By Laxmi Hariharan, Nov 20 2017 11:27AM
As someone who is about to move from a full-time day job to becoming a full-time author, self-publishing is a definite yes for me. I did have an agent and had a book published through a mainstream publishing company, only to realize quickly that publishing model wasn't for me.
I found that I had better knowledge of my genre, cover look, pricing and readers than my publisher. I also didn't have any control over pricing, technical issues and received very little money from the publisher beyond the small token down-payment. I found that I liked being in control, including the business side of selling my books.
So, I decided to self-publish. But self-publishing isn’t without it's pitfalls and there are three key marketing questions that I think you must answer to be successful in self-publishing:
Are You Willing to Experiment?
In author circles you hear about a lot of thing that work for other authors. Fact is, what works for someone else and their book may not work for you and you probably won't know till you try it. This means that you may have to spend money and/or time on a marketing activity to understand if it can be effective for you.
And then, even if you determine that an activity can be effective, you still need to tweak it relentlessly to make it work as well as possible (for example testing Facebook ads or mailing list services). This is fundamental. If you are afraid of experimenting, afraid of investing money to research then self-publishing may not be right for you.
Can You Enjoy the Marketing as Well as the Writing?
I do enjoy the marketing part of the author business. I like trying out new marketing tools as they come up, all the while knowing that it's helping to build my platform, so the money I spend is not being wasted.
If you view marketing as a chore or an afterthought you will always struggle because you will be doing it half-heartedly. You can hire someone to do many of the marketing activities for you, but even then, you still need to be involved in the process to manage it effectively.
The good news is that marketing really is both fascinating and creative. Many authors who never wanted to market their books have stepped into it to find they are quite effective at it – because they jumped into it with the same passion that they brought to writing their books.
Can You Treat Your Author Identity as a Brand and a Business?
This is tough but essential. An ‘author brand’ helps you to step-back from your book and view your work impartially and dispassionately – so that you make better marketing decisions.
One way to help distance yourself from your author persona is to have a pen name. I admit I made a mistake here - if I had published under a pseudonym it would be easier to take criticism and to treat my author output as a business. If I branch out into new genres, I plan to use a pen name. ‘Till then, I try to keep a respectful distance between me and my author self. It helps bring more discipline to my writing too - while the writing is always personal, treating the author self as separate to myself helps me to focus and write faster.
In the past, publishers traditionally took on the marketing chores for authors so that they could concentrate on the writing. The degree to which that is still true varies from publisher to publisher, but authors with publishing contracts with even the largest publishers are finding that they need to do much of the marketing themselves. It may soon be impossible to avoid marketing your books.
If you are thinking of self-publishing and want to ask me any questions, tweet me @laxmi
Laxmi Hariharan is a New York Times bestselling author. Find her at http://www.laxmihariharan.com
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