Tag Archives: writing

4 Benefits Indie Authors Can Gain Through Traditional Publishing

Ever wanted to write and publish your own book? Maybe you’ve got the next blockbuster novel inside you? Or a ‘how-to’ guide that will make life easier for everyone? You’re in luck. These days, thanks to electronic (e-)publishing it has never been easier to get your masterpiece out into the public arena for all to enjoy.

In fact, a lot of self or ‘indie’ published authors have taken the e-publishing route because of the challenges of traditional publishing: having to submit your work for scrutiny, waiting for it to work its way to the top of the slush pile, only to have an editor – or more likely, an editor’s assistant – send it back with a big “NOT INTERESTED” note attached to it, or, should it be deemed worthy, having to hack and slash your hard work to bits just to shoehorn it into the publishers idea of what the marketplace wants, all for a relative pittance in compensation. (It’s not always like that of course, however any writer who has gone through the traditional route will tell you it feels like that sometimes!) Who wants to deal with that when you can just write something, upload it to the e-marketplace directly, and sit back and wait to be adored?

Unfortunately, there are now millions of other people who feel the same way, and competing with you for an audience that has very quickly become over-saturated with product. The days of winning fame and fortune simply by skipping the middle-men are over. With so much on offer and a lot of it – let’s be honest – not exactly the polished product we’ve come to expect from traditional publishing houses, audiences are becoming much more critical, and consequently much more selective, when it comes to indie publications. In this marketplace, you really need to stand out if you want your writing to be read.

What’s interesting is that many indie authors have viewed this as a marketing issue, and subsequently invested their time and effort into branding and promoting. Social media, website campaigns, and promotional videos are just some of the means by which indie authors are wedging themselves into the market. As an example, I’ve seen one up-and-coming indie author recruit over 14,000 followers within several months – all before publishing a single word of their novel. How?  A clever teaser video, supplementary information only available by registering on their website, competitions where the prize was a preview of the novel, and lots and lots of social media self-promotion. The result? About 1% of that audience went on to actually buy the book. Was it worth it? Well, you’d have to ask the author about that.

To help put this into perspective, it’s important to note that this author had never previously been published in any form, and always intended to self-publish rather than sell their novel to a publisher. With that in mind you could ask: did this author achieve more through publishing independently than they would have by pursuing the traditional route? Again, it depends on your perspective. On the one hand, you could say the fact they have a published novel that has been read by anyone is an achievement beyond what most people attain in itself. On the other, a 1% strike rate from a pre-committed audience is not a high uptake – in fact statistically, this author could have potentially doubled their readership just by including their novel along with the junk mail people get in their mailboxes (it’s estimated that between 1-2% of junk mail distribution translates into sales – and let’s face it, wouldn’t you be more inclined to read a free book than another catalogue?).

Would this result have been different if the author had decided on the traditional publishing route?

I would suggest the answer is a definite “yes”, however, it’s almost impossible to predict whether the outcome would have been more or less favourable to the author. Regardless of the outcome though, I do believe this author – as a first time writer – could have benefited a number of ways from pursuing traditional publishing in the first instance.

  1. It makes you a better writer

It might be hard to believe, but all those rejections you get from potential publishers can make you a better writer, and there’s two main ways this can happen.

Firstly, it forces you to critically examine your writing. Speaking as an up-and-coming writer, none of us like to be told our writing isn’t very good. It can be a massive blow to the ego, and one that can be very hard to recover from . Those that do get past it ask that ageless question, “why?” and answering that requires critical reflection. Sometimes the answers are obvious: you can see that there’s too much repetition, it doesn’t flow, there’s unnecessarily wordy sections, or other stand out issues. Sometimes it’s not as obvious, or perhaps your experience isn’t such that you can identify the issues with your work. That’s where the second way come in.

A good editor (or agent) will recognise good work, even if the writing itself – structure, grammar, etc. – isn’t great. If the work itself is really good, there’s a good chance they’ll be willing to work with you to make your writing better. This is because writing – structure, style, grammar – is, in relative terms, more easily correctable than content is. Writing after all is a skill, and skills can be learned and honed. An editor or agent with a solid interest in your work will invest time and effort into refining your writing skills because it is ultimately in their best interest to do so. (It should be noted that for this investment to be made, you do need to demonstrate some rudimentary level of ability, or have what they believe will be ‘the big thing’.)

  1. It gives you access to a range of support

As an indie author, it’s not just the writing and publishing you need to do yourself. Everything, from the typesetting, layout, and cover design, to the printing (or generation of a compatible e-format), distribution, and marketing and promotion are all your responsibility. Of course, there are a wide range of specialists who will be willing to assist you with these things – for a price.

One of the main benefits of traditional publishing is that the publisher will take care of all of this for you. More than that, if they’re a quality publisher, they will already have a sound idea of how best to achieve the maximum readership for your work. Remember: a publisher’s business is not buying books, but selling them. If they think they can sell yours, expect them to do whatever it takes to maximise that.

