One year ago, we were getting ready to launch our first title, Blues for Beginners: Stories and Obsessions by Judith Podell, as an eBook only. We were starting from scratch. No idea how to do what we wanted to do--publish authors who deserved to be read but didn’t want to go the DIY route. Do it fairly and responsibly, at a reasonable cost. And then get the word out so the books would be discovered.
All we had was a deep belief that independent publishing was exciting. Important. We’d seen too many good writers unable to crack traditional publishing. Now there was a way to get their books to readers.
So we read anything and everything we could find. We joined groups. Made “friends.” Followed, anyone who was interesting. Subscribed to blogs. We bookmarked and clipped hundreds of pages of how-to and who-does. Just when we'd think we’d found it all, we’d come across a whole new group or blog with even better information.
Our next two books--In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work by Ellis Chase, and The Man Who Built Boxes and other stories by Frank Tavares--have done incredibly well. Yes, they're good books, professionally edited and laid-out with great covers. But the secret has been the authors. They’ve written blog posts, given interviews, made videos. Connected with readers.
Mistakes? Don’t ask. That way we won’t have to tell you about uploading the interior file from one book into the cover of another.
Overall, it’s been a great experience. We start our second year even more excited about independent publishing. We have a new book ready to launch in three weeks--Man from the Sky by Danny Wynn. We’ve got a fewl more already lined up for the months to come. And we're looking forward to hearing from new authors.
Here’s our take-away from our first year.
1. There is a staggering amount of good information about how to publish available for free.
We already knew there were thousands of excellent writers out there, what we didn’t know is how generous indie authors/publishers are with their advice.
2. Free days are useful in getting exposure for your books.
While they may not always make sense in terms of sales, they do give you a reason to hit several sites all at once. In our experience, they work best with BookBub. But it’s not cheap.
3. Blogging is a great way to get discovered.
For our part, we’ve read some great blogs--well-written, informative, invaluable. We keep finding new ones. But we’ve learned after all these months, that we’d rather read than write them. Call it blog fatigue, but right now it seems there are enough good ones out there,
4. Social media is overwhelming, time consuming, tricky, necessary.
But we’ve learned to like it. Reading through the first 50 Tweets of the day, we always find one or two things of interest. We still don’t really get Pinterest, but we like the food pictures.
5. The indie community is still trying to figure itself out.
While there may not yet be a consensus on terms--self publishing, indie publishing, artisanal publishing, author services, publishing partnerships--there are far too many experts willing to label anything a “scam.” And we’ve read way too many articles advising all writers to publish themselves. Strange advice for a community that can only thrive if people are encouraged to choose the path that suits them best. Yes. There are scams and companies charging far too much for the services they provide, but there are also committed small publishers who are honest.
6. The long tail.
The truth is that it’s hard, really really hard, for emerging authors to get their first books discovered. It may not happen right away. But there’s no reason why it has to.
7. None of this would be possible without Amazon, Createspace, Kindle Direct, Lightning Source, Smashwords.
Our first introduction to indie publishing was through reading Mark Coker’s books. We thought Smashwords was a great idea. We still do. But we’re confused. We’re ending our year with more than 300 downloads of the two books we have on Smashwords but less than 30 sales. These are books that are selling well on Kindle. A mystery. Even so, our books are available to readers around the world, on just about any device.
8. Marketing plans are an excellent idea.
But we’re still trying the “do everything in case something works” model. Maybe next year we’ll have something brilliant to say.
9. Working with good people who share your enthusiasm for creating high-quality books makes all the difference.
10. We want to end our first year and start our second thanking . . .
First our authors for taking a chance on us and trusting us with their work: Judith Podell, Ellis Chase, Frank Tavares, Danny Wynn, and Al Sprague.
Then the talented people we’ve had the privilege of working with: Lorraine Fico-White of Magnifico Manuscripts; Allie Cross and Stephanie Smith of 143 Creative, Alan Pranke of Amp 13; Lorie DeWorken of Mind the Margins; Michelle Lovi of Odyssey Books; Paul Krupin of Direct Contact PR; and booksbyKatina on Fiverr.
We wanted to include the names of the people whose advice we've followed even though they have no clue who we are, along with the names of the groups we've joined. But the list is long, our memory is short, and we're afraid of leaving someone out. So a general thank you to everyone in the indie community who's shared his or her experience and expertise during 2013. We're very grateful.
Happy New Year!
News about our courses, our books, our authors, indie publishing, and maybe bacon.