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Five Books Every Entrepreneur Writing a Book Should Read

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This book originally appeared on bookbaby.com

As venture capitalist James Altucher says, “… having a book is the new business card.” In addition to displaying your expertise in a given field, publishing a book can bring you personal and business credibility.

Business leaders engage in a host of activities designed to propel their careers, improve themselves, and promote their businesses. Writing is the most powerful of those activities — even though it has little to do with increasing sales or impressing investors. And I’m not talking about emails or blog posts — the most influential leaders in business commit significant chunks of their schedule to writing and publishing their own books.

There are many reasons why, but here are three of the most critical:

1. Personal credibility

Having a published book gives you credibility as an expert in your given field. With your book in hand, doors that were once closed seem to magically open — people simply pay more attention to what you’re doing and saying.

2. Business credibility

If you’re running a business and you publish a good book, your business becomes more credible, too. It lends an air of legitimacy to your enterprise and even pays dividends in helping you establish connections with potential clients and business partners.

3. Brand clarity

Publishing a book that defines and details the core principles and mechanisms of your business crystallizes what your company is all about and how it can create value for outsiders. It can also help clarify your company’s mission internally.

That said, writing and publishing a book  is not easy — even for seasoned and talented business executives. It demands diligence, grit,  research, and preparation.

If you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, or anyone embarking on a mission to write a book, here are five books about self publishing you should study before setting pen to paper.


writing a book Authorpreneur

Authorpreneur: Build the Brand, Business, and Lifestyle You Deserve. It’s Time to Write Your Book.

Jesse Tevelow is an entrepreneur and author whose work has appeared in Businessweek and Forbes. His book, Authorpreneur: Build the Brand, Business, and Lifestyle You Deserve, is built around one key principle, summed up neatly by the author: “Giving yourself an edge requires playing a different game. Writing books is the new differentiator.”

This book is divided into two sections. The opening chapters detail why entrepreneurs should write, along with how to go about researching and selecting a topic.

The second section gets more specific, providing guidance about how to prepare outlines and eventually take your book to market.


writing a book Book Blueprint

Book Blueprint: How Any Entrepreneur Can Write an Awesome Book

Author Jacqui Pretty is the founder of Grammar Factory, a publishing company that has helped over 100 entrepreneurs write and publish their own books.

But don’t fret,  this book is not a 200-page advertisement. Rather, Book Blueprintserves as a step-by-step framework for writing a quality book quickly, providing a blend of technical practicalities that every good book demands. It also serves up fair helpings of inspiration and encouragement that can benefit any writer.

 


writing a book APE

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur — How to Publish a Book

Guy Kawasaki was one of the original hires at Apple, serving as the brand’s first chief evangelist. Today, he’s a brand evangelist for Mercedes Benz, a keynote speaker for premier business conferences, and the author of 13 books.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur — How to Publish a Book, co-written with Shawn Welch in 2012, remains one of his best — and one of the best books for executive writers, period. It’s full of practical, realistic solutions for overcoming hurdles in the writing process as well as strategies and tips for wading into the world of self-publishing.

APE is also noteworthy for Kawasaki’s introduction of the concept of the “karmic scoreboard,” the notion that what you create and release into the world will eventually come back around to either haunt or glorify you. With that backdrop, he urges the reader to really think about why they want to publish a book. The goal, he suggests, should be founded in kindness, generosity, and the intellectual enrichment of others.


writing a book Writers Process

The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear

Anne Janzer is an award-winning author and writing coach who has worked with hundreds of high-tech business leaders around the world. In this book, she shares insights into the writing process that she’s found to be prescient in helping her clients write more effectively. Her work is grounded in science and seeks to explain how our brains function and how we can more purposefully generate moments of brilliance and productivity — as opposed to writer’s block and procrastination. Writing and publishing books demands a unique mindset. The Writer’s Process details exactly what that mindset looks like.

The book received high praise upon its release. In a review, Seth Godin proclaimed, “The Writer’s Process delivers research-based, hands-on, step-by-step wisdom that can help you wrestle with the lizard brain. Certain to help thousands of would-be writers write.”


writing a book 5 Steps

5 Steps to Self Publishing

While it might be a bit presumptuous to put my name alongside these great writers, I’m adding 5 Steps to Self Publishing to this list because of the unique purpose it serves.

The world of self publishing is awash in information about — what else? — self publishing. I’d argue there’s too much information available. This tidal wave of text inundates new writers and many find themselves paralyzed by the sheer volume of information, unsure where to start.

I wrote this guide to help aspiring authors cut through the glut of opinions, information, and misinformation. It addresses the essential issues every author must work through on their self-publishing journey. It might be a good place to start if you’re just beginning this process.

Is publishing your book a requirement in achieving your personal and business goals? Maybe not. But it certainly helps.

One person who can speak on that is James Altucher, the famous hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and podcaster. He has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. He’s also the best-selling author of acclaimed business books, including Choose Yourself, and he believes that self publishing was a critical component of his success.

“Every entrepreneur should self-publish a book, because having a book is the new business card,” Altucher says. “If you want to stand out, you need to show your expertise. Publishing a book is not just putting your thoughts on a blog post. It’s an event. It shows your best curated thoughts and it shows customers, clients, investors, and friends what the most important things on your mind are right now.”


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The Successful People I Know Are Voracious Readers

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

Reading — in addition to being plain fun — can make you a better (smarter, more informed, satisfied) person. In my experience successful people are often voracious readers.

All successful people I know have one thing in common: they never stop learning.

That’s why so many CEOs, thought leaders, and politicians read so frequently. There’s a limit to how much time, money, and effort people are able to dedicate to formal education, which is why reading voraciously, as part of a dedicated personal routine, is one keystone of lifelong personal development.

I call it personal development because a big part of what you learn from reading is about yourself. I’m a student of writing and of words — reading helps me understand who I am, how I should approach my writing, and what I want to focus my attention on outside of my literary ambitions.

But that, of course, is not the only benefit of reading.

Reading keeps your mind balanced and sharp

The most successful people are both scientists and artists — they utilize both the left and right brain. As such, they consciously nurture both sides of the coin, often through reading.

One approach is to actively read both fiction and nonfiction. This is advice I give regularly: immerse yourself in the worlds and adventures of books like James Clavell’s Shogun: The Epic Novel of Japan, and educate yourself with biographies and intelligent opinions — such as Dwight Eisenhower’s account of World War II, Crusade in Europe, which I’m reading now.

Reading instills discipline

Reading doesn’t just strengthen or nurture both parts of our brain — it strengthens more intangible skills, too. For one, reading can make you more disciplined and foster an appreciation for learning and growth.

How, exactly? Well, people who make the decision to read everyday are actively deciding to engage, improve, and challenge their brains instead of doing more passive activities, like surfing YouTube videos or binge-watching Netflix.

