Episode 53 – Going Mobile, Author Education, and the Lab

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In our first show of year two, we introduced a new segment and still came in at under 50 minutes! Thriller author and marketing expert Mark Dawson helped us kick off “The Lab,” a new feature in which successful authors help us experiment with our own books! He’s offering a one-hour consultation giveaway through April 14th at SelfPublishingFormula.com. Jim and Bryan’s trio of tips focused on audio marketing, going mobile, and free image sites. The news stories touched upon virtual book readings, self-publishing in high school, the reader’s journey, the post-gold rush trough, and what self-published authors should focus on. This week’s Question of the Week: Is it time for self-publishers to get over self-publishing?

What You’ll Learn: 
  • How Mark Dawson plans to help us grow our list
  • What you can do to market with audio
  • Why you should consider a web redesign before April 21
  • There are plenty of sites for free stock photos
  • How the classroom of the future will encourage author readings
  • What some schools are teaching aspiring authors
  • Why some publishers fall down after the first stage of the reader’s journey
  • What you’ll need to do to survive after the gold rush
  • Why self-publishers should stop beating the drum
Question of the Week: Is it time for self-publishers to get over self-publishing?
Want to help us with some new sounders?
Here are the scripts for the sounders we need. We’re looking for something new, with music/sound effects.
Tip of the week sounder: “And now, it’s time for the tip of the week!”
The lab sounder: “Ready to create your own book marketing Frankenstein? Let’s see what Jim & Bryan are up to in the sell more books show Laboratory.”
News sounders: “It’s time for the Sell more books show top five news. And now, here’s #5”
Then we need: “#4, #3, #2” each as their own. Then “And now the #1 news story of the week.”
Bonus: “You can participate in the show by leaving a comment at sellmorebooksshow.com or send an email to contact@sellmorebooksshow.com.”

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  • Yes!

    As someone who has come from a film background, I’ve always disliked the term “self-publishing” in favor of “independent publishing.” In film, no one cares who financed a movie, they care about the cast and the story. So, for me, the same applies with publishing. No one cares who paid for the book cover, editing, etc. They care about the author and the story.

    Just as indy films have their place and some reach high levels of success, the same goes for indy publishing. We should approach both mediums the same way… know your niche, set appropriate expectations, find a way to stand out apart from the “studios” and be inventive in marketing. There’s no shame in being the Roger Corman of publishing while striving to be Alfred Hitchcock.

    • Bryan

      Interesting point here, when I talked to Andra the Algonquin editor, she had no concept of the indie publishing term. In the publishing industry “indy” refers to small independent publishing houses outside of the Big 5.

      • That makes sense, if you’re looking from the top down, anyone outside the “studio” is an indy. But, from the bottom, looking up, anyone who makes a product is an indy.

  • I always refer to myself as an Indie Author any chance I get. This has given me many opportunities to discuss what I do for a living (and my books) in an organic, natural way without feeling like a pushy salesperson.

    • Bryan

      Yay organic and natural! You’re like the Whole Foods of authors.

    • If we’re Organic and Natural, that makes us premium right?

  • I just say I’m an author.

    Only other authors have ever asked me if I have a publisher, but most readers just assume I do.

    • On a side note, I liked when Amazon/Createspace allowed us to pay $10-15 for an ISBN because it allowed me to put my own ‘publishing company’ where things now say Createspace. Unless you supply your own ISBN, that’s what is says on both the Kindle side and CS side.

      I don’t know if it’s $150 (times two) worth of cool to buy two ISBNs, though.

      • Bryan

        It’s less in bulk… but you get the same amount of waste regardless.

    • Bryan

      You’re more than an author to me, Roland.

  • Crissy Moss

    For the most part… Yes, I just say I’m an author and go with that. And most self published authors I’ve met are of the same mind. In fact the only people who haven’t seemed to get the point are the traditionally published writers, especially done of the small press authors I met at Norwescon who push the “traditional publishing makes you legitimate” angle. It was kind of sad to watch.

    I think most of us know that readers don’t care who publishes their books, they just want good books.

    Honestly I would love a book that I can hand people at cons of whatever that is just “pros and cons of self publishing” for that education bit. If love to help people in that way. In fact I bet I could write that.

    • Bryan

      You should write that! Good idea.