  1. It familiarises you with the industry

Most authors will tell you they write because they love writing, and that’s a very noble reason. Publishing, however, is an industry, and it’s one that works with one of the toughest marketplaces in existence. As an author, it’s understandable that you probably want to separate yourself from all of that. You just want to concentrate on your writing, right?

Unfortunately, attracting an audience is more than just putting your work on display, and if you want a wide readership, you will benefit from knowing at least a little about how the industry works. Anything from understanding what’s hot – or going to be hot – in the current market, to how the timing of a release influences sales, to how to protect yourself from being ripped off, can only benefit you in terms of ensuring your work reaches the people you’re writing for.

For indie authors this can be a very steep learning curve, and one that can be unforgiving as you work through trial-and-error. The curve can be just as steep with traditional publishing, however there’s a degree of separation. Once the publisher decides to run with your work, you can watch the process unfold and see how it’s supposed to look when handled by experts. Whether they get it right or wrong (and you would hope in all instances they get it right!) you will learn from the process without the risks that publishers take when trying to sell a new author. These insights are invaluable for your future publishing endeavours, whether they’re through a traditional publisher or not. If you understand how the industry works, you are much better placed to be successful within it.

  1. It builds your audience

What’s the difference between an audience, and a group of people? Engagement.

Why is engagement important? Consider for a moment some data from Forbes magazine, that estimates approximately 20 million Kindle e-readers of one type or another were sold in 2013. That means if you publish a book in the Kindle format, you have access to group of greater than 20 million people. However, this is not your audience. Let’s make a conservative estimate that 10% of new Kindle owners will see that you have published a new e-book. That means your reaching about 2 million people. However, this is not your audience either. In fact, it isn’t until at least one person engages with you and your book to download it onto their Kindle that you start to develop an audience. Like the earlier example showed, having a group of people looking at your work, or even interested in it, is not the same as having an audience engaged and reading it.

Building and retaining an audience is a challenge for any author, particularly when potential readers have access to a plethora of choices. Attracting an audience is about far more than good writing. In fact, as a new author your writing makes no difference whatsoever until people actually start reading your work. Even for an established writer, retaining, and then building your audience requires a constant effort.

Any good publishing house understands how to develop an audience for an author. They are in the business of engaging people to want to pick up your book and buy it. They can do this because they understand the reading audience. They know what section of the audience your work is going to appeal to, and they have strategies to target that audience to engage with you. A perfect example of this is the way publishers target celebrities, for example, Oprah Winfrey, to promote their authors. It has been demonstrated time and again that an author’s sales (and thus their readership) increase exponentially once they’ve been recommended by Oprah’s Book Club. Why? Because the publisher’s understand the engagement Oprah’s fans have with her, and use this to engage with their authors.

 

The rise of self-publishing has offered new and up-and-coming writers unprecedented abilities to get their work out to the public. The decision whether or not to publish independently is a very personal one, and one that has a lot of pros and cons to be weighed up. However, all indie authors – whether new, or established – can benefit from the lessons and insights pursing a traditional publishing path. The intent here is not to convert indie authors to traditional publishing; rather it is to recognise that what you need to know about being successful at publishing your work has already been learned, and in many instances perfected, by traditional publishers, and even in the worst case scenario, you can use that to your benefit.

Are you an indie author? Have you tried traditional publishing? Tell us about your experiences in the comments area below.

You Really Can Write Everyday: My 4 Tips

iStock_book_typewriter_writingIf you’ve ever tried to be a writer, at some point you will no doubt have come across the sagely advice that to become a good writer, you must write every single day. There is certainly truth to this: writing is a skill, and like any skill, the more you do it, the better you will become. However, unless you live in total isolation and are completely self-sufficient, how can you possibly write every day? Surely, this is an unachievable ideal; a brass ring to reach for that forever remains beyond you grasp. Who but an already well-established professional author has the freedom to be able to write every day?

I have to admit, that’s how I used to think. I thought being able to write every day was a fantasy, a dream, a form of motivation, at best, but not something that could actually be achieved. Not with the demands of my life. For me, finding time to write was a luxury, and one that I seldom had opportunity to indulge in. I wrote when I could, and those times could be few and far between. Writing every day was an impossibility at best, and I dismissed those who claimed to write every day as either being in unique positions in their life where they had minimal other commitments, or engaged in spreading falsehoods.

Then, through my muse, I found reason to try it for myself. Without even realising the significance of what I was doing, I wrote every day. Just a little bit, more often than not, but consistently, every day, for about three weeks. By the end of it I had about 14,000 words on-screen. The most I’ve ever written for a single piece.

