13 Comments

The time to start is now…

I want to take a moment, if you don’t mind, to give a little lesson on the publishing industry, with a little self-promotion thrown in.

Most of us who hope to be published will never see the contract of a major publishing house. We’ll take alternative routes, because we accept full-time rock star status is only given to a few.

There are many complicated factors here, but I want to concentrate on just one…marketing. The big publishing houses are in the business of publishing what they think will sell. That’s why so many great authors get passed up. Once they have their sellable book and author (yes, both have to be marketable), then they throw tons of money at it to get it in front of as many people as possible. Once the book turns a profit, the publisher’s happy. If the book proves better than expected, the author might see a second contract.

That’s the simplicity of it, but the nuts and bolts are more complex. But that’s another post, and honestly a negative one. So I probably won’t go into that.

On the indie publishing scene, things are different. Indie publishers focus on great writing first, not necessarily sellability, though that certainly helps. Indie publishers are keeping excellence in the craft alive. But indie publishers don’t have the capitol to mass market their products.  The author is expected to do the majority of their own marketing. In addition, indie publishers don’t have contracts with chain bookstores, so these books often don’t make it to shelves.

Let me sum up the picture for you.

Indie publishing:

  • Focus on excellent writing.
  • Little capitol for marketing.
  • Can’t get into bookstores.

Big publishing houses:

  • Focus on marketability.
  • Lots of money for marketing.
  • Gets books everywhere.

Die harders for the craft obviously prefer the indie scene. But if you want any hope of being able to write full time you have to keep shooting for a big publishing house…because they make money.

So now that the lesson is over, let me tell you what Grace (Splashdown Books) and I are trying. We want to break the mold and show that an indie book has marketing power too. There’s two things we’re doing. First, I’ve designed a pretty dynamic marketing strategy. Most of you have seen the book trailer, but if you haven’t just click my name up at the top. We’re pushing this momentum to June 1 by strategically releasing sample chapters and a second trailer. We’re also trying to get 1,000 people to commit to buying the book either on release day or within the first week of release. Don’t laugh. There’s already over 100 committed and over 2,000 invited. Want to get involved? CLICK HERE. And then after the release, I’m going to attempt to keep momentum by tapping into my 100+ core fans and doing as many appearances as I can at schools, libraries, and bookstores. By then the snowball should be rolling.

Yes, it’s ambitious. But if we pull it off, Winter will shoot to the top at Amazon and prove that an indie published book can do it too.

So what’s the moral of the story? Big publishing is an exclusive club. Don’t expect to get in anytime soon. Write well and work your tail off, and you just might land an indie publisher. But that’s only the beginning. If you want to be successful, the work never stops. Plan for it. Some indie publishers will ask you this up front before offering you a contract.

You were creative enough to write your story, but are you creative enough to present it to the world? How will you market your book when it’s finally published? Have you even thought about it?

The time to start is now. But there’s a word of caution too. If you market too much too soon, you’ll burn out your fans as they wait. And waiting could take longer than you expect. Keep your mad marketing skills at the ready, until the time is right. Just make sure you’re ready.

-k

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About Keven Newsome

Keven Newsome is a child of God, husband, father, and friend, in that order. He’s also a novelist, musician, and sometimes artist. He has an MA in Theology, specializing in supernatural theology, from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His debut novel Winter was a finalist for the Compton Crook Awards and the Grace Awards. His other works include Prophetess, the sequel to Winter; three contributing stories in the Aquasynthesis anthology; and a contributing micro-story in the Avenir Eclectia anthology. Keven is the founder of The New Authors’ Fellowship and produces music and video through Newsome Creative.

13 comments on “The time to start is now…

  1. “Indie publishers focus on great writing first, not necessarily sellability [sic] …”

    I find that to rarely be the case, Keven. Not sure where you got that, but I assume it’s from hearing my and Grace’s vision for our small presses. But NO, that’s NOT a mantra that’s often heard. EVER. Most all small presses are out to sell a few books. Period.

    Glad you connected with Grace.

    ~Chila

    • I understand everyone wants to sell a few books, that’s not my point. My point is that big publishers will produce something sub-par just because they think it will sell. I don’t see indie presses doing that. They’ll take a chance on something a little less marketable if it’s oustandingly written. I don’t think an indie press will publish anything sub-par.

      My point is more of what they look at first. Big press look at the marketability first, before considering the writing. Indie presses look at the writing first, then consider marketability.

      Would you agree with that?

      • I do, Keven. I’ve seen SO many indie press websites that say exactly that. Maybe they aren’t all actually following through with finding the cream of the crop, and some do publish poor writing. And yes, the indies want to make money–why wouldn’t they? BUT, the big publishers will always go for money over quality. Sometimes they get quality and marketability together, but if it comes to one or the other, the big guys pick market.

