Anyone with access to a word processor and the Internet can become a published author, but most do not become successful authors. We all know the publishing industry has changed drastically since the introduction of eReaders, but how many authors (traditional, self, or aspiring) truly understand the changes and how to navigate this new world?
Step Away From The Treadmill
I belong to a few writers groups and am amazed at what great shape many of the authors are in. They run on the publishing treadmill like nobody’s business, so I reckon they should be in great shape.
With each book they pump out, they follow in the footsteps of Amanda Hocking and John Locke (authors who self-published and sold over a million copies of their eBooks) by working Facebook, Twitter and many other social networks to get the word out about their books. They combine resources with other authors to find low to no-cost ways to promote each others’ work. Run, run, run on the treadmill they go. Again, in excellent shape, but unfortunately, they are so busy running, they don’t realize they aren’t getting anywhere.
But aren’t they doing as Amanda and John did? No, not really. It’s time to step off the treadmill. There are proven, less exhaustive ways to become a successful author that actually get you to where you want to go.
The Field of Dreams
A decade ago I started in the publishing industry as an editor for Third World Press. This 40+ year old publishing house has released numerous NYT bestsellers, has a few million-plus-books-sold authors, and has way too many awards to count. Over the years, I’ve bounced around between publishing houses and become friends with authors who have nice-sized backlists and a good reader base. Ready to capitalize on the electronic age, many of my author buddies have self-published their backlists and—CRICKETS.
Well, not that bad. But their backlist and newly self-published titles don’t sell nearly as well as they expect. There are three teeny, tiny items they didn’t factor into their projected sells:
- With a backlist, their reader base likely already has these titles so they are marketing to the wrong target audience.
- When they self publish a book, they no longer have the reach of the traditional publishing house behind them. Publishing houses keep track of orders from their website and have extensive mailing lists and other opportunities to promote new works of authors who publish through them, not the authors’ self-published works.
- They market as if the book is from a traditional publishing house or they join authors on the treadmill.
This is not the field of dreams. If you build it—well, write it—they will not necessarily come. It’s a new world, learn how to navigate it.
Now does this mean they can’t sell a decent amount of books? Nope. But they often join the treadmill and are so busy running they don’t realize the opportunities they are missing.
Divide And Conquer
I read publishing industry and author blogs daily, and lately I’ve come across quite a few self-published authors who bad mouth traditional publishing. There are pros and cons both ways, but this sounds more like sour grapes. Then you have the traditionally-published authors who have had it pounded into their heads (usually by the publishing industry) that self publishing is only for authors who aren’t good enough to sign book deals, that self-published books are low-quality and thus, so are the authors.
I need for everyone to take a step back, inhale, exhale and release. It’s a new day and age, folks. Do not allow insecurities or the industry to divide and conquer. Authors, you need to capitalize on the strengths of self and traditional publishing to build your own high-quality brand.
Self-published authors love to point out Amanda Hocking’s success story as evidence of why they don’t need traditional publishing. I like to use her example to show why all authors should go both routes. Let’s break out the numbers. For argument’s sake, let’s say Amanda sold her million copies in one year. At $0.99, that would be approximately $333,000 in royalties from Amazon’s digital services. Wow, that’s great.
With her doing so well, why do you think she signed a traditional publishing deal? Here are a few reasons: James Patterson, $80 million, Danielle Steel, $35 million, Stephen King, $28 million, Janet Evanovich, $22 million, Stephenie Meyer, $21 million in sales last year. Self publishing is the new “agent” of the industry.
I’m sure I’ll have traditionally-published authors saying, “Wow, I need to stick with my publishing house.” Yes and no. The publishing world has changed so quickly that many traditionally-published authors aren’t in the position to self publish their books and keep all of the profits. This is more than not knowing how to put out a high-quality product, but also includes reaching the market they’d gotten used to their publisher reaching for them and finding new members of their target audience. Now don’t get me wrong. Many of them do have a direct connection to a portion of their base, but not a large enough reader base to reach multi-million dollar paydays.
Bring It All Together
So where do we go from here? What to do? What to do?
It’s time to bring the traditionally and self-published authors together. Whether you go the self or traditional route (you should do both), you need to release high-quality books and grow your loyal reader base. You need to become a brand.
There are no guarantees, but there are proven steps you can take to help you become a successful author. With the advances in technology, anyone can be a published author, but not all authors are successful. This is not a traditional or self-publishing issue. Keep your focus: Increase quality, credibility and visibility of your brand. Become a successful author.
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