Friday, September 16, 2011

A Couple's Tale of Going Indie by Collin Moshman & Katie Dozier, authors of 'The Superuser'

We used to think of self-publishing as a method of last resort. After Collin released three non-fiction books with a conventional publisher, however, we made the decision to self-publish our fourth. EBooks and eReaders are no longer the future; they’re the present. Just ask Borders.
The biggest functions of a conventional publisher are getting your books in stores, and promoting you. Since anyone can now put up a book on the Kindle store, an author willing to invest time in marketing has a very viable option in self-publishing.
Here was the full process that we went through with our recent self-published thriller.

Writing: While this step is of course the same no matter how you publish, here are two pieces of advice. First, it’s very important to thoroughly outline each of your characters, and the entire plot, before starting the first chapter. Second, write about something you know if at all possible. In our case, we’re both poker players. When there was a major Superuser scandal in poker, which we felt held strong themes of greed, violence, redemption, and power, we were inspired to reflect these in a fast-paced thriller.

Editing: A number of independently-published books have significantly more typos than their conventionally-published counterparts. In our case, it greatly helped to have two sets of eyes going over the book. If you’re writing alone, it may be a very worthwhile investment to hire an editor. Typos are a fast way to lose an audience and generate negative reviews.

Title/Description: The one nuance to titling for eBooks is that you want to have at least a couple of words that people will naturally search for. Give your audience every chance of finding your work. One simple way of accomplishing this is to put the genre in parentheses after the title.
And remember, the description is probably the most important 100 words you’ll write. It should leave the reader wanting to see more. Here’s what we came up with:

When a punk poker superstar loses millions in a mysterious game, he hires disgraced champion and ex-cop Grisham Stark to investigate. As Stark confronts cold-blooded players in Monte Carlo and Las Vegas, he realizes his one shot at redemption is to catch the most dangerous poker cheat of all time: the Superuser.

Behind the scenes, a politician is hijacking the scandal to wage a legislative battle in Washington. A beautiful female player is blackmailed into hiding a deadly secret that threatens to unravel the entire deception, and the ruthless Superuser is killing anyone who dares stand in his way.

Grisham Stark will ultimately face a terrifying question: Is the Superuser’s final goal far more than money?

Pricing: For us, one huge benefit to self-publishing is that you can charge just $2.99 for your book, and still receive almost as high a royalty as you would for a conventionally-published title. This $2.99 price point also still qualifies for the 70% royalty rate on the Kindle store. While many go higher (and some lower), we feel that most indie books should not be priced much above $4.99. There’s no paper or shelf space involved, after all!

Marketing: You put out the book. It’s an amazing text, easily rivaling War and Peace. Unfortunately, only your friends and family see it, and you end up selling 10 copies.
Marketing will definitely be one of your toughest challenges since a conventional publisher would normally be doing most of the work. For instance, while we feel we wrote a great thriller, at the moment it’s sitting at about 11,000 in the Kindle store – definitely not terrible, but still miles away from the bestsellers. Only time will tell what will happen, but for now we’re working hard to get that number to drop!
Pricing, title, and description are without doubt the first steps in getting your book read. After that, you should actively market your book so that your audience knows it’s out there. Here are the steps we’ve begun taking now that our book is available.

Facebook and Twitter: Katie put up a website for the book, Facebook fan page, and an active Twitter account. Social networking is a great free marketing tool.

Forum Posts: There are many book/eBook related forums and communities discussing great reads in your genre, such as Goodreads, Kindleboards, and Mobilereads. We both became much more active in these communities. While you should focus on providing helpful/interesting content, rather than aggressively or inappropriately self-promoting, you can increase your audience through networking, marketing your book in the appropriate forums, and passive self-promotion through having a signature and/or profile providing information about your book.
Blogs/Reviewers. Contact bloggers and reviewers who read in your genre, and politely ask if you can send a complimentary review copy. Some authors do larger giveaways, which is also a good option.

Advertising: As an optional last step, you can directly pay for advertising. Sites like Kindle Nation Daily, Goodreads, or even Facebook are good candidates for this.

Thanks for reading this guest post. And if you read our thriller, The Superuser, please let us know what you think!

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