Tuesday, September 17, 2013

So are we just a bunch of lazy self published authors?

It takes hard work to get a novel published.  No hang-on, let me just qualify what I mean by that.  It takes hard work to get a novel published by the traditional route.  It takes years of crafting, re-writing, skill honing, rejection, drama, self doubt, late nights, sore fingers, the love of a good editor, and a long period of waiting until somebody else deems you worthy.  There are no short cuts.  No lucky breaks.  And quite right too.  Nothing but skill and dedication, until one fine day you make it and see your words in print.  It is a day for toasting champagne, for elation, and self congratulation.  As for all of the self published authors out there who chose to go it on their own, well, they were really just a little bit too lazy to bother with all that, weren’t they?

Well that’s what one well respected author believes: that us self published authors (yes, sorry I too am one of the lazy writer’s out there) just clicked a few buttons and pushed out a half finished manuscript to the world full of typos and poor grammatical use of the English language because we couldn’t be bothered to hang around for a traditional publisher to pick us up.  We thought that we were just too damn entitled to be famous to wait for something like that.

It was back in August of last year that Sue Grafton, the bestselling American crime novelist made such comments to her local newspaper regarding self published authors.  She has since backtracked on her initial thoughts, describing herself as ‘still learning’.  She later described, after being reliably informed, that self publishing indie authors have in fact ‘blasted a hole in the wall’ between those who cherish their traditional deals and those of us out there who go it alone.  It is indeed apt to say that publishing was once like a pre 1989 Germany: divided and segregated, with us poor self publishers confined to the east with only a few lucky ones making it into the rich and lusted after west.  Now published and self published authors are living together and coexisting, and we are no longer a bi-zonal community. 

I think it is worth noting that it is often not an easy decision to self publish.  Nobody who has dedicated years of their life to preparing and perfecting their manuscript (and yes, some of us do) wants for it to languish in position 1, 300,000 on Amazon.com with only one sale which also happens to have arrived on the authors own kindle.  There are cover designs, trailers, editing, proof reading, beta readers to find, attitudes to shift: indies do it all themselves, and some of them are doing it really well.  The line is well and truly blurred, and as the world changes traditional publishing will continue to change with it.

So if you are self publishing, how in this cutthroat world can you carve out your own little niche.  How can you help to bulldoze that piece of wall that is blocking the way?  Here are a few ideas that have helped me along the way.

  1. Get a website
For me this has been a revelation.  I launched my first book in July 2012.  I had no blog, no website, and no idea.  After buying my own domain and getting to grips with one of the well know template platforms that allow you to design a website to your own specifications, I produced a site that was full of information that I wanted my readers to know.  Since I launched the website, the traffic to my blog and hits on my domain have gone through the roof.  There are lots of examples to give you ideas, mine included.

  1. Blog, blog, blog
Now at first blogging was starting to feel like therapy.  Talk talk talk, and all about myself.  Surely this cannot be that interesting.  Hey, maybe it wasn’t, but I kept at it and I got better.  You will get into the swing on things and people will find you.  The more you write, the more people will stop by to read it.  Plus if you keep it updated regularly Google will love you for it.  You will also come into contact with other bloggers who will perhaps share a guest blog with you, or do an interview.  This all adds to the quality and diversity of the blog and gives people something in return.  They might also then ask you to appear on their blog which opens up your audience and helps it to grow.

  1. Twitter
I had no idea what twitter was all about, but in the space of about 6 weeks I dramatically increased my follower numbers, found a niche group of people that will support me and retweet my tweets to their followers.  When I had a free book download day, I am sure that twitter was responsible for at least half of the downloads that occurred.  But it is easy to get lost in all the static, so make your tweet count, make it catchy, frequent enough to be seen, but not so frequent that people stop following you just so they don’t have to listen to you anymore.

  1. Facebook
When I opened my Facebook account I sent out maybe twenty or thirty friend requests in the first five minutes.  Within another five minutes they had all been accepted.  That is how connected the world is to Facebook, and therefore it is a platform that has the potential to bring in an immediate audience.  This place will really help you form a network of like minded people, and again as soon as somebody spots something you have posted if they like it they will share it.  Hey presto, new sets of eyes which means potential new readers.  Plus you can make yourself an author page, which will help you communicate with your readers and other authors and share information about important releases and dates.

  1. Make yourself the product
People want to know you.  They want to know who wrote the book.  They want a face.  I still remember the picture of Stephen King on the back of the first book of his that I picked up.  Immediately that black and white image told me that this guy is interesting.  At least to me, which was all that mattered when it came to buying that book.  Make sure you have an interesting biography and a way to communicate with your fans. 

Finally, the world of self publishing is tough.  It is full of difficulties and you will be knocking down bits of wall in all directions.  The most important piece of advice is to be kind to your fellow authors that you meet along the way.  When you get the chance to, give somebody else a bit of help.  A retweet here, a bit of blog space there.  They will thank you for it, spread the word, and maybe if you get really lucky they will leave you a review.  The most important thing in the world of selling books is opinion, and opinion doesn’t need a traditional publishing contract behind it in order to count.

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