Friday, August 3, 2012

Indie Questions Post #1

I've received a few messages from other authors who are trying to figure things out. (By the way, if there's anything regarding being an Indie author you're interested in learning more about, send me your questions via a message on Facebook or to my email, and I'll try to answer them in a future post.)

Their questions revolve around the following:

1. My cover artist (prices, etc.) and whether he's accepting new clients

2. If I hired an editor

3. If I formed an LLC

4. How much marketing is necessary

5. Social Networking

So, in order:

1. My cover artist

My cover artist is James Curwen. He's really good to work with and enjoys helping Indie authors. James uses stock photos, but his main focus is original art, which works really well to keep your books from looking like some of the other cookie-cutter covers out there. Just like any other cover artist, his style might not suit your needs, but he's very diverse and able to adapt to what you're looking for. He charges between $50 and $150, and sometimes more, depending on how much original art is required. Check out his blog here. It includes samples of covers he's done in the past.

And yes, he's accepting new clients.

2. My editor

is amazing. :-) Her name is Tristi Pinkston. I've loved working with her, mainly because she puts everything into the edits, making sure to help me maintain my voice, whereas other editors I've hired haven't been so good at that. She charges $1.50 per page. This is quite a steal for her experience and talent.

If anyone is worrying about the cost behind self-publishing, read my blog post that addresses this topic here. And remember this: there are always really, really cheap ways to get things done, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a good product to sell. Going the cheap (or free) route rarely pays in the end. I've seen authors who uploaded books that weren't edited, or that were edited poorly. They made a bunch of money, but then discovered that their sales went downhill really fast, even after they hired editors. So yes, they got initial money. But they burned their readers by presenting unprofessional material, and now they're needing to work extra hard to earn back the respect they lost.  

3. My LLC

Yes, I formed an LLC. I don't really use it, though, except for the bank account I had to create to accompany it. Here's the thing: right now, I represent myself to companies who don't really care about my personal information. I'm not about to mess up my own life by making bad choices where my name is concerned. Back when I was with a traditional publisher, however, the contract was signed between them and my LLC, and that offered me some protection. If you plan to get movie deals, sign contracts with traditional publishers, or agents, or whatever, I'd recommend forming an LLC and having everything be under its name. (I'd suggest working with an attorney to do so. Mine is one of the best attorneys I've ever met - incredibly kind hearted. His law firm is in Provo, UT. Let me know if you'd like his information.)

But it's not completely necessary to form an LLC during the early stages of publishing. First off, you're unlikely to sign any movie deals within the first few months. Just make sure to get one set up when something looks like it's heading your way.

4. My marketing

Okay, that's a silly header, but it felt like it needed to go along with the other ones. :-) Here's what I do to market:

Almost nothing.

That's not to say I didn't used to market. Oh, heavens knows I did. We flung all sorts of time and money toward this fairly useless (for me) endeavor.

My success and sales didn't start to go upward until I'd published several quality books. After I released my first book (yes, it was edited. :-)), we spent a lot of time trying to get the word out through reviews and free advertising. I spent hours and hours contacting blog owners and reviewers. I hired someone to head up a blog tour for me. And saw almost nothing from it. Just a few sales here and there (and I'll be honest - my sales were more than a lot of Indie authors have during their first few months. They just didn't equal the amount of work I put in).

Success didn't actually start happening until a couple of things were in place:

1. I had a bunch of books available
2. We put up the first book in my series for free (across the board - Nook, Kindle, etc.)

I'm not saying marketing won't work for you. If you feel strongly like you need to do something, then do it. But remember this: the digital age is different from days of the past. Our memories, as readers, are shorter - if there isn't another book available when we finish an enjoyable story, we probably won't return to the author. Most people won't make it a point to return until they've read several things from an author.

Don't market to other authors. We're all in the same boat, and it gets annoying to hear messages over and over again from the same people. "Check out my latest book!" "Fan my author page!" I block people who are constantly spamming others in their search for new readers, fans for their pages, people to support their cause, etc.

Rather than searching for sales from other authors, we should be supporting and friendshipping each other.

5. My social networking

This is a pretty sensitive subject right now. To see what I'm talking about, check out this flawed article by the Guardian, one of the responses to that article on an Indie author blog, and then make sure to go back to the Guardian article and read all of the comments made by JA Konrath. He and the author of the article go back and forth quite a bit, and I have to say, Joe's arguments are pretty sound.

Indie authors, beware the trap that is social marketing. The majority of us have figured out that big sales don't really come from social marketing - not for 95% of people, anyway. Most sales come from readers telling readers about a cool new author they've discovered. Sales come from people having multiple ways to find authors who have multiple books out. The more books you've written and published, the more ways you'll have to find readers.

Basically, the best use of your time is in writing new material and progressing in your abilities. I use Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with readers, fans, friends, and family. I talk about the things that are most important to me: writing, family, movies, etc. I update on current writing projects, but almost never talk about books that are already for sale. I don't expect most family and friends to actually buy my books. :-)

I think that answers all of the questions. Just so we're on the same page: marketing and social networking do work for some. You might be that person. But play it safe - make sure you've got plenty of options for readers to choose from before you start a huge marketing or social networking campaign.

And don't annoy people with spammy messages. :-)

That's all for today.

Mini update on my books:
The Music of Anna Morse is with my editor. I'll be sending Britnell Manor (formerly The Forgotten Photograph) to her soon. About to start writing Whistle, and I'll Come. These are all novellas that fall under my Katon University umbrella. I'm really excited to have them ready! Feedback from beta readers has been extremely positive so far. These are creepy, fun stories!

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