This is a continuation of last week’s post on the changing publishing landscape. Check out Brave New World of Words to see where I began.
The first question each of us must ask ourselves is, “Is self-publishing for me?”
Eve Bridburg, founder of Boston’s Grub Street, has been working with writers to help them answer that question and position themselves, whether they take the self-publishing route or not, to successfully confront the new publishing paradigm.
She suggested that all authors consider their strategy in three components:
1) Mission & Intent – Ask yourself what you want to accomplish, why you’re producing a book, what you want to offer and to whom? Sorry, the answer can’t be because I want – no, I need to write! It’s got to have a commercial intent to help you focus on your publishing objectives.
If you’re writing your memoirs for your children, then you know your audience well; you know how to find them, and you know why you’re writing in the first place. If you’re writing about a new theory of space travel, it may be easier to find an audience for your academic paper than for a popular book on physics. For novelists, defining the why’s and for whom’s is even more difficult but, believe me, it is possible. I did it for The Thrall’s Tale and discovered an entirely embracing Scandinavian, Viking-proud and book-loving community all across North America. The point is to look at the nonfiction threads of your work and figure out who might actually be interested in what you’ve written, reach out to them in the world, and help them find your book.
2) Defining Success – What are your goals for your book? How do you want to spend your time? What makes your life richer? And most importantly, what will success look like for you and your book?
Success can mean many things – emotional satisfaction, professional recognition, learning new skills or something more. If success is hitting the bestseller list or making enough money to quit your day-job – this goes for traditionally published authors, too – you’re almost certain to be disappointed. So whatever you do to help your book find readers, set reasonable goals that will keep you feeling satisfied no matter what the numerical outcome of your effort.
3) Your Campaign – What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you enjoy doing? And which actions align with your mission, per above? Also, what can you afford in terms of time and money?
Book publishing involves more than just writing. Traditional publishers provide writers with an experienced editor, a copy-editor, designers for interior layout and cover art. They give you a publicist – not for long, but they do give you one. And they have a nationwide team of account managers who sell your book to booksellers and, if you’re lucky, Walmart, Costco, Target and more. They make sure you’re properly listed on Amazon, BN.com and other valuable online retailers’ sites. They sometimes even pay to make sure your book is featured where people will see it. That’s an awful lot to do all by yourself. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible. You have to decide what you’re good at and what you’re not, and how you want to spend your time.
Regarding publicity, if you spend much of your day on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve already made a good start. If you’re no good at virtual schmoozing, or if name-dropping your book makes you feel like a sandwich board hawker in Times Square, you might want to reach out for help.
“Whatever you do,” Bridburg advised, “stick with what feels authentic. If you really enjoy what you’re doing to push your book forward, your efforts will be more effective and you won’t feel like a fraud.”
If you’re anything like me, it’ll take some adjusting from the “writing a book” persona to the “selling a book” persona. You can do it. Authors are now in control of every part of the journey. Entrepreneurialism can be exciting and enriching. Fully own it. You might as well enjoy the ride because, traditional publisher or not, you really have very little choice.
Next time, I’ll post Part III when I’ll get into the nitty gritty of what I learned about “The Future of Authorship”. Trust me, it’s breath-taking but at it’s heart – and I find this comfortingly ironic – it’s what we do every day at The Writers Circle.