It was, in many ways, a revelation. There was no denying it. No way to rationalise my past ‘inability’ to be able to do it. I’d just written every day and produced my largest piece of work to date. Not only that; I’d done it with relative ease. How? Well, when I thought about I found four key things that made this possible for me:

1. Give Yourself a Big Purpose

You would think that wanting to write a novel, or even a short story, would be purpose enough. My motivation to write, apart from the enjoyment I get from the process itself, is to be read. I want people to read and enjoy my writing. That is a great purpose, however, until now it obviously hasn’t been enough to spur me into writing on a daily basis. Perhaps because the desire to write competed with my belief I could not do it every day? Who knows?

When I undertook the task of writing every day, the ‘every day’ part was not my main motivation, at least not directly. My main motivation was to try to help someone, to try to give them something to look forward at a time when they really needed it. My purpose was bigger than story writing – it was about creating something positive in someone’s life, and that was big enough to drive me beyond my self-imposed limitations.

Your purpose does not need to be as profound as mine. However, it needs to be big enough that it will not just motivate, but drive you towards your goals. It needs to be important enough to become a high priority for you. Writing a short story or novel might be all the purpose you need. If not, you might need a bigger purpose. Perhaps you want to make a loved one proud, or be an example to your children, or maybe what you’ve got to share is time critical – it needs to be out there right now.You don’t need to become obsessive about it – it just needs to be desirable enough that you find yourself not just wanting, but needing, to pursue it.

2. Set Realistic Goals

On reflection, I think one of the things that has subconsciously demotivated my desire to write every day is seeing other writers boast about being able to write two-, three-, even four-thousand or more words a day. On my best day it still takes me a considerable amount of time to be able to get to those sorts of levels. And at this stage of my life, there’s no way that can be achieved on a daily basis.

What I realised, though, is that there’s no rule that says to write every day you must meet a minimum word count. You could write a hundred words a day – say, a medium to large paragraph – and in three to six weeks you’ll have a decent length short story. When you are writing regularly, how much you write in a sitting becomes irrelevant. What matters is that you are writing regularly – that is what will get you from start to finish.

Having said that, having some sort of goal is a great motivator, and ensures you will make a minimum amount of progress with each sitting. The key is to make your goal realistic, and achievable – you should be able to hit your goal every time. For example, for my last piece of writing, I set myself a goal of a minimum of 421 words every time I sat down to write. I chose this number for two reasons: first, because on a personal level it has significance to me, and second, because I knew that I could hit this number every time I sat down to write. In practice, I often wrote more than that, sometimes significantly more, which was great. But as long as I wrote at least 421 words, I was satisfied that I’d achieved my goal for that sitting.

And therein lies the reason for setting a realistic and achievable goal: success. Success can be its own motivation. The more you succeed at achieving your goal, the more you will be motivated to achieve them again and again. Had I set my goal at, say, a thousand words, I would have struggled to achieve this, and the times I didn’t would have been demoralising, which is highly counter-productive. Having a realistic goal ensured positive feedback and continuous motivation to keep achieving.

3, Don’t Commit to Writing Every Day

Sounds like I just contradicted myself, doesn’t it? How can you possibly write every day if you don’t commit to writing every day? Believe me, it does work, and it follows the above tip on setting realistic goals.

When I set out to write regularly, I knew it was pointless trying to commit to writing every day. I knew that because, inevitably, something would likely come up that would prevent me from writing every single day. So instead of committing to writing every day, I committed to planning to write every day, with the caveat that if for whatever reason I could not, that was okay. It was not the end of the world – I could just pick it up again when the next opportunity presented itself.

In committing to a plan to write every day, but allowing for the possibility that I may not be able to, and the flexibility to work around that, I removed the pressure that trying to meet a commitment to write every day would have imposed. I removed the guilt and the sense of defeat associated with not being able to meet a commitment of writing every day. I removed the sense of urgency and frustration that goes with trying to find the time to write everyday. As a result, a strange thing happened: I wrote every day.

This is where the irony comes in. By having the desire, but not the commitment, to write every day, I actually found more opportunities – or perhaps, created more opportunities would be more accurate – to write on a daily basis. In this plan, I could only succeed. If I managed to write every day, that was fantastic. If not, that was just fine as well. There was no down side, and I believe because of that, because the whole process was positive, it motivated me at a higher level, consistently, than I have previously achieved. Writing became something I wanted to do, rather than something I had to do, and for me, that is a critical distinction.

4. Share Your Progress

In my experience, success is much more rewarding when you can share it with others. The support and inspiration that comes with shared success can boost your motivation and drive significantly, particularly when it comes from those whose opinions or approval mean something to you. I was fortunate enough to have almost daily feedback on my successes, and every time I did it fired me up and made me want to achieve even more. It has since inspired me to seek out feedback for larger projects. For example, I have introduced a meter to indicate my progress towards writing my first novel on my writing website, as a means of showing fans and followers my progress, and seeking their support and encouragement. If you’re achieving your goals, you have every reason to celebrate that, and sharing that experience with others will help give your motivation a huge boost.

This is what worked for me. What’s worked for you? What ways have you found to help you work towards your writing goals? Still looking for some? Try my tips and let all of us know how the helped you. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.