Marketing, marketing for authors, Publishing, writing, You crawl over there......

Playing with the Big Boys

Hot air balloon
Pee wee games stop when there is cool stuff to check out.

A friend (actually, more than one, come to think of it) pointed me at a ranty post made by another writer this last week. I looked at it, shook my head, and went back to homework. But it stayed with me. Not the first part of the rant, which was… well, it didn’t make sense, internally. Just not based in reality, you know what I mean? However, midway down, there was this: “Self-publishing on Kindle is NOT professional publication. That’s like coaching Pee Wee football and claiming you’re on the same level as the NFL.”

Hmm… see, for me, becoming an independent publisher (which is, I believe, what the person was referring to) was a no-brainer. But that is due to my having already been an entrepreneur. I’ve run an independent entertainment business for over thirteen years, now. Adding publication to the list of things I already do was not terribly daunting. I do understand that a lot of writers want to shuffle off the ‘hard parts’ to a publisher. But hiring an editor, recruiting alpha and beta readers I can trust, that wasn’t terribly hard. Marketing? Well, in this day and age, advertising is money down a sink-hole for almost any business. For the entertainment business, I use broker sites, and my own website. Back in the day, I’d hire someone to do that website, but I eventually learned how to manage it myself.

But let me address this a little more slowly and seriously. First of all, the book is a product. A widget, if you want to use that term. Drained of the emotion of the ártiste, the book is merely something that needs to be prepared for sale, and delivered on time as consumers so desire. If you can’t bear to think of your magnum opus in these terms, then you are not ready to be a professional author, whether you are trying for indie, or are traditionally published. Not every book is going to do well. You have to be able to deliver, and walk away, it’s not a baby (and yes, I’m the first one to use that metaphor about my books when they are newly finished. It does go along with the creative process).

Now, it’s time to put on the editor hat, after you’ve given the book some time to cool off. No, I’m not suggesting you edit your own work – not exclusively. What I am saying is that while you are writing, you shouldn’t be going back and editing yourself all the time. Save that for now, read through the book, and make notes. Change the glaring errors. While you’re doing this, let your beta readers know they need to be ready. I have a list of about 18 people who get a head’s up about my novels. Some will say they can’t, others will get the manuscript and life will intervene. I usually get between 6-9 responses from beta readers. They are the first part of my publishing team, and a very big part. I couldn’t do it without them. And if you’re worried about them being yes-men? This is what Sarah Hoyt told a mutual friend about that… “This is not an exact quote, but from The Full Monty, adapted to suit “Nah. We’re your mates. We’d as soon rip up your work as look at you. No fear.”

So onto the next step of publication, which involves, naturally, the Publisher’s Hat. Hiring an editor isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. For one thing, there are many types of editors. You will need to decide which one(s) you need based on your beta feedback. If the plot is busted, you may be in need of a structural editor. I hire copy-editors for every full-length manuscript. Between all of us, we may not catch every typo, but we sure hunt them to death. While the manuscript is off to the editor, I begin work on a cover. And while I can and do handle my own covers, you don’t need to, that is why there are people like me. Just have an idea of what’s going to work for your specific book before you hire a designer, so you don’t wind up with whatever they are in the mood for. Which brings me to my last point for this section. When you are hiring, you are looking for fellow professionals. People who have a clue about what they are doing, and come with recommendations. Check the recommendations. Don’t, for goodness sake, hire someone who is a friend and down on their luck. You will get sub-standard work at best, or nothing at all when they have already spent your money, and it will end in tears.

Young football player at rest
Look, Indie is hard work. You might not wind up all sweaty and tired quite like this young Pee Wee leaguer, but it’s worth the effort in the long run: just play a good game.

I’m not going to cover the details in more detail here. I’ve done a lot of that on the blog, and if you have specific questions, ask in the comments and I will either answer, or provide a link. The final section that I wanted to cover, and the one that seems to give most potential Indie Authors indigestion, is marketing. Here’s the thing. Unless you are a big-name bestseller, and sometimes not even then, traditional publishers expect you to do most of this already. This is why you are urged to get on social media and be social, go to cons, etc. No sweat. Buying advertising? Don’t bother. I may experiment with Project Wonderful, and will provide a report to you all when I do, but so far I have seen no ROI on buying ads. I hear good things about BookBub, and plan to try that, but you need to know that they won’t even accept you unless you are already doing well. There are a lot of little networking opportunities with Indie Authors, and those are usually a good thing, balanced with not spending too much time on it. I’m doing one next week at this time, as Amanda Green is tagging me in the ‘meet the character’ blog tour. For that matter, if you’d like to be tagged, ask in the comments. I need 3-4 names to inflict call out in turn.

