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12 December 2019

Save $30 on a BookLife review of your book—published in Publishers Weekly

Leading US book trade publication Publishers Weekly (PW) has launched BookLife Reviews, a paid reviews service for self-published authors.

BookLife Reviews are thorough, professional assessments of your work—with expert marketing insights—written by PW reviewers. If the author is happy with the final review, it runs in the BookLife section of PW’s print magazine and website.

PW is offering Australian Self-Publisher readers US$30 off the price of a review (use promo code AUSP), or click this link.

PW’s BookLife reviews offer Australian authors the opportunity to give their title exposure to a local and overseas audience of readers and publishing professionals. A BookLife review will give an honest and detailed review that highlights your book’s strengths, analyses its potential for reaching an audience, and gives you a valuable assessment of ways that future editions or future books can be made even better.

To see the latest examples of PW’s BookLife reviews, click here. For more information, visit the website here.

 
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Save $30 on a BookLife review of your book—published in Publishers Weekly

Leading US book trade publication Publishers Weekly (PW) has launched BookLife Reviews, a paid reviews service for self-published authors.

BookLife Reviews are thorough, professional assessments of your work—with expert marketing insights—written by PW reviewers. If the author is happy with the final review, it runs in the BookLife section of PW’s print magazine and website.

PW is offering Australian Self-Publisher readers US$30 off the price of a review (use promo code AUSP), or click this link.

PW’s BookLife reviews offer Australian authors the opportunity to give their title exposure to a local and overseas audience of readers and publishing professionals. A BookLife review will give an honest and detailed review that highlights your book’s strengths, analyses its potential for reaching an audience, and gives you a valuable assessment of ways that future editions or future books can be made even better.

To see the latest examples of PW’s BookLife reviews, click here. For more information, visit the website here.

 

Indie Publishing Conference: ‘Fundamentals’ program wrap-up

The Small Press Network’s (SPN) annual Independent Publishing Conference was held at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne, on 26–28 November. As part of the conference, the ‘Fundamentals’ program on Saturday is intended to offer ‘very practical information sessions and workshops aimed at those just starting out in publishing or as a refresher for those with more experience’. Here, the SPN general manager Tim Coronel gives a break down of some of the day’s sessions. ‘We are always working on finding ways to make your books more visible and widely available,’ says Coronel.

The day began with RMIT University’s Tracy O’Shaughnessy offering a comprehensive ‘what has to happen when’ publishing timeline, demystifying all the interrelated steps that go into publishing every book. Susannah Bowen, the head of marketing (higher education) for Cengage Australia, gave many insights into how to write a marketing plan, which followed on nicely from the Friday night launch of How to Market Books 6e, which she co-wrote. Alex Adsett’s always-popular session on contracts and rights was expanded this year to include details on royalties, and the differing clauses and rates that can apply in different circumstances.

In the first of the day’s parallel sessions, attendees had to choose between a panel session with three experienced booksellers offering advice on how to run successful events and a metadata masterclass that delved deep into ONIX fields and subject categories.

Saturday’s keynote address was from international publishing consultant Malcolm Neil. Neil spoke about his knowledge of markets in India and throughout Southeast Asia and some of the trends, opportunities and challenges he has identified. His main advice was to travel and build relationships, and to work in collaboration with international colleagues rather than approaching these growing markets with a ‘colonialist mentality’.

Award-winning cover designer Sandy Cull drew gasps of appreciation from the audience as she showed off some of her favourite covers of recent years and explained the often-intricate processes behind them. In addition to stock images and fonts, Cull’s designs can incorporate found objects, her own art and photography and hand-cut type. She explained that while the industry standard is for designers to offer three alternate covers to clients, she has been known to do up to 14 different iterations before coming up with ‘the one’.

Other afternoon sessions covered some up-and-coming tech platforms such as Bookalope, an AI-based workflow tool that aims to remove much of the repetitive hack-work in getting a raw manuscript laid out for print and digital outputs; Lisa Fuller’s workshop on publishing Indigenous stories; and Patricia Genat from ALS and Rowena Beresford from Novella Distribution discussing the schools and libraries markets.

