Therese here. Today’s guest is editorial consultant Tracy Marchini–a former literary agent’s assistant at Curtis Brown, Ltd., book reviewer for BookPage, and freelance copywriter for Scholastic. I was intrigued to learn that Tracy had published her first ebook, PUB SPEAK: A WRITER’S DICTIONARY OF PUBLISHING TERMS–a book she says defines more than 400 publishing terms. From the press release:
PUB SPEAK explains commonly used terms from all sides of the industry. Terms defined include those used in contracts and royalty statements, crafting fiction and non-fiction, ebooks and audiobooks, social networking, retailers and distributors, industry and author organizations and awards, and general publishing terms. Designed for both aspiring and established authors, PUB SPEAK can be read through for a deeper understanding of the industry, or used as one would a traditional dictionary.
Sounds like a valuable resource to me. I’m happy that Tracy’s with us today to discuss some of the things she learned while e-publishing her book. Enjoy!
Five Things I’ve Learned By E-publishing
Even though I’ve worked in the publishing industry and continue to work as an editorial consultant, I have certainly learned some important lessons in publishing my first ebook, Pub Speak: A Writer’s Dictionary of Publishing Terms. I hope these five lessons can help you as you think about your path as an indie or traditional author!
1.) You cannot do the cover yourself, unless you happen to be a graphic designer.
There was a brief moment where I thought to myself, “Well, I’m artistic, perhaps I can do my own cover.” Despite the fact that I’ve advised plenty of people to invest in professional cover art, I still spent some time in front of my computer with MS Paint, a sketchbook and a scanner. Luckily, this bout of insanity was short lived, and I accepted that I had to follow my own advice.
I spoke with a book designer and also requested Mark’s List from Smashwords, which is a free list of ebook formatters and cover designers. In truth, I didn’t like any of the cover art on the Smashwords list as much as I liked the cover art I knew Michelle Davidson Argyle had done for her own books. I emailed her and, luckily for me, she agreed to do it!
2.) Free books don’t bend the laws of physics.
As soon as I had a finished file of the book, I started emailing book reviewers for reviews and blog tour spots. Traditional publishers generally send books out six to eight months in advance for reviews. But since I wasn’t working with a magazine’s lead time or competing with Random House for attention, I was hoping I might still be able to score a review or two from book bloggers in time for the publication date. Though I wasn’t surprised when that was an impossibility, I was surprised by how swamped indie and regular book bloggers already were!
In thinking about it later, it made perfect sense. With self-publishing, POD and digital publishing becoming more and more accessible, there are thousands of indie authors seeking reviews for their work. Since Pub Speak is currently only available in digital format and is a reference book, it restricted even further the number of reviewers who would be open to reviewing a copy. I have a feeling though that trying to score your first few reviews for a novel could be just as difficult, as again most indie authors are fiction writers who are working from the same list of reviewers.
Alas, even if a reviewer loves the idea of your book, they still may not have the time to review it.
In traditional publishing, there is a ton of pre-publication publicity and marketing done which is designed to launch a book as big and fast as possible. High orders from buyers will hopefully propel the book on a best-sellers list before it even hits the shelves, and then it’ll stay on the list and on the shelves because people are paying attention. The book has become popular among consumers, because the publisher made it popular among book buyers. Most books however, will be off the physical shelves within three months, which means an author has a short window of time to keep their book in the bookstores.
In self-publishing, the business model tends to be more of a slow, gradual growth that’s built on a number of successful books. Self published authors should be prepared for the long tail, where the first orders are a spike of friends, family and followers, but the real success comes over a longer period of time. Though most self-published books will never sit on a bookshelf, by self-publishing Pub Speak, I can keep it available for as long as I desire – giving it the time that it needs to grow.
4.) Like most things in publishing, in the beginning, you’ll do a lot of work for free.
In this case, the free work isn’t an internship or writing a couple novels that don’t sell, but it’s the marketing and promotional work that you can’t immediately link to a return. In fact, so far I’ve probably spent all my profits from the book on buying Kindle and Nook editions for reviewers!
My marketing budget is more of an abstract idea at the moment than a hard figure (that last fact might be a “do as I say and not what I do” sort of moment), but the truth is that it is going to cost you some money to market the book, and it’s also going to cost you a lot of time. I am still amazed at the amount of time it takes to find book bloggers and reviewers, communicate with them about the book, send out copies, blog, find guest blog opportunities, manage a blog tour and work on the next book (which for me is a softcover edition of Pub Speak). Marketing the book is a part-time job on top of my full-time critique business. I certainly have a ton of respect for marketing and publicity people at the traditional publishers – you do a lot of work, and it’s not always easy to link the return on that investment!
5.) Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Though this headline could also apply to the idea of self-publishing itself (and it is true, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it’s your best option), I’m actually talking about checking your sales records on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. It’s going to be difficult not to wake up and immediately open the relevant sites to check on sales, and then to check them every fifteen seconds thereafter.
Just because you can figure out how many people have bought that week, that day, or even that hour, doesn’t mean you should. It’s like how you occasionally have to give yourself a Twitter break, lest you realize you’ve done nothing all day but talk about squirrels in literature. So remember to give yourself a break. You (and your friends) will be happier if you do!
Thanks for a truly valuable post, Tracy!
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Andrew Mason