That’s why some of our most effective presidents, for example, have made reading a personal priority. When President Obama was in office, he talked about how books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration during his terms. Books helped focus him amidst the maelstrom of world crises and 24-hour cable news analysis. Books also gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.

That’s precisely what reading does. It’s why we see so many leaders in so many different verticals of human activity devote time to reading.

Reading benefits your business

There’s one last benefit that most people don’t associate with reading, and that’s the manner in which it can actively benefit your professional life.

For one thing, reading encourages curiosity. And people who are curious are, more often than not, high achievers. Understanding this, you yourself can use reading to feed your curiosity and acquire more knowledge.

But you can also apply this awareness to elements of your business life, like honing your hiring practices. At BookBaby, when we’re hiring a potential candidate, I always ask, “What are you reading right now?” or “What have you read in the last six months?” I know reading behavior can be a barometer in measuring a person’s level of curiosity, discipline, and zeal for learning — and curious, disciplined people who are hungry to learn are the sort I want in my company.

I don’t particularly care what these candidates are reading. I just want to see that they are reading.

It’s also true that reading helps people improve as communicators. As a student of writing, I appreciate great communication, and as the CEO of a publishing company, I see it as something of a requirement. A writer who communicates effectively with his or her audience can help readers do the same in their own lives.

At the end of the day, reading provides a variety of tangible and intangible benefits — for both the mind and the soul — and the simple awareness of this fact is the most obvious reason successful people prioritize it as a means of professional and personal development.


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Authors Are Making Less Money? I’m Not Buying It

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

A recent Authors Guild survey suggests that author income is down dramatically. There are plenty of signs that this is not true and plenty of ways to leverage your book to make additional income.

Every few years, authors have to endure news of impending doom — at least as it pertains to the publishing industry and their chances to profit in it. Case in point: The Authors Guild 2018 Salary Survey reported author income has fallen 42 percent since 2009. Reports like these contribute to a growing and troublesome identity crisis among writers — newer writers, especially.

I believe these reports are inherently flawed. For one thing, the data presented doesn’t show a complete picture — especially for self-published authors. The 2018 Authors Guild survey, for example, only represents a tiny slice of authors who are publishing today. It does not account for all self-published authors and is actively biased toward older, traditionally published folks.

If you accept the commonly-quoted number that over one million new books are published each year in the US, this survey — with the small sample size it offers — represents something close to one half of one percent of authors who are actually writing.

To get more into the specifics, the Guild’s conclusion in the 2018 survey was that the median writing-related income for all authors — including part-time, full-time, traditionally published, self-published, and hybrid-published authors — was just $6,080, which is down 42 percent since 2009.

Does this represent a “crisis of epic proportions,” as the survey proclaims? I’d argue it doesn’t.

First, it doesn’t speak to the success of working writers, the folks who earn money through writing in addition to other income streams. Among those folks, the numbers are actually very encouraging:

  • Median income for working published authors was $20,857, an increase of 13% since 2013.
  • Over 2,000 authors reported average publisher royalties from traditional publishing houses of almost $32,000.
  • Self-published authors registered stronger earnings, with over 1,600 of them listing average book sales of $31,000.
  • Overall, the top 30 percent of “full-time authors”  — authors who write regularly — had median incomes of over $50,000

No doubt, it is very, very difficult to make a comfortable living exclusively by publishing books. But does that mean all aspiring writers should quit? Of course not. The craft alone is inherently worthwhile. But, the reality this survey ignores is that the most successful writers today don’t rely exclusively on book sales for income. Rather, they use their books as springboards for other revenue opportunities. Their books create those opportunities, including additional writing gigs, speaking engagements, and brand/business building.

Additional writing gigs

A book is not the be-all and end-all for a writer. Whether or not publishing income is as lucrative as it was in the past, authors still find substantial revenue in magazine, newspaper, and web publishing.

In addition to new content that might ignite the next book idea, some authors create articles based on their book’s content or even excerpt parts of their books and sell them as magazine or blog articles. These published works provide the opportunity to mention the book title in the “about the author” blurbs, providing additional promotional benefit and potential book sales. This is something you can do even while your book is awaiting release, touting in your bio “new” or “upcoming” titles.

Of course, more generally, writing success begets more opportunity. Editors will be more likely to want to publish you, and you’ll have the chance to work on new projects you find interesting — and that can make you more money.

Speaking engagements

I attended the National Speakers Association Conference in 2018, and every single attendee had written — or planned to write — his or her own book. In many cases, their book was the ticket that provided them access to speak at the conference. And many speaking engagements, I might add, pay handsomely. Hundreds of BookBaby authors have leveraged their books into very lucrative speaking careers across a huge range of topics.

Simply put, writing and publishing a book helps authors to legitimize their careers and positions them as subject-matter experts.

Building your business and brand

Finally, I know several authors who have written valuable books that could generate serious royalties, but they choose to offer them for free on their websites. Why? Because people who download those free books became aware of the author’s consulting business, training programs, and other services.

Your book, in this sense, can serve as an introduction to the business and brand of you — a business and brand which, when it’s all said and done, could very well bring in 10 times the amount of money book sales alone would have.

Look, authors are motivated by a wide variety of things: prestige, status, professional validation, checking an item off the bucket list… It deserves noting that most writers are going to continue writing regardless of the monetary rewards.

Still, those rewards and motivations are important. That’s why I believe it’s almost irresponsible that traditional industry groups release surveys like the one which inspired this article. In some sense, they’re lobbing weapons against perceived publishing industry bad guys, like Amazon.

Bottom line: if you’re an author, don’t be dismayed by findings like the Authors Guild survey. Consider, instead, findings like those released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which noted the median income for “writers and authors” in the US in 2017 was $61,820 annually. It even estimates the field will expand 8% in the next decade. So keep writing!


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You Can’t Skip Hiring a Cover Designer

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

Readers are basing their book-purchasing decisions on a single image with a few pixels. That’s one reason you need the services of a professional cover designer.

Now, more than ever, readers are literally judging your book by its cover. With more than 75 percent of book sales happening online, your cover’s design is a tipping point in a one-click decision.

It used to be that readers would come through a brick-and-mortar shop, pick a book up, and leaf through it for a few pages before making a buying decision. Now, readers are basing their purchasing decisions on a single image with a few pixels.

That means you have to have a strong design, and finding the right cover designer for your book is a crucial first step in getting there.

Before you pick one at random and shell out a few hundred dollars, consider the following.

How can I find the right cover designer?

Cover designers frequently list their services on freelancer marketplaces like UpWork or Guru. Or you can make it real easy on yourself and go with the professionals in the BookBaby Design Studio.

