Sunday, August 16, 2015

5 Secrets Every Indie Author Should Know

This is the first post in the this series that was originally offered at an Open House, August 8-10 with All Writer Workshops. Continuing classes are available on these topics. You may view all currently scheduled classes there by clicking on the All Workshops tab.

5 Secrets Every Indie Author Should Know

This week I'm doing the overview of the topic. Over the next FIVE weeks, I'll be posting several times during the week relating to that topic. Sunday will be my "lecture." Monday-Friday will be responses to questions asked relating to that topic. 

Please do not keep these secrets to yourself. Share them with your author friends. The more indie authors understand, the more successful they will be. Better yet, sign up with your email so that you get every post delivered directly to your inbox.

1. Craft DOES matter. 

Yes, I know everyone can cite a bestselling author who made millions even though her book was riddled with typos and misspellings and didn’t follow many of the rules for story. The point is that you cannot base your career on the outlier—the lucky one, the one created a character who overcame the reader’s notice of problems, or the one who hit the zeitgeist the first time out.

Sure, it MIGHT happen to you too. And I hope that it does. More likely your book will have to compete with the millions of books out there, and TV, and movies, and video games. To do that your craft needs to be better than average or readers will crucify you. Even if you get them to buy the first book—because they didn’t see the craft—they will not come back for the second book if they get distracted by a lack of good developmental and copy editing.

I’ve been writing and publishing for nearly 40 years—starting with short stories and then moving to novels and non-fiction books. I still take craft classes. I still have things to learn and I know I can always improve.

I’ll be sharing some of the key writing craft problems that get books stuck at the bottom of the discoverability chain. I’ll also talk about the different types of editors and how you can use them to best help your book succeed while still keeping within a reasonable budget.

2. Understand Copyright and Licensing. 

It’s more than legal mumbo jumbo. It is key to your entire career. You must have a good handle on exactly what your copyright means, how to protect your intellectual property, and how you to exploit it through licensing your work.

I’ll be sharing basic information that explains copyright and licensing, as well as a step-by-step instruction sheet for how to register your copyright; and a tip sheet with a checklist of items to consider when someone wants to license your books.

3. Think like a publisher. 

If you are an indie author, that means you are now a publisher. You need to wear two hats—your writing hat and your publishing business hat. If you are unable to do that, your long-term profitability is in jeopardy.

Publishers think like a business. They develop business plans. They think beyond one book. They think objectively about what the investment should be in the business and they try to predict how long it will take to get a return on that investment. Can you accurately predict how long it will take to make back your expenses? Do you know at what point your business will no longer make sense? Or when you should invest more to expand more?

Again, I will share some of the key elements you need to consider as a publisher. We will discuss ways in which you can build a basic plan and make critical decisions about profitability, output, and investment in the short-term so that you don’t end up spending too much or getting burned out before you actually start making money.

4. Distribute widely. 

 The fastest growing markets for e-books, right now, is outside of the United States. Japan, India, Germany, Latin America are really hot markets—even in English. There are many ways to reach these markets and it’s not always through the major distributors (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Google). You need to know how to get to your readers consistently, the pricing they expect, and which markets fit the books you are writing. The sales percentages may start out low (1% here, 8% there), but when you begin adding them up it can make a difference in your ability to do more than break even. That extra 10% or 25% outside of your normal distribution network can put you over the top in profitability or allow you to expand your business or afford help.

I’ll share some of the hottest markets outside of the normal five distributors and ways you can reach them. We can discuss at what point in your career it is worth investing a little more in distribution and marketing, and when it helps to go with an aggregator instead of uploading everything direct.

5. Indie Publishing is NOT an overnight success story. 

 It Takes Time. You need to be in this for the long haul. You make money by writing more content. Every new bit of content you put out—whether that is a short story, an article, a novella, or a full length book provides another chance for readers to discover you, to like you, and to buy everything you’ve written. The writer’s who are making the most money are the writer’s with many titles. This is because of the “long-tail” of e-book publishing. That means that books you published ten years ago can still be paying you today—especially if they relate to the new books you are publishing today.

Readers love to know what they are getting when they buy a book. That is why they return again and again to the same authors. That is why they often won’t even try you until you have three or four or five books in your catalog. They want to know you will still be there when they want another book by you.

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