Is Self-Publishing Profitable?

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Admittedly I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to self publishing success stories. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that self published authors have what it takes to reach phenomenal success in the field of publishing.  My skepticism is mainly directed towards mass media reporting of that success.  Think about it.  Traditional publishing houses have dominated this industry for centuries.  These power companies have forged impenetrable  relationships with media outlets, distributors, libraries, and publishing clearinghouse.  To think that their influence in mass media is silent would be naive.  Now maybe I’m a bit of a conspiracist, but it would not be to the benefit of top publishers to tout the success of the underdog (a.k.a self published author).
I believe our success is always underrepresented.  According to an article written in Nougats Blog, only 40 self published authors make money.  Purportedly this is based on information directly from #Amazon.  Now if this information is true, then  Amazon has  provided a  valuation of  self published authors that is rather bleak.  Fact is, according to their February 2016 Author’s Earning Report – self published authors account for a big chunk of ebook sales, even surpassing top publishing companies.  The book selling giant also reports:
  • 4 of Amazon’s overall Top 10 Best Selling ebooks were self-published indie titles
  • 10 of Amazon’s overall Top 20 Best Selling ebooks were self-published indie titles
  • 56 of Amazon’s overall Top 100 Best Selling ebooks — more than half — were self-published indie titles
  • 20 of Amazon’s overall Top 100 Best Selling ebooks were indie titles priced between $2.99 and$5.99
Those numbers are pretty impressive if you ask me.  Now I get that these sales may not be indicative of whose actually turning a profit; however, the accuracy of that information will always be skewed in favor of the big publishing houses. The presumption is that if a self published author hasn’t become successful by scales, then he/she probably isn’t turning a real profit. Yet for many indie authors, any amount of success is profitable and worth the journey.
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Meet Author Dennis Calloway!

Return to Earth by Dennis Calloway
Return to Earth by Dennis Calloway

Return to Earth is groundbreaking science fiction thriller, written by Dennis Calloway.  Amid rave reviews, this book has been gaining a lot of attention on the indie book scene.  Be sure to read his interview below and purchase a copy of his book!

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for roughly 12 years, but not consistently. Since I have a “day job”, I can only write when I have the time, which is mostly on the weekends. Even though I’m not able to write consistently, I find that I regularly “catalog” many potential stories that come to me during long airplane trips or long drives.

What is your most recent literary/artistic project?

Return To Earth is my first novel and it was published just a few short months ago on February 4th.  Now that RTE is out there, my focus has been on executing my marketing plan to bolster its success. Originally, my plan was to continue supporting RTE and strengthen the outline of my next book (a potential zombie apocalypse story), but because of the overwhelming positive feedback I’ve received from my readers regarding a sequel, I’ve shelved the zombie story in favor of a sequel to Return To Earth.

What inspires you to write?

I like to think that I have an active imagination. I see potential stories everywhere I go — science fiction, horror, high drama, alien invasions, time-travel, man-eating plants and so on. Most of these types of stories have either already been written or turned into movies; but occasionally, I can see a unique twist in one or two of them. If I envision a storyline that gets me excited and has all the ingredients of a great story, then I feel compelled to write it and driven to share it. It is these types of stories that inspire me to write.

Who’s your favorite author and why?

I remember the first time I read a Stephen King novel many years ago and I was utterly amazed at how well he crafted his world and his characters. The impressions I got, as I read more and more of his works, were of walking into a huge, dark building, old with age. The building is surrounded by a tall, rusty gate that locks behind you. If you decide to walk into the building, you don’t get released until Mr. King allows it at the end of his stories! The people you meet in this building, his characters, are so well-developed, that you either love them or hate them (or you hate the fact that you love them!). And many of his stories are connected or revolve around the same world, or town in his case (Derry, Maine). I thoroughly enjoy Mr. King’s writing style and character development and have tried to create a style that has the same level of intensity that he creates.

What advice can you give to other authors or writers?

Although writing is not my “day job”, I thoroughly enjoy it! It allows me to create a world that exists within the boundaries that I design. I enjoy getting to know my characters and what makes them tick. I even have a measure of guilt when I have to cause something negative to happen to one of my characters, good or bad. But making that journey with them, whether it’s the hero’s rise from darkness and despair or the villain’s fall from power, is very cathartic and produces a unique bond between the writer and the characters. I say all this because I’m trying to point out that you must write about something that you enjoy. If you don’t like the storyline, then it will be extremely difficult to maintain your focus and create a realistic world with real and relatable characters.

 Where can readers go to find out more information about your work?

 My website is www.dennis-calloway.com and from here, readers can check out my Return To Earth Facebook page, blog or connect with me via Twitter.

Are you a self published author? Would you like to have your book featured? If so, send me an email: info@s-iai.org OR send a direct message to @AchitownJ via Twitter.

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How to Market Your Self Published Books to Libraries!

If you are a self published author, your goal is to sell your work and  inevitably, see a return on your investment.  In order to do this, you must (wait for it…) market, market, market your product.   In an earlier post, I recommended that you mimic the big fish in order to be successful.  Well, how do big fish gain recognition and earn sales? They place their products everywhere?

