Welcome to 2019. This promises to be an interesting and hopefully productive year for me, and I trust it will be for all of you as well.
Why will 2019 be an interesting year? Well, for one thing I’m planning on making changes to my writing habits and to do more marketing of my books. Call these my New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions have a high rate of failure in the first couple of months for most people. Let’s see how well I do.
The second thing I’ve set my sights on is retiring from my job at the end of 2019. With that I will be able to devote more time to writing, publishing, editing, and helping others publish.
The third thing is to update this blog with a new look and move it to a new host site along with my personal website (and to update that significantly, part of my new marketing push). I will also move my magazine Fabula Argentea to the new site. The look of that may or may not change. Moving these sites presents a few technical challenges for me, and on top of that, WordPress, which I use for all three sites just underwent major changes. Those changes increase the flexibility of WordPress for customizing websites, but with those changes comes the need to learn new stuff—and I wasn’t even close to proficient with WordPress before. From what I can tell, customizing my websites will be a whole lot easier once I do learn it.
Naturally, these things all take time away from writing, and I must find the right balance to get everything done in a timely and non-disruptive manner. Along with all of that, I need to work more aggressively on marketing my writing, something I’ve been extremely lax on. I’m sure many of you have similar things that keep you from writing. We all have life and the unexpected to deal with. For me, I need to cram fewer things into my life so I have a little breathing room. But I really don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.
That brings me to what I really wanted to talk about in this post. I’m sure that many or most of you have been hearing how book sales have been declining this year. The more savvy of you will recognize the falsity of this because you know those reports are coming from traditional publishing.
Naturally, I have a link to an article by my favorite publishing professional, Kris Rusch, that addresses this. I recommend you read Part 1 as well (the link is in her article) and that you follow the rest of the series, as I plan to do.
I’m not going to regurgitate what she says except to reinforce that indie authors must realize they can no longer be just authors. As scary as it sounds, they are now publishers and therefore are now running their own business of writing. If you don’t want to be in that role, then you must accept that publishing your book is no more than a hobby and are likely limiting your sales potential.
If all you want is to put out a book or two with no expectations of making any meaningful money from it, that’s fine as long as you understand that. However, in the unlikely event that your book or books hit big (it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen), you must be prepared to accept what comes with that. Publishing your book means taking full responsibility for everything that comes with publishing, regardless of whether it’s a business or a hobby and regardless of what parts you do yourself. I’m talking about the non-writing aspects of indie book publishing.
It’s also important to understand that if you do pen a hit, there’s a good chance that someone will want a piece of your success. That choice is up to you, but you should think long and hard before giving someone else a piece of your hard work unless you don’t care who profits from your work besides you. There are always people out there who want to make money at someone else’s expense.
Assuming you are serious about your writing and in making some money from it, I’m going to pose some challenges to you. Before I do that, by “making some money” I’m talking about whatever goal you set in that regard. Instead of making it a full-time job, you might want just a little extra each month, or enough to pay your phone bill or monthly mortgage. That’s fine.
Kris Rusch has been emphasizing recently the need for indie authors to sell their books in places besides Amazon. That may sound daunting or scary, but I’ll show you how it doesn’t have to be in a moment.
I suspect that most you only sell on Amazon. It makes sense to sell there because they are after all the largest online retailer of books. Amazon is not your only one option, however, and they don’t sell everywhere in the world. As I pointed out in my last post, there are some potential pitfalls when dealing with Amazon, like how they can pull down your books or cancel your account at any time for any reason just because they find something that looks suspicious. When that happens, it can be extremely difficult to find out from them what you supposedly did nothing wrong. Even if you get your books and account reinstated, it can be a frustrating hassle, and during that downtime your books are unavailable for sale on Amazon.
The best protection you can give yourself is having your books available in multiple places. Regardless of how much you sell in some areas, it costs nothing but a little of your time to set up other outlets. That way if you advertise on your website or blog, you simply add the extra links to give potential buyers options. Remember too that Amazon only sells e-books in Kindle format, whereas other sites make your e-books available to Apple and other devices. Yes, I know you can get apps for Kindle books on your tablets and phones, but a readers doesn’t need to buy Kindles books exclusively. You also gain another advantage of having your books available from other sources: more chances for visibility.
There are several non-Amazon retailers: Smashwords and Draft2Digital are two of the big ones. Both of these are considered aggregators, meaning they distribute to a variety of other locations without you having to format your books specifically for places like Kobo and iBooks. Why more people don’t use those is that they like see it as more difficult than Amazon. Many authors says that they see far fewer sales on Smashwords, but is that any reason not to be there or on Draft2Digital? I haven’t used the latter yet, but I plan to explore it in the future.
One thing to consider is whether to use BOTH Smashwords and Draft2digital. They both of them distribute to many of the same places, and it’s likely that a given location will only use one of your sources. You can pick the sales channel each one distributes to so you don’t duplicate them—that is if you decide to use both.
Here are two articles to help you decide. Of course there’s nothing wrong with using Smashwords for some of your books and Draft2digital for others, especially if you want to experiment with which one gives better results for you.
The point is not to limit your sales outlets. It doesn’t cost you anything other than a bit of time to set up the account on one of those and to upload the files. If you’ve formatted your book properly in the first place, then you shouldn’t have any issues with these two, but both services will help you out with any problems—unlike Amazon.
You may be surprised by sales from other sites. Some authors have reported better sales than on Amazon because Amazon seems to sell better in the US, while Smashwords and Draft2Digital reach foreign markets better.
And if for some reason Amazon does pull your books down, you’re still in business.