Traditional V Indie Publishing

by J James

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Posted by JJames

It was never a consideration for me to go down the traditional route when publishing my book. Ok, that’s not strictly true. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be snapped up by a prestigious publishing house offering a six figure advance? But those days in the publishing world have long gone. I guess my pride also wanted protection. I didn’t want to hear the words, “No thank you!” from endless agents or publishers when I had poured my heart and soul into completing the book.

I knew the pressures the traditional publishing houses were up against and the need for them to be selective in the projects in which they invested. There is no room for investing in potential best sellers in this economic climate. Instead, they choose to back those with proven sales history. So thank goodness for indie publishing. Now everyone can publish the finished result and more importantly the wealth and variety of genres available to readers has increased exponentially. The thought of being a part of that was incredibly exciting – changing the future of publishing. Being the control freak that I know have tendencies to be, having full control of the direction of the project was also what I wanted. The thought of marketing and promoting my own book was really appealing. But I really underestimated just how much of a challenge this was going to be.

I researched a number of indie publishing options whilst at the same time becoming wise to the Vanity Publishing Houses that prey upon naive new authors. I discovered York Publishing and here we are now. They offered a number of marketing options though none of them really had an impact on sales. Over the last year I have experimented with a number of promotional and marketing techniques. Sometimes it does feel like you are flying blind. There are so many and the majority cost big money. The key is trying to find affordable marketing options that will give maximize exposure. The usual social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook have helped to raise the profile of the book and of myself as an author. This is the first phase and a really important one. I guess as an author I was judging my success based on the number of copies sold but I have learnt that you need to generate exposure first of all and hopefully this will lead to sales. I contacted every possible gay magazine or website and asked if they would consider reviewing the book or interviewing me. This was tremendously successful and provided many promo opportunities. Sometimes it can be tempting to pay to see your book in a top magazine but the gains are not always there for the taking. I fell into this trap – paying 500 pounds for an advert in Attitude Magazine. It was a proud moment when I saw the printed edition with my book advertised inside but it’s impact? Minimal! In comparison Goodreads has been an invaluable resource for me. It is a great way to link with other authors and direct with readers. I have offered the book in a number of Giveaways and this has led to some great reviews. The more reviews, the greater the attention you receive.

I‘m still learning every day. The more creative and innovative you can be in your approach the more successful I think you marketing will be. Readers are quite demanding these days. They expect budget prices yet high quality books. The $0.99 ebook craze has placed the rest of us under huge pressure to price our work at a competitive price that leaves little room for making a living out of our hobby. And very few magazines, websites or individuals will offer promotional support for free. I am currently experimenting with Google Adwords and to say this is a challenge is an under-statement. The majority of its functions are out of my league of IT understanding but is certainly has increased the amount of traffic to my website. Only time will tell if that leads to great sales. I personally believe that the more approaches you try the greater the impact. I am still using some traditional methods for spreading the word – handing out fliers and bookmarks that advertise the book. Maybe the mix of the modern and old methods is what works best? The book is available on every possible online book store. The support from traditional book stores has been less supportive. The book is in a number of stores – Asia Books and Kinokuniya stores in Thailand, Prowler in the UK and a few LGBT bookstores in the US, but generally they don’t have the space for stocking the tremendously high number of books being published each week. To see your paperback for sale in a local book store or at the airport is incredibly rewarding but don’t wrongly assume that will make the successful. My greatest sales have come from Amazon. I have tried to support the local book stores but Amazon seems to be able to do what they can’t do – reach out to my audience. Well actually they are very passive – they won’t promote your book but it seems to be the popular hangout for readers. Yet I haven’t just put all my eggs in the Amazon basket. I have tried to make the book available through as many outlets as possible – giving readers the best possible choice.

It can be disheartening sometimes and most definitely frustrating when struggling to reach out to your readers. But I just remind myself of why I wrote the book. It was not sell thousands of copies (though that would be lovely thank you). I had always told myself that if my story helped just one person avoid the misery and upset I went through, or if the book helped one ignorant person realise the complexity of sexuality, then it would all have been worthwhile. And I have exceeded those expectations tenfold.

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