 
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US self-publishing stats rise

In the US, self-publishing grew at a rate of 40% in 2018, with more than one million books self-published for the second year in a row, according to a report published by Bowker.

More than 1.6 million self-published print and ebooks with registered ISBNs were published in the US in 2018, up from just over one million published in 2017. The vast majority of these (1.42 million) were published via Amazon’s CreateSpace, followed by Smashwords (about 72,000) and Lulu Press (about 67,000).

Since 2013 the number of ISBNs assigned to self-published titles has grown from 461,438. ‘This trend is likely to continue as the quality of many self-published works now rivals that of traditionally published titles,’ the report says. ‘Authors now have access to a wide range of professional services, from editing to cover design, to help ensure that the highest standards are met. With these resources, coupled with the online marketing and distribution tools now available, self-publishing authors are positioned for success as never before.’

 

Smashwords launches presales option

In the US, Smashwords has developed a new tool for indie authors to create, manage and merchandise ebook sales, reports Publishers Weekly.

Smashwords Presales will allow authors and publishers to let readers buy an ebook before its public on-sale date, as well as acting as a tool for authors and publishers to get in touch with their customers via email. According to company founder Mark Coker, this relationship has been corroded by online retailers.

Coker called the launch of Smashwords Presales ‘the most audacious and ambitious thing I have ever done, including the original launch of Smashwords’, adding that all content creators who use ecommerce can benefit from the presale model by providing different channels and models through which to sell their material.

Coker filed for a patent for the entire presales system, but he is eager for other ecommerce retailers to license the system, and he would like to see it eventually adopted throughout the entire supply chain, for authors and publishers to ‘regain some of the independence they have lost to online retailers’.

 
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How to reach your readers

Last month, we cleared your marketing schedule of all the tasks that waste your time. This month, I am going to show you how to perform effective outreach that will build an audience for your books without taking up valuable writing time.

What is outreach?

The term outreach is used to describe a range of marketing activities, so for the sake of clarity, this is how I define outreach: Outreach is any activity designed to direct people interested in the type of books you write further down your book marketing funnel. These marketing activities must satisfy one criterion to be outreach: Does it link to either your website or to a bio that links to your website? If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s not called outreach—it’s called wasting your time.

Take your time to absorb this distinction because it’s vital to your success. Outreach is action oriented. Your goal is to build trust with the reader. If your outreach content doesn’t encourage a potential fan to take action towards building trust, you are wasting your time. Outreach must link to a page on your author website that offers great free content. If your content links to a sales page—either on Amazon or a sales page on your website—it’s not outreach, it’s advertising. Advertising is a different beast to outreach, with different goals. Remember, outreach is for building trust, and advertising is for generating sales.

Advertising can work for authors, but it’s unnecessary for your success, regardless of what some might say. The reason for this is ads only work while the ads are running, whereas, with outreach, you are building permanent organic links to your work. After all, which book are you more likely to buy—the one that keeps popping up in your feed, no matter how many times you have tried to silence it, or the one recommended by a friend over your morning coffee?

Building an outreach strategy

The most effective outreach strategy for authors is also the simplest:

  1. You give something you created away in return for an email address; or
  2. You publish a piece of content offering a subscription within the content.

Option one is much more effective than option two because of the higher perceived value of providing something tangible in return for the reader’s email address. The options are not mutually exclusive. For example, you can publish a post on your website containing a form where the reader can download a PDF version of the post. You also need to remember you are playing the long game here—no single strategy will propel you to the top of the bestseller lists, so aim for strategies you can set and forget so you can continue to build a body of work.

Being SMART with outreach

SMART is an acronym often used in vocational education and in self-help literature as a tool for setting effective goals.

It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited. In other words, for any goal to be effective it must be:

  1. Explicit
  2. You must have a measure of success or failure
  3. You must feel like its achievable
  4. It must be possible to achieve
  5. It must have a deadline.

