Life’s Getting Better for Self-Published Authors

I came across two different articles in the last two days that are about completely separate things, but they both relate to self-publishing. And they’re both pretty encouraging for those who opt to self-publish.

First, I saw this piece about literary agents shifting careers to become self-publishing consultants. The article spotlights three different agents who, in different ways, are moving over to the field of self-publishing. It’s a must-read — covering topics like how these agents/consultants make their money, how they moved into self publishing (hint: they had great books that weren’t being picked up by publishers), and what kinds of services they offer to authors who opt to self-publish.

Then, earlier today, I came across this article, announcing that John Locke has become the first self-published author (eighth overall) to join the Kindle Million Club. Yes, this means that a self-published author sold one million kindle editions of his book. That’s pretty much every self-published author’s dream! I’d certainly love to find out what his marketing plan was. I’m sure you would, too.

So, in conclusion, the last few days have been pretty good for the self-publishing industry. Just like many of the other trends in our society (tablet computers, Hulu, etc…), self-publishing is definitely on the upswing. That’s good news to all of you authors who have opted to self-publish or are considering it for the future.

Authors: Monitor What’s Being Said About You and Your Book

The internet is a vast world. There are millions of websites, any of which could be talking about you and/or your book right now. So how is an author supposed to know what’s being said? Or worse, how to find the source of incorrect information? Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to make this happen.

First, every author (and everyone in general) should sign up for Google Alerts. This is a free service, and all you need is an account with Google. Just enter your name, your book title, or any variation thereof. Voila! You will receive an email daily or weekly (your choice) that lists and links to any mention of the specific keywords you entered. If something is being said about you or your book on the internet, you’ll hear about it.

Another good option for keeping tabs on internet buzz is called By entering your name or any terms you want to search for, the site will build a page for you that lists all of the recent mentions of the search term. It even breaks up all of the links into Twitter, Bing, Flickr, blogs, etc… Just bookmark the page and go back there regularly. It will automatically feed you the most recent information every time you visit. Just like Google Alerts, this is a free service.

You can’t be everywhere at once (nor should you want to be!), but these services should help authors like you keep tabs on what’s being said about you and your book. You may just find your best review or testimonial this way!

What’s New in Digital Marketing: The Inside Scoop from BookNet Canada’s Technology Forum

The BookNet Canada Technology Forum started this week. And the early message? Community is the key!

In this Publisher’s Weekly article, they talk about a presentation by digital marketing guru Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image. Here are the highlights…

  • Publishers always used to promote books to a wide audience, hoping that a small percentage of them would buy the book. The new trend is to speak to a much smaller, targeted audience.  “Social media centers on who you are getting your message out to, not how many,” the article states. In addition, there are hundreds of specialty websites and communities out there that specialize in your type of writing. For fiction writers, there are tons of book clubs and book review sites that focus on your genre. Nonfiction writers can find websites and communities that gather around the subject of the book.  Join those communities … talk to them … tailor your messages to them. It’s far cheaper (although more labor-intensive) than traditional advertising.
  • It’s important to be relevant to your audience. You may be one of the 600 friends a potential reader has on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean they’re really following you. Think about it: you have lots of “friends” on Facebook, but how many of them do you really pay attention to? In order to break into that small group that a reader actually follows, you need to provide fun, interesting, relevant information that they can enjoy or use.
  • Authors shouldn’t be afraid of social media. In his speech, Joel reported that between 75% and 85% of people who shop online  read reviews first. But many publishers and authors shy away from allowing readers to post online reviews, because they can’t control the negative comments. But maybe we all need to change our mindset. “Social media is about making your content as sharable and findable as possible,” he stressed.
  • It’s soooo important to interact with readers. There are two types of content on the web: static content (in which the author is doing the talking and the reader is doing the listening) and interactive content (a back-and-forth conversation). Patrick Brown, Goodreads director of author and publisher outreach, points out the importance of interactive content, which can include blogging, commenting on Facebook, answering reader questions online, etc… He notes that more than 750 people joined a group that allowed them to pose questions to author Margaret Atwood. That’s power!

An Encouraging Story for the Self-Published

The NY Times posted an article the other day about an author who achieved a great deal of success through self-publishing … and is now getting offers from major publishing houses. It just goes to show you, do everything right via self-publishing and you, too, could have the big-wigs fawning over you soon enough! Read the article to find out how she did it …

Think Beyond Bookstores When Marketing Your Books

There was an interesting article in the NY Times recently about the increase in book sales in places other than bookstores (which is good … because bookstores are few and far between nowadays).

