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Last man standing

The publishing world has changed. Authors no longer need to follow the traditional model in order to see their work in print. They can simply upload their work to Amazon and be in business in a matter of minutes – a privilege unheard of in previous decades. Forward to the deluge of grateful readers and the six-figure advance from Harper Collins and you have it. The dream scenario, complete with cigar and silk-lined slippers.

Except it isn’t quite that simple. Self-publishing might be the answer for struggling writers hoping to become known, but it’s still fraught with difficulties. Why is this? Firstly, it’s human nature to want to find the easy way around any problem. And the problem in this instance is how to find readers. Yes, you can add your book to any number of free online promotional sites but you’ll still be competing with thousands of others. To stand out in such an overcrowded market takes planning and ingenuity.

Then there’s the product itself. In the race to get published, the humble book is often the first thing that’s overlooked. Questions that should be asked are forgotten. Is it as good as it could be? Has it been rewritten enough times and checked for errors? Your reputation hinges on the standard of work you put out there, so it makes sense to hone it to the best of your ability.

Self publishing does have one major advantage over the traditional method. In the old days, the author’s prized work had about six weeks to make an impact on the public before it was withdrawn and left to fade into obscurity. Then along came Kindle. Nowadays, you don’t even need a bookshop to stock your product – virtual shelf-space is yours forever. But the essential dilemma still remains.

How do I find more readers?

The number one sales tool in any writer’s armoury is word-of-mouth. If your book is good and enough people crow about it to their friends and family, your fame will soon spread. You may well find yourself courted by the likes of Oprah and Richard & Judy. But, to find yourself in this enviable position, your book has to gain the necessary exposure to help it take off. A recent publisher’s survey estimated that for the word-of-mouth phenomenon to work effectively, a book has to first reach a minimum of eight-thousand readers. Given that most self-published novels sell under a hundred, you can see the scale of the problem.

As with any worthwhile venture, you do need persistence. If your book isn’t selling ask yourself why. When you’ve satisfied yourself that you’ve covered the basics (great cover/title/content), look to increase your readership in other ways.¬†Build an e-mail list and create a newsletter.¬†Contact book clubs and offer free books in return for reviews. In spite of the huge competition, online promotion still offers unlimited scope and potential and the chance for you to connect with an audience around the world. Use every means available to increase your profile and don’t give up.

Lastly, remember the best advice of all: if you want to sell more books, write more books. If readers like what you have to say they’ll want more of it. All you then have to do is meet that demand. Simple economics!

 

 

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