Once you’ve found a candidate or two, look through their online portfolios. Do you like the work they’ve done? Do they have a solid number of titles under their belt? Are the other covers in their arsenal in the same or similar genre to your book?

Pay attention to that last question

A book designer with experience in mystery novels is going to know how to make your book look like it fits within that genre. That’s crucial, since mystery readers are going to look at your cover for a split second and decide immediately whether or not it looks like a book for them. That doesn’t mean the same designer will be adept at designing a memoir or nonfiction cover that suits your title.

Do the process in reverse

Check titles in your genre to see if they’ve listed the cover artist and reach out to the ones whose designs you like. If there’s no listing, try messaging the author directly. Self-published authors typically want to help — especially if it means they get to talk about their books.

Does the designer have the right skills?

Just because someone can make a lovely poster for a piano recital, it doesn’t mean they’re going to make an impactful book cover. Book cover design is a niche with rules, format requirements, and genre-specific needs. A book designer will know this.

Will you own the rights to the design?

In all creative industries, discussing ownership and rights upfront is critical. There are authors who have published their books — with covers they paid for — only to have the designer demand they take it down.

It helps to have your own contracts prepared in advance so you have a starting point for negotiations. Include the expected timeline, rate, and terms for the cover design. This means stating the date the cover will be completed, how much you’ll pay for it, how many revisions you’re entitled to, what happens if the contract is terminated, and who owns the rights to the finished work.

Working with a designer should be a collaboration

It’s your job to give your designer the broad strokes of what you want in your cover design — it’s their job to deliver. But this doesn’t mean a designer can read your mind. Provide covers that inspire you. Send them a Pinterest board, a video montage, a bunch of paint chips with poetry on them — whatever it is that you feel best communicates the look you want for your book cover.

And then, talk it through. Be clear and thorough. Answer questions. Ask for changes on first or second drafts and know that it’s okay to walk away if the relationship begins to head south. If a designer isn’t giving you what you’re looking for, or if after two revisions the cover still isn’t right, it’s okay for you to cancel your contract. You can find another designer but you can’t buy a second chance at impressing your readers.

At the end of the day, you could publish War and Peace with a million-dollar marketing budget, but if the cover is wrong, you’re still going to lose. Get a great cover and increase the chances you’ll get your book into the hands of readers who will love it.


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How To Get Media Coverage For Your Book

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

There is no one-size-fits-all marketing solution, but that doesn’t mean marketing your book is impossible. The media can still be a powerful partner, and here are five ways to get media coverage for your book.

It’s the most common dilemma in the publishing industry: “How do I market my book?”

This question plagues everyone who has written a book. We’re all searching for that “can’t-miss” marketing technique that will turn our books into best-sellers. And as the marketplace continues to grow , the question is only becoming more relevant. With more and more books being released, readers are increasingly hard to find.

There is no one-size-fits-all marketing solution, but that doesn’t mean marketing your book is impossible. When it comes to boosting your book’s sales, the media can still be a powerful partner.

Take, for example, the story of Carl Johan Ehrlin and his book, The Rabbit Who Wants To Go To Sleep.

Ehrlin, a Swedish psychologist, self published the book in 2010. He had little luck in selling his parenting guide online, so he started giving away free eBook copies. He sent one of those copies to a writer at the Daily Mail, a UK newspaper. That writer wrote an article about how he used the book to put his precocious children to bed.

The article was syndicated to other papers around the globe. Soon after, the book rocketed to #1 on the Amazon and New York Times best-sellers lists.

This is evidence that the media remains a reliable vehicle for promoting and selling books. While you might not achieve the explosive success of The Rabbit Who Wants To Go To Sleep, you can still position yourself and your work in such a way that newspapers, radio stations, websites, and even TV outlets take notice.

Here’s how.

Do a public relations audit

Take the time to think about what the media might find noteworthy and different about you. Are there past experiences that lend themselves to interesting stories? Do you have any industry connections that would pique the interest of a reporter? What aspects of your book are particularly press-worthy? Identify them, then sell them.

You should also conduct an internal audit. What do you hope to accomplish by getting media coverage? Are you trying to brand yourself and promote a business venture? Are you trying to establish yourself as a subject-matter expert? Are you simply hoping to have your book discovered by as many potential readers as possible? Knowing all of this will help you act more purposefully moving forward.

Target potential media partners tactfully

More media outlets, stations, and content sites exist today than ever before. This is a good thing, as it provides you with lots of potential partners, but it also means that the value of any of these partnerships — at least when assessed individually — is more diluted than ever before.

Put together an extensive list of potential partners to target before you start reaching out. Consider which outlets might be a good fit for your book or topic. Consult folks working inside these companies and who lend credence to both local and international opportunities. That paid off for Carl Johan Ehrlin.

Understand what the media needs

Before you start reaching out, consider what the folks on the receiving end of your pitch want and need. You’ll find, more than anything else, they need quality content — books that are well-written, interesting, and new. That’s a given.

So think about what other value your book might add. What tie-in to audiences can you establish? Can you capitalize on your location, content, or theme? Some books lend themselves to be more “newsy” or controversial. Does your book make an allegation or accusation? Does it challenge the status quo? If so, sell that. All these themes could be the cornerstone of your book pitch.

Develop a focused pitch

Finally, after you’ve done all your homework, draft your pitch.

What this means, essentially, is that you’ll need to need to create a press release. This should be based on your core message and informed by what aspects of your book you think might prove relevant to different editors. Chances are, the folks you’re pitching will not have read your book. You’ll need to explain why your book deserves attention and you’ll need to do it quickly and succinctly.

But also be prepared to change or edit your pitch over time. You might be surprised at some of the quirky things that grab the attention of a reporter. That means you need to be okay with trying different angles.

Keep to a PR schedule

Finally, you need to make sure you’re approaching this job with diligence and grit. As such, it pays to abide by a specific schedule. Start out with this rather standard timeline:

  • Six months prior to your book launch: Create your website. Brainstorm ideas and craft a book marketing plan.
  • Five months out: Develop your press kit and media pitches. Pull together your advance review copy (ARC) media list. Start to solicit testimonials, if possible. Research the media you plan to approach.
  • Four months out: Send out your advance review copies (ARCs) to media that have long lead times. Schedule book signings and appearances if possible.
  • Three months out: Follow up on ARC media, including local TV and radio programs. Continue to query book stores and speaking opportunities.
  • Two months out: Contact non-book reviewer media. Approach online reviewers.
  • One month out: Start scheduling interviews. Finish ARC follow-up. Follow up with online reviewers. Look for more blogs and websites for outreach opportunities. Send your media kit to local newspapers and weekly publications.
  • First 90 days after the publication date: This is the time for interviews and stories to run. Media and bookstores see it as new and you’ll be at your peak in terms of attractiveness.