And this gets me to thinking about authors who are promoting their books themselves … which is nearly everyone.

Authors really need to start thinking outside the box in terms of who they’re promoting their books to, and how they can address those audiences through their website and social networking.

One thing that I’ve always promoted is authors speaking to educators about their books. For example, if you wrote a book on the Korean War, you should be talking to history teachers and professors about why your book would be a good addition to their curriculum. And not only should you be picking up the phone to talk to these educators, but you should be “speaking” to them online through your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…

But now, this “outside the bookstore” idea is expanding far beyond educators. I talked to someone recently who’s writing a book about wine, and he envisions the book being sold at wineries and fine liquor stores throughout the country. Books about fashion are now popping up in clothing stores. Coffee table books are accompanying coffee tables in furniture stores. Cookbooks are accompanying cooking materials (pots, pans, etc…).

So how does this apply to authors online? Here are a few ways you can take advantage of this trend…

  • Create a page on your website for these target audiences. So, for example, if you published a book about music, make sure you talk directly to music teachers, stores that sell music equipment, etc… on your website. Make sure this page is easy to find on your website, and use it to explain why such music professionals would benefit from selling your book to customers, and how your book could enhance the services they offer.
  • Offer bulk discounts! There’s nothing that would make you happier than having a chain of stores decide to sell your book. And, lets say, each of their 100 stores wants to order 50 copies at the outset. That’s a lot of books sold! Make sure you offer a bulk discount for them, and put this information in a prominent place on your website. Who knows? That discount may just be what makes a store decide to go ahead and take the plunge.
  • Join social networking groups. It’s now easier than ever to find people who work in the field that you’re targeting. So, for example, if your book is about high school sports, you can find everyone who works in Little League, sporting goods, etc… right at your fingertips. Search around on Facebook and LinkedIn to find groups related to these subjects. Then join these groups (after all, you’re an “expert” in the field if you wrote a book on it) and talk directly to those audiences about your knowledge and, of course, your book.

Focusing on selling your book to bookstores is sooooo yesterday. It’s just about as outdated as relying on your publisher to market your book. So take the bull by the horns and think outside the box. You may just find the audience that will make your book a bestseller.

Why More Authors Than Ever Are Opting to Self-Publish

This article, posted just a few hours ago by Mark Coker in the Huffington Post, says it all about the state of book publishing today. Not a day goes by when I don’t speak with an author who’s self-publishing — not because they can’t find a publisher, but because there’s very little benefit to going through a traditional publisher.

Many authors have figured out that if their book turns out to be a success (and most authors are pretty confident that it will), they can make a lot more money if they go the self-publishing route. Authors have to put up a little more money to get started in self-publishing, but the payoff can be huge.

It also used to be that publishers did most of the marketing for their authors’ books. That’s no longer so. Unless you’re already a best-selling author, you’re probably going to have to market your books on your own regardless of how it’s published.

Here are a few quotes from the article that back up what I’ve been hearing from authors for a long time now:


More and more talented writers – including authors previously published by the Big 6 – are losing faith in the old system of publishing.

  • Advances are declining
  • Publishers reluctant to take chances on authors without established platforms
  • Most print books forced out of print before they’ve had a chance to reach readers
  • Authors expected to shoulder most post-publication marketing on their own dime
  • Lost and mismanaged rights
  • Brick and mortar retail distribution disappearing
  • Publishers value books through myopic prism of perceived commercial potential (publisher death panels)
  • Publishers acquire today what was hot yesterday so they can publish it 12-18 months from tomorrow
  • Publishers over-price and under-distribute author works
  • Publisher ebook royalties 17% list (25% net) vs 60-70% list (85-100% net) for self-publishing

Big Publishing, although it employs thousands of talented and well-intentioned professionals, is built upon a broken business model.


Two questions and their answers are driving the author uprising against Big Publishing:

  1. What can a publisher do for me that I (the author) cannot do for myself?
  2. Might a big publisher actually harm my prospects as an author?


Do authors still need publishers in this new world order? I think it all goes back to my first question. To survive and thrive, publishers big and small must do for authors what authors cannot or will not do for themselves.


The next chapter of this revolution may very well be written by progressive literary agents. Literary agents, responsible for protecting the best interests of their author clients, are encouraging the very best authors to consider the potential of self-publishing. 60-70% royalty, or 5-17%? The math is not difficult when ebooks rule the roost.

Mark, I couldn’t agree more!