Publishing a book in the 21st century is not only no longer a solitary endeavour where you write a book and find a publisher, it will never be so again. Publishers now expect many more of the authors they publish to bring an already created market before their first book is printed. If you are publishing your own work, it is an expectation you should have too, if you expect to sell any books. I discovered this first hand last year, while experimenting with my first international publishing project, Innerone.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – (Sep 23, 2014)
Authors usually think that once they’ve written a book and it is there, in long hand or their computer, that they are done. Then they think they’re done when they’ve had it edited. Then proofread. Then they finally publish, either as an indie author or through a publishing house. At each stage, when they think they are finished, they are wrong.
At the beginning, when the work is first crafted, it is a rare author who thinks, who is my market? Where are they? How will I get my book to them? Publishing houses like to get books that sell to large markets. Usually when I ask fiction authors who their market is, they say “Anyone who likes my genre!” I am as gentle as I can be when I contradict them, because that market does not exist. It does not exist because an unknown author is just that – unknown. Your market is your platform – people who know you. So while authors are writing their opus, they should be blogging, joining internet and local groups interested in their genre, following others and becoming followed in turn, building a reputation and creating their own market. This can go on for years. Then, as they write, they can tell their followers what they are doing, get opinions, and find ways to reach out and fulfill the needs of their market within their text. That’s more than a smart author, that’s an empathic author whose chances of prospering have sky-rocketed. It takes time and courage, but, what’s worth doing is worth doing well; and if some authors are shy, at least their keyboards will shield them for a while, so that they can build their confidence and their platforms simultaneously. Then, when they are ready to publish, they need to put the book out as a pre-release, drum up interest, let the libraries know about it and release with fanfare. You only have a short period when your book is new, as Judy Hertzl reminded me (see below for more on Judy). You have to maximise the impact and need to strategic about it, as Lee Woolf emphasised (see below for more on Lee). We are living in a world where a determined author can live in the middle of nowhere, yet have an international market. Make the most of it.
In the build up to the Innerone release, I thought a few months of publicity build up would be enough. But I was thinking local, not international, because local has been my market for almost all of my company’s life; I was thinking internet, not radio and TV. And I was lucky.
Let me explain. While I have been publishing books for fifteen years, very few of my authors have had books that required publicity. The few authors that did often lectured, and as experts in their subjects are interviewed in newspapers, magazines, on TV and radio anyway. My company, ada enup, does not do any marketing, although I give what good and steady advice I have to my authors.
When it came to my own book, I thought a few months of promotion would be fine for a fiction book. (Actually, it is a bit of a rush even for our little South Africa. Four or five months are better for press releases and interviews. International requires nine months, at the least, with someone on the other side pushing for you.) As you know, I’ve been working hard to do all sorts of internet-related promotion, such as Goodreads and Smashwords, blogging, a short story and coupon codes. I was so busy on the internet I quite forgot about actual papers, radio and TV. The day I realised I needed to do this too, I contacted a few people.
As I said, I was lucky (in the way that you make your own luck). I met with Lee Woolf (no relation), a South African producer, who I met at Chai FM while promoting one of my albums in 2010. Over coffee, I explained that I knew some basics but needed an expert to guide me, someone who knew the industry and who liked my work. She said, it’s more than who you know and who they know – it’s who they are. I thought this was quite profound, and told her I would quote her, which I have just done. Lee does seem to like my work, something that is very important to me, so hopefully we can get things together for a November launch in SA. I then contacted a platform creator in Santa Fe, Judy Herzl, who I’d ‘met’ in a Linkedin publisher group. I really liked what she had to say and how she said it, so I asked her for a Skype meeting. Fortunately, she was happy to meet with me and confirmed what I already knew – you have to build a platform and in the US it takes longer. I have not been building a platform for long enough.
So it seems as if I need to have two different release dates, one for South Africa – hopefully mid-November, in print, where I sell enough books and generate enough good reviews for it to be marketed well in the States – and one in the US, later, after building a solid platform.
At this moment I am not sure about many things; the cost of the publicity, the actual strategies, which still have to be formulated, and so on. But I’ll keep blogging about the process and hopefully you who are reading this can learn from my missteps.
I said I was lucky and this is why: it is both the knowledgeable people I have met and that I still have time to change direction. So I will push the release date of Innerone back. I will publish another short story, a satire called The Mysterious Jagg, on the second of October instead. And I hope that readers who have been waiting patiently for Innerone will forgive me.