Showing posts with label marketing and self-publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marketing and self-publishing. Show all posts

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Pitfalls of Self-Publishing and How to Avoid Them

Because self-publishing is now accepted as a reputable method of getting a book out to the public, inexperienced writers must be on their guard to keep from being defrauded of their money. 


Companies like Xlibris, Author Solution and others are accused of manipulating writers into paying big bucks for the company to print the book, and then coming back with outrageous prices to market it. Law suits are ongoing against these companies. One woman was offered a book trailer and offers to send her manuscript to movie connections in Hollywood "because the book is perfect for a movie script." No one has sympathy for those who fall for these scams. Some say, "author beware." But I know it is easy to fall for something that we see online or see in an ad and before we know it, we have fallen for a fraud that costs us much money.  Read this article to learn more about scams in publishing. 

The author is asked by Xlibris to pay tens of thousands of dollars for extra services which are useless or are never given. I will never forget the woman author who came to me fifteen years ago with a poorly written book that she said she had paid a company $20,000 to publish for her. The trunk of her car was filled with boxes of the books which she had not sold. She asked for my help in selling this book.

I had to tell her straight. Her ears had been filled with enough bull manure already, and she needed some honesty. 

First, I told her to take writing lessons and learn to be the best writer she could be. 
Second, I told her to forget the first book and chalk it up to a very bad investment. I urged her to join a writing critique group. After much editing by herself and other writers, send her next book to a professional editor before submitting to anyone.
Third, I told her she should research legitimate publishers, small presses or large, and submit her work to them first.
Fourth, be open to the publishers' edits and any changes they think are needed.
Fifth, be prepared to do her own marketing and have a plan in place as to how she will find and reach her readers, no matter how the book is published.

Today I would add more to my advice for her or anyone:
Begin to build an online presence through Facebook or blogging years before your book is to be published. Grow your email list. Prepare a mailing list of everyone you know. You will send these people postcards with your book cover on the front.

If you want control over your book, how it looks, what is inside, you might want to self-publish. Just remember, self-publishing also means marketing your own book. No self-publishing company will spend thousands of dollars to market your book, not unless you pay them thousands of dollars to do so. 

My most recent book, co-authored with Estelle Rice, was not published by a traditional publishing company. We hired Old Mountain Press whose owner/publisher is Tom Davis, to format the book for printing, create the cover with my help, and then we sent the manuscript to a printing company he recommends. We signed the contract with them and in a couple of weeks several boxes of books arrived at my door. Most of them are gone now into the hands of eager readers. The cost of printing the book is paid. So, we will order more books delivered to us.

Most of our books are sold face to face and we want to reach out to as many people as we can before going to Amazon.  At the present time, City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC is the only store where our books can be found on the shelves. I would like for readers to order from them online, www.citylightsnc.com, if not ordering from us at Blue Heaven Press.

Authors should be aware that when a book is sold by a bookstore, the store gets a percentage of the retail price. Amazon takes much of the profit on a book, so authors need to sell lots and lots of books on Amazon to make anything. (Light bulb moment?) That might be why most writers don't get rich. That is why self-publishing is popular - the author actually makes a little money on her book.

The business of writing is not what we writers enjoy. We like to write, but we don't like promoting our own books or selling our books. If we don't promote our books, who will? Not the publishers and not the booksellers. Tell people where they can buy your books, tell people why they should buy your books, and tell people how much you appreciate their buying your books. 
But don't tell people: "Buy my book."
The readers of books want to know what your book is going to do for them. Why would they like your book? Why should they purchase your book? What was your purpose in writing your book? Do you know the answers to these questions?

If so, you should be able to promote your book and sell it. 

Most writers don't think about marketing a book until it is in their hands. Too late. Be careful of the predators in publishing. Don't be scammed out of thousands of dollars when it is not necessary to publish a book and sell it. Join a legitimate literary organization like NC Writers' Network and get to know writers who are happy to help you and give you good advice. Find a writing group or create your own. In Western NC we have writing groups in almost every county south of Asheville. Visit www.netwestwriters.blogspot.com or www.ncwriters-west.org to learn more. 

