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The indie publishing world continues in constant flux but a new strident voice has recently appeared on the scene. Today David Gaughran shares his story.
David Gaughran is the author of historical novel ‘A Storm Hits Valparaiso' as well as several short story collections. He has also published ‘Let's get digital: How to self-publish and why you should'.
- How David got started. He's been writing for a long time but in 2005 he started seriously writing with the aim of publication. After a few attempts, he started historical novel A Storm Hits Valparaiso. He sent it out to agents and publishers as well as working on it to improve it over a number of years. After 18 months he was feeling quite down about the project and the continued rejection. In Christmas 2010, he heard from a NY agent who was interested, but then he never heard from him again. This is not an unusual story but David felt disappointed and in a negative place.
- It was around this time that Barry Eisler walked away from $0.5 million and then Amanda Hocking got her $2.5 million deal. This made David notice indie publishing and so he investigated further. On KindleBoards he found authors who weren't household names but they were making a living from their books. Most of these authors were unpublished and unknown before going indie. Realizing one book is not enough, he started writing short stories and put them up on Kindle. He found the joy of writing again and decided that indie was the most empowering way.
- How David's blog Let's Get Digital has been his journey into indie and self-publishing. He started it at a time when self-publishing was going mainstream but his regular posts and strong opinions have made it a must-read blog for those interested in the industry.
- On Amazon KDP Select. David personally doesn't think it's a good idea but for some writers, it is clearly a good thing.
- On subscription-based reading. Readers will be offered a system for a monthly fee and they get a certain number of books for free. This will become a dominant model. It's important to keep control of pricing as this is a key competitive advantage for indies. When we compete for the same amount in a pot we lose control of pricing and this is the bad side of KDP Select.
- Is anyone challenging Amazon at this point? Nook is up for sale but it may be bought by a company that can aggressively roll it out worldwide. Kobo was bought by a large Japanese company which is strong in places Amazon is weak. In the US, Amazon are pretty entrenched. But e-reading is bringing a renaissance in reading as it's so much easier to experience and generally cheaper.
Since David and I talked, Apple has come out with the iBooks Author program. It has excited some people but others have been upset about its terms and conditions.
- Europe and ebooks. There's a huge difference between countries with a Kindle store and those that don't. Also holding back the dominance of ebooks is VAT or sales tax. There isn't tax on print books in many countries (UK included) but there is on ebooks. This means print can be cheaper. There's also an additional cost if you don't have a Kindle store for your country. But the ebook market is still growing at a phenomenal rate so the revolution will happen, it's just a bit slower. I mention India again – Amazon are opening a distribution warehouse and often the next step is a Kindle store. We shall see! But Brazil will likely be before that. Back on the subscription model, David thinks there will be free devices if people sign up for the subscription, as we already see in cell phone packages.
- What are indie publishers still getting wrong? They are getting better but the basics are still wrong. People need to spend more money on editing and cover design. The blurb has to be good. The front matter needs to be in the back of the book. The reader needs to be grabbed in the sample. Don't wait. People say they can't afford $1000 for the professionals but you have to do it in order to have a quality product. Or barter or find some way to get the money. Don't go into debt but you have to make sacrifices. You need a pro editor and a pro designer. You need a fantastic blurb. It has to be perfect. Skimping on these things is the worst thing you can do. You'll end up spending more later otherwise. You will lose readers unless you produce a professional product. Your competition is every other book on Amazon. It's about reading time – why should they give it to you?
- On marketing. It's the old saying, 50% of marketing works, but you don't know which 50%. You have to try a bit of everything and see what happens. Look at what others are doing. You don't have to do everything and nothing guarantees success. See what works for you and your readers. Pricing is different in the genres. One thing is important – set up Google Alerts on your name, book title and more. Using free is a great marketing tool so definitely have that in your arsenal. It gives you more exposure.
- In 2012, David sees the traditional publishers following suit with indie tactics e.g. pricing cheap or free. They are now getting to grips with pricing as a tool rather than the emotional value vs price. Subscription models and e-readers priced at zero if they include ads. Everything will get cheaper but the average price of self-published work is now going up, so we'll see what happens. Indie is a bit like day trading now with calculations on free and when to enter price points and leave them again. It's an exciting time, there are new people entering the market all the time.
- ‘A Storm Hits Valparaiso' has now been indie published and is available on Kindle. Yeah! David has no interest in a traditional publishing deal for digital as he wants to see what he can achieve on his own. However, we are both interested in a print deal or a foreign rights deal, but for ebooks, it's worth trying alone
You can find David at his site Let's Get Digital and on twitter @davidgaughran
Turndog Millionaire says
David is definitely one of the success stories of e-books and it gives inspiration and hope to all those aspiring
I especially like the idea of a subscription based platform. I suppose in a way KDP is the beginning of this, but i certainly see this becoming a stable model. Sign up for £x per month and get access to an infinite amount of books. It works for Spotify, it works for Netflix, and i feel TV and wifi will go down this route too
We all want access to everything and at all times (i know, how greedy are we???), so i see subscription models booming in the next few years. In 5 years we may hardly buy anything but have direct debits coming out of everything.
Hmmmm, it should be interesting 🙂
Matt (Turndog Millionaire)
Marcia Richards says
Congratulations, David! It sounds like you’re on your way to your goal and having fun, too!
Thank you, Joanna for bringing David to us. I’m near finishing my short story anthology and getting nervous about all the elements of self-publishing. I’m having fearful thoughts like, “what if no one buys my book?” I will get through it but, hearing stories like this make me feel better.