During a September 25th meeting of the Washington Book Publishers Association, quest speaker Shawn Welch, co-author and co-self-publisher of Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, discussed how he and Guy Kawasaki approached co-authoring a book on self-publishing together and what he thinks traditional publishers can learn from self-publishers. One value-add segment that Welch covered in detail was marketing.
He spoke about how important it is to market your book at the onset of the writing process by engaging potential readers, rather than wait until the book is finished and then reach out to them. But Welch and Kawasaki, essentially playing with house money, are not great representations of the typical self-publisher looking to break into the field. Both authors had had books published before APE, all the traditional way. And Kawasaki had a built-in following, even before he chose to self-publish What the Plus! Google+ for the rest of us, with more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter and a staggering 5.1 million followers on Google+. Welch likely would have struggled to have a self-published book of his own reach the Wall Street Journal top 10 without Kawasaki. So for self-publishers starting without considerable popularity, cutting through the self-publishing noise requires some serious marketing.
Self-publishing represents a potential $52 billion market, according to a New Publisher House report, State of Independence 2014. If this figure is realized, it would be nearly twice that of traditional publishing. One would think this statistic would bode well for authors looking to make a career out self-publishing their book. But the report goes on to add that aspiring self-published authors now outnumber actual published authors 100 to 1 and that new self-published books outnumber traditionally published books 8 to 1. With self-publishing continuing to rise, thus making it even harder to get noticed, marketing your self-published novel effectively takes on added importance.
Welch covered basic social media in his marketing discussion, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and others. But if the market is being flooded with self-published books and social media with authors self-promoting their books, how can authors make their books stand out, without the help of a traditional publishing house?
One effective, low-cost option is having your book reviewed. As Welch pointed out during the meeting, most readers do not look to the publisher to weigh the quality of a book to read. Many readers do, however, choose to buy a book based on the caliber of the writing, often by reading book reviews, browsing comments online, or scanning the back cover for blurbs. Thus, authors should have their book reviewed, and done so preferably by a professional, unbiased reviewer. There are many professional review companies available to self-publishing authors of all kinds. A quick Google search brings up BlueInk Review ($395–$495), Self-Publishing Review, ($75–$109), and Kirkus Reviews ($425–$575).
As self-publishers, Welch said he and Kawasaki had an alternative take on getting their book reviewed. They sent out their manuscript to anyone who wanted to review it, as a way not only market the book and receive a wide variety of opinions but also to build an engaged readership that they could call on to promote the book once it was finished.
Sources: “Publishing Gone APE: What Can Publishers Learn from Self-Publishing” Shawn Welch, September 25, 2013, Washington, DC.