Questions about Self-Publishing from an Aspiring Fiction Writer
A few weeks ago, an old friend of mine (we go back over 25 years) referred a co-worker of hers to me on Facebook. She thought we’d hit it off because as she put it, you’re both …
“… super entrepreneurial with multiple irons in the fire (including past or present modeling/acting, an editorial services business and authoring erotic short novels–what are the chances?), outgoing, articulate, cultural, political, positive and did I mention gorgeous?“
Yep, she actually wrote all of that!
Anyhoo, my new Facebook friend sent me some questions about self-publishing. I recount all this to underscore the point that it seems that for every four or five new people I meet, one or two of them want to know about self-publishing when they learn that that’s one of the ways I make a living. Hence, this blog post.
Following are the questions that were asked, and my detailed answers.
1) Did you form your own publishing entity? If so, how? If not, who’s your publisher?
I have a company name as a publisher, but there is no officially registered business entity. I publish my non-fiction ebooks under the “Publisher” name of Inkwell Editorial because the titles are related to the business of freelancing, freelance writing, internet marketing, self-publishing, small business, etc. And, this site covers all of that in some manner, so it makes sense.
I publish my fiction (mostly romance) titles under the “Publisher” name of Inkwell Editorial Publishing. I know, I know, just one word difference between the two? Isn’t that confusing, you may be thinking.
It can be, but my rationale for doing it was, I publish all of my books – for the most part – under my real name (I have a few titles under pen names). So, if anybody searches for me, my publishing company(ies), my books, they’ll find all of my stuff. I separate the fiction from the non-fiction titles by giving them separate websites as well to make it easier.
FYI, you don’t have to have a publishing company/entity to self-publish. All you have to do is finish writing your book and upload it. It really is that simple, as my foray into self-publishing proves.
Why/How I Started Self-Publishing
As I explained in this post of frequently asked questions about indie publishing, I became an independent publisher quite by accident. Here’s a quick recap.
I started writing and selling ebooks online in 2002. My foray into self-publishing was quite by accident. I owned an editorial staffing firm in New York City at the time and recruited full-time, part-time and freelance talent (eg, proofreaders, copy editors, writers, graphic designers, etc.). I received a lot of questions from wannabe freelancers about what employers were looking for. Once I’d answered the same questions a gazillion times, I decided to write an ebook.
It wasn’t fancy at all; just a simple pdf file uploaded to my company’s very rudimentary website at the time. To my delight and surprise, I made sales. Not a lot mind you; to be honest, very few in the beginning. But, it did tickle my fancy and gave me ideas for other e-pamphlets (the way I referred to ebooks at the time) to add to the line.
Now of course between the writing and uploading, there are other things to be done, ie: proofreading editing, getting your cover done, formatting, etc., but all of this can be done by you, or people you hire.
FYI, Fiverr is a great place to get a lot of stuff done economically, eg, your writer website, ebook covers, formatting, proofreading, copy editing, etc. I design some of my covers (example), and I outsource others (example). It all depends on what I want.
I’m no designer, obviously, but I can do simple covers. If I want a cover that involves anything more than creating a border around a photo of a couple, for example, I outsource it to designers I find on Fiverr. That’s because I don’t know anything about Photoshop or any other graphic design tool.
Covers are VERY important in self-publishing though; even more so as self-publishing matures, so keep that in mind.
I do have a traditionally published book, ie, The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guidebook: Learn How to Land the Best Jobs, Build Your Brand, and Be Your Own Boss (Adams Media).
The publisher approached me, as I detailed in this post. Ironically though, I got this book deal, in part, because I had such an extensive body of work on the web (including my self-published ebook) on the subject matter they wanted a book written on. So you could make the case that self-publishing led to a traditionally published book deal.
FYI, this is what’s known as being a “hybrid author.”
2) How do you publish your work: ebook or softcover or both?
I only publish ebooks; never physical copies.
The book I wrote for the trade publisher is in ebook and paper form, but all of my self-published books are ebooks.
From what I understand, it’s pretty easy to create physical books by using outlets like CreateSpace. But I do all of the formatting for my books, and I haven’t taken the time to learn how to produce one in CreateSpace. Hence, ebooks only. Also, many self-published authors (especially romance writers) say that the bulk of their sales come from ebooks by about an 80/20 or 90/10 ratio. Same with audio books; an audience that’s growing.
These are outlets I totally plan to pierce in the coming years, but for right now, my goal is to build a catalog of work that gives me a certain income per month. That’s why I concentrate mostly on writing, not all the other stuff that you can get side-tracked with as a self-published author, eg, social media, blogging, marketing, etc.
Speaking of marketing …
3) How & where do you market? And, what demographic do you target?
Remember, I have a fiction and a non-fiction line of books. So …
For my non-fiction titles, I have an in-built audience built over they years via blogging, article marketing, guest posting on other blogs and just being a recognize voice in my niche (freelance writing). I also publish a newsletter that has almost 3,000 subscribers, and am active on social media (basically Twitter and Facebook).
So my every day “job” of being a freelance writer takes care of a lot of active marketing for my non-fiction titles.
As for demographic, my market is romance readers (overwhelmingly women between ages 25 and 45) who like interracial romance. Most of my characters are between 28 and 40 (slightly older for men).
Why interracial romance? It’s all about the Benjamins. As I explained in this post…
I approach self-publishing as a business and have found that that multi-cultural/interracial romance sells well compared to some other romance niches [and there are so many of them]. I was also in an interracial marriage. …
With that being said though, funnily enough, race is not a running theme in any of my romance novellas. I’ve found that love is love – and problems in relationships are problems in relationships. A relationship is between two people; not a race of two people.
