“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat.
“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat.
Jon Watt of indie publisher Type & Tell hails the return of the novella and the part authors have played in it.
A former journalist and author, Jon Watt is now Country Manager of Type & Tell, an innovative new self-publishing services provider offering free book layout and 100% author royalties. Here he shares his top tips for succeeding in the competitive world of self-publishing.
In Part 1: An industry of opportunity, Sophie Playle explored who self-publishes, why and how self-publishing has developed over the years, and what this means for editorial freelances. In this post, she’ll be looking at the more practical elements of working with self-publishing authors.
Independent authors are often criticized for being too quick to hit publish. This observation carries the veiled assumption that they do this because they are overly eager to get their book to market. But just as often, authors publish before they should because of publishing fatigue. They lose steam during the last stages of book production—the last 10 percent—and they hit publish just to be done with it. And when this happens, they leave important tasks incomplete.
If you’re an author, or you’re working with an author, then you may beat yourself/them up for being unable to summon up a laser-like focus on the job in hand. Alternatively you may be exasperated by the way your/their creativity and the immediacy of the writing seem to evaporate as the book progresses. (I speak from experience of both perspectives here.) ‘Just focus!’ you might yell – out loud or under your breath. ‘Stop getting distracted!’
Lucy-Anne Holmes is a writer and campaigner. Her last novel Just a Girl Standing In Front of a Boy won the Romantic Novelists Association ‘Rom Com of the Year 2015’ and she founded the successful No More Page 3 campaign. She is currently raising funds for her book Don’t Hold My Head Down with Unbound here.
In this blog post, Chris Singleton – director of digital marketing company Style Factory – highlights six tools that can help self-published authors handle the business side of being a writer.
The self-publishing boom has happened and it’s here to stay. Options are increasing for writers choosing to take ownership of the publication of their books, and so are opportunities for editors.
Many self-publishers are writers who have not managed to seduce the necessary gatekeepers stationed along the traditional publishing route – not necessarily because their writing is not of publishable quality, but because the publishers don’t believe in their potential to make money in the market. Fair enough – publishers are businesses, after all.
Now, though, writers can choose to take their own risks.
Many writers decide to self-publish simply for the freedom of it all. Some even decide to leave their publishing houses and go it alone because they see it as the better option. (Hello, 70% royalty …)
No longer seen as a practice in vanity, many self-publishers are now fully aware of the challenges they face, and how best to overcome these challenges. As a result, there is a new breed of independent (indie) authors: they are both literary creatives and publishing entrepreneurs.
Did you know …?
According to an article posted on Publishing Perspectives (Oct, 2014), literary agent Andrew Lownie believes that in 5–10 years, 75 per cent of books will be self-published, 20 per cent assisted by agents, and only 5 per cent traditionally published. Whether he’s right or wrong is another matter, but it just goes to show how much of an impact the independent author is having on the publishing world.
Technology is the catalyst for these opportunities. The e-book format and print-on-demand (POD) services like Smashwords and Lulu provide affordable production. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble provide the marketplaces. Every service in between, from editing to cover design, can be found online, and through new marketplace websites, too, such as Reedsy.
And with the Internet, indie authors have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Not sure how to get your book on the shelves at Waterstones? Or perhaps not sure whether you need to buy an ISBN (or that you know what to do with it)? Never fear, Google is here.
The Internet is a big deal. I mean, it’s a serious game-changer – in so many ways, but especially for the publishing industry. (Truth be told, I don’t think traditional publishing houses have quite caught up yet.)
At the click of a button, people can access the specific information, entertainment or inspiration they’re looking for. This means that businesses no longer have to go hunting for punters in the old, traditional ways (posters, flyers, radio adverts), because those clients are actively seeking them out.
Instead of a scattergun approach to marketing (least effective), businesses can use targeted pull-marketing (most effective).
What does this mean for the independent author? Well, instead of spending all their time writing alone in their studies, they are now able to connect to their readerships online – through social media, blogs and websites.
