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What a *novel* idea: Sorting through publishing options [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from author Amanda from The Drive. It was first published on her blog on August 17. If you’d like to write a guest post, we’d love to have you! Just shoot us an e-mail or give a shout to @duolit. Now, on to Amanda’s post:

As most of you, dear readers, know, I’m in the final stages of writing my very first manuscript ever.  Of course, my next steps would traditionally include the following:

Photo: Rosmary | Flickr

  • drafting a query letter
  • spending almost as much time editing my query letter as I did editing my novel
  • investigating the genres, submission requirements, likes, dislikes, and bathroom rituals of every agent out there
  • selecting a few agents to whom I will send my shiny new query
  • biting my nails
  • piling the rejections on my desk
  • biting my nails
  • finally landing an agent (hopefully!)
  • revising to the agent’s specifications
  • …and, well, you know the rest.  I won’t bore you.

However, now more than ever, we have so many more OPTIONS.  Unpopular options.  Options they don’t tell you about on the normal forums.  In fact, on one of my (unnamed) writers’ forums, when I brought up the question of what an agent and publisher actually DO these days, I was immediately shot down.  Basically, I wondered, if we authors are responsible for the twitter and the blogs and the youtube trailers and much of the book tours, why should we have a publisher?  With the new popularity of e-books, it seems that publishers who focus on hard copy books are on their way to becoming somewhat obsolete.

Crazy.  I know.  Don’t shoot me yet.  Just look at Barnes & Noble, one of the largest booksellers in the US who just went up for sale.  The new e-book revolution has rattled them to the core and even their answer to it, the Nook, doesn’t seem to be able to save them.  As stated in a recent New York Times article, “the threat that has the industry and some readers the most rattled is the growth of e-books. In the first five months of 2009, e-books made up 2.9 percent of trade book sales. In the same period in 2010, sales of e-books, which generally cost less than hardcover books, grew to 8.5 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers, spurred by sales of the Amazon Kindle and the new Apple iPad.”

And, here’s another staggering statistic found in the Guardian: “Amazon now sells twice as many digital books as hardbacks in the US.”  It’s looking like more and more people, both companies and independent authors, are moving towards e-publishing.  Don’t believe me?  How about checking this article at Market Watch.  I could give you a slew more, but I’m sure you all have access to google.  And frankly, these days this type of article is not difficult to find.

Not only are authors like Ray Connelly (as featured in the Guardian article above) publishing their own books digitally, but some agents are taking advantage.  One top agency caused a huge industry conflict by cutting a deal with Amazon (Kindle) for digitally publishing many of their authors’ older works.  Check out the NPR interview here.

Scared?  I am.  When the market is flooded with e-publications by every aspiring author and their grandma, not to mention agents that want to bypass the publisher and publishers trying to remain afloat by going digital, how will my little novel ever get noticed?

That’s a good question.  But when you think about it, is it really that much more difficult than sending a 1 page query letter to an agent who receives 150 nearly identical letters a day, hoping to be noticed?  I don’t think so.  And, with self publishing digitally, you risk nearly nothing (other than your pride, which gets risked in the traditional pathways anyway!).  Not to mention, the rights to your story remain your own to do with it whatever you like.

I’m not saying I’m going to self-publish my book, but what I am saying is…it doesn’t look like such a bad option.

Thanks for your perspective on the publishing options available, Amanda! For more from Amanda, visit her blog The Drive or follow her on Twitter @acasile.

Self-Publishing Success – What it is and How to Achieve It [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from author Carol Buchanan. If you’d like to be a guest poster, we’d love to have you! Just shoot us an e-mail or give a shout to @duolit. Now, on to Carol’s post — enjoy!

Good writing. Hard work.

In four words you have what I’ve learned about successful self-publishing since my first self-published novel came out in July 2008. There’s no secret, no magic. Success as a self-publisher comes from good writing and hard work. You make a pact with your readers to write the best you can, tell the story as best you can, and work as hard as you can to get the word out to as many potential readers as you can.

Notice the repetition in that last sentence? You can.

Given good writing and hard work, you can succeed.

When you self-publish, you define success. Do you want to write a huge bestseller like The Shack and have your book picked up by everyone in the world, with amazing royalties and publishing contracts? That is a dream; it’s not a definition of success. If that’s your idea of success, you’ll be sorely disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Anything less you might consider failure.

So decide on something reasonable as a goal, that stretches you and makes you work. A good goal lets you consider yourself a success when you’ve met that goal. I wanted to write a good, truthful story about the Vigilantes of Montana (1863-1864). The readership I knew would be a small niche comprising Montanans and those interested in Montana’s colorful history. What happened was a pleasant surprise. God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana won the 2009 Spur award for Best First Novel, and readers have loved it. The novel has sold around a thousand copies and is still selling.

Goals differ with every writer. For example, you might want to leave your descendants the story of  your life and times in a format you can be proud of, that can be handed down the generations.