As for marketing, I don’t do much marketing for my fiction (romance) titles, which is where I’m concentrating my writing efforts these days. This post explains why. The gist of it is, the best form of marketing you can do is write your next book.
The reason is, success as an independent author is achieved by continuous output for most of us. Sure, you have success stories like Fifty Shades of Grey, but that’s the rare exception. The rule is that most of us have to write enough titles, build an audience who will consistently purchase those titles, and THEN continue to write and figure out a consistent marketing strategy.
FYI, some of the most profitable marketing I’ve ever done for my romance novels was Facebook ads. But, my account got banned. So if you decide to go this route, read my story and just be careful because once your account is banned from placing ads, it’s practically impossible to get it re-instated.
Here’s a post that details six quick things I do when I release a new fiction novella (most of the time).
A Marketing Formula That Works
It’s not an either/or situation. Use a sliding percentage for allocation of your time. e.g.:
1 books – 10% marketing – 90% writing additional books
2 books – 15% marketing – 85% writing additional books
3 books – 20% marketing – 80% writing additional books
4 books – 25% marketing – 75% writing additional books
5 books – 30% marketing – 70% writing additional books
Don’t spend more than 30% of your time marketing. There’s a point of diminishing returns when marketing a product that people don’t need on a continuing basis. i.e. People need food constantly so marketers keep hitting them with messages.
How many copies of your books do people need? So you’re marketing only to expand your sales to new readers. The message that reaches existing customers, or customers who have passed on your product is mostly wasted. I say ‘mostly’ because it might remind them to tell friends IF they loved the book.
See why this makes sense? When I was regularly publishing 2-4 new novels per month (back in 2014/early 2015), I can tell you, it worked. Within a few months, I was earning $1,000-$2,000 per month – JUST from my romance novellas.
Then, the bottom fell out of Amazon for self-published authors. Sales dropped so quick and I, along with a lot of other indie-published writers, panicked. So, I turned my attention back to writing non-fiction and marketing more for freelance writing jobs; which have been my primary sources of income for years.
To stop writing fiction (romance) was a mistake –- at least for me. Why? Because romance sells; no matter what one outlet (eg, AMZ) does, if you continue to write good stories and grow your readership, you can make good money.
Nowadays I publish wide, instead of relying on just one outlet. My books can be found on AMZ, B&N, AllRomanceEbooks.com, Google Books and all the outlets that Draft2Digital.com releases them to.
Most months, Amazon continues to be my biggest source of sales, but sometimes, I outsell them on B&N. And, sales from other outlets are growing too. So I learned my lesson – write regularly; distribute widely.
I published almost 40 romance novellas between 2014 and 2015. This year, I’ve only published three. I just started writing regularly again this past summer, and plan to continue to publish 2 to 4 per month until I reach my income goal. And again, that’s because romance sells; it’s the best-selling genre of all others combined by a wide margin.
4) How’s compensation handled?
All of the distributors I use send payment directly to my bank account, which I love because I can be anywhere in the world and still get paid. There’s no waiting/worrying about a paper check. Usually, it all hits at the end of the month – one reason I love this time of month. 🙂
And yes, you’re taxed on it. You get a 1099 at the end of the year.
If your brain is on overdrive right now because of all the info you’re reading, don’t worry, it’s bound to happen. There’s a lot to learn. If you’re totally new to self-publishing, let me boil it down to two things you need to concentrate on to get established as an indie publisher.
2 Things New Authors Should Focus On
(i) The main thing I advise all new self-publishers to do is worry about writing a good story and putting out a professional product.
This means getting a professional-looking cover done; having it properly proofread and copy edited; and having it properly formatted. You used to be able to get away with less of a “professional product” a few years ago. Now, the field is definitely getting more crowded and some self-publishers are so good that their books rival those (in look and presentation) of those put out by a Big 6 Publisher in New York.
I’ve been dinged in reviews for some/all of this in my self-publishing career. Now, three years into it, I’m getting better with everything because I’m in this for the long haul.
(ii) The second thing you as a brand-new author should do is sign up with a list management service like AWeber and start building your email list. This is why … imagine having 1,000; 2,000; or 3,000 subscribers on your list.
Then, when you write a new book, you send it out to them and 10 percent of them buy it. If you’re earning $3.00 per book, that can be anywhere from $300 to $900 in profit just by sending out one email. Now imagine growing your list to 10,000 or 20,000 subscribers, and having five or 10 percent of them buy when you notify them about a new release?
THIS is the power of having a subscriber list, so start building it from day one. Throw up a simple site and stick a subscriber box on it. FYI, free sites like Weebly, WordPress and Wix can work just fine when you’re first starting, however, I advise getting your own site with your own domain name because sometimes, if your content is deemed “objectionable,” your site may be taken offline.
Learn more about why you should register a domain name and get your own hosting. But, I digress. Back to building a subscriber list …
When subscribers sign up to my newsletter, I offer three free books (see bottom of page on InkwellEditorialPublishing.com for subscriber box). Romance readers in particular are rabid readers, so unless you totally turn them off, they’re likely to stay subscribers for a long time, and are more likely to buy when you put out a new release.
When you get a catalog of say six, eight or 10 books, then you can start to focus more on things like building a professional, interactive author platform: eg, creating social media accounts, getting a professionally designed website, starting a blog, doing podcasts, placing ads on various outlets, etc.
I hope you find this info helpful. If so, please share it on your social media outlets. Your feedback can be left below. I look forward to hearing from you.
You’ll learn how to:
–>Discern whether your ebook will be profitable;
–>Write an ebook — fast; and
–>Market your ebook to start getting sales quick!
It’s everything you need to start self-publishing your own ebooks right away.