Closing a week of posts about the launch of the Alliance of Independent Authors at London Book Fair, this (long) post offers:
- A fascinating and lively podcast discussion I took part in on The Naked Book, about self-publishing’s place in the industry.
- Some favourite quotes from the launch of ALLIA.
- Links to some great follow-up posts by bloggers who were there
- Best tips for those thinking about self-publishing from four superb indie authors.
[That’s me in the photo on the right, getting a tad over-excited on the day. With thanks to Catriona Troth for the picture, which sums up the mood that was in the room at London Book Fair: delight that successful indie self-publishing is now so accessible for writers. And that writers are finally taking our rightful place in the driving seat of the publishing industry.]
1. Self-Publishing and The Publishing Industry Now
Post London Book Fair Roundup by The Bookseller’s Philip Jones’s Book Show: THE NAKED BOOK. (Litopia Radio) with yours truly, Nick Harkaway, Sam Missingham, Piers Blofeld and our fab UK Advisor, Joanna Penn.
Download the MP3 HERE
2. Best Quotes from The Launch of ALLIA
- JOANNA PENN, Author and Director of The Creative Penn: “The way indie authors are pushing the boundaries is awesome. It’s like the sixties.”
- MICHAEL TAMLYN, KOBO Vice President: “When authors are given control and visibility, they do amazing things that the traditional publishers out there are just not doing… You’re going to need a much bigger room next year.”
- THOM KEPHART, AMAZON Createspace Community: “Self-publishers are extremely important to Amazon. You are the people who make it happen.”
- JONI RODGERS: “Amazon… is like that big sandworm in Dune. Sooner or later you realise, either it’s going to swallow you up, or you’re going to get up there and ride it! I’m riding that sandworm, baby.”
- LINDA GILLARD: “When I finally realised that I was going to go indie permanently, I felt so elated. There was a real sense of creative freedom.”
- DAN HOLLOWAY: “Self publishing affords the writer something that’s vital to every artist: the freedom to fail.”
- VANESSA O’LOUGHLIN: “This initiative is just what self-publishing writers need — this nonprofit organisation of writers working together for each other is about to become a real force in publishing.’
3. Best Links about the ALLIA Launch
4. Best Advice for Self-Publishers
- If you don’t like promoting yourself and your work, don’t become an indy author. Achieving online visibility is our biggest challenge and there are few short cuts to this. Resign yourself to putting in a great deal of time seeking out potential readers, cultivating bloggers, joining in discussions (not just about books.) This is all part of the job so don’t regard it as a chore. See it as an opportunity to make new friends with shared interests. Even if you don’t make a sale, you might make a friend.
- Promote by stealth. Nothing turns readers off more quickly than relentless self-promotion. They hate it because it’s selfish and boring. Instead of promoting your books, cultivate relationships with readers. Rightly or wrongly, readers assume interesting people write interesting books. If readers become interested in you as a person, they’ll be open to the idea that they might enjoy your work.
- So engage with readers on blogs, in discussion forums, on Facebook and Twitter. In the course of chatting, tell people about your books – just a little to whet their appetite. (This is where it’s handy to have a USP, killer synopsis or tagline.) Then if they show interest, tell them more.
- Be sincere. Readers aren’t stupid. If you engage with them solely for the purpose of self-promotion, they’ll pick up on this and resent being used. Not only will you not have sold a book, you’ll have created a bad impression. Readers don’t want authors cold calling, they want new friends. The trick is to persuade them that their new friend also writes good books.
I have been saddened rather than heartened by much that has happened in self-publishing since the launch of the Kindle. Self-publishing is now (and fair play to everyone concerned) a place where people can set out their stall and hope, with a following wind, marketing acuity, and great writing, to make a decent crust. Which means its landscape is much like the landscape of mainstream publishing. And the conversations self-publishing writers have are, now, about how to market, how to format, what their sales figures are. It is a conversation that is increasingly squeezing me out the way regular publishing did. Or, rather, it is a conversation that regularly threatens to subsume me the way regular publishing did, and that would be my biggest single piece of advice to a self-publisher – remember why you’re doing it and don’t be a magpie. Don’t let sales or invitations or publicity distract you – unless they were the reason for self-publishing, in which case go for it.
- Seek out online forums and groups where readers go to communicate with each other and with authors, such as Goodreads Groups, Kindle Forum UK, Kindleboards, Mobileread.com, Amazon Discussions. Also use Facebook and Twitter, and bring readers to your work with content-rich blogging, posting, forum debating, done sincerely to communicate, not cynically to “sell”. Consider the use of free promotions such as Amazon KDP Select. 18500 people now have The Survival of Thomas Ford in their Kindles or Kobos or PCs or Ipads as the result of promotional giveaways.
- Try to get local press interest (and work on your titles). Three local newspaper articles helped generate interest that got The Survival of Thomas Ford into bestseller rankings or kept it there, all with snappy titles: “The Literary Survival of Author John Logan” – THE NORTHERN TIMES; “Positive New Chapter for Thriller Man” – THE HIGHLAND NEWS; “City Author’s Ebook Breaks into Top 100”- THE INVERNESS COURIER
- Take your book into your own hands. Remember the maverick spirits that have gone before, in other mediums too, like Bill Hicks, or Sam Peckinpah, who would not accept the warping and tainting of their vision. The author needs to remember, now more than ever, their own power and responsibility to their own work and vision. Only in that way is the reader being respected also. Mikhail Bulgakov, John Kennedy Toole, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, they wrote masterpieces which never saw one word in print during their lifetimes. If only they had access to 2012-style epublishing that need not have been the case, so it need not be the case for you now unless you let it be.
- Zealously protect your writing time. This is the greatest challenge for me. Now that I’m in charge of either overseeing or executing editorial tasks, design, marketing and PR, the actual writing too often gets pushed into a smaller space, and that’s just ass-over-teakettle crazy. If we’re not in it to write, why are we here?
- Ignore all those apocryphal tales of self-publishing glory and riches. That’s less than a handful of success stories out of millions of self-published books. If your oncologist said, “This cancer treatment is absolutely proven effective in one out of four million cases!” would you be signing up for that? Me neither. We’re all reinventing the wheel here. Do what feels right for you.
- When you do score that coveted book contract, sign an agent or sell your first 20,000 books, don’t let it go to your head. Keep the old Golden Rule of show biz in mind: Be nice to everyone you pass by on your way up. I guarantee you’ll be seeing them again on your way down.