Remember the publishing house that was concerned there wasn’t a market for that book? Doesn’t matter, because the indie writer can build their readership from the ground up. That’s the power of the Internet.
In a word: opportunity.
Self-publishers used to have a bad name. Some still do – but it’s no longer a sweeping generalisation. In the end, poor-quality books will sink and good-quality books will rise. Indie authors are cottoning on to that – and they understand they need to invest in their own quality control.
That’s where we come in.
Sophie Playle, of Liminal Pages, is a freelance editor who specialises in fiction and often works directly with writers. For brownie points, connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. (Please note: No real brownies or points will be awarded.)
Sophie’s post was originally published on the SfEP blog.
The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.
Amy Baker is a freelance writer and the author of travel humour memoir, “Miss-Adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America”. She has just co-founded The Riff Raff – a writers’ community that champions debut authors and supports those hoping to one day be published themselves.
When working on your first book, so much is up in the air. You’re in a constant state of worrying and wondering – are all these hours, drafts and moments of despair going to be worth it? Will you ever get that deal? How do you even get a deal anyway – do they exist, or are they something that only happens to other people? Will you ever leave the house again?
It’s a lonely time – you’re in your own head and your own imagination so much that it can become more familiar to you than the outside world.
In a bid to keep myself motivated while writing my first book, I’d go and see my favourite authors speak – and while it would interest me, I’d often leave dejected. The gaping disparity between where these superstars were in their careers, and where I was at was a major bummer to me as an aspiring writer. After all – these authors were selling out the Royal Festival Hall…I was returning home to put on my tracksuit bottoms, and to cry into a tub of peanut butter. What I wanted (and needed) was to hear from debut authors – those who’d only just retired the tracksuit bottoms and dessert-spoon. Those who’d only just progressed to ‘published author’ status, and could therefore remember what it was like being in the trenches.
When I’d given up clean clothes completely, and would spend indeterminate periods of time staring forlornly out of windows just to catch a glimpse of other human beings, I put a distress call out asking whether anyone knew any writers I could befriend. Someone heeded my call, I was introduced to Rosy Edwards, author of the hilarious Confessions of a Tinderella and we drank three bottles of wine on a Tuesday evening because it seemed fitting given we’d finally found each other.
Over the months that followed, Rosy and I came up with an idea – The Riff Raff – a writers’ community specifically designed to champion the work of debut authors and to offer support, advice and discussion surrounding the process of getting a first book published. We want to lure people out of their writing caves and bring them together in one spot, to hear from debut authors, with a book out that month. At each event our five authors will introduce themselves and their work before reading their favourite extract to the audience, who will then get the chance to quiz them on their journey and processes. There will also be ample mingling time during the break, and after the event where attendees can chat to the authors and snap up signed copies of the books.
By bringing together debut authors and aspiring writers in a cosy room once a month, The Riff Raff will eliminate that feeling of being on the outside with no chance of gaining access to the golden palace that is the publishing industry. We’re here to offer you encouragement and inspiration by showing the hopeful that getting published is attainable.
Editors deal with all types of clients. Many of them are pleasant and easy to work with. Some can be very difficult. Freelance copy-editor Sue Littleford discusses different sorts of difficult clients and the problems an editor faces. Soon to follow is Sue’s companion piece on how to resolve these issues, and what authors can do if they feel an editor isn’t adhering to the Code of Practice.
I’m a freelance copy-editor, so I hang out around freelance editorial online watercoolers. If you do the same, or read blogs with any regularity, you’ll have seen editors’ tales of nightmare authors and, indeed, authors’ tales of nightmare editors.
Some of the most recalcitrant problems arise around conflicting ideas of ‘perfect’. Objective perfection doesn’t exist, but many freelance editors sell themselves as able to deliver it, which does no one any favours. And some authors expect their editors to be quite unfeasibly perfect – and read minds, to boot.
