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When You Self-Publish, You're Starting a Business

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Steerpike, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    To me no - marketing my books is distasteful. It would make me feel like a fraud. But hey I have the same problem going for job interviews. Even when I speak to the qualifications I actually have I feel as though I'm lying. I hate it. I don't want to do it - and so I don't.

    As to how I sell, it's purely by writing. Write more books is my mantra, and it's what I do. So I have sixteen books out, eleven of them novels, and I simply hope that with a good cover and blurb and a decent story they'll sell. Currently I'm selling a little over a thousand books a month which is I think reasonable given my lack of advertising, and I plan on increasing those numbers simply by writing more books. In February I plan on releasing my next novel and a short story which I began here in the challenges. And my goal for the year is six novels out.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  2. Greg, it's a workable model. Most people don't have the...whatever...work ethic maybe? ...involved in getting that sort of volume out there. I'm working on a 480k word year, and most of the people i know think I'm crazy. ;)

    But yes, if you produce enough volume of good books for long enough, you will make sales even without marketing. Been demonstrated time and again that this model works.
     
  3. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Unless I'm looking in the wrong places, I'm not finding a lot of productive resources on self-publishing. I want to do the best job I can in putting professional works out there, but I don't know how to properly look for an editor. I have a cover artist and I intend on learning how to do formatting, etc because I'm good at those things. Self-publishing is a business but how does one best prepare to be good?
     
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I would think that the best source of editors is to ask an author you like for a reference.

    What worked for me was to go to elance.com. With my job posting, I put up a sample of my work. The editor that I chose was the one who commented on the things I really wanted help with. I didn't care so much that this sentence wasn't a well constructed as it could have been; I wanted to know what I was doing wrong with the story that was making it less tense and less interesting.

    That approach worked out really well, but, again, I knew exactly what I wanted.
     
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi Chesterama,

    First, Kindleboards - the Writers Cafe, do some searching and you'll find loads of threads about editors, cover makers and other professionals, and you can usually PM the guys there if you want and a lot of them will be happy to tell you who they use. They're also big into marketing so if that's your thing you'll find endless threads about how they do it.

    Also check your local writers body site. So if I wanted a local professional I'd go to the New Zealand Society of Authors and check their listings.

    For covers if you want one made specifically for you try Deviant Art. There's a lot of them and they're usually not too dear.

    For formatting etc, both Smashwords and CreateSpace have quite good sections which cover what's wanted.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  6. Motley

    Motley Minstrel

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    I'm with Psychotick on the marketing, except in my case I believe it stems from fear or lack of self esteem. I find it very uncomfortable to talk about myself or something I've done. Probably should just get over that.

    I do agree that self-publishing should be done as a business if you want to make money with it. You need to be able to separate yourself from the starving artist mentality. I've come across several people who seemed to believe that if you were making money with your fiction, you were automatically a hack and a sell-out... to what I'm not sure.
     
  7. taiwwa

    taiwwa Scribe

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    I would consider this, except I don't even know where to start with finding an editor.

    And finding an editor worth working with...
     
  8. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Try googling "free lance editor". I found this off the first page of results: GalleyCat's Freelance Editor Directory

    Or ask other writers who they use. Do some research. It's really not that hard.
     
  9. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Try Fiverr if it's a copyeditor, and not a structural editor, you're looking for. Try one out on there, and buy one gig from them - $5 - and if they're good and they do what you want, keep at it with the same person. Depending on how much work is offered for each gig (it varied from 500 words to 2,500 words, from what I've seen), if you get a good person who does work at the upper word range per gig you might be able to get a novel of 80,000 words done for $200 or even less - a lot cheaper that a more established editor. If the first editor you try isn't what you're looking for, it's only cost you $5 to find that out - no contracts, no legal battles, no fuss. And then you can try another.
     
  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Chilari,

    Most editors will do a free sample edit of a chapter. In my case, the first chapter was over 2000 words, and just about all the applicants on elance gave me their comments on it.
     
  11. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    I think you are absolutely correct. Just because it CAN be free to self-publish doesn't mean you SHOULD. I have pretty simple standard, anything I put out has to stand toe-to-toe with releases coming from New York. If that means I have to hire people to get it to that quality...I'll do it. If I can still put out a book that is indistinguishable from a traditional publisher, then "it's all good."

    That being said, it may mean that when you have your "business hat on" it might not make sense to pull the trigger. If you have a work that you deem will cost $1,000 - $1,500 to get to a professional level and you calculate you'll only make $300 - $500, then it's probably not the right move. Traditional publishers do this kind of cost analysis all the time, and it's often why a book is rejected. Just because you are the author AND publisher doesn't mean you shouldn't make similar decisions.
     
