Authors, welcome to the game.
It’s hard, and brutal. If you’re not careful it will swallow you whole.
I’ve learned this the hard way. Being a “self-published author” looked kind of glamorous, especially if you read stories about the likes of Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, or John Locke selling millions of books in just a few months. After five or ten of those articles, my head swam with large figures as I counted my make-believe money, and imagined the love and adoration of my dream fans.
So I sat down, wrote a book, learned how to format it for eReaders, designed my own cover in Photoshop, and finally published my novel.
And then something curious happened.
A few sales trickled in, mostly from friends and family, certainly nothing I could live on. I was not easily discouraged though and published another. But I found the same results. I “promoted” and got the word out, sales ticked up slightly but nothing like I imagined it would be.
Depression and disillusionment set in, where are the riches and glory?
Here’s the problem.
I was acting like an author, but not a publisher
Self-pub authors do publish their own work, making them publishers in the most basic sense, but simply publishing doesn’t make them a good publisher. It’s like saying that stringing some words together into a story makes someone a good author. It means you can write, it doesn’t make you good.
From what I can see, good publishers think about:
Good publishers worry about catalogs and overall sales.
Good publishers worry about how to get out more product before the new stuff is swallowed whole.
Good publishers do what it takes to get the book in front of people that want to read it.
Good publishers do a lot more than hope, dream, and wait for sales. Good publishers think about the bigger picture, they promote like crazy for their authors, and are always looking for the next big hit.
Authors need to start thinking like a good publishers, and eventually they will become a good publishers.
Here are some tips and ideas about how to start thinking like a good publisher:
1) Pay Attention to Your Customer
First and foremost. Above all else.
If you really want to control or influence your sales, find out WHO is buying your book(s), then find HOW they decided to buy it. From there you can make more intelligent decisions about how to promote your work to the right people in the right way.
This is not easy and why major companies (major publishers included) spend millions in market research etc… they do a lot of small things that make a big difference to the end user.
2) Write a lot more, with a Twist
Write like you’ve never wrote before. If you read writing blogs this may be the most common advice because it’s true. You should spend every waking moment you have getting new work out.
Or partner with co-writers to write faster. Use Google Docs to remotely collaborate on a novel or series with them and use the synergy to put out more titles.
Or find people that want to put out a book but just need a little encouragement, and publish the book for them. Walk them through the process of writing or find a ghostwriter (maybe yourself if you have time) to do the hard work.
The point is… get new titles out, period. Any way you can. Think like a publisher, not an author.
I’ve heard it said once that “Hope is not a sound business strategy”. While I do think that luck plays a big role in breakout success, it’s not enough. With all due respect to Konrath, sometimes luck needs a helping hand.
If you don’t want to market heavily or ride many waves of changing business practice, you have to hope that luck will swing your way. The best way to do that is to get new titles out all the time.
However, I think for the few that do BOTH of these, they will find long term success as a publisher. And as an author.
Josh Kilen writes books that help people live better stories. His most popular works are his bedtime stories for kids. Meant to be read night after night in serial fashion, these novella length stories are broken into easy to tell 5-10 minute episodes that always end on a cliffhanger. Your kids will be clamoring for the next episode. In addition to more bedtime stories, Josh is working on a book about Social Media Marketing for artists and authors, and he’s finishing an epic tome on artistic motivation using story and game design.