  • Daniel Martone

    Anybody who has watched “Gold Rush” knows there can still be a lot of gold in the tailings… people make millions sifting through them… no reason why new authors can’t find their gold in the garbage pit of the self-publishing gold rush.

    • Bryan

      Back to the garbage pile!

  • Daniel Martone

    Self-publishers do need to get over self-publishing but that’s not to say we don’t still need some of our heavy hitting advocates to bash back when traditional publishing releases bogus info through their ugly step-sister, traditional media. I think we won the war but the public can be easily swayed… sad but true.

    • Bryan

      An earthquake needs a few aftershocks. For sure.

  • Self published authors don’t so themselves any favors by kidding themselves that they don’t need good editing, using horrible covers, and saying dumb things like “I’m writing an ebook.”

    • Bryan

      Hehe, it’s true.

  • Yes they do. Authors need to be willing to see themselves as part of the larger community of storytellers and recognize that in many ways they have become a small independent press (hiring out editing, cover design, marketing, etc.).

    Also, Bryan thanks for being on the show. Your 90 day publishing schedule is amazing and something that everyone should check out. http://www.thebookeditorshow.com/series-editing-bryan-cohen-episode-20/

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Clark! Sure thing :).

  • Kim Smith

    I totally think the whole conversation about self-publishing needs to mature. We no longer need info on HOW to self-publish or should you self-publish and we REALLY don’t need anymore chatter comparing SP to trad pub. It’s a waste of time anyway because the person who engages in the us versus them mentality is aching for a breaking from the get-go. I think SP has grown so high and has roots so deep that there is no need to become the school yard bully over it anymore. We are not a sapling in the forest. We are a full grown oak. So take that Maples.

    • Bryan

      Take that (Marla) Maples! I mean, great points, Kim. We definitely need to shift the conversation.

  • I think most everyone has a different idea about self publishing these days. When I first started, I received funny looks and a lot of, “Oh….you’re *self-publishing*…” That was 2012.

    Now when I tell people, usually I receive positive responses. I’ve even had people say there’s a lot of opportunity and they’ve heard good things from other authors.

    It’s great how the tide has turned so quickly! I used to kind of hide the fact that I was indie, whereas now I’m proud. It’s a great opportunity, and an even better community!

    • Bryan

      Definitely a great community. Thanks, Stacy!

  • Adam Haviaras

    I think as far as indies are concerned, we just need to get on with our work and keep on writing and building our businesses.
    We do, however, still need our advocates in certain areas. For example, self-publishing is still very much frowned upon where I live in Toronto, the bastion of traditional Canadian publishing. I still get asked what publisher I’m with when I say I’m an author, and in response I say that I’ve got my own publishing company. This gets me some very confused looks.

    So yes, we still need some advocates, but the main thing is to just get on with our business of writing and let the readers decide.

    As an aside, regarding the comments about the show itself, I was actually going to say I would like the show to be longer. You guys have a great format and I love the new ‘Lab’ segment of the show. It’s always a little sad when the show ends as I get a lot of motivation from The Sell More Books Show!


    • Just tell them you’re with a small press and then give them the name of your ‘publishing company.’

      • Adam Haviaras

        LOL. I think I’ve done that once, but should perhaps try it again. Indie authors should start having a bit of fun with people’s reactions and put together a nice blooper reel! 🙂

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Adam! You’ve gotta get up with Mark at Kobo. (As far as I know) he’s the King of Canadian Self-Publishing.

      • Adam Haviaras

        Oh yeah, I know Mark. The advantage of living in Toronto is I get to go to a lot of the author events at the Kobo offices. The Kobo Writing Life staff are fantastic! In Toronto the two most indie-author-friendly entities are Kobo and Wattpad. Hopefully their indie-positive attitudes will catch on in the wider scene some day. Cheers!

  • Should Self Publishers get over self-publishing?
    Yes… In the sense that folks need to let go of the big us vs. them mentality, and the big five need to do that too if they want to continue to be the big five. The giant arm (mud?) wrestling match needs to stop. They must feel incredibly threatened to even be paying attention to the indie/ebook market, and making such a fuss.

    Should folks discard it or think less of it for one reason or another?
    No… It’s a choice: go for multiple query letters a week and a stack of rejection letters before your middle men pick you up (agents and publishers) or go it on your own, get your work out there and let that speak for itself. Will it go far? Will it fly off the indie e-shelves? Or would it work in a book store begging for shelf space, and then drop out of print before it has the chance to gather the seven-year overnight success that it might become?