    Chilari likes this.
  12. STBURNS

    STBURNS Dreamer

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    Wow, really good thread and some great insight.
    I am, by no means, a writing master. I found out early that I have trouble editing my work. It is nice if you have a publishing team to troubleshoot plot holes, writing errors and such. I for one believe it is always good to have someone look at your novel. Am extra set of eyes is not a bad thing. But as mentioned, if you don't have a publisher, it will cost you on those services.
     
  13. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    One thing to keep in mind...in today's publishing environment publishers are looking for very "clean" manuscripts that won't require a great deal of developmental editing. If you have significant plot holes, or will need extensive re-writes you aren't going to get signed. They just don't have the time or resources to hold your hand through the process. Any large publisher will do structural editing, but the comments are going to be minor and relatively easy to address. A small publisher will probably do only copy/line editing and accept the "story" in a "as is state."

    Personally, I think hiring structural editing is expensive and VERY subjective. I suggest you need to get your book to a "publishable quality" on your own - maybe with the help of friends, doing critiques with other authors, and beta readers. There are a lot of "aspiring writers" who will structurally edit your work, but they may end up making it worse rather than better. The only structural edits I trust is from someone who has been in the business a VERY long time and has an established track record. (A good example is a structural editor I used for Hollow World: Betsy Mitchell who was the editor-in-chief at Del Rey for more than a decade and has edited more than 150 books including many bestsellers and award winners. She comes with a REALLY high price tag ($200/hour) but because my manuscript was clean, and my pockets deep. I could afford her services. I wouldn't recommend most people starting out to hire that caliber of editor.
     
  14. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Unless, I would think, it's part of a long term strategy of creating enough bodies of work that suggests legitimacy. I often hear that authors didn't start selling until their third or fourth published book.
     
  15. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Hmmm.

    This strategy depends on the assumption that quantity is the sole reason for the success. My understanding of reading posts advocating that "your best bet is to publish another book" is that the success comes from people reading a quality book of yours then searching your other books for another quality publication.

    The first time a reader encounters something substandard, it can derail future purchases.

    Case in point: I read about a guy who was purported to be a decent writer. He had quite a few books out (can't remember exact quantity, but over half a dozen). His first novel was being offered for free, and I downloaded and read it.

    It pretty much stunk.

    Even though I know he probably improved greatly from that one based on comments/posts that I read, I had absolutely no desire to read anything else of his.
     
  16. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I discuss the topic of authors reading a book versus readers reading a book al the time with non authors. They'll ask me about my writing, and when they can expect my book to come out. They've read my short stories I've published, or are about to publish, and they want to read the "big one."

    I tell them about the things that bother me about my current skill of writing. i tell them what is lacking, and what I plan to do to improve it. After I'm done, they look at me like I sprouted a new head. I ask them what's wrong, and they tell me that they noticed none of that in any of my writing. They tell me that what I wrote before seemed as good or better than what they read from other authors.

    After vigorously reinforcing my argument (who wants false positive reinforcements!), they shrug their shoulders and chalk it up to an artist's self criticism. They feel that we, as authors, are too hard on ourselves.

    I stopped reading novels for a few months. I didn't want other works to influence mine. But I recently joined the book club and started again. I felt the judging eye push aside the reader's. I scanned for any flaw, any small tidbit, if changed, would make the story better. I then recalled the conversations about authors and their higher level of criticism. After pushing aside the judging eye, I enjoyed the story the way I haven't in a long time.

    I think we, as authors, need to meet a certain standard of production. This is why I agree that we pay people to do the job that we can't do. Editing, cover art. marketing, web design, etc. Once our final product meets the standard; no grammar mistakes, no spelling mistakes, a coherent plot, identifiable characters and enough content to justify the price, everything else is left to opinion.

    I'm reading a book recently linked to these forums entitled Write. Publish. Repeat. From what I've read, their advise is similar to the intention behind my previous post.

    It's a good book for all self publishers.
     
  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Ankari,

    Here's my experience as reading as an author:

    If the writing is good, I don't notice the writing. I'm drawn into the book and experiencing it as the author intended. The author can break every writing rule under the sun, and I don't care.

    if the writing doesn't draw me into the book, I get bored and start searching for "why?" Perhaps it is harder, now, for an author to draw me into the book, but, truthfully, shouldn't the goal be to be good enough that you can draw even authors in? Is your standard really that, "I want to be good enough that most readers won't see my flaws?"

