Please welcome R.T. Kaelin, author of the novel Progeny, as he discusses self-publishing.
by R.T. Kaelin
The publishing world is changing. Quickly.
The rise in popularity of eBooks as well as the reasonable cost of publishing POD (print-on-demand) for hardcopy books has turned the traditional model of book publishing on its ear. Anyone can write a book and publish it today.
The keys to the kingdom are no longer held by a few publishing houses. Even Publishers Weekly recognizes this, having started a quarterly supplement called PW Select that is dedicated to self-published titles only.
As the behemoths of the industry struggle to anticipate what the future holds, the lower barrier to entry has prompted an explosion of self-published work by new authors frustrated by the incredible odds stacked against them. If you are not an established author, publishing houses and agents do not want to speak to you. Your query letter goes in a pile with the other hundred they get every day, and your precious manuscript gathers dust.
In recent years, many authors decided to take a different approach. I am one of them.
After finishing my first novel, Progeny, I followed the traditional process of querying agents and publishers. Those that replied were scared away at the length of the novel by a debut author. A lucky contact turned me onto the concept of doing POD and publishing my own book. I hired a copyeditor and published the print edition of Progeny in December, 2010. The Kindle edition came out two months later.
Now, publishing a book in this manner is relatively easy. Marketing it is the challenge.
Think about how you choose what books you read. Take a moment…
Now, if you enjoy the feeling of turning a paper page, you might choose your books by perusing the aisles of their local bookstore. Self-published authors must overcome this obstacle as brick-and-mortar stores will not automatically carry your book. If you want it there, you must fight for shelf space on a store by store basis.
If you are among the growing segment of readers who love the convenience of eBooks, you still might find your book selection is based on browsing online, looking at authors with whom you are already familiar. In this case, a new, self-published author must compete with already established authors in an overcrowded environment.
Regardless of format, many readers make their book choices based on recommendations from friends, family, or online communities. Yet again, a self-published author must fight the realistic fact that if no one knows about the book in the first place, how can he or she ever hope to start a word of mouth campaign?
So, what is an author to do?
The short answer is anything and everything.
[amazonify]0615421032[/amazonify]I contacted review sites and book blogs, offering free copies for review as well as interviews. I became involved with a number of communities dedicated to active readers. I toured local high schools, speaking about creative writing. I have released dozens of press releases in an attempt to strengthen my search engine rankings. Most recently, I am writing short stories that tie into the book and offering them free. I am writing a guest blog post right now, right here.
One of my goals is to find a loyal base of readers and hope they start a word-of-mouth campaign vital to a book’s success. As of now, Progeny has an average 4.5+ star rating from over forty combined user reviews at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, LibraryThing.com, and GoodReads.com. I am hoping that as it seems most people really like the book, they will share it with their friends and family.
Traditionally, books published by a major house see the bulk of their sales in the first three months after a book is released. Think of it as a sprint. For a self-published author, marketing a book is a marathon. You must slowly build up a following, fighting for every reader, all the while crossing your fingers for a lucky break.
It would be nice if there was a magic formula, but there is not.
Christopher Paolini and family marketed the self-published edition of Eragon for over a year, selling copies from the trunk of their car, before Knopf publishing picked it up for the Inheritance Cycle.
Amanda Hocking has self-published all of her work and has been a great success despite never having the power of a publisher behind her.
Ultimately, it takes good writing, hard work, positive thinking, and persistence.
A burst of well-timed good luck does not hurt, either.