    It may be that authors these days need a different skill set. (More hats…) Now we’re writing, editing, working our way through drafts and beta readers, and also taking on the responsibility of getting a cover together, typesetting (so-to-speak) the book into a format that Smashwords or KDP likes, then switching hats again to start the self-promotion process. We all think about that book tour (that the big five were never sending you on anyway) but the truth of the matter seems to be that these things are all in our hands anyway.

    I think the days of going the long way around are ending and leading to a world where the first choice is to self publish, and the larger publishing companies choose their, can I call them clients at this point??, from a pool of established authors for larger ticket contracts that provide appropriate exposure in addition to their self-published start. (They -traditional publishers- have to bring value to the table for us to need them now… They can’t just take their cut in the name of “getting us onto book shelves in bookshops” and leave it at that.)

    I have to wonder if soon all a traditional publishing contract offers you is a code monkey to convert your book and compile your ebook formats for you and maybe a cover artist? We can all get that done already.

    People just need a kick start I think, and it takes a lot of energy for all those would-be authors out there to hit that brick wall and realize, if I want this career I’ve got this whole set of skills over here that I now have to not only learn, but master, and that takes a lot of energy and guts, and sometimes a lot of vocal activity. Loud, chatty, vocal activity. Especially when at each turn you’re told that going that route won’t amount to anything. (Or what I think it really means — it won’t line our pockets, so it’s wrong to go it on your own, and don’t you know this whole book thing is our territory…) Now that things are settling down a little, I think there will be less of that.

    Very interesting what you are doing with the Lab segment. At first I thought it was just a plug for http://www.selfpublishingformula.com, but then I realized that he’s really putting his butt out on the line. You’re going to use his advice, and then tell us all how it went. It could be a total bomb. It could be a fantastic success. It could all be based on the books you’re using as well. so it might not matter. I think it’ll be very interesting to see, and I like the idea that listening in on the podcast I may see you use a number of services or strategies in the Lab so I can make a judgement call on if I want to get involved after seeing the outcome.

    Something I’m always very interested in when looking into a service or something that I may want to try is not always knowing everything on the other side of the pay wall before I subscribe. I’ll be interested to know what exactly you get access to in the Lab for one of these sites or services. Is it just instructional videos? That’s good to know. Is there some kind of reporting that you get access to that’s not so evident before the pay wall? Are there articles, and not just video (for those of use at that day job looking for a fifteen minute writer’s fix during the day and want something in a written format) are there charts and graphs what have you.

    Have a good one

    • Bryan

      Definitely mud wrestling.

      Glad you like the concept of the Lab! I agree, it’s going to be really interesting to see if it works.

      As for SPF, I’m not sure what you get once you’re beyond the paywall. Mark is handling our campaign directly, so we won’t see what’s on the inside. We’ll just see if his methods work :).

  • Darren Sapp

    While attempting to have a museum carry my book, they said, “We don’t accept
    self-published books because they have typos.” I could have told them that I’ve
    spent as much time, dollars, etc. on cover design, formatting, editing, proofing,
    etc. as a publisher would or point out websites that show typos in published
    books, but why? What good would it do? The best books will rise to the top, and
    over time, these types of misconceptions will wane. We self-published writers should
    focus on delivering a top-notch product. Write, Self-Publish, Repeat…right?

    • Bryan

      Screw those guys!

  • I also think that self publishing is not ready to become something that we just “get over”. While the stigma of being a low quality content producer is shrinking, the distribution difficulties are absolutely NOT.

    • Bryan

      Good point, Kerstin.

  • Nico

    Indie: Endeavoring to earn a living by betting on your ability and imagination…

    If you believe in yourself, what do you care what others think?
    If the opinions of others can deter you, why have you chosen this method of publication?

    Indie storytelling is alive and well in the film industry, no stigma there, a lot of critically acclaimed docs and films.

    So focus on your craft, produce the best work you can. Accept constructive criticism graciously, and if there are those that dismiss your work without having read it because it’s self-published, it’s their loss. Prove ’em wrong by succeeding elsewhere. 🙂

    Indie author, indie publisher. Proud to be both.

    • Bryan

      Words to live by, Nico.