Libraries are definitely good places to help you gain momentum as a self publishing superstar. As a professional librarian, I have had experience working in school, public, and academic libraries.  In the aforementioned role(s), I have had the tedious responsibility of maintaining library collections.  Although I love my career, maintaining a collection is a very cumbersome process.  For one, librarians are inundated by sales reps.  We have to select books that are appropriate for our respective libraries and that  requires a lot of reading.  We also have to balance our budgets.  We have to stay current on popular titles/trends.  And in order for libraries to stay relevant, we have to strategically plan innovative services to offer patrons with interesting/popular resources.    Due to all of the hidden intricacies attached to librarianship, libraries seize opportunities to stay current on good literature.  So if you have a good title, make it known to your local library. It is a good launching pad for helping you gain a presence in your community.  Libraries can help you showcase your work,  gain exposure, and potentially distribute books among a large population of readers.  If you’re lucky, all of this could translate into more sales.  I’ll explain the “if you’re lucky part” in another post.

Here are my tips to help you improve your chances of getting your title into a library. Keep in mind, that libraries differ from location to location so this advice is not a “catchall” solution.

School Libraries

School libraries can be rather challenging, depending on the school district you are targeting.  All districts have different policies. So you must first find out the school district’s policy on book ordering/purchasing through the district’s main office.  This is especially important if you are marketing to a large school district with many schools.  Such districts may require vendor approval before any purchases can be made by their schools.  If this is the case, you will need to try to obtain a vendor’s license via their process.  In my experience, districts that require vendor approval generally tend to control their purchases and prefer established distributors with whom they create accounts with.  Approval may be difficult for the lone author who is soliciting his/her work.  However, don’t dismay!  If you are able to get approval to sell your titles, you will still need to market your book to the individual schools in much the same fashion as the big vendors.  If you are not so lucky, you may want to employ a few of the following tricks:

Donate Your Book

Donating a book is a great way to get your product in the door.   Although you may not be able to garner sales directly from the library, it is a great way to make potential readers aware of your work.  This could later translate into sales elsewhere.  In order to donate your book, you would need to find out  the name of the librarian for a particular school or library.  You can accomplish this by simply calling or visiting their website. Once you identify the  librarian, plan to establish a relationship with that librarian and/or library.  Contrary to popular beliefs, libraries want to build relationships with organizations and people within their communities.  We are really nice people!

Introduce yourself to the librarian first via a short email or phone call.  Brevity here is important as librarians receive tons of solicitations.  Let the librarian know that you are an author and that you have a book that you would love to donate.  If you are interested in doing a presentation, you may want to mention it during your initial contact.  Often libraries like to host programs and having an author appear for a book talk is a good way to engage the community.   Next, ask the librarian if you could send them some information about your book or if you could schedule a time to visit them.  Some librarians may not agree to an in person visit.  If this is the case, ensure that you send them information that will get their attention!

Package Your Materials Well!

If you have been given an invite to submit your materials to the librarian, use it as your one and only opportunity to make a great impression.  Submit your book along with any information about the book that might be helpful to the librarian.  Librarians will decide whether or not to shelve your book based on its quality and usefulness.  Therefore, you may want to include a brief statement synopsis of the book and how it could be beneficial to the readers that the library serve.  If you have a children’s book, briefly discuss the skills young readers will learn.  If you have a non fiction title, discuss the importance of the information provided in your book.  Tell why it would be beneficial to the community or population served by the library.

Include Marketing Materials

I began this post by emphasizing the importance of  marketing your title.  It’s only appropriate that I expand on this element.  If your book is selected to become one of the titles added to the library’s catalog, you don’t want it to just become title number 65 out of 165,000 books.  No, you want that title to get noticed.  As a librarian, I love the opportunity to decorate the library with color and/or eye catching materials that will invite patrons to “read”.  If you send a collection of bookmarks to me, I am going to distribute them.  If you send other promotional items as well, I am likely to give it space in the library as long as it fits the purpose of library.  For instance, I am not keen on posting posters throughout the library advertising a personal business or sale of something.  However, if it is a promotional resource highlighting a book or novel- I will probably post it.  And, I don’t care if a website or business logo is inconspicuously embedded on the promotional item.  Functionality for the library is the only thing that matters.   Character “stand ups” are great promo items to give to the library. Places like  Party Stand Ups will allow you design your own life-sized cutouts.  You could also try a site like iPrint to customize your own bookmarks.  Although I can’t guarantee that a library will post or distribute your items, but it’s very likely especially if your work is tastefully done.

You may also want to consider sending a poster of the book along with the title.  Even if you donate the actual book, send promo materials any way.  Libraries like to decorate their spaces with colorful and interesting items  that may appeal to their readers.  Make sure your poster is inviting enough to make someone want to seek out your book.  If you are lucky, your book may have a moment to shine!

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5 Essential Tips for Self Publishing Your Book!

