More and more we’re hearing about the anecdotal cases of the independent author who has phenomenal success self-publishing a book through e-publishing, or the mixed-media author whose book soars because of e-publishing.
Jonathan Gunson, author with one of those success stories, The Merlin Mystery, has published an interesting how-to e-book (free! 🙂 ). The Best Seller Labs Guide For Authors describes what he did, discusses his observations and conclusions of the e-publishing revolution, and provides several chapters of sound-sounding advice on how to do it.
Through it all, Gunson pushes platform building: create an audience of a few ten thousand followers before you publish. Turn yourself into someone people want to read, create the brand.
Much of it is quite intimidating, especially to a naive optimist like me. But Gunson’s approach stresses one-step-at-a-time. “Avoiding the ‘overwhelm’ factor is crucial,” he warns. No kidding, Jon. We get overwhelmed easy. We are, after all, writers, not marketers at heart.
Here are a few of Gunson’s ideas:
— He launched The Merlin Mystery to best-seller status with a contest gimmick, building a pot of gold with a grain of gold for every book sale and offering the prize to any reader who figured out the riddle contained in the book. His publisher helped with some promotion. Word spread and book sales skyrocketed.
Nobody solved the riddle but it sold 350,000 copies in a niche genre. Gunson donated the prize (worth $150,000) to charity.
— He declares that e-publishing has made this the “Greatest Time In HIstory to Be An Author,” not just because e-publishing creates whole new market penetrations, but because, unlike traditional publishing, books are not limited to initial-success-or-die. Lots of viral factors can boost an e-bok long after traditional publishers would have abandoned it.
— It’s all about the platform, baby. Creating an author brand and following through blogs, e-mail lists, social media and Internet links defines an author long before he sells a word and creates the waiting audience for the book. That, Gunson stresses, is true whether the book is e-published or marketed through traditional publishers. No platform, no interest.
— Pick a genre and define yourself by it and in it, with that special “mark of distinction” that makes you stand out within that genre. Again, we’re talking marketing here, not writing.
I haven’t actually done that yet. I’ve written. What came out of my fingers is what it is. What is it? Sci-fi? Action-adventure? Thriller? Commercial fiction? I love that last genre, it sounds so vague it could be anything, but I suspect that also makes it a trap.
So much to do. So much to think about. Whatever happened to the old days when an author simply wrote, then turned it over to someone he knew from college who now was established in the publishing industry, then went back to writing the next one?
I guess I wouldn’t have survived very well in that world. Guys from my college don’t rise through the ranks of literary agencies and NY publishing houses. They become teachers, journalists and store managers.