These questions originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Answers by Rochelle Weinstein, published author of multiple contemporary fiction novels, on Quora.
Q: Why did you choose to self-publish your books instead of going with a traditional publisher?
Like many authors before me, I spent over ten years writing, editing, rewriting, querying, and eventually wallpapering a bathroom with rejection slips. The year was 2011 and the shifts in the publishing industry were seismic. I saw how the internet impacted the music industry, and I was well aware of the opportunities presenting themselves to writers in the digital age.
When you know what you want from your writing, the decision to move forward in any capacity gets easier. I knew I wanted a tangible piece of evidence in the world to share with loved ones and friends. I also wanted to touch someone--anyone--with my words. Self-publishing had emerged as a viable means to an end, and it satisfied my needs. Besides, there were advantages to self-publishing that worked with my individual goals: freedom, flexibility, creative control, profits, and autonomy.
I chose CreateSpace because of the alliance with Amazon and had a very successful run. The accomplishment provided me with a platform and following that translated into leverage when shopping around my third novel. And while self-publishing was one of the best decisions I made, both fulfilling and gratifying, running a publishing house out of my office was not ideal. I was ready, and prepared, to take a leap. The entire experience paved the way for a smooth transition to Lake Union Publishing.
The beauty of this business is that there is not one clear-cut path to publishing. An author can self-publish and transition to traditional. There are hybrid houses. Some authors may even revert back to self-publishing. Writers today have more choices than ever. There is no right or wrong. Choose the path that works best for you, and wherever it takes you, there is always another door and another possibility.
Q: What is the bitter truth about self publishing that no one tells you?
No matter what your reasons are for choosing to self-publish, no matter how righteous or how neatly those reasons fit into your world, the stigma associated with self-publishing is ever-present. While it has diminished over time, and we've seen a string of self-publishing successes (and a handful of well-known authors trying their hand at same), the definition of success varies across industry players. To be taken seriously as a writer or to even be considered an author, there is the presumption that must have a traditional deal.
It's hard work. You are essentially your own publishing house. It's up to you to write, edit, create, design, market, and promote your book. Juggling these various jobs all while writing your next book and working a full-time job or managing a family are time-consuming. And breaking out requires, at times, financial support or sheer luck. Which makes it a numbers game. The majority of self-published authors don't become bestsellers.
Your book will likely not make it to the shelf of Barnes & Noble. Times they are a changing, but only a few bookstores welcome self-published work. Often it's circumstantial or a personal tie to a particular community that allows a few to squeeze through. If your dream is to see your book in the window of your favorite bookstore, self-publishing may not be the right fit for you.
Q: What marketing strategies were used by first-time authors to create best-selling books?
The success of my first two self-published novels were largely based on my marketing efforts. While writing a good book is key, it has to break out of your circle of friends and family to be successful. I'm going to get a bit specific here, but it's all about paying it forward.
Hire a professional editor. This may not be considered a marketing strategy, but a well-written novel sells. Period. So make it part of your publishing plan.
Social Media and Website. Have a presence and a platform established before your book releases.
Exploit your network of friends. Capitalize on their contacts, anyone with a foot in the door in media/marketing or PR. Do you know anyone who is a credible or reputable author that can review your book? Do you know your local bookseller? The gal in the gift shop at your favorite hotel? Contacts are key. It doesn't hurt to ask.
Be able to describe your book in one concise, strong sentence.
Hire a publicist if finances allow. If you can't, write yourself a strong press release and start sending it out. Begin a grass roots campaign locally through radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, etc. Be aggressive. But don't just ask for things. Be prepared to give something back in return--free books, an interview--so it's worth everyone's while.
Business cards. You'd be surprised how far these little guys will go. Pass them out wherever you go. Really. Have friends and family do it for you. Leave the cards in places people will find them and be intrigued enough to buy the book. Airplanes. Stuffed in magazines in a doctor's office. Seriously. My husband did this all the time!
Excerpt reviews from reputable sources on your author page, website, and on social media. Word of mouth goes a long way.
Goodreads. Utilize their contests to get your book in the hands of readers nationwide or outside the US. Their contests are easy, user friendly, and cost very little.
Make yourself available for local charities, raffles and silent auctions. Offer an autographed copy of the book and an evening with the author or a book club appearance and a bottle of wine. Be creative!
Contact local bookstores in your area and work out consignment agreements. Or you can check online for the top 100 booksellers nationwide and read into their consignment agreements. Work with bookstore chains, independent bookstores to tap into sales, promotions and group events.
Are you affiliated with any organizations? Ask them to sponsor a book reading. They can advertise the event. You can fill the room. Everybody wins. Know your market and think about the places that would cater to such a book.
Several book sites offer exclusive daily deals. Submit your book to one of these powerhouses, and if you're selected, you pay a fee based on the subscriber base (by genre). In turn, they will email your book to potential readers in a daily email. It's an excellent way to get in front of hundreds or thousands of readers.
Find the bloggers who are interested in your genre and make an unforgettable pitch.
Find a way to support or attend author events and conferences.
Build an e-mail database of readers and followers. A newsletter is a terrific way to stay in touch with your audience.
On holidays or book birthdays offer discounts to thank your readers and drive sales.
And finally,start writing another book! Buzz words I continue to hear are "investment" and"branding." Don't get caught up in the numbers game. Get back in the saddle and write again. Houses want to see committed authors invested in writing. Showing dedication to your craft is one way to stand out in a crowded market. That's brilliant marketing for your earlier works.
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