On August 12, 2014, successful
In the 1970s, at the height of Don Pendleton's success with the original Executioner series, Don had this to say about his Mack Bolan books: "I do believe that I have managed to utilize highly, highly dramatic situations, perhaps bordering on the melodramatic to bring out the deeper values that are inherent in all human life. I’m very strongly aware that many young and impressionable readers read my books and I feel a sense of responsibility there. I work very hard to see that my hero is a truly three dimensional person with very high purpose. I try to present the things he does in the context of tremendous meaning."
Due to some mysterious technical difficulty I may never understand, my friend Bill Craig was unable to receive my direct invitations to become a contributor to this blog. So, I’m posting this on his behalf. Thanks, Bill, for taking the time to share your experiences!
Sometimes I see things which as a writer upset me. One of those things is when so-called small presses try to bully their writers into doing things beyond the scope of writing, such as voting for awards that the publisher controls so they can be viewed as having some sort of legitimacy.
Another thing, and this is something I am seeing more and more of, especially from certain genre small presses, is that they want to writer to put out blood sweat and tears to get them a product, and then let it sit on a shelf for years without ever doing anything with it. Sure this might have worked for publishing houses in the past, but now in these days of self-publishing that model is out-dated. Several friends have been going through similar issues.
I did a little work with a couple of them and had similar experiences to what the original pulp writers went through. Churn out the work, not get paid, and then it sits on a shelf, or rather these days in a computer file.
As a self-published author, I have control over my work from story conception to cover art. I do the interior design, get the story edited, make the necessary corrections, format it and get it out there. I market here aggressively and I network daily with readers and authors.
I do continue to work with on house because they do what the publisher is supposed to do, they market my new titles when they come out, and I generally produce 3-4 books a year for them. They took two titles I had self-published and got them selling, then when I brought them the Marlow series, they snapped it up and catapulted it to a best-selling series on Amazon.com
In the ever-changing market of indie publishing, sometimes the author has to take the time to do it themselves. If you don't know a lot about marketing, find someone who does and pick their brains, then apply what you've learned. Country music artist Taylor Swift was one of the first to use Social Media to propel herself to fame by using My Space to preview her music and build a fan base.
It takes hard work and perseverance to make yourself a success in this business. I'm a writer, writing is what I do, It's who I am.
—Bill Craig, Author
If you’re an independent and/or self-pub author and you’re not following Scott Walker, you might want to think about it. Scott is the founder of Brain Candy, LLC—an entrepreneurial media firm in L.A. that founded the Runes of Gallidon (an online collaboration fantasy world), among his many other business ventures like Transmedia L.A., an so forth.
If you’ve not been keeping an eye on Scott my question would be why not? There are a number of very successful eyes watching him, eyes in the publishing world, names that shouldn’t need any introduction. Like who? How about the notoriously popular Passive Guy or Alliance of Independent Authors?
Scott has demonstrated his leadership success with his many other ventures, and being a writer as well as a start-up expert in his own right, he’s come up with a new idea. A start-up that helps authors create their own start-ups in the world of self-publishing. It’s called DIY Scribe (@DIYScribe, http://diyscribe.com) and while Scott’s being a bit closed-mouthed about much of it, we had an interesting e-mail exchange and what he did tell me sounds great!
My friends, I’m excited at the idea. The traditional methods of writing and self-publishing, and marketing our work to get noticed and get sales simply DOESN’T WORK. We can social media ourselves to death (meanwhile using valuable writing time) and it doesn’t seem to make a difference for most of us. The great stories we hear about self-published authors and their successes are notable exceptions, and that’s why we hear about them. I’m convinced there’s no way to promote ourselves to the best-seller lists. There has to be a more excellent way. Scott’s proposing there is no magic bean, that a long-term proposition is the name of the game. I think he’s right and, for one, have pledged to be one of the first to sign up.
That said, there’s no kickbacks or double dealing going on here. We all want success in our self-publishing ventures and my Spidey-sense is tingling about this. Something here sounds different and new and invigorating. So I’m letting our blog subscribers know about it first. And as Han Solo tells Chewbacca in The Empire Strikes Back: “Keep your eyes open, huh?” Good writing to you.
The ProblemThe problem is not that these days traditional publishers (including the "Big 5") will do next to nothing to promote the books of roughly 95% of its authors. In order to understand the problem, you have to know why they don't do this any more. The reason is simple: most of the traditional methods of book marketing don't work. There are a whole list of reasons I could cite why that is, but the top three are:
- Market saturation
- Immature traditional model
Market SaturationIt used to be the book marketplace was highly competitive. This was due to limited shelf space and reader demographics. You see there was a time where every square inch of a brick and mortar store was for sale. Remember when new authors were released and you would walk into a B&N or Borders to find custom-made displays touting the author and the next big thing? Then the e-book and the self-publishing revolution exploded onto the scene around 2008. No more competition! Consider the number of books published in 2013. More than 1.5 million! And better than two-thirds of those were self-published or published by small presses. And with Kindle continuing to hold a very large segment of that market, there are way more books right now than there are interested readers.
CostMarketing of any kind is expensive and traditional publishers, even the big guns, already have anywhere from $10k-$50k invested per book. These days, those that give you any sort of (in)decent advance expect you to spend it marketing. Never mind you might actually need to keep your lights on or food on your table. That's why they say in most cases that once you get published: "Don't quit your day job." That's very good advice. Trouble is, a publisher who isn't willing to spend a lot on marketing probably doesn't expect your book to do well because they know the odds. Yet they still expect you to spend your hard-earned dime to market a book they won't, even when they have as much vested interest in selling it as you do? Now someone please tell me how does that make sense?
Immature Traditional ModelImagine you're a publisher. You have two authors with similar books (we'll go with thrillers since they seem to be one of the "biggies" right now). The authors have similar credentials and let's just say for grins they're both pretty equal in writing ability. Now say you're marketing people tell you one should get a $25,000 advance and other you should give $2,500. Now when push comes to shove, which author are you going to put your limited marketing budget on to promote? See what I mean? There's no rhyme or reason behind the traditional publishing model. Senseless!
What to Do?First, write the best book you can and (I can't stress this enough) write what you want to write! Don't write to market. You'll regret it. Then, find the market niche where your work fits. Goodreads is a great place to experiment, as are places like Wattpad. They won't come to you if they don't know about it, and they won't know about it if you don't find them. Get your audience involved, find out what tickles their fancy, and then take your work straight to them. And be sure to give credit where credit is due to those authors more experienced you reach out to help you.
Do lots of research on book marketing firms and do your homework. For example, my ad goes up tomorrow morning 11AM PST at Christian E-Books Today for Finding Faith. I did my homework to find them, and selected them out of MANY potential candidates because I felt they offered me the best deal for my investment. Moreover, the site is run by Christian authors so I know they can appreciate my difficulties and empathize with my need to market.
Finally, don't trust your publisher to do much (if anything) to help you. All you can do is make sure they're pushing your book to the sales teams that will get you into the brick and mortar stores (which sure as hell isn't as important as it used to be save for specialty markets like Christian and independents/local interests). And if they promise any marketing efforts when you sign with them, get it in writing. Otherwise, you have no recourse if they fail to meet their obligation. At least if they screw it up or don't come through as promised, you can add a force majeure clause and a rights reversion letter.
Just as with traditional publishing, the advice I've given you holds true for self-publishing when it comes to marketing your work. In fact, you'll probably see there's not much difference any more on the marketing front. And that fact remains one of the main reasons I have little respect or faith in traditional publishing. Seems to me we can do better on our own. Good writing to you!