  2. No, I absolutely don’t agree with that. But of course, this is only my opinion from seeing things on this end of the spectrum for the past few years. No, small presses, like larger presses, almost exclusively want to sell books. They simply don’t have the manpower and money to do more than they do, thus they remain “small” presses. If they were producing truly great books, word would get out and they’d be attracting attention. So, no, I don’t think that’s a viable premise at all. I think that’s wishful thinking for those very very few of us who really want the ABSOLUTE BEST books we can find.

    But I love seeing optimism wherever I can find it. Nothing wrong with that. It’s simply that the facts don’t match up. Like I said in my interview on Monday with Mike Duran, mediocrity plays no favorites: small, medium, large presses — all revel in it, simply because selling books to stay afloat is their Priority #1.

    • I’ve read testimonials from people who’ve worked in large presses, who say the first few passes in selecting a submission is to read the premise, and sometimes the blurb, and only filter out the ideas they think will sell. Only after that, do they move on to check out the writing ability. If you tell me you do the same thing, then I will concede.

      • Writers don’t like to hear it, but consider all the agents and publishers that won’t even accept a “sample” until they’ve analyzed the sellability of the blurb/premise. In other words, how many only take the query letter and possibly the synopsis? Tons. Big, small.

        Seriously, even of those that I sent sample chapters… I wouldn’t be surprised if they never made it that far or past page 1. It’s a business and they have limited time. They’re job is to disqualify as many as possible as fast as possible so they can spend the bulk of their time with those that show the most promise/potential – potential in writing quality, sellability and the author’s ability to market.

        No small publisher wants to be stuck with a book where the author refuses or “can’t” sell.

  3. I think this all depends on which indie and mainstream publishers you’re looking at. I’ve seen shoddy writing come from both. I’ve seen brilliant writing come from both. And I would agree that indie publishers will look more at the writing before the marketability of the the author.

  4. I do the same thing, Keven. I simply don’t have time to read even the first 10 pages of every manuscript we get. If an idea grabs me, then I read those first two or three pages. If the writing grabs me, I read more. If it keeps grabbing me, we talk turkey.

    I don’t think Grace does the same thing though. We all handle things differently.

    But my thesis was that of the small presses I know — of the15 or 20 or more I’m slightly familiar with, yes, writing’s important to them, but they also won’t take a book that they may not be able to sell — except for me. If the writing’s SUPERB, I’ll try to find a way to produce that book. At least that’s been my motto since January of this year: DOWN WITH those with only mediocre writing and a saleable theme, and UP WITH those with stellar writing and a potentially slow-selling theme.

    But that’s just me. And I’m a little bit strange. 😉

    • You know, I think we’re describing the same thing… just looking at it from different mountain tops.

      • Not really, but it’s difficult to discuss this stuff on a forum like this, especially when what can seem like a strong tone on my part may come across as opinionated sh*t. If you were sitting here across the table from me, you’d find great intensity and passion about this topic, but a huge smile on my face, and kindness in my voice. Then I’d offer you another cup of tea (or a Michelob Amber). 😉

        But no, I am vehement about my belief that /most/ small presses are out to survive FIRST, then hopefully find a few good books, secondarily. But again, it’s simply my opinion, one emanating from a mere 2 years on this side of things. Maybe more experience will lead me to believe otherwise, but not at this point.

        Good discussion!

    • I do my best to discourage direct submissions, so I don’t have many of those, and I will read their first few chapters to get a feel for the work. I get most of my stuff by being sneaky on writers’ forums and volunteering for critique swaps which are worth my while because I get something back. I also prefer critiques because if I read something and decide it’s not for me, the author has still gotten a crit out of it and it’s not a rejection per se. A good many of the manuscripts I critique are certainly not intended as “submissions to Splashdown” though I suppose I can’t avoid it becoming known that this is how I like to work… lol. And yes, it is a very strange way to go about it, and I’m proud of that. I see no need to allow a flood of submissions when this current method gets me plenty of good stories as it is.

      Bottom line: I publish books that I LOVE. Otherwise, what’s the point? “Easy to edit” is also high on my wish list, along with low-maintenance, high-initiative authors such as Keven here 😀

  5. I talked to a self-published author once with a spec fiction series he was marketing. I asked him how he thought it was going. His response was along the lines of “you can’t really tell. The hope is to get the book into the right hands and then it will all take off. One day I hope to come onto [my fan site] and find thousands of visitors”…

    To be honest, I don’t buy this idea. It reminds me too much of MLM’s pushing the idea of all you have to do is find a star seller to push you to the top. Yes, I believe that connecting with a person who is both excited about your book and happens to be able to influence a bunch of people – those are priceless – but I think that marketing takes a plan, evaluation, refining and innovation on the author’s behalf, just like writing it took. Companies don’t blindly pour money into “marketing” hoping to someday “make it big”. No, they have a plan and constantly analyze the progress they’re making and how to do better.

  6. […] The time to start is now… (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

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