July 20, 2011

Taking Stock

A few weeks ago I marked two years as an independently published writer (at the time I was still under contract to a traditional publisher and preparing a book for them, but it turned out to be my last book via that route).  I barely noticed the milestone; at the time I was busy bringing out my first backlist title, A Love of Her Own.

I have learned so much in those two years...and some things I realize I always knew.  I referred to my first Bunderful Books title, Save The Best For Last, as having been independently published from the beginning, since it seemed the most appropriate description. The phrase is now widely used, usually shortened to "indie" publishing.

Back when I was still traditionally published, in 2009, I did what I decided then would be my last book signings in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. It was just too much trouble, and the days of my selling 60-85 books in areas where I was well known (my hometown of Yonkers, New York and the city where I lived for 17 years, Jacksonville, Florida) seemed to be behind me once I moved to the Midwest, reduced to 15-20 books. When my last Dafina title came out in 2010 I set up no appearances at all. Two years later, it has been announced that Borders will be closing all of their stores. While it's nice to have correctly predicted the wave of the future, the thought of all those people losing their jobs does make it sting.

There are a number of people who've had great success with independent publishing, and who are generous enough to share their thoughts and ideas. Much of it is just common sense that occurred to me prior to hearing them say it:

  • Present a quality product. Get a professionally created cover that looks like it came from one of the Big Houses, have the content edited, and if you can't handle formatting, have this done professionally as well. An eBook shouldn't have page headers in it.  No skimping!  A book with a nicely done cover with the inside raw is the equivalent of working out all afternoon and then putting on fancy duds and attending a party that evening without taking a shower...it's going to stink.

  • The more products you have in the market, likely the better you will sell.  This is similar to traditional publishing...only the very successful have the luxury of putting out a new book every two to three years.  Everyone else would do better to strive for a goal of having a new project for sale every four to eight months. This is a goal I'm still trying to reach.  I'm a slow writer...but my first draft is going to be my last, so it's not as bad at is seems. The recent acquiring of my entire romance backlist has helped, although I won't even publish a backlist title without revising it first. There's always room for improvement, even in a book deemed good enough to be traditionally published.

  • Include an excerpt from at least one other book at the end of each eBook, remembering that this can always be changed to reflect more recent released as simply as downloading a new file.

  • Everyone makes mistakes, but with an eBook they can be corrected with simplicity. As I notice things like missing open or closing quotes and other imperfections I download a new file so at least anyone reading it from that point on will have a copy as perfect as possible.

  • Be up front in informing readers about which books are reprints...some readers might not recognize it as a title they've already read, especially with a new cover.
There's nothing like common sense and an ability to tell which way the wind is blowing.



PatriciaW said...

Wow, time flies. Congrats on taking charge of your career and having success with your indie publishing. You're an inspiration to many.

Katrina Spencer said...

Thanks for this post Bettye. It's inspiring to see how you've taken control of your career. I am starting to get interested in this as well, but I want to test the market first with a few of my short stories, before I try full-length novels. Thanks for the tips.

bettye griffin said...

Patricia and Katrina, Funny, I never thought of myself as an inspiration to people, but it's certainly a nice thought! It all stemmed from my being dropped by my publishers(yes, both of them!) My last experience submitting has pretty much soured me on ever pursuing traditional publishing again. It's a good thing I'm confident in my abilities as a writer, or else I might have disappeared into the woodwork rather than continuing to produce new material.

That said, I do hope you found my observations helpful.

Laurence Brown said...

Congrats for having a great career. Keep up the good work and I'm looking forward to your new books.

bettye griffin said...

Thanks, Laurence! I hope you'll enjoy them!