Marketing your book takes a lot of effort, no doubt. But with a little luck and a lot of grit, you’ll broadcast the news and introduce more readers to your hard-wrought words.

And who knows? Depending on what partnerships you manage to form, you might find yourself on that all-important list near the back of The New York Times — alongside sleepy bunnies and all the authors whose work you aspire to match.


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Trends in Publishing

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

The publishing industry gets rocked by a blockbuster title, and for years after that, publishers and authors play “follow the leader.” It’s smart — millions of books are sold and billions of dollars are amassed annually by chasing trends in publishing.

The publishing world is historically one of fads and trends. They descend upon the market like storms, altering the landscape. Ten years ago, it was Twilight-inspired vampire novels. Then came the phenomenon of young adult dystopia and Fifty Shades of Grey-style romance. And only two years ago did we emerge from the fad in which every other thriller novel included the word “girl” in the title.

Over the last two years, oddly, the industry has been in a drought, with no end in sight. That’s one of many things I learned when I attended the Book Expo America in New York City in 2018: There is simply no dominant creative trend dictating strategy in publishing right now.

There are, however, various shifts happening within the publishing industry regarding how insiders are finding new talent, and that will dictate the challenges facing new writers moving forward. Three of the most important trends in publishing include:

  1. Diversity continues to be a driving economic force
  2. The competition for readers has reached new dimensions (and media)
  3. Alternative media will drive tomorrow’s best sellers

1. Diversity is a driving economic force in publishing

One of the most popular sessions put on at the Book Expo was, “Opportunity Cost: Why Diversity is Financially Critical To the Book Industry.”

In it, panel members discussed just how influential the promotion of multicultural voices is — and will continue to be — in the publishing world. In this sense, they dismantled the conclusions of 2015’s “Diversity Baseline Survey,” which stated, “The publishing industry is white, straight, and physically able, and the vast majority of books published are intended for these audiences.”

The panel also highlighted just how quickly things are changing. The bottom line now is this: if authors and publishers do not embrace diversity, they will lose economically. That’s an easy concept to grasp when you consider the recent economic success of movies like Black Panther, Get Out, and Crazy Rich Asians, and even recent award-winning books like The Underground Railroad and Sing, Unburied, Sing.

“It’s incumbent upon us to make sure that diversity is front and center,” BookExpo/BookCon event director Brien McDonald told The Associated Press during a recent telephone interview.

The industry seems to be following through on this commitment. Other panels on the subject at the Expo focused on immigration, gender, and sexuality.

Panelist and publisher Jason Low was one of the authors of the aforementioned Diversity Baseline Survey in 2015. He summed up the momentum for mixed content in this way: “My doctor tells me that my gut or stomach health is at its peak when I give it a diet of different foods to digest — even unexpected new elements. Your reading appetite is just the same.”

2. The competition for readers has reached new dimensions (and media)

Another of the emerging trends in publishing is this: readers are accessing books in an ever-widening array of media.

Vienna-based consultant Rüdiger Wischenbart recently shared data around how much time people generally spend accessing entertainment on their mobile devices. One group, comprised by more traditional readers — such as urbanites, the well-educated, and folks over 40 — has seen their “mobile time” rise from a modest 26 minutes a day in 2012 to over one hour a day in 2017. The younger generation — let’s call them “Millennial Book Lovers” — spend almost three hours a day consuming content on their phone.

This increase in leisure time is good news. The bad news for publishers and authors is how potential readers are spending their mobile time. Consumers have a larger number of entertainment options at their disposal than ever before, and the data is suggesting that people are not spending their time reading books. That means you’re not just competing against other authors and books in the digital space, you’re competing with TV, social media, games, movies, and more.

“Digital means that publishing’s readership is somebody else’s viewership, and listenership, and gamers, and video fans, and rockers,” says Wischenbart.

There’s still plenty of money and attention available for authors — publishing industry revenue last year topped $112 billion, while the movie industry took in just $38 billion — but reader habits are changing. Authors need to be prepared to fight for their attention.

3. Alternative media will drive tomorrow’s best sellers

To garner attention, authors need to turn their focus to alternative media. That’s because one of the next big trends in publishing might just be alternative writing platforms, like Wattpad. Wattpad was launched 12 years ago and quickly turned into a fan fiction platform. Today, Wattpad might be the most important incubation ground for the authors of tomorrow.

How influential is this Toronto-based business? In the last five years, Wattpad has gone from five million unique users per month to over 65 million. The site now hosts over 550 million stories contributed by writers from all over the globe.

And these writers are getting noticed. Beth Reekles, from Newport, CT, wrote The Kissing Booth when she was 15 and published it on Wattpad. Now, she’s landed a major publishing deal and the book was made into a film that debuted on Netflix earlier this year.

While 90 percent of the average users of Wattpad are under 30, this platform isn’t just for kids. Famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood has embraced Wattpad and other new technologies as a better way to reach today’s generation of readers.

And traditional publishers love finding new authors on Wattpad because it doesn’t just lead them to talented new writers, it connects them to their very loyal readers as well.

Embracing diversity and innovation are the signatures of these new trends in publishing that will prove most influential in the publishing world of tomorrow. You would be wise to take notice.


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Six Myths  (and a Few Facts) About Traditional Publishing

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

Here are a few prevalent fallacies, as well as new truths, that all authors ought to recognize when it comes to traditional publishing.

Despite the constant upheaval that defines the current publishing landscape, many authors (and would-be authors) labor under some old “assumptions” about traditional publishing that are simply no longer relevant.

Myth #1: Traditional publishers serve as “gatekeepers”

As the argument goes… with a bloated book marketplace being invaded by millions of self-published titles, readers can depend on publishers to maintain quality literary standards as they allow only the best stories to be told through well-written tomes. This is false for many reasons.

First, publishing is a cold business. There is no noble mission to protect readers from bad books. Publishers put out books they think will make money — for the publishing house, maybe the bookstore, and possibly the author.

It’s true that traditional publishers are full of book professionals, some of whom are pretty good at spotting talent. The best placement editors also have an instinct for what the market will consume. They’ve published a lot of wonderful books. They’ve also published a lot of stinkers.

But if the gatekeeper myth were true, surely no good manuscript would ever be rejected, right?

Well, Robert M. Pirsig was rejected by 121 publishers, and still Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance went on to sell five million copies in the ’70s. Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by more than 40 publishers. And we all know the story of how JK Rowling’s first book was turned down by eight publishers before Bloomsbury offered her a 2,500 pound advance for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Myth #2: You can only make the big bucks through traditional publishing

The truth is, thanks to today’s self-publishing revolution, you have an equal chance at huge sales results no matter which route you choose: traditional or independent publishing. In fact, the vast majority of authors will tell you there isn’t a lot of money to be found in a traditional book deal. Sure, you get an advance check, which averages around $5,000-$10,000, but you have to earn that back before you see another dime.