I’m going to state right now that, in my experience, most authors are lovely to work with. But in any barrel, there will always be a few bad apples. Here are several ways to annoy your editor. Some of these happened to me. Some of these happened to people I know.
I had one of these very early in my freelance career. Not too long after JK Rowling had published the final Harry Potter, the first part of story about a young orphan wizard in a school in a castle, with horrible relatives, an owl and two friends whose names began with H and R landed on my desk. It was dire. Even if it had been half-decently written, there was no getting away from the fact it was a rip-off. When the client asked if I thought she’d get it published, I had to say no. Getting paid for that job took a while…
Ah yes, the author who just keeps adding and changing and expecting you to edit all the new bits for no extra cash and in the original timescale. I’d once returned files to the publisher for typesetting, and days later was still getting new material from the author, who was trying to charm me into doing more work just because he was a ‘head-in-the-clouds academic’ (I’m quoting). Didn’t work. Note to authors: when you submit your manuscript to your publisher, the working assumption is that you’ve actually finished it. Aside from the actual extra work involved, and the cost and time added to the schedule that no one has budgeted for, it’s hard to do a quality edit of a moving target.
The author whose work was perfect to begin with and who rejects every single edit and comment. You wonder why they bothered getting an editor.
As for no. 3, but rude with it. The editor is clearly too stupid to comprehend the author’s artistic vision.
The author who can’t answer a question unless you send a separate email with each one. And/or they keep changing their minds about things they’d already answered. Or you have to ask the same question five times to get an answer. Note to authors – if we ask, it’s because we need to know.
Now, not all academic authors are like this – most are absolutely delightful, I’m happy to say – but there are some who make you deal with their secretary, as they can’t be bothered with your queries, or who treat your introductory email setting out the timetable, query handling and initial questions with airy indifference. I remember taking several attempts to get the author to confirm which variety of English they wanted me to edit the book into. The manuscript provided no clues and the clock was ticking. I was finally told ‘I’m sure you can work it out.’ So I went with my preference, which may not have been theirs. You can edit the book of one of these authors without ever having a conversation with them about it. Editing is dispiriting when the author doesn’t seem to care what happens to the book.
The editor sends the academic author a query. The academic author doesn’t answer the query, but writes a paragraph explaining around the point so I can figure out the answer for myself. Good teaching for your students, not so good for letting your copy-editor know how the manuscript should read at that point. I get one of these about once a year and it really slows things down and does nothing for my blood pressure.
First cousin to no. 6, the headstrong author will not be interested in following their publisher’s house style and certainly won’t have bothered to read the publisher’s guide for authors, because it’s of no interest to them – they’ll write the way they always have, and expect the house style to disappear in a puff of smoke. Your copy-editor, however, will be distracted from reading the actual words you worked so hard on by toiling away on the mechanics, taking out, or inserting, commas in references, or substituting First World War for World War I, or correcting your capitalisation of acronyms to haul the text back into house style.
They won’t answer queries, they go silent for days on end, they email you from the airport to say they’re going away and will be offline for ten days and make it your problem to deal with the publisher’s schedule (not to mention the knock-on effect on your own bookings).
It’s enough to make you cry. You’ve slaved over not very promising material and improved it significantly. Then the author shows your edits to a friend or relative, and they find fault with everything you’ve done. They’re wrong, of course. They can’t spell and they don’t understand grammar or how hyphenation changes with context. And they certainly don’t understand that there’s no such thing as perfect. So the author wants you to do it again, this time inserting all their friend’s mistakes.
You’ve done your edit, you’ve sent in the files and your invoice, and the author claims you’ve not done a decent job. There’s a comma missing on page 172! They want a do-over at no charge, or they won’t pay your invoice. Or they’ll take you to court to recover what they paid you before they got bent out of shape over the missing comma on page 172. Or they want a monstrous discount, because you missed out a comma on page 172. And/or they’ll shred your reputation across social media.
They think an editor will work for a share of their royalties, because their book is such a wonder, movie producers will be lining up for the rights, and publishers will be printing hundreds of thousands of hardbacks for the first print run for an unknown novelist.
