Don’t Wait For Permission: Why Authors Should Be Entrepreneurs

EntrepreneurSmallThe self-publishing blogosphere usually focuses on making money from genre fiction, and tends to advise producing as much quality work as you can as quickly as possible, and then marketing it aggressively.

That’s not bad advice at all, but there are many other types of books, several different kinds of authors, and multiple ways you can approach making a living.

Joanna Penn (writing as JF Penn) has hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists with her fiction, but also has an extremely popular blog and podcast aimed at writers, as well as several non-fiction books.

I invited her along today to talk about her latest – Business For Authors: How To Be An Author Entrepreneur – in which Joanna provides excellent advice on ALL the ways that authors can monetize both their work and their knowledge/skills. And it’s especially useful for those who don’t fit exactly into the “write genre fiction as fast as possible” model.

Before we dive into the Q&A, I should mention that Business for Authors is available in e-book, print, and audio. The above link goes to the e-book on Amazon US, but for links to all other retailers and formats, go to Joanna’s site.

Why are you so passionate about authors embracing the entrepreneurial side of things?

This site is all about empowering authors to choose themselves, to take their words out into the world and reach readers directly. It’s about the truly amazing opportunities that authors have when they take action on their dreams. I’m passionate about that too, and now I want to take it one step further.

At the very basic level, an entrepreneur creates value from ideas, which surely is the definition of an author! But more than that, an entrepreneurial author goes beyond just one book into the realm of running a viable business with their writing. So that means taking one manuscript and exploiting all the rights – having ebooks available worldwide, print on demand so anyone can buy the books anywhere, exploring audio options, considering translations, investigating direct sales, and collaborating with other creatives on new projects like graphic novels, even TV series as HM Ward has recently announced for her Ferro series. It might be deciding to sell some of those rights, working with agents or publishers if the creative project suits that approach, but it’s doing so with a definite business aim in mind.

We create art. We manifest our ideas in the world in glorious creative ways, but to be entrepreneurial is to care about the business side as well as the creation. It’s about being excited to generate something new and original, but also being enthusiastic about how the book will reach customers as well as the financial side. Continue reading

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Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

"Rotten apple" by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Rotten apple” by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There is something seriously askew with the supposed values of the publishing business.

The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets.

As always, I’m conscious of whose agenda this serves and why writers allow themselves to be used as pawns in this game.

Exhibit A: Harlequin

Amazon is regularly slated for the way it manages its tax affairs. I have written extensively about this before, but, in short, Amazon is using extremely common methods for minimizing its tax bills that are used by every major tech company (and many other multinational corporations too).

You can argue these loopholes should be closed (and I would agree), but these actions are legal. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the major publishers, and the global media conglomerates which own them, are doing the exact same thing.

Take Harlequin, for example. Harlequin doesn’t just use these corporate structures to minimize its tax bill. It has also used them to reduce the 50% digital royalty rate agreed in some of its contracts to a paltry 3%. Harlequin is facing a class action suit because of this, but you won’t find coverage of that in the news media or outrage about Harlequin’s actions among publishing professionals.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think exploiting authors in this manner is worse than legally minimizing your tax bill.

Exhibit B: The New York Times

I have a fun game you can play! Well, it’s more of a thought experiment and it goes something like this: try and construct a hypothetical scenario where the New York Times writes an article that is critical of a major publisher. Seriously, give it a shot. It’s probably harder than you think, as it would need to be something worse than price-fixing or exploiting authors on an industrial scale, subjects which the New York Times routinely ignores, or whitewashes.

It would also have to be worse than a publisher pretending it was a victim of the Nazis when, in reality, it secretly donated to the SS, used Jewish slave labor to publish hits like The Christmas Book of the Hitler Youth, and then refused to apologize in 2002 when caught lying about it!

