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Tough Love: Things No One Is Brave Enough to Tell Self-Published Authors -- Part 2

Posted: 05/19/11 11:58 AM ET

Co-written with Amy Edelman.

Part two in a series about what authors who are self-publishing need to know -- not sugar coated and not exaggerated. Part One covering: you need to write a great book and Self Publish for the Right Reasons, is here.

So what's next?

Damn it, learn the business.

Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. And once your book is finished, you essentially need to trade your writer's" identity for that of a "publisher."

In every business you need to spend money to make money. And since in your case it's your money at stake you need to spend it wisely and protect your investments.

And as a publisher there are certain things you're going to want to consider doing.

The most important is making sure potential readers know your book exists. No one can buy a book they have never heard of.

Traditional publishers achieve this with advertising and PR and co-op placement in stores. Of course different budgets for different books. But every book does get something - even if many believe its not enough.

Publishers typically make advanced reading copies and send them to a host of media contacts and reviewers. They buy ads online and off -- from small blogs to big sites like The New York Times or USA Today. They also advertise at trade outlets like Shelf-Awareness, Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly -- the very vehicles where their books are reviewed. While those ads don't guarantee reviews, publishers know if they don't support the outlets, the outlets can't afford to hire reviewers.

In addition, they use part of the marketing budget to place titles in the "Recommended" sections at the front of your local Barnes & Noble, in the form of co-op fees or pay for programs aimed at independent bookstores.

Nothing in the world happens for traditional publishers for free. And it won't for you either.

Give away promotional copies. Seek out affordable advertising and PR opportunities. Hire pros who you can afford. Get your book in front of important audiences like librarians, book clubs and book buyers.

Today there is a huge amount of information available to self-published authors but sadly, you can't just learn everything you need to know from one self-published author's blog. What you can do is Google the subject. Join SheWrites.com and Backspace (BKSP.org). Subscribe to Shelf-Awareness.com and Publisher's Lunch (Publishersmarketplace.com).

Read the maverick's blogs -- Seth Godin for one. Investigate the authors and books in your genre and find what writer's organizations they belong to. Even if you can't become a full member yet -- join as an associate, go the conferences and talk to the other writers. Especially talk to the other writers. You'll find that the ones published by the big six in New York will have a lot to teach you -- about your craft and the realities of the business.

Watch For Pickpockets

The minute you step out into the world -- manuscript in hand -- you stop being a writer and become a consumer to an entire industry that has sprung up in the last dozen years. Some of these companies are respectable and can offer you services that will help your chances of making your book a success. But many of them -- from publicists who promise to get you on Oprah for $1,000 to companies suggesting that a $25,000 book trailer will get you on the NYTimes Bestseller list -- are promising more than they can deliver.

If it was so easy there would be nothing but bestsellers in the world instead of less than 1 percent of all books hitting that status, so it's up to you to figure out who to hire and who to avoid.

How to do that?

IndieReader.com is in the process of compiling the first-ever graded list of services for self-published authors. Check there.

What else? Read the fine print of contracts, ask around and figure out which services are good and which are just designed to take your money. Find bestselling authors in your genre and ask them what worked for them.

Most important -- before you hire anyone, ask for references and then contact them. Make sure not only that the company is legit, but also that they have a history of doing what they say they're going to do. If it sounds too good to be true -- it's usually too good to be true.

M.J. Rose is the internationally bestselling author of 11 traditionally published novels, one self-published novel and one self-published nonfiction book -- Buzz your Book. In 1999, Rose's novel, Lip Service, was the first self-published book (e and print) to be discovered online and bought by a traditional publishing house. Rose is also the founder of the first marketing company for authors -- AuthorBuzz.com -- and one of the founding board members of ITW. She can be reached at AuthorBuzzco@gmail.com.

Amy Edelman is the author of two traditionally published books and one indie that she sold to a traditional publisher. She has been a publicist for two decades and is the founder of IndieReader.com. She can be reached at Amy@indiereader.com

 
 
 

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