When navigating self-publishing, indie authors are faced with countless choices. Decisions must be made on how and where to publish a book, what marketing strategies will be used and whether or not self-publishing is a stepping stone to finding an agent or traditional publisher. As the owner of a self-publishing boutique, I field a lot of these questions for authors. One of the resources that I frequently use is BookLife from Publishers Weekly.
Not only have I found the site to be a wealth of reliable information, but two of my own books have been successfully picked up for a review by submitting through this platform.
I recently had the opportunity to ask editor Adam Boretz about BookLife and what's available to indie authors.
Crystal Ponti: Tell us a little bit about who you are and your role with BookLife.
Adam Boretz: I'm the editor of PW Select, Publishers Weekly's monthly supplement that covers the self-publishing world and features reviews, announcement listings, profiles, success stories, how-to pieces, and industry news -- all with an indie author focus. Additionally, I'm the editor of BookLife.com -- PW's website dedicated to indie authors.
CP: What is BookLife and what benefits does it offer the indie author?
AB: BookLife is the website PW created to better cover and serve the self-publishing community. The site features a lot of content that can help indie authors as they navigate different aspects of self-publishing: so there are stories about everything from using social media to market a self-published book to selecting the e-book platform that is right for you. Additionally, there's news, reviews, author Q&As, profiles, features, columns, and a lot more -- all of it curated for indie authors. And, self-publishers can submit their books for review consideration for free to PW -- just by creating a profile and registering their books -- or sign up for PW Select, the magazine's marketing program for indie authors.
CP: How important is a Publishers Weekly review to the indie author?
AB: Reviews from a publication like Publishers Weekly can definitely be important to any author -- indie or traditionally published. For indie authors, a PW review can be great for marketing, for publicity -- it can help your book get noticed, and it can help you get your book onto shelves at bookstores and libraries. PW is read by agents, booksellers, editors, and librarians, so if your book gets reviewed the publishing industry is going to know about it. We've heard from indie authors who -- after their books were reviewed in PW -- got calls from agents or people wanting to adapt titles for film.
CP: What percentage of all books submitted are selected for review? For those declined, can they resubmit at a later date?
AB: The percentage varies by genre -- more sci-fi and romance get reviewed than, say, history -- but overall I'd say that we review less than 25 percent of all submissions. Of course, the site is less than a year old and I think as the program becomes more established, we'll see that number increase. Indie authors can only submit the same book for review once, which is the same policy the magazine has for traditionally published authors.
CP: How can an indie author increase their odds of having their books selected for review?
AB: PW judges all the books it receives for review by the same standards, so aside from writing a really great book, I think indie authors need to make sure they are submitting a professional quality title for review. This means the book has been edited, copyedited, proofread. The book has been professionally designed. It should have a great cover. I think indie authors need to look at everything a traditional publisher does -- or is supposed to do -- for its authors and find a way to replicate those services themselves. So that might mean using their own skills or finding professionals services to fill in the gaps. It might mean hiring an editor, engaging a fact checker, or working with a professional cover designer.
CP: What are some other ways authors can market their books through your platform?
AB: PW Select -- which has the same name as our monthly self-publishing supplement -- is our main marketing offering for indie authors. PW Select provides indie authors with an announcement listing -- this includes the book's cover, a brief description of the title, and on-sale information -- that appears in the print magazine and online. A listing is essentially a way to announce your book to the publishing industry - it's very similar to the seasonal announcements the magazine runs of forthcoming books from traditional publishers. Additionally, we promote books registered for PW Select on our social media channels, on the homepage of both publishersweekly.com and booklife.com, and in our weekly self-publishing e-newsletter, The BookLife Report.
Of course, as we said before, reviews are a great marketing tool, too. And BookLife has featured authors and featured books sections, both of which highlight some of our best reviewed indie titles. And we feature successful authors on the site's homepage and in The BookLife Report.
CP: Does BookLife offer tools for creating and publishing indie books?
AB: BookLife doesn't offer tools for creating or publishing books. We have a lot of resources on the site that can advise indie authors on best practices on pretty much every aspect of self-publishing. But we're not venturing into actually creating books or publishing books.
CP: The site is currently in beta. What are the future plans for BookLife and will any currently free services become fee-based?
AB: A lot of new and exciting services and features are coming down the pike for BookLife -- and nothing that is currently free will become fee-based. The next big thing we're launching is called Services Directory, which should launch in the next month or so. Services Directory will allow BookLife users to advertise and/or engage relevant publishing-related services. So, for example, if you're a proofreader or a cover designer, you can basically put up a shingle in BookLife's Services Directory offering your services. And, conversely, other users or indie authors who are in the market for editorial or art services can hire you to proof their book or design their cover.
CP: What is the one piece of advice you would give those on the fence about self-publishing?
AB: I think anyone considering self-publishing -- or traditional publishing for that matter -- really needs to assess their goals both for their project and their overall career and pick the publishing path that works best to meet those goals. Recent advances in self-publishing and relevant technology have created a lot of opportunities for writers -- you can be an indie author, a traditionally published author, a hybrid author. But the decision is one that should be made carefully -- so do your research, learn about what goes into publishing and marketing a book, consider your goals, consider where your book fits into the marketplace. There's no one answer when it comes to how to get your work out into the world -- and thanks to the changing nature of publishing there doesn't have to be.