barbara advise that everyone chooses the way to proceed with which they are most comfortable.
5. MARKETING & PROMOTION
Your marketing begins with your novel and the presentation of it – the content of the novel, the title, the cover, etc..
Both authors recommend 80% writing to 20% marketing. Each book will sell the next book so you should do more writing than promoting. Weigh up what promotion you do in terms of how much time it will take you from your writing. During your 20% marketing, think like a publisher.
Whatever your feelings about the social media, you will have to use at least one form of it as you need to connect with readers. To promote on the social media, Barbara and Bella use:
*Facebook page, and perhaps boost posts. Readers need to have a place in which to find the author, and this is a good place.
*Facebook Reader Groups/Street teams. These are outlets for readers to talk to each other.
*join writers’ groups, like Romance Writers of America, if you’re in the US. You want to be part of a community.
*goodreads, with giveaways (To encourage reviews, at the end of the message with the giveaway, ask the reader to sign up for the newsletter, and add that hopefully they’ll love the book. You could add that an honest review would be appreciated.)
*Pinterest, to build interest in the book
*google+, where your newsfeed is shown to everyone in your circle
*Amazon Author Central
*overdrive.com (a library distribution company)
Always respond to your readers, no matter how much time it takes.
Generally, network when ever you can, and cross promote with other authors.
Both authors were asked if they blogged. They said that they didn’t feel that blogging was necessary. Barbara said that in the time that she ‘d take to think of three paragraphs worth putting in a blog, she could have written another chapter of her work in progress.
(NOTE from me: neither author blogs, but both have a newsletter and have built up an email list of readers.)
6. LONG TERM PLANNING.
They have a five-year plan. In your plan, set yourself realistic expectations.
They have a pricing strategy. Write more than one book. The first book in a series is frequently put on sale or offered free. The others in the series would usually be around 1.99. Make sure that when you put out the first of the series at a reduced price or free, there are others in the series that they can promptly click on to buy.
Their advice: think like a publisher. If something doesn’t work, a publisher will change it – so should you.
Always keep an eye on the market – you can learn a lot from what other successful authors are doing.
Make sure that your book is as good as it can be. Don’t shortchange the book or the readers – reviews last a long time. Both Bella and Barbara hire professional editors, proof-readers, artists, file-formatting, audio narration quality control.
That’s it then!!
Good luck to everyone who’s thinking of going it alone.
Over and out.