Thursday, January 14, 2016

In Which I Attempt to Explain Everything

Step 1—Do everything!
What's a good launch strategy for a fantasy ebook? Stick to Amazon? Open wide on amazon and smashwords? I'm reading article after article, several books, too. I can't decide. Keep in mind that I only have the one book. It's going to be remain in my editor's hands for a month or so longer, and i want to be prepared, have a plan ready.

Wow!  This is like asking, “How do I write a book?”  In fact, this is what the entire publishing world is all about—launch and sell strategy.  It’s why you get an agent to help you sell to a publishing house, and why you get a publishing house to help you sell to the rest of the world.  It’s why you go to conventions and book signings give away advanced reader copies and cozy up to reviewers.

So let’s start small, shall we?

Decisions, decisions, decisions!
Format only matters when considering how it will limit your audience.  If you only go with Amazon (and really, if you're going to pick just one, they're it) then understand that you cut out all the Kobo and Nook readers.  There are some benefits to only going with Amazon, because they’re building a publishing world that answers to their whims.  As the author/owner/publisher you can take advantage of free days to build readership, and then maintain a low price ($0.99 or $1.99) to maintain that momentum and make a little beer money.

Unless, of course, you're also offering your book in print—but then price for a self-pub can become a barrier to purchase.  Most print-on-demand shops will charge you a reasonable amount for binding a paperback book, somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 to $12 per book.  That is literally a fair amount for clear, full-bleed, color cover art and your story printed to decent acid-free paper all bound together professionally and ready for your shelf.  The big publishers manage this themselves or outsource at a discount, operating on an economy of scale.  If you’re buying ten-thousand copies, it’s easy to come down a dollar or three per book.  Still, a paperback book today will run about $7 to $8 and a trade paperback about $12, with the profit margin added.  So be aware that your novel will likely need to be somewhere just north of $10 to $12 to make any kind of profit in a self-published market.

Big and Bigger Considerations
Don't worry.  I've lit the Ab-Signal!
Format is actually one of the easier questions to answer.  The 8 million ton elephant in the room is how you market the book.  Getting the word out is such a big job that it can become a full-time job in itself.  I could probably write an entire book about this alone.  Others certainly have.  Please keep in mind that I'm a small press author, not indie.  A lot of the responsibilities/efforts are the same, but I do get some help here and there.  Here's a few tips:

1- Consider what your monthly budget for marketing is (and yes, monthly) and then start looking into both the free places to advertise, the discount places, and the premium.  Have a strategy built around at least a year of marketing your book until it can walk (or stumble or run) on its own.
2 - Build your base as big and fast as you can.  Get a blog, an author Facebook page, get on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., and start marketing.  I've found that HootSuite provides a pretty decent platform to handle tweets and blog posts.  Start building an email list for reviewers and fans.
3 - Work it every day, and every day work it.  Yeah, redundant there, but it's true.  You need to do a little (or a lot) of work every day.  Have business cards and bookmarks printed up with buy links, get on interviews, reach out to bloggers, submit for contests, build up your review counts, etc.

There's more and so much more!

Location, Location, Location
Just keep swimming!
The publishing industry hasn’t just exploded—it’s Big Bang Level 13 on a stellar scale.  There are, literally, millions of self-published authors now competing for eyes and wallets, and you are, at best, a little fish in that vast, uncharted, stormy sea.  Consider that there is something like 32 million books currently in print, and more being added every day.  While there is potentially an infinite number of stories, there is a finite number of readers, and a finite number of books that can be read by those readers.  Even putting in the time and effort, won’t see immediate or vast returns.  Be very prepared for disappointment if you think you can move 10,000 copies in the first year.

Keep Writing
Finally, your first book is likely not going to be your first best-seller.  If it is, congrats and I hate you!  Nor is the second book.  Again, same sentiment, you lucky bastard!  But barring that kind of fortunate exposure, you'll get more traction each time you release another book, and life will get a little easier.  Your base will grow organically, but you'll still need to keep at it, which can overshadow the real effort—KEEP WRITING.  While marketing is certainly part of the job, you're still the talent. 

People want to read what you write, so keep writing it.

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