IndieRecon (an independent publishing on-line conference) recently presented an interview with Mark Coker of Smashword. The topic, among other things; new marketing approaches for self publishing authors. He had five central thoughts:
1. Write a good, no, a great book
2. Forget Social Media – it won’t help
3. Write a lot of great books
4. Distribute widely 5. Patience!
I’ll admit I was smug as I listened to this. In a number of ways I have come to practice all four – to a degree. But when I went to check my bank account I saw that I’m not yet rich. Of course, that’s all about number five.
Indeed, Mark has raised good points. I plan to discuss each one of these from my personal perspective and experience. Today’s column reflects on the first bit of advice; write a great book.
It takes time to write a good book. It requires creative thought, the discipline to keep at it day after day, a sense of purpose and goals, sacrifice. All of this and more. But a great book?
For success in the eBook market today, an author now must write a great book, says Mark, because the competition has grown exponentially. There are many, many good books available to readers, tens of thousands of which are free. Your book should be so great that people will pay money to own your book instead of downloading a free book.
This raises an immediate question: am I capable of writing a great book? Does this mean I must be a Steinbeck, or Hemingway, or a King? If I don’t honestly think I have that kind of talent, should I give up?
In a word: no.
Let’s remember that Steinbeck wasn’t Steinbeck without a lot of practice, which means writing, writing, and then some more writing. Great writing evolves.
Does that mean you shouldn’t publish that good, not great book you just finished? Not at all. Go back and look at number three on Coker’s list. Each new book you publish helps the last to sell. Your good book may not rise high on Amazon’s best-selling list. But when at last you do write that great book, it will lift all the others. Keep practicing.
Another point. Great writers are unique writers. That is, each great author has a unique voice. If you think about it, in many ways great and unique are synonymous in writing.
Here’s what I mean. Think of the great authors you have read. If someone hands you a book with the cover gone, no indication of who wrote it, wouldn’t you recognize the author after a few pages? Would you confuse T.C. Boyle with Larry McMurtry? I don’t think so.
To write a great book, an author must let his/her unique voice develop. Do not let other authors, critics, friends change it. In every critique group consisting of authors, comments on your work are likely to be colored by that author’s own voice. Learn to separate the useful critique from personal style criticism. Stubbornly forge ahead with the style that is you.
Stay true to your goal. In this amazing new publishing world, some authors aim for quantity rather than quality to make bucks. This concept was not approachable a decade ago; the quantity of books one could publish was necessarily cramped by the time it took to weather the publishing process. No more. Today you can be published tomorrow, if you wish. If your goal is money, this might work for you. However, I know many authors who have published scores of good entertaining books and sell just one of each per year. Do the math: fifty books at $5.00 each is only $250.
I still believe that quality, not quantity, will sell books. And as Mark Coker said, they will need to be great books.
In my next blog post I will write my thoughts about number two: Forget about Social Media.