Moreover, the royalties associated with publishing through one of the major houses are paltry. If you publish through a large publishing house, you can expect to make $1-$2 per book sold. To make matters worse, most publishers only pay authors twice a year, so you can’t expect to see your monthly income increase because of your book.

It got to the point that, in 2016, the US Authors Guild sent an open letter to the Association of American Publishers demanding better contract terms. In the letter, these writers stated, “Authors’ income is down across all categories. According to a 2015 Authors Guild survey — our first since 2009 — the writing-related income of full-time book authors dropped 30% over that time period, from $25,000 to $17,500.”

Myth #3: Traditional publishers will provide all the marketing support

Remember Oprah’s Book Club and the days when prominent book publicity tours included chats with Matt and Katie on “The Today Show?” Those days are long gone — even for potential bestsellers.

As marketing resources have become more scarce, publishers are only promoting titles they consider likely to succeed — such as a book by a celebrity author, a book on a subject that is currently red-hot in the news, or a book by an author whose previous books have sold well.

What’s left for all the rest? Not a lot, especially for unknown authors. You might appear in the publisher’s catalog, in a press release, and may get featured at a trade show, but you can’t count on publishers landing you an appearance alongside George Stephanopoulos.

As a matter of fact, many traditionally published authors are funding their own advertising and publicity, just like self-published authors.

Myth #4: A publisher will ensure my book gets on the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores

The biggest knock against self-publishing? Authors think it’s nearly impossible for their books to make it into bookstores around the country.

OK, it’s true that traditional publishing is almost the only route to bookstore placement, but shelf space is far from a sure thing for any new author. Even the most powerful publishing houses can only persuade bookstores to shelve a fraction of their new books. It’s a numbers game. With nearly 750,000 new books coming out each year, the best a commercial publisher can do is try to get your book on a bookstore’s shelves. If you’re not a hot commodity, you won’t be getting prime real estate — if you manage to get any at all.

Myth #5: Once you land a book deal, your author career is set for life

Loyalty to authors is, largely, a thing of the past. The duration of a traditionally published author’s career is controlled by his or her publisher, and it’s usually all about sales of the latest book. If your new book doesn’t perform well, the publisher will not want your next one.

In fact, your first book must perform exceptionally well before the next one will be considered for publication. And the odds are long: only one to two percent of all books published become bestsellers.

Plus, there’s a catch in almost every publishing contract, and it doesn’t favor authors. The standard publishing contract stipulates that publishers get first right of refusal on your next book — meaning, they do not have to publish your next book if they don’t want to.

Myth #6: If you self-publish, you kill your chances of landing a book deal

This is perhaps the most pervasive of these fictions. The reality is, if you self-publish a book and achieve some success — say, selling 1,000 copies or more — you can dramatically improve your chances of landing a traditional book deal.

Publishers want authors to come to the table with a ready-made “platform.” In other words, they want to know that you already have an audience and a product that appeals. Selling a significant number of books on your own proves exactly that.

But it’s not just about sales’ results. Talent scouts for traditional publishers will scrutinize everything an author is doing to promote his or her writing career. Does the author have a website? A blog? A social media presence? Are there speaking engagements? Book signings? These factors weigh heavily in a publishers’ decision to sign an author.

Truth #1: The biggest reason people still pursue traditional publishing is ego

There’s nothing wrong with admitting it. It would be fun to tell your friends, parents, high school English teachers, and your ex-spouse: “I have an agent and a publisher lined up to publish my book!”

But that’s where many of the advantages of traditional publishing end.

Truth #2: There are many compelling reasons to self-publish

I’ll just list the top three:

  1. By self-publishing, you’re not sharing your royalties with a publisher. Indie authors make more money selling 500 books than traditionally published authors selling 5,000.
  2. The traditional publishing timeline is long and slow. On average it will take 24 months to go from edited manuscript to a book arriving in bookstores. In the same two-year period, an indie author could have written, published, and promoted three titles.
  3. When you sign a traditional publishing contract, you are signing over all your control of the book. The words, ideas, pages, cover design — they’re no longer yours. You’re pretty much at the mercy of Mr. Bigtime Publisher — until they throw you out on the street because your book wasn’t a bestseller.

In the end, there is still much to celebrate about receiving a book deal with a traditional publisher. The added credibility can bring plenty of opportunities related to speaking, consulting, and much more. But it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you pursue a traditional publishing dream. It’s not what it once was, nor what most envision it to be.

 


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Your Book Needs a Pre-Sale Period To Be Successful

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This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com

A pre-sale period gives you an opportunity to build a foundation for your book’s success. Without spending the time and energy to make sure that foundation is ready, your book sales will suffer.

Want to know the best time to promote your book? Before it’s available to be sold.

Savvy authors know their pre-sale period can make or break a title and even start developing a strategy for targeting the market before their book is complete.  They understand that being “best to market” beats being “first to market.” The most successful authors are not thinking weeks in advance, but months.

I’d argue that your pre-sale period is so important, it should be the centerpiece of your book marketing and promotional campaign.

There’s a lot to do in your pre-sale period

Technically, your pre-sale period is the time between the moment you hand your book over to retailers to when it’s actually available to be shipped to readers.

First-time authors often see this time as a chance to relax. You’ve finally finished your book and shipped it to retailers. It’s time to take a break, right? Wrong. In fact, as an independent author, you now have a whole new series of responsibilities to take care of.

For example, if your book will be available on January 1, you need to make sure all the distributors you’ve enlisted to sell your book — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. — know that your book should become available on that date. It’s your responsibility to make sure all your partners have their ducks in a row.

To complicate matters, each retailer has its own schedule and process for handling the ingestion of new books. Some are on a weekly schedule, others are monthly. Because this involves the shipment of a physical book, there is a lot of prep work involved to set up an inventory number in each retailer’s catalog database.

If you don’t work to make sure everything is good to go for your book’s launch from a logistical standpoint, your sales will suffer. This is one advantage of partnering with BookBaby: we make sure your book is available in all your desired retail locations in time for your release date.

BookBaby handles the pre-sale workload for you

After you’ve approved your book proof and the file is finalized, BookBaby will send your digital files and metadata to our entire retail store network, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Books-A-Million, and the Ingram and Baker & Taylor catalogs.

Your readers — old and new — can order your book once it’s available for pre-sale, which increases your chances of becoming a best seller.

If you’ve put in the work, as your book enters the various retailers’ systems, your listing will start appearing on retail websites around the globe — usually two to three weeks after you’ve finalized your files. This is when the critical part of your pre-sales period really starts and when the work you’ve put into getting everything set up for your book pays off.

