So I guess I’m someone who’s a bit old fashioned when it comes to writing a book. I don’t have a television, and I don’t really keep up to date with current events, which is something I’m working on. It has always seemed to me that to get a book published, you simply write the thing, and then start contacting agents and from there something magical will happen and bam! You’re published.
Well, that’s not quite true. Since I’ve become serious about getting my own book finished and (hopefully) published this year, I’ve been doing a lot of research and investigation into current trends in the publishing industry. This sort of thing may be old news to most people, but some of the things I’ve learnt have come as quite a surprise to me. For example, establishing what’s known as a “platform” before you ever even start sending your book to potential agents.
A platform is essentially a marketing strategy to increase your audience and have a ready fan base who is eager to buy your book the day it hits the shelves. For a first time author, this isn’t easy to accomplish. It includes things like hiring a professional publicist, relating your book to things currently going on in the national news, creating a specific website dedicated to your book, finding places or people who will recommend your book and get you some attention in the media, all the way down to blogs. Which is what got me started on writing here.
My book is based in a science fiction world of my own creation, and takes place in a time and setting that I have tried to make as rich, imaginative, and unique as possible. Because of the niche market that science fiction exists in, I’m hoping that taking advantage of some of the many tools suggested by websites and other authors will help get me off the ground. It’s a little daunting to consider that all the hours and effort I will and already have poured into getting this book published may, in the end, amount to nothing more than a stack of rejection letters and suggestions for better luck the next time round.
This article: http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2008/06/07/build-your-author-platform-10-tips-from-a-pro/ offers some really helpful information on how to get yourself started creating a platform. Some of it, such as hiring a publicist or giving speeches in local venues I’m not quite ready for. My book is still in the writing stage, and honestly quite far from being completed. I just ticked over on the 40,000 word mark, which seems like a lot. And it is! But most science fiction novels are anywhere from 90,000 to 150,000 words. And at the rate I’m going, mine’s probably going to be closer to the latter.
However, that’s all part of the fun, and now that I’ve started the process to get this book written and published this year, I’m a little relieved to find all the support that exists out there for burgeoning authors like myself. Expect to see more updates like this, as I’ll probably be doing a lot of website hunting and trying to see what exactly I can do to start building a community around what I honestly think will be an excellent book.
It sounds like you’ve got a good start on the research half of building a platform, but keep in mind that platforms aren’t a guarantee in this economy anymore. Traditional publishers, even the Big Six, are declining more burgeoning authors than they have in the past. These publishing houses have an enormous problem–they’re inefficient. While most authors are turning to smaller ePublishers, the larger houses are trying to catch up by releasing eBooks as well as print. Print is less cost-effective and many of the copies remain on shelves. If you’re like me, you don’t own an eReader and prefer print books to their electronic brethren. On the other hand, print allows diversity in a perishing career. Most, if not all, of the best sellers on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. are from the Big Six or similar publishers.
So how did these authors manage to worm their way into the traditional publishing world? It was more than just a platform. Having a platform helps, and it helps a lot, but there’s only so much one can accomplish on his or her own. Thus, the birth of publicity companies offering editors, blog tours, Websites, trailers, and professionally designed covers. How much of this do you actually need, though?
Before submitting to an agent, you must have your book edited. The market it too competitive not to hire a professional editor. Therein lies an enormous problem. Some “editors” these days are authors who have found a goldmine in the desperate mass of writers seeking quick, cheap, and professional work that will make their book shine. Beware who you choose to hire. Ask for a list of books the editor has worked on before, and request a free sample one-page edit. This is ensures you find someone who is professional and reliable. If the editor refuses to do a one-page sample, search elsewhere.
What else do you need? Blog tours help, but they can be expensive–up to two grand, even, which is a little too steep for some of us writers. Okay, so how do you get word out about your book? How do you up the traffic to your blog and increase your followers on Twitter? It’s simple, if not a little taboo compared to traditional means…
Self-publish. That’s right. I said it. Self-publish and sell, sell, sell. A few quick tips: make sure your novel has been edited before you self-publish; have a nice, professional cover, something that will draw in the masses; link to your Website and have a place where readers can write reviews and suggestions, both on Amazon and on your personal site; finally, Amazon does this thing called Kindle Nation Daily: http://indie.kindlenationdaily.com/?page_id=830. Take a look and do some research–almost every author who has participated has earned their money back within a few hours. Who wouldn’t do this?
Also consider what sending your first query to an agent telling him, “My sales are currently at 3,000 copies as of 3/15/2012,” feels like. I’ll bet you that agent’s jaw just hit the floor. Even if the agent doesn’t sign you, he’s going to request pages, and that’s pretty darn impressive. Even though you’re a self-published author by this point, if you’re seeking an agent and trying to hike your way to the top of the Best Seller’s list, you’re more likely to succeed with a strong set of numbers in your pocket. This proves you know how to play the game. You know how to sell, how to make money, and how to market your work without wasting time, energy, and a ton of money doing so.
With all that said, good luck, and remember, this is just some advice–no need to jump right on it. Take your time to think through your choices.
That’s fantastically helpful. You seem endlessly knowledgeable about all things literary. I do have an e-reader, and I find it very useful, although it will never entirely replace the novel (forgive the pun) aspect of holding a real book in your hands. Especially an old one.
Nostalgia aside, I’ve been reading quite a few articles and talking to numerous published authors who have informed me that e-publishing is the wave of the future, and a lot of authors who can’t get published traditionally, do it themselves online and submit to Amazon, where their books are available forever (as opposed to a brick-and-mortar bookstore where they might be taken down after a few months if they don’t sell).
Once success is gained through e-publishing, there’s always the option to branch out into the traditional realm and actually hold a physical copy of your book in your hands. But with e-books outselling physical books for the first time last year, I think it’s too large a market to discount out of hand. I’m not disagreeing with you—certainly I think you must be quite well informed. I’m simply hoping that after six months or so of continuing what I’m doing, and even expanding on this premise, I’ll be in a healthy position to tentatively get this book out there. I wouldn’t turn down a traditional publisher, but if I sell it through Amazon I’m getting almost all of the sales, versus maybe 6% for a Big Six publisher.
I agree wholeheartedly. The income is amazing if you self-publish. The problem is competing with literally thousands of other books, and most of them are priced at $0.99 or lower. Their overall quality is something I cringe at, which is why I insist upon hiring an editor. If you do decide to self-publish, that’s great–all the more power to you! I think it’s a wonderful opportunity; just make sure you stand out enough to be picked up.
I am personally doing so by going through a small eBook publisher (if you want to be literal, they are a co-op publisher…and they gave me an hour’s worth of feedback on the first nine pages of my novel…and I am an editor to boot! That ought to say something about their amazing work). If you’re interested, I can let you know who they are when the time comes. They only look at referrals, so if you’re interested, I’d love to read your book and see if I can introduce you to these gentlemen. The benefits are amazing (at the very least, you keep 80% of your profits, which is fantastic, plus having the umbrella of being under a brand that is very refined…I have read a great deal of their books, and the quality is very, very impressive).
Keep me informed, and now that I have found a new blog to haunt, you may see some comments here and there.