I come from a business background with a very basic understanding of Economics, namely the concept of supply and demand. As an unknown author, I face the problem of anonymity. No one knows who I am or about my book because I am one of a gazillion self-published authors. In terms of Economics, this means I am dealing with an infinite supply of ebooks I can provide to readers, and with this infinite supply, I have zero demand, which, under the basic laws of Economics, means I should put my price at the lowest possible rate until I can increase demand or demand increases on its own. Until said demand increases, I have few options.
One option is the low-price Amazon strategy and keep my book at $0.99, but there are a ton of books selling for $0.99 — how can I compete? Economics says lower the price; undercut the competition. If I want to offer my book at the next lowest price (free), Amazon would require me to pull down my book from all other sites and sell exclusively through them, and in return they would allow me to give away my book for five days over a 90 day period. I don’t want to be exclusive to Amazon, nor do I want my book forcibly for sale if I want to say, just give it away. But why would I give it away?
There is a literal glut of low-priced and free books out there. The slush pile has officially moved online. Self-publishing has allowed anyone and everyone to become an author, so now everyone is competing in a saturated market. I had a client in my freelance writing business recently who is in publishing and he was bemoaning the fact that media doesn’t sell like it used to because everyone wants something for free. And aren’t the makers of media slaves to what the consumers want? In this new era of publishing, is free what the public demands? Is $0.00 the new $0.99 — a price point that spawned a slew of self-publishing success stories?
What to do if you are an unknown author on a journey to find your future readers? Get reviewed.
This great list of online book reviewers comes courtesy of Kate McMillan at Outbox Online Design Studio:
Over the course of my time as a writer, there are three books that have helped me to better understand the technical aspects of storytelling and writing. Some of the things I try to think about when I write is – well – how I write, why I write and what it takes to make it all come together (hopefully) in a good way. To create a good book, or any piece of art whatsoever, requires the three most important S-words: Style, Substance and Structure.
Every writer has their own unique voice, but to develop a voice, it’s necessary to get those darn rules of grammar, punctuation and style down pat, which is where The Elements of Style comes in. If you’re a long-time writer, you have at least heard of Strunk & White’s little tome and if you’re new to writing, you need to read it. A word of caution: This book is a really dry read because it’s a lot of technical stuff about usage of the English language and you might have flashbacks of your crazy English teacher from middle school (I did). I promise if you apply the concepts described in The Elements of Style, you will see a noticeable improvement in the quality of your writing and so will your readers.
Stephen King is always an entertaining read. Being an avid fan of horror fiction, I have A LOT of Stephen King on my bookshelf, but the most-read King book in my library is not a horror at all — unless advice and anecdotes about writing and life hide under your bed and creep out to mess with you at night. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is an adventurous peek into the mind of a serious writer, someone whose life is fully concentrated on making their writing the best and most authentic it can be, with tons of substance.
King describes the tools and trade of the wordsmith in fantastic ways, and I personally think the energy of his narrative hearkens back to his days as a teacher, before he made the big time. Had he not written the classic horrors millions now enjoy, I don’t think the world would be worse off, because I’m convinced Stephen King, in the guise of a bookish English teacher in New England, would have quietly educated and raised a zombie legion of unstoppable writers. I guess with On Writing, he is sort of doing that now. Crafty, Mr. King. Very crafty.
The final book on this must-have list is not as much a book about writing fiction as much as it’s a book about dramatic structure. Dramatic structure is so, so important in writing because if there is no drama, no panoramic emotional peaks and valleys, well then you’re stuck wading through the flat places of the world you’ve forged, left to wander aimlessly in marshes that bog you down and deserts that sap you of your vitality. Dramatic, yes?
Save the Cat is a book for screenwriters written by Blake Snyder. In it, Mr. Snyder showcases the best ways to map out your story, develop a strong plot, and inject your book with the ingredients that keep your audience glued to the page, whatever your genre. Honestly, Save the Cat changed the way I approach writing projects in such a way that enabled me to finally finish my first novel.
And of course, the list doesn’t really stop there. Whatever book you are reading, read it for enjoyment and also read it to understand literary style, substance, and structure.
Happy reading and writing! Have a great day!
Last week, I posted a list of of book review Web sites and when I went to start submitting my book to the list’s linked sites, I found many were down. Then, I noticed the link I posted is from like 2010! 😦 Oops! So, I fished up a more current and extensive list courtesy of The Indie Review. Here’s the link to the list: http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/
A pro tip I’ve learned about querying anyone about your book: Personalize the communication. Spend time on the reviewer’s blog, find out what they like to read and their style of review. If it suits you, submit your query per the reviewer’s submission guidelines, expressing why you are interested in them as a reviewer and why they would be interested in your book. ALWAYS follow submission instructions and – ESPECIALLY – be polite and professional, even if you get turned down for a review. The whole “you get more bees with honey than vinegar” thing.
I hear a lot of talk that self-published books are invariably low-quality and badly written and yadda-yadda. People who talk like self-publishing isn’t legit or quality need to get with the times, quit trolling if they are, or accept the fact that the monolithic publishing model of yesteryear is crumbling. Market share of titles by self-published and produced authors is growing. Ask Hugh Howey, who put out the numbers earlier this year that show self-published titles as capturing along the lines of 30+% of total market share. (Google it. It’s everywhere.) Oh, and look at The Guardian awarding a monthly literary prize for self-published books. Must be the crazy train. I’m getting on.
While researching how to best market SHINER (coming Tuesday, 4/22/14!), I found this gem from Mark Coker at Smashwords.
The download is free and available in multiple handy electronic formats.
Mr. Coker covers all the bases of writing a good, well-edited book, the importance of an eye-catching cover, and how to market effectively. All for free! I highly recommend this as a must-read for anyone looking to self-publish their book.
Since deciding to self-publish my book, I am discovering that this marketing stuff is going to take some time. Luckily, there is a ton of great information online about how to effectively market a book. Here are a few resources that I have found helpful.
Of course, self-publishing is now so easy because of the internet marketplace and booksellers like Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Kobo, and many others. Here is a handy list of online booksellers, compiled by Kay Tan at Honkiat.com: 20 Websites To Sell Your EBook
Another important part of marketing is getting people to actually read your book and review it, which requires networking with bloggers and hopefully connecting with readers of your book’s genre. Sam Missingham at Futurebook.net has a great list of bloggers who are looking to review books. Make sure you send review requests only to those who read specifically for your genre!
As I mentioned before, there is a TON of information about marketing a book online. I will post anything I think might be interesting to you, reader friends.
If only I had discovered Caro Clarke’s writing advice ten years ago…
Formerly an editor, now a writer, Clarke dishes useful advice for writers with goals of publishing. Her writing advice articles are posted on her Web site, and she also tweets on the Twitter.