It’s at this time that readers are able to purchase and pay for your book. This is exciting, but there’s a practical payoff: the longer your book is available for pre-order, the more time you have to send readers to Amazon and the other stores to accumulate orders. All these pre-sale orders count as sales on your release date, which gives you a good chance at cracking some top-100 bestseller sub-genre lists on sites like Barnes & Noble and Powell’s when that date comes.

Your pre-sale period is critical for your success on Amazon, but for different reasons, as your pre-sale numbers do not increase your chances of becoming a bestseller on Amazon. Amazon counts pre-sale orders on the day your book is actually ordered, not all combined on the eventual release date.

That’s unfortunate, but there’s a reason why your pre-sale period is important as a self-published author on Amazon (and every other retail outlet): inventory estimates.

During the pre-sale period, Amazon uses its inventory algorithm to build a sales forecast for new titles. Amazon takes into account things like product page views, adds to wish lists, and actual orders. This data is used to compile a two-week inventory model.

The more traffic you can send to your book product page, the more copies of your book Amazon will order and restock.

Essentially, this is a way of proving to Amazon that you have a following and that your book will be successful, which helps your book become successful. Titles that are in stock will be listed on Amazon as “Available” and will ship immediately.

If your book product page receives little traffic in the pre-sales period, Amazon will likely not stock any inventory of your book at launch. On your Amazon page, your book will be listed as “Available To Ship In 7 to 11 Days,” because Amazon knows that most new books will, at some point, see some sales.

If some period of time passes and still no traffic goes to your page, Amazon might move it to “Temporarily Out of Stock,” which is the online equivalent of walking into your local bookstore and finding that your book is not on the shelves. Your readers can still purchase your book, but they’ll have to be patient.

This hurts you badly as an independent author who is depending on Amazon to help your book sell: you need your book to be there when your growing base of readers go looking for it.

Here are some ideas to help build buzz around your release

  • Plan. Plan out a multi-week pre-order period with a different promotion each week to help build interest.
  • Contests. Hold contests, do chapter reveals, conduct giveaways, and host your own blog tours.
  • Promote. Include a link to the book product page in all your emails, tweets, and social media updates. This makes it simple for your customers to order quickly.

At the end of the day, it’s never a good idea to neglect pre-sales or otherwise rush the release of your book. 60 percent of BookBaby authors do some kind of pre-sale work through us, and they are, almost without exception, the most successful authors we work with.

Quite simply, you need to build a pre-sale period into your book release timeline. Doing so will help ensure you are employing a best-to-market strategy.


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Every Writer Should Attend At Least One Writers’ Conference. Here’s Why.

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There are a lot of ways new authors can educate themselves about publishing and engage with the larger literary community. One is to join local writing groups. Another is to read blogs or become a Goodreads contributor.

But of all the means of jump-starting a writing career, perhaps none is more effective than attending a leading writers’ conference. In fact, even if you’re just aiming to become a better writer, you should attend a writers’ conference. Here’s why.

You’ll learn from professionals

A primary perk of attending writers’ conferences is the opportunity to learn about the craft and the industry from professionals.

You can do this by signing up for sessions, enlisting in workshops, or engaging in talks. The people who conduct the workshops and lead the sessions are often experts in the fields of writing or publishing. It’s hard to imagine a place where so many educational and inspirational resources are readily accessible.

Writers’ workshops also offer the chance to have your manuscripts critiqued — usually by industry insiders who are willing to offer personalized suggestions for improving your writing.

You’ll meet other writers

Where else can you meet hundreds of dedicated, interesting writers and publishers all at varying stages in their careers? It’s another major benefit of attending writers’ conferences. Chances are, you’ll meet someone with whom you really connect, and who knows what could come of that? You might start trading drafts or your new contact might even be able to connect you with an agent.

Writing is a solitary activity — publishing is not. That means you need to network and meet other writers and publishers who share the intensity and enthusiasm for writing as you do.

At the very least, you’ll make connections that will motivate you, but it’s also possible you’ll make valuable connections who can later review or otherwise endorse your books. You’ll also garner important nuggets of wisdom. Wherever you are on the road to success, you will meet others who have been there before and who are ready to help you.

You’ll meet editors and agents

Another thing you can count on at writers’ conferences is learning very useful information about the publishing landscape. In addition to writers, you’ll meet editors and agents who are looking for people who have a book or book idea that might make money for them — like you!

You might even have the chance to sit down with them face-to-face. This process is not only more likely to land you an agent than submitting your work to a slush pile, it’s also the best way to learn about what agents and editors are looking for, how the industry works, and which next step is best for you to take in pursuing your literary dreams.

You’ll get feedback

When attending a writers’ conference, one thing you’ll be sure to do is share your idea for your book with other writers and folks in the publishing industry. In doing this, you’ll learn a lot about the legitimacy and potential of your particular idea as well as how to improve your pitch when it really counts. The responses you receive in the moment will prove to be some of the best feedback you ever get.

And that feedback is powerful. Every time you share your book’s concept, the direction you need to take your book in — along with what changes you might need to make — will become clearer.

You might find a new market for your work

Conferences attract all kinds of writers. Some of them will likely write for markets you haven’t considered. They might even know of a publication that uses the kinds of things you write or a publisher who is looking for a book like yours.

Meeting these folks really does open doors, and a writers’ conference is one of the only places you can make so many connections.

You’ll leave inspired

Sure, you might meet another writer or publishing insider who can change your life — that really is a possibility — but there are other lessons, insights, and bits of wisdom available at these conferences that make them worth the trip.

Sessions, meet-ups, and happy hour gatherings can present unforeseen opportunities, along with lots of practical information you can put to immediate use. You might attend a seminar on how to prepare the paperwork for your nonfiction book proposal, how to format a manuscript, or how to send a query to an editor.

Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, these conferences offer the sort of nuts-and-bolts knowledge that can improve your writing and increase your efficiency in the business side of the craft.

At the very least, you’ll leave inspired. It’s invigorating to be surrounded by other writers — all that energy, hope, and determination is like a kind of electricity buzzing in the air. It’s infectious. I guarantee you’ll leave the first writers’ conference you attend hungrier than ever to actualize your writing dreams.

You can write it off as a business expense

Yes, you’ll get a tax break for attending a writers’ conference even if you haven’t started making money yet.

Look, at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. Ask just about every author who has attended a writers’ conference, and they’ll tell you the same thing: these conferences can catapult your writing career. They offer answers and clarity, wisdom and inspiration. They might even help you make a connection that changes your life.

Join Steven and a host of great presenters, speakers, and exhibitors at BookBaby’s 2018 Independent Authors Conference, November 2-4 at The Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia! The Independent Authors Conference is the only writing conference dedicated to helping independent authors publish successfully. Register now! Don’t miss this opportunity to listen and learn from some of today’s leading self-publishing experts!


