The Rise of Self-publishing
Beatrix Potter was turned down by six publishers before she decided to publish 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself. A few years later, Ezra Pound sold 100 copies of his book of poetry A Lume Spento at six pence each.
Thanks to the internet, self-publishers nowadays can hope to reach numbers much higher than that. Services like Print on Demand and digital printing, online retailers like Amazon, and tablet devices like Kindle and iPad all make it possible for self-published writers to achieve widespread distribution. With all these platforms available, many have been encouraged to take their fate into their own hands, resulting in a 160% increase in self-published titles between 2006 and 2010 (reviews.cnet.com).
Taking this approach gives writers additional freedom and additional responsibility, as the design and management of the product is now theirs alone. For many, the greater responsibility produces greater reward, as well. For example, Amazon offers self-publishers 70% of revenue on digitally published titles, compared to 25% offered by traditional publishers (cnet.com).
The Importance of Self-Marketing
The fact that anyone can self-publish means that anything can be published, making it more difficult for one’s work to get noticed. As a result, marketing becomes even more important, but self-publishers lack access to the resources, contacts and experience of traditional publishing companies.
Those who’ve had success say that getting that first reader is the hardest part. After that, anything can happen. A title can go from nothing to top of the Amazon sales charts in a matter of days. Gaining a small fan base can play a huge role in initiating momentum.
According to CNET, effective methods to ensure a book gets the initial attention it requires include:
- Good cover design: Despite the old saying about books and their covers, they are all readers have to go by at first, so it’s important to get them right. In the case of e-books, the cover needs to be attention-grabbing, even in a small format, as this is how it will appear to people browsing an e-book catalogue. Many self-publishers acquire the services of professional graphic designers, knowing the investment will likely pay dividends.
- Social media: The internet provides the platforms that make self-published work possible, as well as the best means of marketing such work. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook groups related to the tags are all effective means of promotion.
- Titles: Optimize the title for search engines. Aim for unique titles that can show up in searches likely to be used by the target market but which won’t be lost amongst a sea of similar products.
- Aim for a niche topic if possible. Not only do they stand out in a crowded online marketplace, but they’re also more likely to be sought out on the internet in the first place.
- E-books are most likely to lead to success. Though many writers long to feel a printed product in their hand and know it was their creation, e-books are the better option financially for self-publishers, at least to start with.
One of the major advantages of self-publishing is the significantly reduced length of the process. What takes years by the traditional route can take months through self-publishing. So, if the book deals with topics that are relevant now, they’ll likely still be relevant when it’s released.
Emulating the Methods of Successful Self-Publishers
According to the Telegraph, Kerry Wilkinson became Kindle’s best-selling author in in 2011 with self-published crime fiction. He wrote the first installment titled Locked In while working his day job as a sports journalist. He sold the novel at 98p a copy and marketed it through social media and his own website.
Other examples of successful self-publishers include Amanda Hocking, whose paranormal romance titles have sold over a million virtual copies, and John Locke, a businessman from Kentucky who sold millions of e-books, including one which explains how he sold millions of e-books (How I sold 1 million e-books in 5 months).
Aspiring writers can take courage from their success and learn from their methods. Self-publishing puts both writing skills and business savvy to the test, but writers deem the reward worthwhile, for through self-publishing they can truly write for themselves.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/451851
Article by Matthew Flax
Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of House of Publishers, a convenient repository of information on all things publishing, including a directory of publishers world-wide.