That publisher is Bertelsmann, 51% owner of Penguin Random House. I guess being a global media conglomerate keeps the right stories on the front page and helps the wrong ones disappear. Continue reading

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Let’s Get Digital 2 Problems Fixed, New Kindles Launched & More

voyageI’ve info below on six new Kindle devices which launched today below, but first some welcome news:

Amazon seems to have fixed things at its end. Those who purchased the old version of Let’s Get Digital should be able to now download the new version with a few clicks via Manage My Content & Devices (formerly Manage My Kindle) in their Amazon account.

Note: none of these problems affected new purchasers.

More detailed instructions below, but for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I decided to upload the new expanded and updated second edition of Let’s Get Digital directly over the old version.

I explain the reasoning here, but the general idea was to thank the readers who supported me over the last three years by recommending this book (in huge numbers) to their fellow writers.

Digital2Some launch snafus meant the update wasn’t immediately available to download for purchasers of the old version, and when people tried, they got the old edition with the new cover. Ack!

It could have been a very stressful situation, but it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. Not least because everyone was so cool about it and help get word of the solution to those who needed it (and thank you for that. Really. It made things so much easier on this end).

However, that should all be fixed now. If you don’t know how to download updates, here’s the process:

1. Go to Manage My Content & Devices (formerly Manage My Kindle) in your Amazon account.

2. Search for “Digital” in the box on the right-hand side.

3. To the left of the book title, click the button.

4. Click “Deliver.” Select your device. Click “Deliver” again.

5. Once your device synchs, you should have the new update and see the book at the top of your TBR.

If this isn’t working for anyone, please let me know in the comments. Continue reading

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Let’s Get Digital 2 Is Out!

Digital2I’m very excited to announce the release of the new updated and expanded 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should.

If you purchased the old 1st edition of Digital, you can grab the 2nd edition for free (instructions below). You won’t actually be able to purchase the new edition from Amazon if you bought the old one, so please follow those instructions to get your free copy.

For everyone else, you can check it out at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords (and all the other Amazons too).

I’ve news below on a sale I’m running on the companion book Let’s Get Visible, and explain below how this launch has been a bit of a disaster, but first here’s the blurb for the new edition of Digital:

Let’s Get Digital covers everything from how the disruptive power of the internet has changed the publishing business forever to the opportunities this has created for writers. It gives you practical, hands-on advice, sharing the very latest best practices on editing, cover design, formatting, and pricing.

It gives you proven marketing strategies that won’t eat into your writing time and are actually effective at selling books. It also shares tips on platform building, blogging, and social networking, and explains which approaches are best for selling fiction versus non-fiction, and what writers should really focus on.

This new updated 2nd edition now has more options for those on a tighter budget, teaches you how to get your book into print (and why that helps selling e-books), tells you why you should start a mailing list immediately, and shares the pros and cons of going exclusive with Amazon. And that’s just for starters… Continue reading

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This Might Be A Terrible Idea

shutupI’m launching the 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital next week and today I’m going to try and answer all your questions.

Most have surrounded something I’ve hinted at over the last few months. I’m doing something pretty cool and different with this launch. Or maybe crazy is a better word.

In short: I’m giving it away free to all purchasers of the old edition. More on that below…

When is the 2nd edition out?

It’s officially launching next Wednesday, September 17, and I’ll be posting again then. As always, subscribers to my New Release Mailing List will get an exclusive for a day or two before that, so if you are desperately impatient to get your mitts on Digital 2, sign up here.

Isn’t that later than planned?

Yup, sorry about that. It is for good reasons though. I’m told that new editions generally have around 25% new content with a new intro slapped on the front. Digital 2 will have tons more fresh content than that. Off the top of my head, I’d say about 60% of it is brand new, and almost everything else was revised or updated in some way.

So what has changed then?

Too much to give you a comprehensive list right now, but, by reader request, I’ll be publishing some type of change-log here next week, so you will have a guide to everything that has been added and updated, and can skip to the bits you want to read.

