Considering Self-Publishing: A Panel Conversation, Part 2 of 4

This is a series of blog posts transcribing a Google+ Hangout conversation I had in October 2012 with a panel of experienced book authors, book marketers, writing & publishing coaches and a few people who had some burning questions for our panel!

Previously we discussed:

In this second installment, address our second Question, panel recommendations for: How to Market, Promote and Sell Your Book?

Further discussion points in upcoming posts include:

  • Q3: Who To Consider When You’ve Decided to Self-Publish
  • Q4: Coaching From Concept Through Publishing

Book Authors & Publishing. For this second episode of #SparkleSOS, as with the first, we had a Facebook RSVP Page and Google+ Event Page. I also created a Feedback Form, which I encourage you to fill out to add your thoughts and help shape the next #SparkleSOS Hangout.

Transcribed by: Alex Conde

Here is the video:

Debbie: Okay, that’s a great suggestion and I really like how Richard suggested funding the hard copy book by publishing first digitally. I want to jump a little bit ahead and jump into some of the questions people are really wondering about, such as “How do you really market and sell your book?” because that’s when you’re going to start see a return on the time, and the blood, sweat, tears and money that you’ve put into your book. So, I’m going to throw this one to Michelle to start off since I know that’s what you really focus on – after post-publishing and marketing. Can you tell me a little about what the most common challenge people face and what are some tactics for resolving it.

Michelle: The biggest challenge people face is really not understanding that they’re going to have to market their own book – even if they have a publisher. I’ve worked with authors from all the big publishers and it’s mind boggling how little a publisher can afford to do these days to help an author market. But it is easy to get sidetracked and go down a road where you’re doing facebook, twitter, squidoo, amazon, blogging, etc… and before you know it you’re not writing anymore. You really have to pick and choose. You have to dig deep and find out where your personal strengths are.

When I work with an author who might be a sales expert, I might suggest to them that they go on LinkedIn and start a group, and focus on teaching people sales. That then becomes the online platform to drive people to either their website or amazon or their own personal website, depending on their goals to move their book. It depends, author to author. I know one author who sold 60,000 copies of a book on twitter. But she worked twitter for about 18 months before she even published the book. She worked full-time, making connections with people before she published, while she was writing the book. I can’t share who it was, but it was in the music genre. I don’t think she says that’s how she became a New York Times best-selling author. But, as the authors on the panel know, agents and publishers look for your platform when they’re picking you up.

Debbie: So they look for an existing audience…

Michelle: Absolutely. But you don’t have to have it everywhere, you just have to have an audience. So, your whether your audience is because you teach local workshops or your audience is on your blog, you just have to have it. So, if you’re not a networker and you like to write, then blog. There’s always somewhere. So, that would be my advice. Don’t be everywhere. Stay with your passion, your strengths, and don’t go crazy. Find the one thing you can get passionate about and use that to market your book.

Debbie: Do either of you have more to add about your experience?

Richard: Well, I can say for me that it was more the face-to-face, doing book tours and book festivals, signings and friends. Just going and meeting friends. Everyone loves to get a signed copy and maybe sell it on e-bay one day. And using social media as well. I’ll probably use that a lot more with the new book, Orphans of the Creek, because I don’t have that physical copy. For me, it was also about selling myself as well. Because when you’re speaking to people, you’re selling your dream and talking about your story while they tell you about their experience.

A lot of the people I sold books to on my tour were writers themselves. So that to me was a big help in getting my name out there and selling books. Social media helps, but I think for me, Raincloud at the time it came out in 2008, the face-to-face was more important than the social media. But now that I’ve got more of a handle on that over the last 2 years I’ll use it a lot more. But, I would say that 60,000 is a great number of books to sell, but that’s more of an exception than the rule.

Michelle: Absolutely, it was an excellent launch. Definitely a best seller.

Richard: Why would she even want a traditional publishing house? That’s funny. A lot of people who say they self-publish with the goal of getting a traditional publishing contract… I’m not sure why they would want to do that if they have the means to go about it themselves. Maybe not throw a bunch of books in a truck and go coast-to-coast with gas at $1.30 a litre. I don’t know what the return on that would be, but still, I don’t know if anyone else has any comments on self-publishing and staying self-published or if the goal is to build that audience and get a traditional publishing contract.

Christine: I’ll go ahead. I think it depends on the book and the platform that you have. I am working on a book now that I’ll definitely be seeking a traditional publisher for. It’s a fiction. I’ve never done full-length fiction before, so it’s new for me. I really want that safety net that they have. It’s absolutely true that publishing houses won’t do your marketing for you anymore, but they will work with you. They have the ability to open doors that are difficult or impossible to open. So, it depends on the book I think. I definitely, really encourage people who have never been published to try self-publishing. It just breaks down so many personal barriers for them to say they have a book. And, as everyone else on the panel has said, self-publishing is not the vanity publishing that it used to be. I want to tell you a little story about the Writers Union of Canada.