‘Freelance means free, doesn’t it?’ ‘Budget? Oh, well, how does £50 sound – I don’t have any more’ (for a 150,000 word copy-edit). Sometimes the author just doesn’t want to pay, because the book is so good really, you should be paying them for the honour (and yes, I’ve had one of those), others just really have no idea of time or cost. And yes, it takes longer to edit a book than to read it. Much longer. And further, editors have mortgages, bills and commitments that require cash, not a swapsie for, well, anything the author wants to offer.
Editors talk to each other. Facebook groups I belong to have in the past few months caught out two people sending out individual chapters to different copy-editors for a ‘free sample edit’ in an attempt to get the entire book edited free of charge. It’s not big and it’s not clever. Any author who tries that must be prepared to be called out on it, or, should they get away with it, have a manuscript that will not have been well edited. Editing is about consistency much of the time – and no editor will edit a long text in exactly the same way as another.
After going through the negotiations and agreeing to take on the job, and having fitted it into your schedule, the job doesn’t show up. With some authors I’ve been told about, it doesn’t show up on the rescheduled date, either. When it finally shows up, unheralded, it’s for an immediate turnaround. Sigh. Now, for the freelance editor the no-show means they have a gap in their schedule. No money coming in. Other jobs, perhaps, have turned down because they’ve taken yours on. The editor can try their contacts to see if they can fill the gap, but an offered project may not have the same time requirements as the one you’ve just bailed on. Editors know that sometimes a manuscript isn’t ready when you’d said it would be. Things happen, we get that. But please – communicate with your editor ahead of the date you’re due to deliver your manuscript if you’re at all worried about meeting your commitment.
If you know you’re writing for publication, then making your manuscript look just like you hope the book will is, 99 times out of 100, a total waste of effort on your part, and creates work for the copy-editor. And if the author is paying the copy-editor for their time, that’s a waste of the author’s money, too. It is also really dull work for the copy-editor to have to squash all your design into typesetter-friendly format. So don’t use fancy styles – the editor wants to know a chapter title from a side-heading, and what needs to be italic, what’s a quotation and so on, but don’t try to replicate the book designer, who will be following the publisher’s brief (as will the copy-editor). It doesn’t help, either, if the author hits return at the end of each line, or uses strings of spaces or tabs to make a pretend table.
Copy-editors and publishers worry about copyright infringement and libellous statements a lot more than some authors seem to. One author told me that they didn’t need permission to quote material and use other people’s photographs ‘because they were on the internet, so they’re free’ (despite the copyright statements in the source websites…). Publication was delayed. Another said a lot of things about Berlusconi that may well have been true, but hadn’t yet been proven, and the publisher was not about to spend its money defending an action for libel. A couple of paragraphs were ripped out.
Sue Littleford has been a freelance copy-editor for ten years, working in scholarly non-fiction, but with forays into fiction. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and author of their Guide Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business.
Carly Watters is a VP and Senior Literary Agent at P.S. Literary. Here she shares her top tips on Instagram brand-building for us to share with authors.
Instagram is the last major social media frontier for many writers. It’s not new by any means; in fact, readers have been posting pictures of authors’ books since the platform’s inception. But where are those authors and why aren’t they engaging with all of those posts? Why haven’t writers joined Instagram as quickly as readers?
Many writers are reluctant to join Instagram for many reasons: 1) it takes time away from writing 2) it’s another platform to learn (when they were just getting the hang of Twitter!) 3) it’s against many writers’ natural instincts i.e. writers think they aren’t great at taking lovely Instagram-worthy pictures because they’re writers!
I’m here to argue that writers, you CAN be good at Instagram if you think of it like the storytelling platform it is. That’s right, successful Instagram users create a narrative that brings followers into their lives. That’s the key to those people that everyone wants to follow. You’re following their daily journey because they control the narrative they’re telling and reveal it in a compelling way (much like a novel, hint hint!).
