One of the bigger industry stories to break this past weekend was Amazon’s so called retreat from traditional book publishing presumably because they can’t get their author’s books into bookstores. Amazon’s strategy seems to have run into 3 problems:
- Distribution to physical bookstores is still critical if you want mega-sales (70% of book sales are print books).
- The ranks of physical bookstores are decreasing (ironically, thanks to Amazon) giving existing bookstores more leverage.
- Barnes & Noble steadfastly refuses to sell print books if they can’t sell the eBook. (This is cited in the article as a major factor in Amazon’s comeuppance.)
Interestingly enough, this is one area where self-publishers have a leg up on mighty Amazon
What got me thinking about this angle more fully was a post by Tucker Max on the Huffington Post almost one year ago. Tucker shared his plan to combine the best of self-publishing with traditional publishing to create a hybrid, professional self-publishing model:
I would no longer be just an author. I would cut a distribution deal with a major publisher, become a publishing company, do more work — but keep all the profit.
Now keep in mind that not everyone can sign a distribution-only deal with a major publisher. You need a successful track record, and Tucker has one (he’s the author of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell and Assholes Finish First). And even if you could, you need to be willing to finance the necessary inventory—a big enough risk that only previously successful authors would be willing to take. But it is possible to get there if you approach self-publishing in a professional manner.
So what are the traits and business practices of successful, professional self-publishers?
In one of the best and most detailed disclosures I’ve read, author James Altucher shares his experience publishing his eleventh book, Choose Yourself. Not all of us have Altucher’s following, financial resources (a $31,000 investment) and established track record, but he lays out all of the steps he took that helped him sell 44,294 books in the first month.
Reading through his list I came away with several ideas of my own. I’ve intentionally focused here on opportunities for first book authors and those that don’t have large budgets or an established platform.
- Produce a quality book. Editing and cover design are the two key areas here. But you should also be concerned about the quality of the interior design and not just for a print book. Many people overlook the opportunity for eBook interior design.
- Publish in every format you can afford. Altucher had planned to ignore the audio format until he heard from colleagues that this format is reaching people who never read print or eBooks.
- Don’t rush to get it on the shelf. He didn’t specifically state this but I don’t see how you can properly launch a quality book without building in time to solicit a foreward (his was from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo), or survey a range of people about your choice of title or collect blurbs (people need to read your book before they’ll agree to consider writing one). In Altucher’s case he even re-wrote parts of the finished book after recording the audio version. Imagine the delay this caused. IMHO rushing your book to market is overrated.
- Keep it simple. He went with Amazon CreateSpace for the printed version and even used their ISBN! He also had them do the Kindle conversion. By the way, the book is not for sale in other online stores with the exception of the audio version which is in the iTunes store.
Which leads me to my last point:
- Ignore the physical bookstores and focus on the eBookstore, specifically Amazon. It’s not because I love Amazon, it’s because you are going to sell almost all your books there and diffusing your efforts across several more stores is too much work for very little return. Read my post Selling Out to Amazon for more about this.
The good news is that self-publishing does not close off doors to successful authors, in fact you have more options than even the biggest player. But the key is to produce the best book possible in order to earn your way onto that bookshelf. When you do, the opportunities are limitless.
Btw, Choose Yourself was published by Tucker Max’s publishing company Lioncrest (all you see if you click that link is a button to contact them and I’m sure you’ll get a nicely worded rejection if you are not NYT best selling author.)
Interested in being guided on your self-publishing journey? Contact me for a free consultation about how I help authors and publishers navigate the waters to develop a strategy for successful, professional self-publishing.