For the last couple of years, I’ve stubbornly refused to self-publish my novel, Forgive Me, Alex, despite the fact that obtaining an agent during that time carried about the same odds of success as winning the lottery. I believed what I’d read about the experience of so many others: once you go down that road, you’re stuck there. Agents and publishers would look down their noses at writers “forced” to self-publish their obviously sub-standard books.
Okay, time for a reality check: most self-published books are sub-standard. Most. Not all. We’ve long referred to self-publishing markets as the “Vanity Press” for good reason.
Enter e-Readers. Yes, the world is changing, and it’s dragging the publishing industry, no doubt kicking and screaming, into the unknown future. Fewer people are buying physical books, in part because fewer people are reading books—period! However, much of the market decline is because more people are making the switch to electronic formats such as Kindle or Nook. This is undoubtedly not news to you.
Yet how do we authors, in particular the newcomers, respond to those changes? Should we continue to bang our heads against the wall in the hopes of finding a literary agent, and then a “mainstream” publishing contract? We all know that publishers don’t support first-time authors with much, if any, marketing muscle, and that they pay poor advances and royalties to those who don’t already have a large following. Most authors don’t even make a good living off their books, and have to supplement their incomes elsewhere.
Given the high royalty rates paid to authors in the e-markets, an author might make more on a $2.99 e-book than he makes on a $24.95 hardcover book. And what about audience reach? How many potential buyers might one reach who are willing and able to pay the $2.99 for an e-book, but who are not too crazy about the price tag of a hardcover? Is the whole world going electronic anyway? Is there any stopping it?
My attitude about all of this has changed drastically over the past two years. I’ve now concluded, against every stubborn inclination I possessed, that readers will continue to go electronic. Yes, there will always be a market for books you can hold and feel and smell, but that will be the niche market. e-Books will be the mainstream.
Thus, I have not only decided to e-publish my novel, I’ve decided that I need to do a lot of research before pulling the trigger. If you thought the “Vanity Press” was creating a lot of white noise in the publishing market, wait until you see all the new entries into the e-publishing world, where one doesn’t need thousands of dollars to get their book out. Talk about noise!
How shall we rise above that loud crowd? How shall we separate the wheat from the chaff? First answer: MARKETING. Your work must be visible through the cloud of nonsense that will inevitably appear. You must then build momentum. Second answer: PROFESSIONALISM. For long-lasting success, you must establish a solid reputation for good work.
How do you accomplish that in a way that gives you the best chance for success? If I may steal from the bard: “Aye, there’s the rub.”
Well, I have some ideas, and I’m working out a plan with the help initially of one co-conspirator, as it were. We intend to establish a TEAM of like-minded individuals (authors, editors, marketers, web developers, graphic artists, etc.) to make sure we do it right, and to extend the opportunity to new authors.
Stay tuned. More is coming soon. Very soon.
‘Til next time, and as always, remember: To write well, you must work hard. To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn’t be lazy.