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It’s Time To Publish Your Book Internationally

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This article originally appeared on Bookbaby.com

You’ve heard the phrase “content is king,” but it’s time to revise that to “distribution rules,” which is why you need to publish your book internationally.

More than any other book/publishing conference I attend, London Book Fair is a truly international affair, lending readers the opportunity to meet and talk with authors, agents, and publishers from all around the world.

If you’ve attended the conference in the past, you might have heard echoes of a sentiment first uttered by Microsoft’s Bill Gates that has been embraced in the publishing world: the idea that when it comes to publishing, “Content is king.”

It was in the early days of the Internet when Gates expressed this idea, and that line of thinking paid off for him. And there is a lot of truth in it: great stories are a big part of what sell books. That will always be the case. But as I prepared to represent BookBaby at 2018’s London Book Fair, knowing what I’ve learned about the new world of publishing, I offered an updated version of Gates’ guiding principle: Distribution is king.

Some have likened the concept of distribution as the “queen” to Gates’ “king” content, but I’m of the mind that these roles should be reversed.

Call it what you want — transmitter, network, bullhorn — distribution is the vital infrastructure that broadcasts authors’ messages. Without distribution, there is no discovery , no matter how brilliant the content.

Many authors still don’t lend credence to this fact. They believe that as long as they’re on Amazon, people will find their book. But that just isn’t true. For one thing, Amazon commands only a portion of US readership, let alone worldwide readership. And getting your book in the hands of readers who aren’t on Amazon and don’t live in the United States is becoming more and more paramount.

And while eBooks may have plateaued in the US, other countries around the world have embraced the technology. Tons of emerging nations, beginning with China — which now boasts the largest middle-class population in the world — are using their phones in ways that Americans don’t. They’re using it as a bank. They’re using it to conduct transactions. And, above all, they’re using it to read books.

In fact, in some countries, people can only read using their mobile devices. They don’t have bookstores and publishers don’t have the opportunity to sell print, either. Digital reading mechanisms have become the preferred medium for distribution. In some cases, they’re the only formats readers have ever been familiar with.

One of the reasons authors choose BookBaby is what I term our “books without boundaries” approach to retail store distribution. We’ve been at the forefront of printed book and eBook globalization, supporting the rise of digital publishing throughout the world.

The physical logistics of print books didn’t allow self-published authors to reach such widespread international audiences, but digital truly changes everything. It is called the World Wide Web, after all.

We’ve placed tens of thousands of books into Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo — all the major players — but eager readers can now find our authors’ books in stores such as the German eBook giant Ciando, the UK’s Gardners, and eSentral with its stores in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

The reason why we do this is that it’s so inherently valuable to sell your book internationally. In fact, the international English-language eBook market will soon surpass the US market. Some numbers shared by the eBook Bargains UK (EBUK) newsletter illustrate this point.

Sampling EBUK, you can see there are upwards of 75 million English speakers in the Philippines, over 40 million English speakers in Germany, 30 million in Bangladesh, and tens of millions in countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Thailand. In just India, Pakistan, and Nigeria alone, the number of English speakers exceeds the entire population of the United States. A very conservative estimate puts the number of English speakers outside the US at around 750 million, and that figure doesn’t include the UK (60 million), Australia (20 million), New Zealand (4 million), and Canada (25 million). To reach all these readers, authors need to make sure their books are available in the leading stores in each country.

The publishing world still operates in a primarily US-centric, Amazon-centric fashion, but we at BookBaby have seen the value of redesigning that focus. As of this year, almost 50 percent of our authors’ sales came through stores other than Amazon, and we anticipate our largest area of growth in the eBook market to come from emerging nations.

A survey recently conducted by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication reports the percent of adults in the country using their phones to read books increased in 2016. In 2015, 60 percent of adults in China used their phones to read; in 2016, that figure jumped to 66.1 percent.

Another 2017 study revealed that about 33 percent of the population preferred eBooks to print books — up from 25 percent as recorded in 2015.

At the end of the day, everyone on the planet has the potential to create eloquent, even life-changing, content. But without an audience — or, more precisely, without the right means of reaching that audience — that content will never be fully appreciated.

Which is to say, the key to availing your book to the largest possible audience is international distribution. Sorry, Mr. Gates.

Join Steven and a host of great presenters, speakers, and exhibitors at BookBaby’s 2018 Independent Authors Conference, November 2-4 at The Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia! The Independent Authors Conference is the only writing conference dedicated to helping independent authors publish successfully. Register now! Don’t miss this opportunity to listen and learn from some of today’s leading self-publishing experts!


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Your Book Needs Editing, Design, and Marketing (even if CreateSpace no longer offers these author services)

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When my first self-published manuscript returned from an editor’s desk carved in violent red ink, I learned one huge lesson: a book simply won’t be publishable without professional author services like editing and design.

Several years ago, I wrote a book that I planned to self-publish. My company, BookBaby, didn’t have its own in-house editing service yet, so I decided to use an outside firm. The first step was to send them my manuscript. After mailing it over, I remember thinking, “Hey, I’m a journalist. I know my way around a comma. There shouldn’t be too much revision necessary.”

I was dead wrong. Several weeks later, my manuscript was returned with pages carved in violent red ink. My book was hardly recognizable. Every sentence appeared to need revising.

The experience taught me one huge lesson: the importance of focused, professional editing. A book simply won’t be publishable without it.

The same is true of professional marketing and design services that ensure your book can compete in the marketplace. Independent authors lack the resources provided by big publishing houses; investing in these services helps level the playing field.

That’s why Amazon’s announcement that it is discontinuing its author services — the division of CreateSpace that offers independent authors editing, marketing, and design — is a significant development. These are important, necessary investments for independent authors to make. Amazon or no Amazon, skimping on these services won’t just limit your book’s potential, it could render your book irrelevant.

Editing

Professional editing is the most important investment you can make for your book. A poorly-edited book will turn off potential readers almost immediately. If your book is riddled with grammatical mistakes, structural problems, or spelling errors, it won’t have a shot at competing with books that have been professionally edited. In fact, self-publishing an unedited book can damage your reputation.

A few years ago, we worked with a preacher from Texas who served as the president of two Bible colleges near Dallas. He rushed to publish a book he wanted to include in his curriculum for the upcoming school year. He didn’t have it edited, and he printed 500 copies.

Once he had the book in his hands, he sent copies to his family and friends. Soon after, he began to get texts saying, “Page 6, there’s a typo.” “Page 14, there’s a typo.” In time, he wished he’d never published the book at all. Luckily, there was a happy ending. He sent the book out for editing, and BookBaby reprinted all of his books.

There simply is no substitute for professional editing. At BookBaby, the first question we ask when someone brings a manuscript to us is: “Have you had it edited?” If an author tells us they don’t have much money budgeted for their book and can’t afford editing, we advise them to print fewer copies and invest the rest of their budget in professional editing. That’s how necessary it is.

