Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

True, Not True: Debunking Some Indie Publishing Myths

Facts change on the ground in the publishing industry faster than most people can track, especially in the last couple years. I try to keep on top of things, but being part of the Indelibles is extremely helpful with this - the collective knowledge of 25 active indie authors is a powerful thing. I highly encourage you to join an "author group" like the Indelibles (or form your own!). The power of the group isn't just collective marketing or a brand name or having crazy successful authors that you get to chat with... it's the information sharing and support that has the most value.

I'm sharing some of that insider knowledge with you today (more can be found on the Indelibles blog, where  posts from our authors are a rich vein of publishing experience).

CAUTION: Opinions ahead. They're mine. Feel free to disagree in the comments!

TRUE, NOT TRUE?
(like Peeta in Hunger Games, only without the post-traumatic stress disorder)

You have to publish fast to be a successful indie author.
NOT TRUE.
This "well known fact" that isn't really true comes from three factors: 1) an observation that a lot of indie successes have in fact put out books quickly (less than 6 months apart) and 2) at the beginning of the indie revolution, a lot of authors had trunk novels stored up, or backlists that were out of print, so they were able to put out titles quickly and gave the illusion that they were writing quickly and 3) putting out a new book is the best form of marketing there is. But here's the thing: you don't have to put out a book every 2 months in order to be successful. Readers are quite capable of waiting 6+months for the next book in a series they want to read. I have personal experience with this one, with 5 months and 7 months respectively between books in the Mindjack trilogy, but I've seen it in other authors too. It's really all about the book itself, not the speed of publishing - I've seen an author go viral with one book. I've seen another author put out seven books in seven months and not sell. I've even seen an author who DID put out books quickly (and accustomed her fanbase to that) have to take a lengthy spell before the last book because she had a baby. Result? Book Six is currently #65 on the Fantasy list, doing just fine, thank you very much.

I write full-time (when my kids are in school) and it takes me 5-7 months to produce a novel in a state I'm willing to publish. I have a strict schedule and treat my writing like a job, with lots of butt-in-chair hours (although this last week I've been waylaid by a sick kid and days out of school - it varies). Everyone has their own pace/style/etc and they have to respect that. People that work full-time? People with babies? I don't know how you find the time to write, but you do, and I'm in awe. Pitched battles are fought over how fast people can write without suffering "quality" issues.

Take a deep breath; write the best book you can; people will wait.

This book/series I've published isn't selling; I'm DOOMED 
NOT TRUE.
Even in the trad-pub world, you could change pen names and try again. In the indie world, it's even easier (penname change optional). People tend to think their books will define them as a writer, and you can quickly develop a reputation (if you're successful) for being a "chick lit" writer or a "YA SF" writer. If you're not successful, there's less danger of that because, well, less people know about you. I've seen writers publish wildly divergent types of books (successfully) as indies. I've seen writers have their first string of books get a tepid response from the reading public, then turn around and write in a new genre and sell like mad. It's all about the book (first) and author (second). The prototypical example of this is actually mega-indie-star Hugh Howey. He wrote the entire Molly Fyde series (YA SF space opera, which is fab BTW), but it didn't get the recognition that it should have until he penned a small novelette named Wool (adult dystopian) that went viral.

If at first you don't succeed... give thanks that you're an indie author. It's easier to reboot.


You have to publish a series to be a success.
TRUE and NOT TRUE.

This one is closer to being true. At least when you're starting out, writing a series will help you establish a fanbase by regularly putting out titles and attracting the people that like them. But writing endlessly on a series that isn't selling isn't going to help you either. Then it's best to try something different. I've seen authors cut short series that were selling poorly and successfully move on to writing more of series that were selling. I've seen other authors extend a series that was selling well, and it sold even better with each book. Fortunately or unfortunately, each new book/series will attract its own fans - you may have carry over from your other book's fanbase or you may not.

There are no guarantees, but consistently giving fans stuff they like to read is a recipe for success.


There are too many self-pub books; mine will be lost in the pile!
NOT TRUE.
There is no "pile" to be lost in. Readers aren't going one-by-one through the Amazon Kindle list, looking for books they want to read. Books are discovered by word-of-mouth, a very effective means of bringing books to the attention of people that will enjoy them. Amazon's search engines do an excellent job of pairing readers and books, all up and down the popularity spectrum, much better than B&N or Apple or Kobo. They do this with also-boughts and email campaigns and other machinations that are behind-the-scenes but very real. You don't have to be on a bestseller list for Amazon's search engines to market your books for you - but you do have to sell some books or get some reviews to feed the engines. I've seen books go viral within a week of publication (because they were in a hot genre, not because they had a bunch of twitter followers). I see good books sell almost immediately, without promotion, all the time.

