This week I chatted with several indie authors who are ready to give up on self-publishing. If you’re a self-publisher, chances are that you’re finding it a challenge to cope with all the stresses too.
Self-publishing when you’re up to your rear end in alligators…
Indie publishing kicked off with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in late 2007. Businesses go through various cycles. After a decade, the self-publishing industry is maturing.
Until 2012, ebooks were new. Indie authors sold because in many popular categories and genres, the cupboard was bare, so to speak. Readers had few choices, so indies made sales by pricing low, and publishing frequently in those popular categories/ genres. Some authors scored enormous paydays; millions of dollars annually.
That got the attention of mainstream publishers, naturally enough.
Those mainstream publishers have now had over three years to take indie authors’ strategies and make them their own. Many indies have left self-publishing because they can’t cope. Simple marketing strategies like “free” and 99 cent ebooks stopped working years ago.
Today, the challenges for indie authors are enormous.
Here’s the biggest challenge: publishing itself, with all that that entails. As indies, who primarily work alone, there’s simply too much to do for do for indie authors to cope, even with occasional help with covers, social media, and marketing.
Self-publishing horrors: publishing is a business
Nirvana for authors is writing. That’s it. Just writing.
Unfortunately, if you want to sell, you need to take care of lots of other “stuff”, which includes:
- Publishing in many different formats for many different audiences (publishing is global);
- Branding, not only yourself, but also your books;
- Marketing. Mainstream publishers have always been notorious for their slip-shod marketing. Unfortunately for indies, the more you write, the more books you have to market, and the more diverse that market becomes… Marketing is hard, but it must be done;
- Advertising. Facebook’s recent algorithm changes have forced many indie authors to rethink their entire marketing strategy. When you’re promoting ebooks which sell at $2.99, you’ll spend more on Facebook advertising than you could ever recoup in sales;
- And on, and on… This list could be very long indeed, and it’s no wonder that many indie authors feel stressed.
Mark Coker of Smashwords published an excellent article outlining his publishing predictions for 2018. Lots of clouds, in Mark’s terms, but also some sunshine.
The biggest cloud:
Books are media… think about the competition for books. The answer to that is basically, “all media.” Books are competing for consumers’ ever-fragmented attention against other media forms for entertainment, escapism and knowledge-building…
Now let’s look at how YOU, a brave self-publishing author, can cope.
How to cope with the stresses of self-publishing
- Keep writing and publishing. You CAN make it work, but it’s up to you. Be persistent, and brave. Publishing has always been hard. In days gone by, authors expected to spend five to ten years winning nothing but rejection slips. Today, life for authors is much, much easier… Toughen up. 🙂 Tell your stories with pride.
- Test, and test some more. Yes, Facebook’s made it harder for you to get visibility, but it’s not the only social network. BILLIONS of people are online, and you can reach sufficient readers who love your books to make a good living. We talked about selling books from your own website;
- Pay attention. Which of your books are selling? Can you write more books in that category/ genre? Could you brand yourself in that category/ genre?
- Track everything — if you don’t know what’s happening in your business you won’t be able to make good decisions for you;
- Take everything you read and hear with a grain of salt, always. Consider the source, always. Remember, it’s your business and make your own decisions. Yes, you may drive your business right over a cliff, but it will teach you something. 🙂
- Outsource what you can. You can’t outsource everything. How much you’ll be able to outsource depends on your temperament. Some authors love working with a large team. Others prefer to do as much as they can alone. You know you — eliminate distractions, so you can write.
- Use strategies like KDP Select, and free ebooks, but don’t rely on them totally. The rules can change at any time. Amazon may cut its royalties: what would you do if that happened?
Should you give up on self-publishing?
The short answer is: whatever works for you.
Only you know your own situation. If you love self-publishing, hang in there.
Words of wisdom from Mark Coker:
Readers will still pay for books worth reading … our bestselling authors were able to increase prices without undermining unit sales. $4.99 has joined $2.99 and $3.99 as pricing sweet spots… authors who build devoted followings have pricing power.
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