  • David Bain

    The big hurdle, I think, remains, I think, in what you might call academic or “high-falootin’ literary” circles. Unfortunately, “publish or perish” is still a very real thing. Alas, anyone trying to get a decent job teaching at the post-secondary level still needs to go with a publisher – the publisher and the publishing format really seem to be about as important as the actual contents of the writing. But I definitely think most readers of nonfiction and popular fiction don’t even care about the publisher as long as the quality’s there.

  • David Bain

    The biggest hurdle, I think, remains for writers with aspirations to academia or what you might call “high-falootin’ literary circles. Unfortunately, for them, “publish or perish” remains a very real thing. Personally, I think MFAs programs should be teaching classes in self-publishing, not poo-pooing it, but the truth is those seeking a job teaching virtually any subject in the post-secondary world desperately need traditional publishers – the publisher, and the format in which they’re published, is almost as important, it seems, as the content of the work itself. It’s a mixed-up meritocracy. But, yeah, I think the general nonfiction or popular fiction reader no longer cares at all about the publisher as long as they’re getting what they want from a book.

    • I think it’s true that most people don’t care, but part of what’s been happening is a flood of sub-par books that’s made many of these buyers aware of the self vs trad published divide. It’s to the point where some won’t even look at a self-published book unless there’s some serious proof that’s it’s good.

      There are many bad books coming from traditional publishers, but the odds are still better that a traditional book will be well (or better) edited, for instance.

      There’s also a phenomenon in indie-publishing where groups of authors all love each other and fail to see each others’ or their own flaws. They are surrounded by fans and/or like minded authors, and without outside readers, they don’t get enough good feedback.

      I don’t think they (or the fans) are being dishonest, but they just don’t see the lack of quality because they are too close to it.

      • Bryan

        Yeah, tough love is needed.

    • Bryan

      Maybe more self-pub folks need to start worming their way into colleges. I wonder how many are even asking to teach it…

  • Jim and Bryan,

    Great show as always! I’m really digging the Lab segment–curious to see what Mark Dawson’s strategies can do for you guys. Regarding the question of the week: yes, it is beyond time for indie authors to get over self-publishing. It’s funny that you guys brought up this question because this past week I was at a the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference and proudly had a booth promoting all things indie in a predominantly traditional publishing atmosphere. What was awesome though was that I had more than a handful of frustrated writers ask me how to independently publish! Many of these writers had become burned out on querying and trying to land agents for their work. Each of them was willing to hear the pros of going indie, but as you had pointed out Jim, most just didn’t know all the stuff you guys cover about publishing in the podcast. There is a wealth of misinformation out there about the independent publishing route and I don’t think most of it is put out by the trad pubs. A few of these writers told me their MFA professors had told them to avoid going independent because it was a “career killer”! So yeah, I think the conversation needs to shift from traditional publishing vs self-publishing to educating frustrated writers and aspiring authors about indie publishing, marketing, etc.as a whole.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Daniel!

      I’d love to figure out a way to tap into that group of folks. The frustrated trad pubs who want to try indie. At least before bad, scammy folks get at them.

      • Me too, Bryan. Thankfully, I got a few of the ones I spoke to at the con to sign up on my email list, so I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned from you and Jim with them! 😉

  • Jason Post

    I think we have come a long way in the past couple of years. We have proven ourselves as a valid and viable section of the publishing industry. Anyone who still says that you are not a real author because you are self published or that you will ruin your career by self publishing is living in the past.

    Rather than completely “getting over it” and backing down however, we just need to refocus our passions on our industry. We are building an entirely new industry here. It is a waste of our energy to continue debating indie vs. trad pub. We have won that fight. Now we need to focus on finding ways to help one another and build up the independent publishing industry. Trad pubs have large infrastructures and support systems in place, Indie Publishers have each other. It is up to us to build our market in to the place we want it to be. The gold rush may be ending and that means that you won’t sell a thousand copies of a book just by publishing it. It is going to increasingly require more work and better quality content as the supply and demand stabilizes. This is hard on an individual authors who see their sales going down, but it is good for the independent publishing industry because our quality level will continue to rise. Writers with sub par books will either fall away or double their efforts to bring their work to a higher level. The self publishing Gold Rush may be over, but the Golden Age of Independent Publishing is on the rise. Let’s focus our energies on that!

    • Bryan

      I like the idea of building infrastructure. Hmm, what kinds of support systems do you think we could create?

  • I’m loving the new Lab segment. Looking forward to hearing the results of Mark’s experiment! I’ll be bookmarking his website.