Your words are the most important part of your book. Treat them as such.

Marketing

Another investment independent authors should consider is in marketing strategies and resources. The better equipped you are with tools and strategies to market your book, the more successful that book will be.

One mistake independent authors often make is assuming their book will sell itself. This isn’t the case. All authors need to put in some marketing work. You need to identify your niche and you need to strategize how to establish relationships with your audience. Without putting in that work — which might include investing in services or consultants to help you — how can you expect your book to sell?

It’s not enough to make this investment just once, either. Publishing your book is not a singular event, it’s the start of a long adventure. Before you publish your first book (or even before you begin writing), you should create a Twitter account, an author website, and an email list. Once you’ve established these things, you won’t be using them just once. You’ll be building, polishing, and tweaking your use of them continuously. Using these tools is a skill that needs to be sharpened and honed.

This is why we encourage independent authors to learn how to market themselves and their books. There is not one blanket strategy or solution that works for everyone; yours will have to be built to meet the demands of your individual market space. Authors backed by traditional publishing houses are doing this stuff. You need to do the same.

Design

In 1964, when United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described his threshold test for what constitutes “obscenity,” he famously said: “I shall not today attempt to define [obscene] material … But I know it when I see it.”

The same threshold can be applied to book formatting: You can just tell when it’s been professionally done. And for independent authors attempting to compete with the big players in the publishing space, meeting that threshold is absolutely necessary.

Book design is an art form, and it encompasses more than just cover design.

At BookBaby, our designers turn what would normally just be text on a page into a pleasing reading experience. We do this work purposefully, considering what type of colors, textures, typography, and placement is appropriate for each book based on the genre and story.

Books designed without this level of artistry or care are going to prove less attractive to readers. Because the ultimate truth is, yes, people do judge books by their covers. This is perhaps even truer for readers looking for books on Amazon. On Amazon, authors have milliseconds to attract the attention of potential readers. If you don’t have your act together on the front of your book, you’ll miss out on a lot of readers.

At the end of the day, your book is a reflection of you and all the time and effort you put into making it. It is your legacy, and you don’t want your legacy polluted by something you’re less than proud of. Treating the editing, marketing, and design aspects of the publication process as seriously as you did the writing is the best way to ensure you are proud of your final product.


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You Can Succeed in the Marketplace as an Independent Author

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This article originally appeared on Bookbaby.com

You can succeed in today’s marketplace as an independent author. There’s data to back that up. Of course, statistics and sales reports won’t mean a thing if your book has not been professionally edited or if you rushed through the design process.

Hugh Howey is an independent author of 31 self-published books. He’s well known now, as he sold the film rights for his sci-fi series, Wool, to 21st Century Fox in 2012. But in his early days, like many independent authors, he had trouble gaining traction with readers.

He found that after self-publishing his books, there were no resources available to help him track how his book was performing compared to other authors in the marketplace. None of the mainstream tracking services — such as the American Association of Publishing — included self-published books in their reports. He had no way to tell who was buying his books, or books similar to his, and who wasn’t.

That is why Howey and his partner — a numbers-crunching self-published author aptly named the “Data Guy” — started Author Earnings, a resource that compiles all of the data that might be relevant to independent authors. It’s crammed with revealing numbers, including quarterly sales reports for both traditionally and independently-published books, regional-specific reports, and reports detailing eBook and audiobook sales. It then synthesizes that data in such a way that allows writers to make informed decisions about marketing their books.

For independent authors, that makes Author Earnings an invaluable resource. But there are additional insights from Author Earnings that authors need to be paying attention to. Here are a few notable nuggets of wisdom from the site’s latest report.

It’s a level playing field

Independent authors comprise a large portion of the industry’s most regularly-purchased authors, and while it remains that the Dan Browns and John Grishams of the world reside comfortably and consistently near the top of any earnings report, when it comes to independent authors, those spending time at the top are constantly changing. Rising new stars are making serious waves in the industry all the time.

Sure, self-publishing a bestseller requires a little luck. And, yes, the independent authors at the top of Howey’s latest earnings report got there because they positioned themselves for success by way of investing in editing work, cover design, and marketing. But what we can now confirm is that you don’t need to be a household name to publish a best-selling book.

You can publish a successful book whenever you want… almost

Author Earnings’ recent data illuminates that eBook sales are pretty consistent throughout the year. Print books sell better in August (for beach season) and December (for the holidays), but for independent authors, there is no bad time to release your book. That means there is no built-in advantage to releasing your book on September 1st versus February 1st.

The one exception here is actually December, which is something we’ve learned over the years: The hardest time for a self-published author to be discovered is the holidays. Readers simply don’t have the time during the holiday season to discover new authors. When they’re purchasing books as gifts, they’re looking for something they know the recipient will like and aren’t usually apt to taking risks.

You can use discounting to your advantage

There are those out there who will tell you, “If you don’t think your book is worth a dollar, neither will readers.” Those people haven’t looked at the data.

What the latest Author Earnings report also shows is that it’s not a “bad” thing for independent authors to give their books away for free or sell them for 99¢. Evidence shows that people are purchasing/accessing plenty of free and 99-cent books, which means selling your book at a cheap/discounted price is a potentially valuable route for independent – and especially new – authors to explore in the quest to find readers and create momentum.

For new authors, creating momentum is paramount. You want to build a readership, you want to get more reviews, and one great way to do that is to make your first offering easier to buy.

It is a bad business decision to limit yourself to one format

Here are a few important stats authors should know:

  • 30% of potential book buyers only buy printed books
  • 30% of potential book buyers only buy eBooks
  • 40% of potential book buyers vacillate between the two options

In other words, independent authors who choose not to publish print books are severely limiting their potential sales because they’re willfully neglecting 30 percent of the market. Same thing with eBooks, especially given the report’s emphasis on self-published authors’ success in the eBook market.

The self-publishing industry is thriving

Author Earnings confirms that independent authors are seeing real financial success when self-publishing books, and while there are fewer independent authors earning triple-digit numbers, the industry is rife with opportunity.

Of course, independent authors always need to ensure that they’ve spent the time creating a quality product before publishing. Seasonality and sales insights won’t mean a thing if your book has not been professionally edited or if you rushed through the design process.

Still, what independent authors should internalize is this: You can succeed in the marketplace. The data backs it up.

Join Steven and a host of great presenters, speakers, and exhibitors at BookBaby’s 2018 Independent Authors Conference, November 2-4 at The Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia! The Independent Authors Conference is the only writing conference dedicated to helping independent authors publish successfully. Register now! Don’t miss this opportunity to listen and learn from some of today’s leading self-publishing experts!

 


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