For outreach, I have simplified this to the Who, What, Where, When and Why or the 5Ws of outreach activities.

Let’s look at the conventional approach to social media marketing in terms of the 5Ws:

  • Who? Everyone!
  • What? Um, memes are popular, aren’t they?
  • Where? Is there such a thing as too many social accounts?
  • When? RIGHT NOW! Because, like, it’s super right?
  • Why? Because everyone else is doing it, silly!

OK, that’s a bit over the top, but we’re all guilty of being vague with our intentions and expectations, and you can’t run a successful business without specific goals.

Of all the positive things you can do for your writing career, having specific marketing goals is second only to specific writing goals.

Here’s a better example of the 5Ws:

  • Who? Readers of fast-paced, short sci-fi
  • What? A new flash fiction story
  • Where? Publish on my website then post a link to the story in Facebook sci-fi groups
  • When? May 27th
  • Why? Add 50 new readers to my mailing list.

Make better marketing decisions

With the 5Ws, you now have a useful tool to measure the success of your book marketing efforts, rather than going with your gut. As you conduct different outreach activities, over time you can weed out the ones that don’t work for you and identify that 20% of efforts that maximise your results.

‘What is the best way to promote my books?’ is the number-one question I get asked. This question has spawned millions of ‘How to …’ articles, and selling the current trendiest answer to the question is how the internet marketing gurus make their money.

The problem is, there is no one best way, and what is best for me might not be best for you because your audience is different. Which is why getting SMART with your marketing and conducting the 5Ws with every outreach activity is so important.

If you want a sample of what a complete 5W analysis looks like you can download one here.

Nigel George is an author and educator. He is the author of five books on technology and self-publishing. Originally traditionally published, he believes that authors have a far greater chance of success if they independently publish their books. When not writing and publishing more books, Nigel spends his time teaching other authors how to succeed at self-publishing. You can learn more about his work on his website.

 

Darwin bookseller Sean Guy on stocking self-published books, and handselling ‘The Firebringer’

Sean Guy is a bookseller at The Bookshop Darwin, and the author of 14 novels. He spoke to Australian Self-Publisher about his experience selling his own titles at The Bookshop, shared his tips for writers wanting to get their titles into bookshops, and talked about his most recent novel, The Firebringer.

Tell us a bit about your how you came to be a writer, and your background as a bookseller.

The first novel I ever wrote was a fantasy epic called The Legend of Hathor, which was very clearly plagiarising ‘The Lord of the Rings’, though at the time I was adamant my novel was totally original. The fact that the main characters were an elf, a dwarf, a human and a wizard was beside the point—or at least that’s what 13-year-old me told my family and friends.

I’ve had the writing bug since before I could spell my own name. My parents read to me every night, and this grew into a love of storytelling which never went away. Now at the age of 25 I have completed 14 novels, as well as several plays, short films and novellas. Two of my novels are in print: Malediction: The Cursed Play and The Firebringer.

After high school I went straight into university, where I studied to be an English and history teacher, while also completing a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on creative writing. During my studies I took a part-time job at The Bookshop Darwin, the best locally owned, independent bookshop in town. I like to joke that I was in the bookshop so often I never really applied for a job, I just started serving customers one day while I was in there. After university was finished I was asked to go full-time at The Bookshop rather than teach, and I’ve never looked back.

Tell us about your latest novel, The Firebringer.

My latest novel The Firebringer is an urban fantasy thriller. It begins with a lawyer named Matthew who, in the face of a terrible tragedy, becomes conflicted about the difference between justice and revenge. His decision to try and make things right leads him into direct opposition with the largest syndicate of organised crime in the city, and a series of consequences unfold which could have devastating consequences for both Matthew and those close to him. It’s an urban fantasy, so there is also an element of the supernatural which threatens to tip the balance of power in either direction …

Working in a bookshop, I get the pleasure of meeting many of my readers, and have been so pleased by their generous feedback. I’ve been getting a lot of comparisons to Matthew Reilly and Lee Child, particularly with the action scenes and ever-building tension. I like those comparisons, and happily tell people that The Firebringer is probably what would have happened if Lee Child had written Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Why did you decide to self-publish the book?