The basic structure remains the same, but each section is jam-packed with new stuff. The first part still covers the digital revolution, and how it has disrupted publishing and created fantastic opportunities for writers, but it was fascinating taking a step back and charting what has changed over the last three years. Continue reading

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Starting From Zero

lets_get_digital_amazonSuccess can seem unattainable to those starting out. It’s easy to forget that even the biggest sellers started from zero.

Amanda Hocking didn’t arrive on the scene as a fully formed sales machine. She didn’t have a platform which she had been diligently building up for years, nor did she come from trade publishing. She was unable to convince an agent to take her on and decided to self-publish instead, and then sold a million e-books in nine months!

Detractors tried to paint Hocking as an anomaly — and she was, in the sense that anyone who is phenomenally successful at anything is an anomaly.

But that missed the point: she was able to sell as much as the biggest names in publishing without the help of a publisher.

Soon, others followed suit. Authors like Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, HM Ward, Liliana Hart, and Barbara Freethy have sold millions of e-books on their own. Michael Wallace, Deanna Chase, Ed Robertson, Monique Martin, Chris Culver, BV Larson, Russell Blake, David Dalglish, Marie Hall, and Ryk Brown are just some of the many, many authors who have sold hundreds of thousands of e-books on their own. Without the help of a publisher.

Further down the food chain, hundreds of authors (possibly thousands), myself included, are making a living from book sales. Many of them, like me, were authors who couldn’t get out of the slushpile.

In other words, most of us started from zero. No readers, no platform, nothing.

A lot has changed in the three years since self-publishing went mainstream. In some ways it’s harder, but in some ways it’s easier too. Competition has increased. More importantly, the general savviness of self-publishers has improved. But the tools we have for reaching readers are much more sophisticated, and the prizes have swelled along with the market.

But it’s definitely different than it was three years ago, and, as such, the route to success has changed somewhat too. Beginners might get frustrated trying to follow in the footsteps of the authors named above because of that.

I see some of that frustration any time I share marketing tips. When those starting out read a post like this one on how to boost your mailing list, there’s always a comment which says something like “All that is great, but what do you do if you don’t have any readers?”

I get it. I really do. It can seem like a chicken-egg situation. You need ads to get sales, sales to get mailing list sign-ups, reviews to get ads, fans to get reviews, ads to get fans… pretty soon you’re all tied up in knots and see no way out.

The underlying question is “how do I get the ball rolling?” The short answer is step-by-step. And here’s the long answer. Continue reading

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Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Saving It

In light of current events, I thought it would be good to re-run Ed Robertson’s excellent guest post from November 2012 where he highlighted interesting parallels between historical paperback pricing (pre-industry consolidation) and self-published e-books.

It’s unlikely I’ll have time this weekend to respond to emails, or tweets, or jump in the comments, as I’ll be busy editing, but this should give you something to chew on.

I’m sending the 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital to the editor tomorrow, and I’ll be blogging about that Monday or Tuesday.

Oh, and the Spanish translation of Digital has just been released. You can grab it for free today only. More at the bottom of Ed’s post:

Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Saving It

I’m a self-publisher. An indie author. Whatever you want to call me. I’ve read many articles about how self-publishers are killing the book industry. I’ve heard it from big publishing houses. From the president of the Author’s Guild. From traditionally published novelists and agents and even other self-publishers. If I want, I bet I can find a new one of these articles every single day.

But I won’t, because I no longer believe them.

Self-publishers don’t have the power to kill the publishing industry. I don’t think anyone does. But we do have the power to change it. We already have – and paradoxically, this change isn’t a change at all. And instead of killing books, this change has helped resurrect them.

We aren’t the first to be accused of killing the industry. In 1939, Robert de Graff threatened to kill publishing, too. At the tail end of the Great Depression, when hardcovers regularly sold for between $2.50-$3.00, he started selling paperback Pocket Books for $0.25. Continue reading

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