So, then. To succeed as a self-published writer, measure success against the goal you’ve set, coupled with the date you expect to reach that goal.

Suppose your goal is to sell 10,000 copies. That’s an enormous number for a self-publisher. Although we hear of writers who reach that number quickly, they are very few and far between. If you have special expertise in a hot topic, like the study of food chemistry in combating cancer, and you can write that in a way people enjoy reading it, you might have a big winner. Or, perhaps your target market is large and easy to find. You have a new wrinkle on zombie or sci/fi  stories. It’s perfectly okay to revise the goal or the time span as you go. After all, life happens. Perhaps a baby comes, and what is more important than that?

Whatever your goal, decide what you have to do to reach it. For example, to sell more copies, you have to inform more people that it exists. You can do that on the ground, by visiting appropriate outlets – bookstores, hospital gift shops, or feed stores, depending on your book. Plan to make perhaps 3 – 5 calls each day. In a 5-day week, that’s 15 – 25 calls. Introduce yourself and have a sell sheet ready that will tell owners or managers everything they need to know to make a purchase decision. Your friends and family and other connections will help you, too.

To promote the book online, take advantage of the free social network marketing sites. Not all of them will be a comfortable fit for you, and you won’t have time to get into all the possibilities. Try them out and then concentrate on the ones that work for you. In 2+ years, I’ve found Twitter to suit me best, with Facebook second and LinkedIn third. I’m still learning to use them all to the best advantage, though.

Limit your efforts to the most you can handle, and pace yourself, because self-publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.

You can do it. Yes, you can.

Award-winning novelist Carol Buchanan is a native Montanan fascinated with Montana history.  Her debut novel, God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana, won the 2009 Spur for Best First Novel from the Western Writers of America, and a short story, “Fear of Horses,” won the 2008 LAURA award from Women Writing the West. Married 34 years, she turned to fiction when she and her husband, Richard, returned to live in NW Montana. Her second novel, Gold Under Ice, came out this summer from Missouri Breaks Press. She teaches “Successful Self-Publishing” at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, MT.

Self-Publishing is Easy — Self-Promotion is Hard [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post by Valerie Nygaard, founder of SoftCopy Publishing.

Photo: Jenny Downing | Flickr

Yes, self-publishing takes work, and working with a good service like our friends at DuoLit can make a huge difference, but in the end, it’s a known quantity. Getting a book to print these days can be done by anyone who has the smarts, creativity and outright doggedness it takes to write a good manuscript.

Before I started SoftCopy Publishing, I spent much of my career in search engine development. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Silicon Valley, it’s this: It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if no one knows about it.

It’s the same with books. There you are, with thousands of beautiful little words lined up just how you want them. You climb to the top of the nearest hill and shout to the world, “Look, World! Behold, my amazing creation!” As you stand with your arms outstretched to greet your throngs of fans, it occurs to you that the kiss on the cheek from your mother and the “good job” from your friend wasn’t quite the onslaught of adoration you had braced yourself for. So what next?Continue Reading

Living the Dream: Carolyn McCray on Self-Publishing [Guest Post]

This is a guest post from @ZeroToSold (thanks Carolyn!). It originally appeared in this month’s Duolit Newsletter. Speaking of which, you really should sign up! It’s a great way to keep abreast of the latest self-publishing news, notes and tips. It’s super-easy to subscribe and we’ll never spam you — ever!

Photo: Navicore | Flickr

I look at people funny when they tell me “I’ve always dreamed of publishing a novel.”

I mean, they do know it is 2010, right?

Publishing a novel is a straight-forward, attainable and as simple as driving a car.

Is there work involved?  Yes.  Do you need to know a few rules and abide by them?  Um, of course.

Did that stop you when you were sixteen from getting your license and begging for your parent’s keys?  No.

The case is the same with your novel.

I shocks me how many people have a book (or two… or three) sitting in a drawer (or an abandoned ‘archived’ computer folder).

Yes, I totally get it that getting an agent or publisher was a one in a million occurrence and that self-publishing was looked down upon.  That basically if you dared self-pub, you ruined any shot of every getting that novel released.

Um, ya, then actual business people took over the publishing industry (which is not ALL a good thing, but for us unpublished authors, it was awesome).  They wanted to well, sell books.  It started on the non-fiction side.  They embraced people that put their own books out and established a sales base.

Then indie film hit.  Reinvigorating the movie industry.

And good old MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter brought wide range, yet personal reference marketing to every author’s fingertips.

Game on!

Traditionally published authors such as JA Konrath embraced this new media and realized they could actually make MORE money by self-publishing than traditional.

So yes, I do look at people funny when they talk about dreaming of a day when their book could be out.

#Um #Thisisawkward #Itcouldbetoday

Great sentiment, Carolyn, and so true! Connect with Carolyn via Twitter as a woman dating after 40 (@craftycmc), a book marketing guru (@ZeroToSold) or thriller author (@CristynWest).