Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Five Things I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

By Matt Sinclair

As many of you have heard by now, several of us at FTWA were involved in a short story anthology, Spring Fevers, which was e-published in February and is now available via print-on-demand. I’m proud to be the publisher of the work, and we will be doing another later this year.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some bits of learning I picked up from our publishing venture.

  1. Know your goals before you start. Why are you doing this? Is it to see your name listed as an author? There’s nothing wrong with that. Do you expect to sit back and watch a tsunami of e-money flow into your account? Sitting back and watching a tsunami up close is never a good idea, especially when the wave doesn’t arrive. You’ll need to do more than write something excellent. For us, the goal was creating an audience for a band of as yet little-known writers. Oh that reminds me: we priced accordingly.
  2. Assemble a strong team. This was by no means a one-person job. With the emergence of electronic publishing tools, it’s relatively easy to publish just about anything your heart desires. But if you’re like most of us, your talents will take you only so far. You’ll need help, whether it’s for the cover, or the design, or the publicity. And before any of those considerations are given much time, secure an editor—someone who will tell you the unvarnished truth. Not to put too fine a point on this, but you need an editor, not a proofreader. You might also need a proofreader, but make sure you have an editor. We were so fortunate to have Robb Grindstaff edit these stories. Excessive typos certainly won’t endear you to readers, but neither will weak characters and plotlines, inconsistencies, and perspectives that hop from head to head.
  3. Your cover is absolutely critical. I lost count of how many cover ideas we went through for Spring Fevers. That’s not counting the hundreds of images that I skimmed and knew immediately the answer was no. Plus, I wasn’t the only person looking for images. Our cover designer, the wonderful and talented Calista Taylor, provided sage advice at every step of the journey. She and R.C. Lewis, our book designer, came up with what I think is a very attractive look that captures the overall atmosphere of the stories within the anthology. Keep in mind that covers are different these days as they need to work at the thumbnail size for electronic publishing. As the e-publishing trend continues and expands, look for titles to be shorter and covers to be less busy. I also expect, at least for now, that image details will need to work in both color and black and white.
  4. Embrace social media and develop your audience. Sure, you could send press releases out to local papers and talk to your local bookstore about a meet-the-author event and reach out to book clubs. That approach is a wee bit 20th century, but it still has its place. But being active on tools such as Twitter and Facebook can help you reach people you’d never have reached before. And those are just two of the most obvious. Blog tours are another. Indeed, there’s a lot you can do to reach out to readers. Consider all these ventures part of your audience development. Never stop developing your audience. Don’t quit marketing and pitching your work. There’s an old truism in advertising that people see an ad seven times before it finally registers in their brain. People won’t buy your book if they don’t know you published one. That said, keep things balanced. I wouldn’t recommend flogging your book at Aunt Grace’s funeral, no matter how supportive she was of your creative efforts.
  5. Writing more books will sell more books. I’m talking about audience development, but to be honest, I’m saying this on faith, since our team has only produced one book together. I don’t like to spout unverified information, but I know from writers I’ve enjoyed reading that I’m more likely to seek out their previous works when I like the book through which I discover them. Indeed, we’re counting on it.

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, recently published a short story anthology called Spring Fevers, which is available through Smashwords, Amazon, and in print via CreateSpace. It includes stories by fellow FTWA writers, including Cat Woods, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, and R.S. Mellette. He also blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.


Michael Horvath said...

I wrote my book for reasons other than selling it. That said, now that I have put it on Amazon and B&N as an ebook I certainly would like to see some sales. Your advice is well taken.

Jean Oram said...

Good points, Matt. I really enjoyed Spring Fevers and would buy another.

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks, Michael and Jean!

Lynn Proctor said...

i am thinking maybe a little now about publishing

Matt Sinclair said...

So many of us are, these days. Good luck, Lynn!

Jemi Fraser said...

I think you all did such a great job with Spring Fevers! And great tips! There are a lot of great reasons for self-pubbing! :)

Stephen L. Duncan said...

Man, I hope 5 is universal to all of publishing. ;)

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks, Jemi. And SLD, you're right. If it's not universal, folks like us could be in for a rude awakening. ;-)