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Writers as Publishers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 13, 2011

Shannon Aviles from More Than Publicity gave a talk at a recent meeting of Florida Romance Writers advising authors who self-publish their work to think like publishers. This means authors have to “pull your vision out of the box” where we’ve sat for so long while agents and the Big Six publishers tell us what to do. “Think broader and wider.” She advises authors to do brand marketing, which is what drives sales. “Learn how to become CEO of your own business.” She says technology drives consumer power and predicts that e-book sales will supersede print sales. Authors should take back whatever rights they can get. Brand marketers are also trend watchers. Keep an eye on world news, the economy, upcoming films. Bench marketing is another term Shannon discussed. It means watching what the competition is doing.

Authors believe self-publishing is as simple as putting a book up on Amazon, but read the fine print. Amazon is telling you how to price your product. They control the terms and can change them on a whim. Authors on Amazon become little fish in a big sea. How do you get noticed? “Don’t put all your balls in Amazon’s court because they have a big game plan,” and you’re not in it. Now they’re even loaning books out for free.          Nov 2011

Meanwhile, distribution has narrowed as distributors, chain and indie bookstores have gone out of business. However, Lightning Source through Ingrams has worldwide distribution so this is better than Createspace for self-pubbed authors who want to offer their books in print. But you’ll need to get an EIN number for Ingrams (business tax number).

The Big 6 publishers use the agency model to price their ebooks, while smaller presses and epubs use the wholesale model. In the agency model, the publisher sets the price.

Shannon advises choosing a professional name for your publishing company and registering it as an LLC. You should come up with a brand for your house. Work out a business plan and a long-term strategy. Consider your launch week but aim for longevity. Make adjustments as necessary along the road.

An author’s goal should be long-term sustained selling, not an immediate focus on a quick sale by lowering the book price to $.99. Long-term gain is what matters, not constantly offering your books on sale for short-term hikes in rankings and numbers. “America is a sales hog.” We’re used to everything being on sale. But focus on your long-range plans. If one strategy isn’t working, change it. Always reassess your status and make adjustments accordingly. For example, launch your book at the regular price and watch the sales velocity for a six week period.

Books-A-Million is growing and launching new stores because they have a marketing strategy.

Publicity, promotions, public relations, and media relations do not drive sales. Press doesn’t make you famous unless you’re already famous. Don’t waste your money on press kits and tchotchkes. DO send your book, with a professional cover, to reviewers.

Disclaimer: This is my interpretation of what I heard. It may not be totally accurate but it’s my best conclusion from my notes.


11 Responses to “Writers as Publishers”

  1. Lia Davis said

    That is very good advice. I’ve been researching self-publishing for a while and it’s a lot more work then some would think. You most definitely need to think of it as a business. Great post.

  2. Very good summary, Nancy. The one thing you might add is that Shannon advised doing both traditional publishing and self-epubbing, if possible. Generally, her advice was not for the faint of heart, or for authors who are afraid of change.

  3. Yes, Allison, she did say that about doing both traditiional pub and epubbing. Thanks for the reminder. The overall impression I took from this workshop was that it’s not enough to just slap your books up on Amazon. Thinking as a publisher means making a business plan like one and working toward long-term sustainability, not short term sales to ratchet up the numbers for a week.

  4. Nancy,
    I found this post valuable. I intend to put up a few out-of-print children’s book as ebooks. I’ll have a few other books up there as well. I’ve been told that the more books you have up on Amazon, the more you sell. I can well believe this to be true.

  5. Marilyn, I forgot to mention that the speaker at our meeting also emphasized we should announce right up front on backlist titles that these are reissues of previously published works.

  6. It was an interesting presentation. I think this new push toward self-publishing is making some think it’s easy. Slap on a cover, load a book & watch the $$ come in. I think for self-pubbing to work it almost has to be a full-time job. As Shannon said, you can’t think like an author, but as a business & you are the CEO. I have to admit to some uneasiness I’ve been feeling concerning Amazon. It’s good that so many people are able to now reach readers, but Amazon is amassing so much power. There is a plan in place with them & no one really knows what it is. The .99 cent books sort of make me uneasy, too. For a promotional tool I guess it’s fine, but it seems like we’re teaching readers that books are only worth .99 cents. Once people start to expect that price as the “normal” price it’ll be very hard to then try and sell the same book for $2.99 or $4.99 or whatever later. Then you’re stuck.

  7. Excellent advice! It’s time sound advice like this should take precedence over all the hype. I really think one should think twice before self-publishing and setting up a publishing venture really takes entrepreneurial savvy…Not everyone’s cup of tea, especially writers whose main job really ought to be writing their books!

  8. Kristin, I don’t care for the $.99 price either. It devalues our work as authors. When I spend a year writing a book, I’d like to think it’s worth more than a dollar. Authors have to realize they’re doing themselves harm in the long-term with this policy. As you say, readers will come to expect books to be cheap if not free.

    Claude, you are right in that not all of us want to be or are meant to be publishers. Personally, I’d rather be writing my next book than worrying about cover art, finding an editing service, etc. Being a publisher is a different mind-set and should involve more than throwing your book up on Amazon for a quick fix.

  9. Great summary, Nancy. I had to leave early, but your notes caught me right up. This lady has a lot of value to say.
    Cynthia Thomason

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