More on self-publishing:  http://www.ncwriters.org/whitecross/2014/11/18/self-published-the-numbers-dont-lie/


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pitfalls of Publishing

New writers and amateur writers often fail to see the pitfalls ahead that will keep their book from being the best it can be. They don't understand why booksellers don't want to sell their books. Why aren't their books selling?

They spend months, years sometimes, writing the story they felt compelled to put on paper. They share these stories with family and friends. Mothers, sisters, sons and daughters say all the things they know the author wants to hear. The family encourages the author, and well they should. But few of the author's family have the expertise to help him polish and make the manuscript he has poured over all those months into a finished product that readers can't wait to share with their friends; that book store owners recommend to their customers.


A novice writer often becomes frustrated when he self-publishes his story after it has been rejected a few times by traditional publishers or by a couple of agents. After all everyone he knows has claimed he should publish the book. But only his friends and family buy the book. He can't understand what has gone wrong.

A short time ago I attended a reading by a delightful woman who had written the story of her life. She did not read so much as she told us, the audience, about her exciting accomplishments. As Patricia Fry says, Personality sells books, and everyone in that room lined up to buy the book. A few weeks later when I had time to delve into the memoir, I was stunned and saddened by how poorly it had been put together. 

The punctuation was correct. Grammar was good. Anecdotes were amusing, but within the first three chapters, she had repeated one scene two or three times. A good editor would have caught this and made sure those repetitions were removed. 

It isn't uncommon for a writer to repeat himself when he is writing his first draft. Pat Conroy, author of Prince of Tides, says that is one of his worst traits, but his proof readers find those places for him and they are removed. A good editor will catch mistakes such as calling the neighbor boy Ed in the first chapter, but calling him Ted in the eighth chapter. 

I talked with a man who is in process of writing a historical novel set in our local area. He is excited about the book and his story seems like it will be a page turner, but I hope he will invest in his writing by having a number of proof readers and then hiring a professional editor if he plans to self-publish as many are doing today. A content editor knows when material is redundant, when it should be moved into another chapter or left out entirely. That is what they do.

All writers do not know how to punctuate dialogue. Where do the quotation marks go? Writing convincing dialogue is not easy. The reader must hear the character speaking and not be bogged down by trying to decipher what is going on in a conversation. 

If the author wants to publish in the traditional manner, hires an agent and then gets a publisher, his manuscript should be polished and in good form to impress first the agent and then the publisher. Publishers will edit a manuscript before it is printed and put out for public consumption, but even Pat Conroy wants his book at its best before he mails it to his publisher. Luckily for Pat, his wife is a successful author and she helps edit his books. 

We don't all live with successful writers and we must depend on our writer friends or writing teachers who can help us with the proofing. We still need to invest in a professional editor, or a book doctor, who can take the book out of the amateur stage and make it into the polished gem we want to present to the world.

On October 19, 2:30 p.m. at Moss Library in Hayesville, NC Writers Circle is sponsoring a panel discussion on Prepare to Publish. On this panel will be Kathryn Magendie, author of a number of books published by Belle Books. Also on this panel will be Maren O. Mitchell, author of a non-fiction book, Beat Chronic Pain; An Insider's Guide. Nadine Justice is the author of I'm a Coal Miner's Daughter But I Cain't Sang, a memoir that takes us from the coal mines of her youth to her success as an Interior Designer in Atlanta. 

My experience in publishing books began with a family history book in 1998 and a poetry chapbook published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. None of us are experts in the field of publishing, but we can tell what we learned along the way - what we should have done and what we would do better next time. We will have a question and answer session and hope our audience will come ready to take notes. 
There is no charge for this event. Much appreciation to Moss Library and Mary Fonda, librarian. Refreshments will be served during break.

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