Then what’s next? Well, write the next book. The biggest factor in Indie publishing, it seems, is volume. Once you have more than 2-3 books out, people begin to find you. I also run free promotions, like Memories of the Abyss, which is free through tomorrow, to draw new readers in, and reward fans. And don’t let the naysayers get you down. Obviously, as I quoted above, there are people who will bash you. But look up at this wall ó text I’ve provided, and I’m only touching on the highlights of what you will be doing. You are – I am – more of a professional than the person who passively turns in a manuscript, and does as they are told by their editor, and swallows what their agent gives them, and humbly holds out their little bowl and asks please sir, might I have more?

As for Pee Wee versus the NFL? Well, I’m not in this to get stinking rich. None of us are, or we are delusional. There are perhaps a handful of writers who pull down 30 million a year. Um… I can’t think of any off the top of my head. And this is the thing. I’d rather coach Pee Wee any day of the week. Teaching the next generation how to get out there and play, to have fun with their game writing? I may not be a direct mentor right now (no time!) but I can and will do things like this post, where I start giving you, my readers, the clues to find your way to an independent existence where you know how to play the game, deliver a good product, hire people to make it great, and go on to play in the big leagues. Because that is the problem the originator of that rant has. We’re starting to pop up everywhere, like Doug Dandridge and his 100K sales. Chris Nuttall and his (how many books now, Chris?) success. Hugh Howey, who is an inspiration for all the Indies. We are capable of meeting them on their playing field, now that it is level, and we have the chops to take their ball and run for the goal. Me? I’d rather play Pee Wee and have fun than supervise spoiled divas who throw tantrums.

12 thoughts on “Playing with the Big Boys

  1. I would be happy to be tagged for Manx Prize.

    On marketing, anyone who is planning a discount or a freebie might want to try indieauthorland.com. Plan in advance.

      1. That will give you plenty of time. They were very good about publishing the interview right at the time of my kindle countdown. IIRC, it has to be a book, by the way.

  2. If you find you need someone to tag on the Meet the Character thing, let me know.

    As for the original comment, I saw that a day or two ago myself. What he doesn’t understand is what the term professional means.

    On the surface, professional means that one gets paid for whatever. A professional author is one who receives money for their work. check

    On a deeper level, professional has to do with how one comports themselves. Based on the indies I’ve seen and dealt with? check

    Still trying to figure out where he gets the PeeWee coaching versus the NFL thing. Peewee coaches don’t get paid, hence the fact that they’re not professional. A better comparison might be a high school coach versus NFL. No, we’re not all on the same level. I WISH I had some of these writers’ distribution systems for my own stuff, but I’m still a professional.

    Of course, that doesn’t fit some folks’ narrative.

    1. There are some examples of Indies who don’t behave professionally (the fellow in discussion over at Sarah’s Diner, for example. However, I can also name traditionally published authors (like the rant author) who don’t behave professionally (and this isn’t the only example from that person). And yes, likely this is more of a status thing, chest beating for attention and approval of their peers.

      OK, so I have Laura M, yourself, and… Kenton? Want to play along? email me at cedarlila at gmail dot com with a brief biography and I will tag you in this coming Monday’s post, with you to post your interview with a character on your blog (oh, I need blog addresses, too) the following Monday. Thanks, guys.

      1. Absolutely. Both have examples of bad behavior. Norm isn’t the only indie to act up either. However, I seem to recall a traditionally published bestselling author lashing out because readers asked the correct order of her books.

        Neither side has a monopoly on “professional” by any means.

        And email is already sent. 😀

  3. Another part of playing with the big boys it pricing with the big boys.

    It is interesting that people are happy to pay 4.99-5.99 for a 300 page novel, yet balk at paying 8.99 for a 550 page novel.

    I look up the books I feel I’ll be competing against for readers, and, except for a couple of indies at 2.99, the top 20 books were all significantly above that 5.99 (and up to 14.99 for an ebook! one time I looked).

    Kris and Dean advise decent prices roughly based on length. Check.

    I resisted mightily splitting Pride’s Children (167K into 2 80k+ novels) because, even though there was a particularly good point to do that at, that’s not how I see it. But I was really, really tempted.

    Thanks for the great posts – really enjoying reading your words on marketing, etc..

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