A good book will rise out of the pile... make sure yours is one of those.

Paid ads are a waste of money.
TRUE and NOT TRUE.
Paid ads are just one way to market, but they can be very effective in exposing your book to new readers and boosting sales... but only if you choose wisely. The vast majority of ads for sale are ineffective. This is a case where the buyer has to extremely beware. In my experience, the only ads that pay for themselves are ones that have an email subscriber list - i.e. your book ad gets delivered right to the email boxes of people who have willingly signed up to get news about bargain books/deals-of-the-minute. These ads are most effective when you put your book temporarily on sale (keeping with the bargain expectations of these readers), but then you have to factor in the loss in revenue of your "normal" sales to see if it's worth the cost. (Ads can also be effective at full-price). Occasionally trading revenue for sales/exposure is not a bad strategy, but be careful in evaluating how effective this is in gaining new fans. The least effective ads (generally) are postings on websites and facebook pages. I would carefully inquire with other authors to see what their recent experience is with a particular ad - this is one way the Indelibles rocks my socks. Between us, we experiment with ads, find the ones that work, and spread the word. CAUTION: just because an ad is successful for one book doesn't mean it will be for another. Genre is important, as well as quality of the book/package. An ad is not a cure-all for a book that is not selling well, it simply exposes you to a potentially new set of readers.

Currently, there are only two ads that I recommend: BookBub and Digital Book Today's New Release Ad. I've used both in the last couple weeks and both easily paid for themselves and brought in hundreds of new readers to my Mindjack series.

The above are my experiences. Please feel free to share yours in the comments!

(Or pose your own True/NotTrue questions... I may do more of this in the future.)

23 comments:

  1. I've never heard of BookBub. Thanks for that link! Another place for ads that has been worthwhile for me is Indie Author News.

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Jess! I will check them out.

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  2. Great list of myths. So many more too I've seen about the reasons behind self publishing and the lumping together of all SPd books when it comes to quality. But you've definitely covered some major ones. :)
    We're never doomed unless we quit trying.

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  3. Once you again, you've shared some amazing insight. Thank you!

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  4. Thank you for addressing the 'write fast' myth. Logically I know authors bring completed books to the table, but sometimes I still fall victim to the "I write too slow" inadequacies.

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  5. I find your views and experience so interesting and informative. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Susan!

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  6. Thanks for this Susan! Encouraging words, especially since I'm reading your Mindjack series right now :-)

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    1. Thanks for reading the books, Melinda! :)

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  7. Thanks for the information Susan! By the way, I really like your book trailer for Mindjack!

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  9. There is a lot to learn, especially as a newbie, when it comes to Indie publishing.

    Reading what you shared, I'd have to say that I agree with most of it and am "waiting in the wings" to see how my own opinion will form regarding the little onesie/twosie item (mainly the paid ads part because I happen to be financially challenged lol!!!)

    But you've shared some extremely helpful insight. Thank you, as always. :-)

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  10. I'm hanging on your words, Susan. :D Great post!!

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  11. This is great because I too get worried about being too slow. I work hard but really don't want to be a full book a month person. I want beta feedback and editing too! I really want those to keep me in a quality place so about 5-7 months is best I can do. Also agree on series and that mixing it up if one doesn't sell or truncating to move on can make sense!

    Jbridger1313

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  12. You're so awesome, Sue. Your posts always make me feel so good about focusing on writing the best book I can, even though that means I'm slower than the book-a-month authors. (Er, MUCH slower.) My sequel will probably be released 7-8 months after the original, but it's how long I need to make it really good and something worthy of my readers. *Heaving a sigh*

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    1. You're doing the right thing, Adriana. And if my post helps you see that a little clear, then yay! #missionaccomplished

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  13. Nice post. I don't disagree with any of it. I think.

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    1. If you decide you do, let me know! ;) Thanks for stopping by!

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  14. Somehow I missed this post, but it is AWESOME. As always~ *hugs* <3

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  15. Thank you, Susan, for recommending the ad sites. I'll check those out. And you're spot on with the myths.

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  16. This has been one of the most helpful releases for me. Thank you very much for your generous outreach. I bookmarked the bookbub page and will see how finances go, and also how well nook and smashwords progresses first. I like the feeling though that there are options I wasn't aware of. David L Howells

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    1. I'm so glad it helped! And look... you helped me! You just reminded me I need to sign up for a New Book Release for my latest series! #thanks! #ilovekarma

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