To my eyes it seems the publishing industry is in a state of transition at the moment, with so many people going back to print books and indie bookshops, yet still such a high demand for ebooks. Becoming traditionally published as a new author is extremely difficult. Particularly for authors like me, who don’t have a pre-existing following from sports, politics, or being an Instagram model/influencer (this remains my backup career).

I chose to self-publish because I wanted to make the most of where I am. Having worked in a bookshop for almost eight years I have contacts in the local media, book clubs, libraries and more. I knew that my books were ready for the world, and that I could sell them, but I didn’t want to wait (potentially years) to be sifted in and out of publishing house slush piles. I’d still like to be traditionally published; my passion is for writing, not marketing. But there are a lot of avenues for self-published authors, so for the moment I’ll just keep sharing them with the world and learning as much as I can about this side of the industry!

How are book sales? Apart from the Bookshop Darwin, where else are you selling it?

I have been very happy with the sales so far. Although I’m far from making the New York Times bestseller list, each book has sold over 100 copies in the first week, and both have consistently topped our in-store bestseller lists for their genre. In fact Malediction was our top fiction last financial year—not a bad result considering it was only available for seven months of the financial year, and had to compete with Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe.

My books are available at a handful of bookshops across Australia, and quite a number of libraries. They’re also available online, although this is an area of self-publishing I’m still learning about, and the vast majority of my sales do come from within the Northern Territory.

As a bookseller handselling The Firebringer you must have spent some time crafting and honing your pitch to customers. What works (and what doesn’t work) to get customers interested in and excited about your book?

Sometimes when I see a new customer looking at The Firebringer I like to play a game: how long I can describe myself before they realise I’m the author. I might start by saying, ‘I know the author of that book. He’s local, about my age, very friendly, extremely handsome … ‘ Alas, very few people guess it’s me from that description.

All jokes aside, I find that being humble is the best approach to recommending my book. I know I may never win a Man Booker prize—to date I’ve never even been shortlisted—but I also know that my books are wildly fun to read. Like most authors, I write the types of stories I want to read. I spent 10 years plotting The Firebringer before publishing it, and have had a lot of enthusiastic comments about how the tension builds and how dynamic the characters are. Being self-published is a huge strength in this way: when I start recommending my books to a new customer there is often a regular customer already in the bookshop who is happy to shout from across the room, ‘I’ve finished that and it’s a bloody good read!’

On the flipside, what tips would you have to authors wanting to get their books stocked in a bookshop?

In today’s world bookshops have to be very selective about what they stock. Most major publishers offer sale-or-return, and self-published authors should be prepared to offer their books on consignment terms. Anything that doesn’t sell is just taking up display space, after all. I would suggest approaching local media with more gusto than you approach bookshops. As a bookseller myself, I get hundreds of requests a year to stock books which I have never heard of nor had requests for. But once I hear an author on the radio, or have some customers enquiring about it, the decision to order a handful becomes much easier. I think it’s true for most authors (other than, perhaps, Stephen King) that we need to remember writing a book is one thing, creating demand for it is an ongoing challenge. In a world where media of all kinds is freely available I never turn down an opportunity to talk to a book club, visit a school, or appear on radio.

What will you publish next?

I’m lucky in the sense that I have been writing for so long now my publishing schedule has more or less structured itself. The Firebringer is part one of a five-book series called ‘The Tower City Chronicles’. Books one to four have already been written, and just require some editing, so I’m planning to release book two (Voodoo Games) in July of 2020, with book three (Seraph) following in November. I also have plans to write a sequel to Malediction, but like everyone else I only have so much time in the day, and the new season of Stranger Things isn’t going to watch itself.

 

 

 

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