The Writers Union of Canada does not, right now accept members who do not have a traditionally published book. But they’re talking REALLY seriously about it, because so many members of the Writers Union, some of whom are really revered authors, are actually stepping into self-publishing and Debbie and Richard, you met one last night, that was Bill. His publishing credits speak for themselves and he stepped into self-publishing. I think that is so awesome! And it absolutely proves that the world is so changing for self-publishing, so I really encourage people rather than the frustration of sending out a million query letters and getting or waiting to get a million rejections, get out there and make it an e-publication if you don’t have the budget to do a hard copy but do something toward making your dream a reality.

Debbie: Michelle, did you have something to add to that as well?

Michelle: (experiencing technical difficulties)

Richard: Can I touch on that last point while we’re working on audio? I think there’s a difference. While Bill is a great example of someone who thought, “Y’know I’m going to try this self-publishing thing and see if I like it.” And he had a great experience with it, but I think the vast majority of self-published authors aren’t Bill. Bill already had that audience, he has years of experience and people know who he is. Your typical self-published author is coming out of left field and they still have to do all that work. So, it’s great that he did that but there are a lot of challenges, as you know, that your typical self-pubber has. A lot of obstacles, but it is a greater learning experience than going in blind with a traditional publisher.

Christine: Well the thing too is Richard, if you’re having no trouble getting an agent, and no trouble getting a publisher, then by all means. But if you’ve been trying for a year just to get somebody to read your book and you know it’s sitting on the slush pile, then, rather than abandoning the project and becoming discouraged, it might be worth trying to self-publish.

Richard: Well I agree and I faced that after being in the slush pile I thought, “Do I leave my book Raincloud on my computer, or do I actually go out and do I get it out to people.” And I believed enough in it that I wanted to get it out there and I’m glad I did too. Otherwise it would still be there.

Christine: I love what you said, you believed enough in it, and Debbie maybe you can get Richard to expand on it or remind us what we heard last night, because I think all of the authors we heard last night spoke about how absolutely essential it is to totally believe in your book.

Debbie: I think last night was really interesting for me because it was the first time I’ve seen a group of authors speaking so openly and so honestly and for me even it was a bit overwhelming to take in. But truly, I think that no matter what you’re doing in life, no matter what your project is, there will be walls that you come up against and challenges that you really need to turn into a positive opportunity, and you need to have the personal fortitude to walk through those challenges because if you’re still being challenged you’re not done yet. If you haven’t finished the work you’re not done yet, and you can’t give up until you’re done. You’re done when you’ve succeeded and you’ve achieved everything, and then you move on to the next thing. Otherwise, you curl up and die. So, I think that that passion was exhibited and spoken about was very strong and very obvious.

Michelle: There are times when I think that if you can get a decent publisher it can be valuable. Or if you work with somebody that’s going to help self-publish who knows the ropes because you do need a good editor. Rarely can you write your manuscript and publish it and have a good book. So, you want someone to help with the process of either editing, and putting the book into a package that’s marketable and saleable. And some of the self-publishing houses are better than others at that piece. And so the other time when you may choose to really go for a publisher if you can get one is if you are really a writer and are never going to be able to market because it’s not what you do and you’re pumping out the books one after another.

I have an author who does about 4 or 5 romance fiction books a year and she’s at number 30 or something. She just keeps them going. There’s a stream, an audience for her. So those are a couple of instances where this makes sense, but she didn’t get a publisher without some work in the beginning and she’s had that publisher for a number of years. But again, if you’re going to self-publish, it’s worth hiring someone who can take you through the process the first time, because I have seen as many horror stories around self-publishing as I have success stories. And even if it’s just a quick consult to sort of understand all of the options out there in the world I think it’s worth it.

Richard: I’d like to touch on one thing that was just said as far as the differing levels of services and the competencies of editors with different self-publishing companies. I would recommend to anyone who’s thinking of self-publishing is to find an independent editor outside of self-publishing companies because the markup is ridiculous and what they charge to do anything for you is unbelievable. They charge per word, which I never understood why editors charge per word.

The minimum fee you can look at for an editor is $50 per hour. My editor charges more than that and she did a great, great job. iUniverse as well, they did a great job editing Raincloud and I have no complaints about the editorial work they did. But the price was a little exorbitant, so I’d recommend to anybody doing as much work as they can as far as design and as far as editing before you go to any self-publishing house that offers those same services.

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