Gone are the days of struggle for writers who long to see their work in print.  Modern technology affords budding authors the opportunity to go from pen to press in what seems like a matter of days.  Authors are no longer faced with the many limitations that once halted “self publishing” pioneers in their quest to actualize their work.  Publishing companies of today are catering their businesses to include the ventures of self publishing entrepreneurs willing to invest in their own ideas.  If you are willing to pay, you can realize your dream of authorship.  However, publishing a book and becoming a  renowned author are not synonymous.  You will have to employ a few more tricks in order to make strides in that area.  You can read more about my tips on marketing yourself as an author here.

If you are interested in becoming a self published author, here are a few suggestions to point you in the right direction.

1. Write something worth reading!

I know this sounds like a no brainer but it’s really a critical step in the publishing process.  Publishing a book is an accomplishment.  You want it to represent a certain quality.  Therefore, you should focus on writing something that is not only appealing to the audience you are trying to reach – but is also well written.  I am not implying that you have to be an English scholar, or that you have to produce the quality of work similar to Shakespeare or Oliver Wendell Holmes.  However, you should not want to put anything in print unless it is something that you want immortalized. If writing is an area that you struggle in, don’t dismay!  If you have a good story to tell, tell it.  You can use the services of a ghost writer to help you with the mechanics of putting it on paper.  There are plenty of freelance writers willing and ready to perform this service for you (at cost).  If writing is not a problem for you, then you still definitely want to consider hiring someone to proofread it and provide you with feedback.  Websites like ODESK and Write4me can provide you with the opportunity to hire the service of a freelance writer.

2.  Copyright your work.

I am still from the   “old school” when it comes to copyrighting the things that I have written.  I began my writing ventures during a time when it was completely acceptable to mail a copy of your writings back to yourself.  The idea behind this concept was to never open the copy.  The postmark would serve as proof of the approximate date of copyright if needed.  Of course, you could still accomplish this by simply sending an email copy of your work to yourself.  It is important however to send your work in the body of the email and not as an attachment.  You could then print this as evidence of when it was written, as it would have an email time stamp affixed to it.  The more practical way to accomplish this is to simply copyright your work through the Library of Congress.    Here, you would simply submit an application for copyright, pay a nominal fee, and submit a copy of your work.  For more information on the  process of having your work protected click here.  For information on the form you would use, click here.  It is perfectly acceptable to copyright your unpublished work.

3. Have your work edited. Have your work edited! [sic].

Editing your work is essential to ensuring that you are publishing high quality work. You could use one of the previously mentioned services like ODESK or you can opt to have editing done through the company that will ultimately press your work.  Either way, you definitely want to comparative shop and make sure that you are not being overcharged in this arena.  The EFA provides a list of suggested rates for editorial related services.

4. Purchase your own ISBNs and barcodes.

Purchasing your own ISBN is a good idea if you plan to publish more than one book.  An ISBN is a number that uniquely identifies your book, and facilitates the sale of your book to bookstores (physical and digital) and libraries. Although most companies providing services to self published authors will assist you with this for an additional charge, you  always have the option of purchasing them directly through RR Bowker.  You have the options of purchasing them individually or as a set.  You could also purchase a barcode for your book as well through the same company.

5.  Find a company to print your books.

There are tons of companies that will sell you a publishing package ranging anywhere from 200 to thousands of dollars.   Although these companies are eager to assist you with your publishing projects, it’s not necessarily because they  believe in your work.  These companies are in the business of making money.  Your book project increases their profit margins.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to do a little pre-publishing work (steps 1-4) before you get to this stage. I would also recommend using a company that offers flexible rates and different packages for indie authors like Outskirtspress and Dorrance Publishing.

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My Review of “American Gods”

Although I am somewhat of a self-proclaimed “self publishing” enthusiast, I do find myself occasionally engrossed in books published through traditional presses. Let’s face it, a good book is a good book! I just finished reading two books for work. However, one title quickly emerged as a personal favorite. Check out the review that I originally posted to my school’s blog.

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If you are a reader who is captivated by the supernatural, then consider perusing the pages of author Neil Gaiman’s fantasy based epic, aptly coined as American Gods. Described as one of Gaiman’s best and most ambitious work to date, this book is a spellbinding trip into a mystical world of the supernatural. In it, Gaiman chronicles the life of an ex-con, musingly named Shadow Moon, whose destiny is leading him towards a dark and luminous battle in life tantamount to Armageddon. The action begins as Shadow is released from prison to attend the funeral of his beloved wife who dies in a tragic car accident. In route to her funeral, by way of a stormy plane ride, he meets an oddly eccentric deity named Wednesday. Forewarned by Wednesday that a bigger storm is brewing, Shadow blindly accepts a job as the deity’s emissary. Shadow soon discovers that he is caught in between a battle of gods. His life and the fate of the American spirit are at risk with every choice he makes. With help from his deceased wife, Shadow weaves in and out of worlds unknown trying to complete complex and often confusing tasks. In the end, he learns several surprising lessons about his past life and what is to become of his future. This story is lauded by many as a timeless masterpiece and was awarded the 2001 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.

Andrea J
(REPOST)