Without beating a dead horse (or beating a horse I beat a lot anyway) (why are we beating horses?), it’s a pretty exciting time to be involved in publishing. It’s moving from a model that has worked OK for quite a while, into a new, fast-paced digital realm where creators have more control than ever before. In fact, you- yes, you– can whip up your manuscript, have your graphic designer friend put together a cover, hit F7 and upload a file and bam, you’re a published author. Sit back at watch the money roll in.
Except, not. The notion of an overnight success is a lie, and you aren’t the exception to the rule and neither am I. I see author after author approach it like it’s just gonna work, like somehow their art is going to carry them and they’ll blow up or whatever. I honestly don’t know what they want, because it is dreadfully apparent that they have no concrete goals and no business model whatsoever.
What you and I, as authors, need to realize, is that writing is an art. Telling stories is an art. Selling books is a business. This is why ‘traditional publishing’ works. You write a book; they handle the business. So if you want to be an indie author and eschew traditional publishing, the truth is that you have to become a traditional publisher.
Allow me to illustrate: Let’s say you want to open a cupcake shop. There are some definite steps you have to take in order to be successful.
You have to spend money to make money: If you’re selling cupcakes from a cart, the mall, or a cute shop, it costs money. Likewise, you can’t expect to have zero outlay before your book is successful. Quality editing, artwork and formatting cost money. So does advertising. There are ways to save money on all these things, but don’t expect it to be free.
Someone else thought of it already: Everyone likes cupcakes. They’re one of the greatest things on earth. People like books, too, and there’s a pretty darn good chance someone out there has something similar. You have to compete with them- especially in the crowded indie field, since you’re playing from behind the traditional crowd as it is- so make damn sure you stand out. If all you do is put your book up on KDP and tweet/facebook about it, it will quickly blend in with the background noise of all the people doing the same damn thing.
You might have to adjust your recipe: This could take a variety of forms. Maybe your marketing isn’t working, or one aspect of it is and others aren’t. Adjust accordingly. This, of course, opens up the whole ‘selling out’ debate, which I don’t care about in the least. Again: it’s a business. If your book doesn’t sell, what needs to change to make it more appealing? Dickens changed the ending of Great Expectations so it would be more appealing. You might have to do the same.
Some people don’t like cupcakes: Those people are idiots. Some people might not like your book, and they might not be idiots. But it doesn’t mean your book is horrible. Follow the golden rule of the internet: Don’t read the comments. Don’t let a few bad reviews trouble you. If there are good points in them, learn from them. But some people just aren’t going to like your book. Screw ’em. Move on.
Have definite, attainable goals: And do your homework in setting them. Sales numbers, review copies distributed, reach of ads, the release of your next book, the list goes on. Write those goals down. Look at them every day. Check them off and set new ones. Evaluate why you didn’t reach goals and revise your plan accordingly.
Go forth and sell cupcakes. I mean write.