For example, you can choose the parts of your life that you bring your followers into. Many successful users focus on certain elements: bringing a pet home, cooking and recipes, home renovations, a fitness journey, travel, and other hobbies.
Also, by combining the daily posts with complementary “Stories” (i.e. The Snapchat of Instagram, which are the circle icons at the top of your app), you can make yourself a destination that people want to visit regularly.
You need to engage with your readers. Sometimes they’ll tag you and sometimes they won’t, but search your hashtags (your name, your book’s name, your publisher’s feed etc.) and comment on readers’ posts, follow them, re-post their lovely pictures (which saves you from having to take your own), and make sure they want to pre-order your next. Early fans can become passionate brand ambassadors. They’re out there reading your work so make sure you welcome them into your fold and authentically appreciate the work they’re doing to spread the word of mouth on social media.
(One thing to avoid: talking too much about a work in progress. Unless you’re a multi-published author with a big fan base that’s craving a sneak peek it’s going to be lost on people. Focus on those tried and true Instagram hobby topics instead.)
Follow Carly on Instagram at @carlywatters.
Congratulations, you’re writing a book. You’re probably thinking, ‘I just need to get this finished and then I’ll begin to think about how to promote it.’ My advice would be, start thinking now. It’s never too early! Here are my top 5 tips to get your book and yourself PR-ready:
If you’re planning on hiring a professional publicist, bear in mind that they’re likely to want to start thinking about the campaign about 4 months ahead of publication. Good PRs get booked up, so start your research early.
When the project is close to your heart it can be hard to stand back, be objective, and accept that your book won’t be for everyone and to really pin down who it is you’re trying to reach. Your publicist will read your book, of course, but your help here is invaluable too.
I can’t stress how crucial it is to nail your audience – in order to create a targeted campaign (meaning one that results in book sales) your publicist needs to identify the media consumed by the audience you most want to reach. Are they the well-heeled, middle classes in the Home Counties who might enjoy their subscription to the Times or Telegraph; are they ‘heat seekers’ looking for their next beach reads; are they urban types who want to be ahead of any new trend?
Is it a non-fiction book that contains brand new research? What are the most salient, newsworthy points?
Are you uniquely qualified as an author on this particular subject? For example, bestselling crime writer Kathy Reichs is also a forensic anthropologist, so you always know that the science in her books is going to be spot on. That is her USP.
A publicist will be trying every avenue to get you publicity, so give them as much info as possible.
Twitter can be a godsend for authors, enabling them to engage with like-minded souls who might be interested in hearing about their book. Don’t be all ‘plug plug plug’ – let your PR do that for you – instead, find people talking about books that you like and join in.
Lots of book bloggers are very active on twitter and engaging with them early can be hugely beneficial when the time comes for your book to be pitched. Everyone remembers the person they had a lovely back and forth with about a shared interest.
Your publicist is there to do everything they can to get your book to the widest audience possible. Have an open discussion at the outset about your hopes for the campaign, and find out what their plans and their vision is, so that everyone is working to the same goal. Good luck.
Emma Finnigan has been promoting books for almost 20 years, at both the Orion Publishing Group, Penguin Random House and most recently as Director of Emma Finnigan PR Follow her on twitter at @EmmaFinnigan.
What is book design like when you choose to self-publish your work? Mathias Lord of Hewer Text fills us in.
Book design is something readers appreciate but usually don’t notice. However, if you are a self-publisher, it is crucial to know about book design. What is it, and what are the main differences between book design in traditional publishing and self-publishing?
Today the term usually refers to both cover design and typesetting. In short, the former consists of everything on the outside of the book; the latter everything between the covers.
Seen from a marketing perspective, cover design is supposed to grab your attention, whilst typesetting is meant to be invisible, insofar as it allows the text to communicate clearly and without interruption.
Cover design involves creating the picture or illustration, the word art (title, author name etc), and placing various other information (like quotes and blurbs). It’s the initial pitch that makes the casual browser open or buy a book.