    If that's what you want, go ahead.

    I think what bothers me most about the attitude expressed above is the lack of discernment you imply the average reader has. Maybe he won't notice that you used too many words here or told there when you should have shown. I think that, overall, a lot of readers will notice that the book read slower than they would have liked and they just couldn't get that into it.

    It also fails to account for the fact that a reader doesn't have to be an author to expect good writing. See Chuck's anecdote about the reader who stopped buying books in the 4.99 to 5.99 price range because she noticed the poor quality.

    My thinking is that it is difficult to get your book in front of a reader in the first place. Of those who do see your book, you're going to lose a lot of them simply because your concept, a matter of purely personal taste, doesn't appeal to them. Of the ones remaining, can you really afford to lose the most discerning of your readers and all the authors (who also read) because your quality isn't there yet? Also, I would think that, for the most part, book bloggers and reviewers fall into that category of more discerning readers. It seems like almost every strategy for marketing I run across relies to some degree on getting reviews and getting your book on blogs.

    EDIT: Note that I'm talking in general here and not commenting on the current quality of your writing. The last thing of yours that I read was the Jobe origin story. I thought that piece was very solid.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014
  18. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I have a hard time understanding what you mean by "good writing" since you follow it up with "The author can break every writing rule under the sun, and I don't care."

    Do you mean the story is engaging?

    I don't think anyone wants to become mediocre, or sub par. I don't. Trust me, I'll sit in front of a computer and agonize over a dialogue segment, wanting it to flow naturally.

    My point is this:

    1) If beta readers thought your story was engaging, move to criteria 2.
    2) If you've put the work through the number of revisions that make you feel comfortable with your work, move to criteria 3.
    3) If you've acquired professional editing, move to criteria 4.
    4) If you've acquired professional cover art, move to criteria 5.
    5) If you've established a marketing presence, you're book is ready to publish. Now start on the next one.

    This is my point. I'm telling people to make sure their work has been professionally modified and beautified. After that, you're success will come from the number of books you have published.

    As for your example, I think authors become better as they continue to write. It then only makes sense his first book is potentially worse than his later ones. I have the intention of editing my first novelette, expanding it, and redoing the cover for that same reason. All this will come as I get ready to publish other works.
     
  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Apparently, you feel that "good writing" is accomplished by following the rules?

    I tend to feel that the rules are a good place to start learning how to write and are a benefit until one figures out how to discern what works and what doesn't. Hopefully, however, we can avoid this interesting discussion devolving into yet another rules argument.

    I will agree that defining "good writing" is difficult. I agree with Chuck that Awesome Indies made a pretty good start, but, truthfully, is it possible to break just about everything that AI lists as criteria and still have a good, well-written story? Yes.

    My contention is that "good writing" is like the judge said about pornography, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

    I really do feel that most discerning readers and authors, if they're making the attempt to objectively judge a book, can say with a fairly high degree of certainty, "This book is good or bad." And I think they can make that statement putting aside their personal feelings on whether or not they liked it.

    Some books are just good. Some books are just bad.

    Yes, there is a degree of subjectivity, but I think that, again if everyone participating is trying to be reasonable and objective, you can get a pretty good concurrence on which is which.

    I think that "entertaining" is a better objective criteria. After all, if a fiction book isn't entertaining, what, exactly, is it's purpose?

    Perhaps a better measure, though, is, "Did it meet the author's goal?"

    Some authors seek to be thought-provoking, some humorous, some engaging, etc. There's a market for each.

    What I took from your comments in regard to my response to your first post is, "Readers accept a much lower standard than authors."

    I'm not sure if you meant to say that, but that's the way I read it.

    The implication of that statement, in my mind, is, "You don't need to write at a super high quality to publish, only good enough to meet the demands of the reader."

    To which, I replied, "Don't underestimate readers."

    Is that enough?

    Maybe. I don't know. Perhaps I hope so.

    All I do know is that there are a freaking ton of books being produced on a daily basis. It takes something special to stand out. Authors like Michael Sullivan and Joe Hill wrote a whole lot of novels before they actually hit upon one worthy of being published. Are we as good as we think we are?
     
  20. STBURNS

    STBURNS Dreamer

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    Michael,
    You make excellent points. In the music industry, they expect a higher quality demo than they did years ago. From a business perspective, I understand. The chances of a publishing company seeing the potential for a story and the cost to make it readable are factors.
    I guess the only question I have is: If you get signed to a publisher, will they always expect such a level of perfection for a manuscript?
    That seems like a lot of pressure.:eek:
     
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