Self-publishing has been growing at an impressive or alarming rate, depending on which side of the fence you are. Authors tired of waiting for the bigger publishing companies are taking the reins of writing, editing, cover designing and publishing into their own hands. Some are making money. Most are falling by the wayside.
Huffingtonpost reports some startling facts.
– For new, unestablished authors (those who have published less than 2 books), less than 25% have been able to sell more than 100 copies of their ebooks in a month
– Close to 50% of all authors sell less than 10 ebooks per month
If you now combine that with the fact that most of these ebooks are selling for 99 cents, you’d know how far from retirement you’d be if were depending solely on your book sale income.
It’s not surprising then to see that self-publishing has got some negative press.
Dropping quality standards: The quality of a whole lot of what gets pushed into the ebook space in the name of self-published books is bad. Alright, let’s stop being too polite and get real. Much of it stinks. There are spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, structural issues, consistency problems. The book covers (many of these are self-designed) are unintentionally hilarious. The professional look and feel is completed missing.
Competing on price: With very little real money being invested in the self-publishing project’, authors feel anything they can get from putting their ebook up on Kindle or any of the ebook publishing platforms, is pure profit. Which means they can crank up the pressure on traditional as well as other self-published authors by lowering their book prices. While a regular book might sell in the international market for $10 – $25, you’ll find most ebooks selling for 99 cents. Serious book lovers who drive the market, never had a big problem paying for high-quality content they like and from credible authors.
Trying marketing stunts: Post a (good) review on Amazon and be eligible to win – a Kindle, a year’s supply of [fill in whatever you like], a life-time supply of [fill in whatever you like better]. All this is fine to get some quick attention. But who’s going to keep track of whether the marketing initiative is helping or harming the book. To hell with the break-even number.
Bad reviews to pull down rival authors: Instead of trying to make the publishing pie bigger and increasing the market for their genre, new authors think it’s a zero sum game. A rival author gaining ground doesn’t necessarily mean you are losing yours. But Amazon cracked down on many authors who were using false accounts to bring down other authors.
Whichever side of the fence you are on, you have to admit that there’s some credit in those arguments.
So what can you do to ensure that you don’t follow the herd and end up getting sheared (wah wah! watte visualisation!)
If you are planning to take the self-publishing route, here are some basic principles that you can still adhere to.
– Ensure that the book looks and feels ‘professional’
Whether it’s the quality of writing, the book cover, the plot or the overall effort that has gone into it before it hits the ebook shelves. Remember that your book will not be in the hands of paying customers, and they will not be as accommodating as the friends and family members who gave you the initial feedback.
– Do some market research to see how you can price it
More on how to price your ebook in another post (if there’s interest). But as a general rule, a very high price will mean you sell very few copies. A very low price means you don’t value your book.
– Have a creative, effective and ethical marketing plan
Gimmicks like free give-aways involving high-priced items will attract the wrong audience. Some of them (including the final winner) might look for ways to game the system to increase their odds like multiple entries under different IDs.
I wouldn’t want this blog to turn into a one way street, so some views, feedback, ideas are always welcome.
I do know several readers have taken the route of self-publishing (either directly or through vanity publishers). Wondering if you’d be willing to share your experience about your overall experience so far – the publishing process, book sales. Anything you’d have done differently? Commenting anonymously is fine too.