Typesetting is less artistic but more complex. It deals with everything from the broader layout and presentation to specifics such as fonts and line spacing. This is all about making the text flow, look professional and comply with industry standards. There are many formatting rules and details in publishing, and self-publishers will benefit from understanding them.
Readers and writers often think they can do typesetting themselves, but it is a bit like saying that because you’ve ordered the same drink hundreds of times, you can recreate it yourself. (If you do, it may not taste very good!).
So how do these processes differ in self-publishing? In essence, the author has more control. The execution is similar, the quality exactly the same, but it’s the author who calls the shots.
It usually happens like this:
The designer and typesetter are given a brief by the author, either specifying what they desire or simply throwing a few ideas and images at them (like which books they like and want theirs to emulate).
Once they have a draft, the author receives this and gives feedback. The number of editing sessions varies, depending on how specific the author has been, and how much they are willing to spend on the services.
Self-publishing is fast. You can have a draft illustration within weeks, and the feedback and edits can be completed quickly and directly.
Why is it so fast?
Think of it like this: when a traditional publisher commissions a designer or typesetter, the drafts have to be run by several departments, who all have multiple book projects to juggle, and differing opinions about how the book should look. This interdepartmental coordination is time-consuming and often side-steps the author. In self-publishing, however, the author is the boss and the customer.
“With great power comes great responsibility”
Although this control is mostly positive, it does come with challenges. The author cannot just sit back and enjoy the ride. They need to stay focused. Neither should they try to dictate every minuscule aspect of the book. This will delay the entire project and does not usually result in a better product.
Because there is so much to coordinate and finish before the book is published, it is wise to make a time schedule and stick to it. Limiting the amount of feedback and editing sessions with the designers will save authors a lot of time and money without reducing the quality of the end product. Ask yourself: is this important? Can it wait and be delivered with other feedback?
Don’t try to bite over too much. As a self-publishing author, you have control but also responsibility. Writers should go into the self-publishing process with a plan but also an open mind. Designers and typesetters are patient, helpful and professional but work much better with an organised author.
Mathias is the self-publishing director at Hewer Text (HT-Publishing). He is in charge of coordinating self-publishing projects and consulting with authors. Follow him at @hewertext or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s it like to be an Unbound author? Norah Myers interviews Jennifer Pierce to find out.
I like the idea of giving readers a say in what gets published.
When I first heard about Unbound, I thought that this method of publishing had a lot of potential for YA audiences. The YA marketing segment is largely made up of a generation that is even more connected than ever. They’re connecting with publishers, authors, and other readers to have conversations about books and publishing in social media spaces. Many of these readers run successful blogs and YouTube channels about books. These platforms give them an opportunity to share their thoughts about what they’re reading and what they want to read. There are so many new ways that readers can engage with literature, and this is a way of engaging with the publishing process itself.
I think it’s great that Unbound is using that engaging nature of social media to be more inclusive and allow anyone to become involved in the process, from selecting which books they want to see published, to gaining access to author updates, and receiving exclusive content or rewards for investing in projects. Additionally, Unbound functions as a traditional publisher once the crowdfunding phase is over–having marketing and editorial support from experienced industry professionals is a huge advantage as a debut author.
This is my first experience with crowdfunding–it is much more of a roller coaster than I expected! Although being your own promoter is time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, the amount of support and encouragement I’ve had from family, friends, other Unbound authors, and even strangers has been incredible.
My MA provided me with an overview of all aspects of the publishing process so I know what to expect going in as an author. My marketing class and work experience have been useful throughout the crowdfunding stage.
Go for it! Although Unbound and most of their authors are UK-based, don’t let geography limit you. Unbound has been doing amazing things lately as they grow their list and it’s a really exciting time to be an Unbound author.
Jennifer Pierce is a graduate of Oxford Brookes University’s Publishing MA and currently works as an Editorial Project Manager at Elsevier. Her debut Young Adult novel, Slow Motion is now crowdfunding with Unbound.
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