OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
One of the best blogs for self-publishers is TheBookDesigner.com and Joel Friedlander has just published his latest book, A Self-Publisher's Companion. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and the chance to interview Joel in the video and audio below. To whet your appetite, here is my review blurb.
“This is truly a companion for the thinking self-publisher. Joel is a polymath in the publishing world. He muses on the beauty of typography within a Milton text, the “kiss of inked type against the tooth of the paper” and yet his book also documents a transition to digital technology and how best to navigate it. We hear about how Cormac McCarthy still uses a typewriter and that the tools shouldn't get in the way of creation, but then we have hugely actionable chapters on creating tribes online, branding, blogging and twitter. Many will tell you that self-publishing is just loading your Word doc to Createspace but Joel starts with the questions you need to ask yourself upfront – Are you in business? Do you have the personality type to be a self-publisher? What does success look like to you?
This book is evergreen. It will outlive the latest tools and techniques in the online world. It resonates with Joel's many years of experience within the publishing world, his love of content creation and beauty as well as his amazing skills as a popular blogger. Highly recommended for anyone considering the self-publishing route or if you want to know more about aspects of publishing in a digital age. I have self-published four books now and still found myself jotting down notes from the useful information.”
You can also download the audio => JoelFriedlanderAudio.mp3
In the video, we discuss:
- The exciting times of publishing right now with Barry Eisler and others moving into indie publishing, and Amanda Hocking getting a traditional book deal based on her Kindle success. Joel talks about the great leverage that self-publishing has now, and how different it is from the 1980s when he first started. It used to be that you hid your self-published status, now it's becoming a mark of pride.
- Joel wrote The Self-Publisher's Companion as a way of introducing self-publishing/ indie publishing and to give newcomers an idea of what's involved in the process. It's more like a mentor, explaining the overview with a focus on the changes in publishing right now.
- On the dichotomy between loving books, print and typography and embracing digital publishing. Joel is still a print book junkie but explains the benefits of ebooks. Currently ebooks are primitive compared to print, but the tools will improve and ebook design will improve. Ebooks are basic text packaging right now, but they will be beautiful in the future. It is complicated at the moment – formats are confusing and ugly. We are in the Betamax vs VHS era but the industry will move on. A standard format will enable us to then be able to experiment with making them look better.
- The no. 1 thing self-publishers get wrong. Most people are enthusiasts, but are not treating it as a business and get emotionally connected to the book itself. Publishing is a business like any other. The marketing problems need to be considered before the published product is available. Considering all aspects, including sales and marketing is important. Many people end up asking how to market the book once it's out, which is almost too late.
- Joel talks about effective forms of marketing for any business. He is a ‘demon blogger' and blogs daily, building up a platform and a community. Blogging and networking have been most effective for him. The book launch has been supported by people in the community and he wouldn't have this if he hadn't been working hard on it for the last 18 months. Connecting with people on twitter has also been great. Joel talks about blogging every day and how the focus of the blog changed over time from purely print publishing to writing, marketing and other aspects. You don't have to blog every day – it's your schedule.
- The book is a lot about the psychology of being a self-publisher, switching from being a creative writer and then into a business mode. It's important to look at what your definition of success is e.g. seeing your book on a physical bookstore near you is much harder to achieve than having your book available on the biggest online bookstores like Amazon and BN.com.
- Joel explains print-on-demand and how it's changed the publishing industry. It's basically when a book is printed when it is sold, instead of paying upfront to print thousands of copies in advance. You load your book to a POD provider and people can buy them from the online bookstores. No inventory, no storage costs, no upfront printing. (Both Joel and I use POD for our print books). Self publishing doesn't just mean ebook publishing. You can still have a print book available.
- What should people DIY and what should they outsource? You need to decide what you want to achieve and make marketing decisions early in the process. For example, are you marketing to your own audience in which case you could just do it all yourself. But if you want to market to corporates or it's competing in a market, then you need professionals to make your book stand out for good reasons. It's also efficient to hire people so you have time to spend doing the things you're good at. You can also space these costs out e.g. do the book cover well before the book is finished so they can start marketing it early.
- Another exciting thing about self-publishing with ebooks and print-on-demand is you can upload a new file when you have a new book ready in order to promote the next one. For example, add a chapter to the end or an advert for the next book.
You can find Joel at TheBookDesigner.com