Wednesday Review: How To Publish and Promote Online by M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy

“Anyone interested in e-books or e-publishing should read this informative — and groundbreaking — guide.”  — Publishers Weekly.

To that I would add:  anyone self-publishing a physical book, publishing with a small press, or even with a traditional publisher.

Even though How to Publish and Promote Online was printed in 2001 and some details are out of date, this is a valuable resource to pretty much any author who wants to increase their exposure and sales.  It’s jammed with information from a variety of sources.  I haven’t yet had time to check out the many sites listed, so I don’t know how many still exist, but if only half still function the book is still rich with information.

M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy draw upon their own experience using the web to promote their work, and feature over 15 other professionals’ expertise on subjects ranging from “What is an e-book,” to “E-Serials!” to “Brainstorming to Develop a Marketing Strategy” to “Getting Reviews.”  It’s a little overwhelming.  Just remember you can do as much or as little as you choose, depending on your goals.

This book is worth your time and money — especially if you’re considering self-publishing in any format.  You must do your homework so you know what you’re getting into.  From everything I’ve read, promoting a privately published book is a lot of work.  This book will save you money in the long run by handing you a tested strategy.

10 Comments

Filed under Book reviews, writing

10 responses to “Wednesday Review: How To Publish and Promote Online by M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy

  1. Hi Frankie,

    If I’m not mistaken, the very same MJ Rose was just featured on NPR? She’s writing suspense and is a good example of using marketing savvy to increase your self pub sales, along with overcoming the difficulty of being shelved in the wrong place in bookstores once she was picked up by a Harlequin imprint that isn’t romance-focused.

    I’ve been following the discussions about self pub vs. trad pub, and am finding your reviews and the discussion in the posts helpful also thought-provoking. To that end… some thoughts about things discussed up to this point (with advance apologies for the lack of brevity…been trying to learn that since high school…you can see how well that is going).

    True, self pubbing is not for everyone. I think some details are getting overlooked though… At this point, any comparisons we make around earnings, editorial work, quality of book covers etc. are not only too early in the game, but it’s rather like trying to compare the proverbial apples to oranges, isn’t it? The volume of self published books, especially ebooks, while growing rapidly, still represents a smaller portion of the overall market sales than the traditional big six-released books. When self pubbing becomes say, 50% of the market, then traditional house releases will occur in an environment vastly different than what we have now.

    Janni Simner brought up the quality of book cover design and editing of prose being much lower in self-pubbed and that started me thinking both about the big picture and the near future. Quality is lower, overall, it’s true. For now. Personally, one of the best covers I have ever seen was a self-published book called A_Make_Believe_Face, self pubbed in the 90s. It was simple and smart, done in black & white using an old photograph. Perfect for the book and the main character. I never asked how it was produced, but wish I had. Conversely, I have seen quite a lot of horrific covers on trad pubbed books, especially in the romance genre, but I’m sure that crime is not limited solely to the romance niche.

    The self-pub market is small. What will happen when it grows over the next 2-3 years as forecasted and traditional publishing houses continue to shrink? The same thing that just happened to the whole world when a down economy became central and overriding with survival demanding we shift, change, create new models for work, life and family. In very near future artists will freelance a lot less for the trad houses and they will do what many freelance artists and business owners are already doing: join their contemporaries on services like Elance.com, Guru.com and Sologig.com. They’ll bid on projects that self-published authors are outsourcing and paying well for – and have already been paying well for on the freelance sites for the last few years, inviting bids for everything from experienced house-level editors to polish their manuscripts to marketing-savvy executives who’ve had enough of the suits, long hours and glass ceilings and who want to “really make a difference” in their client’s lives. This trend has been growing phenomenally in the past few years and estimates for future growth on these services is “through the roof” for the next couple years …no doubt helped along by our currently high unemployment numbers? The difference in a more fair comparison of traditional and self pub is volume and market equalization. Once there are 8,000 artists on Elance instead of the 800 or so at present, competition and necessity will drive quality up as it typically does in a free market. Trad houses already underpay for editorial and artistic talent as a basic fact of their business model. So, why wouldn’t a crackerjack editor or an exceptional cover artist begin working directly for self-published authors who can pay a decent sum, on delivery, and through an escrow arrangement? Especially when the trad house they work for goes bust or decides to cut their fees back (or perhaps doesn’t pay on time because the house is barely making it?) Oh wait, that’s already happening to a lot of artists! Once the competition gets fiercer than it is now, talent will either adapt to the new environment or change careers. The result: quality way, way up, self pub-author-costs down and the industry changes and adjusts to the market. It isn’t a question of if, but when.

    At THAT point you can compare trad to self fairly, and I’ll believe you when you tell me that the figures show that authors making 30-50% profit (versus 3-5% or maybe less by then!) on each copy of their book downloaded from Kindle, Nook and iPad or POD’d and distributed etc. do not have quality editing, do not have great book covers, do not have savvy marketing plans or that they are not happy with the results.

    Now let’s talk author control and satisfaction for a second…. Janni, you are a rarity among traditionally pubbed authors. I can count on one hand (and you’re in that number) the few multi published authors I’ve met who are pubbed with traditional houses and have NOT talked about multiple experiences of the not-so-wonderful kind with trad houses during their careers… royalties miscalculated/withheld/not paid out per contract –or at all, contract clauses acting as ball and chain to benefit the house in a borderline-unethical way lawsuits ensuing etc., editors insisting on changing the storyline into something that alters the basic core of a book and makes the author die inside in order to fit a perceived reader fad touted by a marketing dept who is still using failure-proven focus groups as primary feedback machines… or book covers that were plain awful or SO wrongly portrayed the book’s character(s) that it made the authors literally cry for days… on and on, ad nauseum! The horror stories I’ve heard over the last 10 years during which I have been keenly listening to the published-author chatter around me have convinced me I’d rather be at the helm of my own product-gone-wrong than to entrust the integrity of my storylines or characters to those who have *their own* best interest at heart when things get dicey for their cash flow, and not my interests, regardless of who I am or how much money I make for them. They are a business, they must come first for survival. But, if I’m the one driving, if it’s MY business, my product will sink or swim depending upon how seriously I take the “business” of my Readers and NOT the business of publishing… something trad houses say they focus on (Readers), but cannot ever truly do because of their antiquated business model. The *business of getting the Reader what she wants, when she wants it and in the format that she wants it in* is not a nice to have formula, it’s an absolute requirement for survival! Which leads me to more about our Readers, a shockingly ignored part of the trad publishing equation since they are, after all, “the money,” the driving force of the industry, the reason why authors exist at all… the very reason we can make money at what we love…

    The gamer generation arrived awhile ago. Most of us are aware of this. What we seem so unaware of is the lack of static in life… that is, the existence of evolution. These gamer gen folks are the new blood in corporate America, driving business in directions we, of an earlier generation, never dreamed. (I will digress here just long enough to point out that most of the financial “wizards” of the economic recession are good ole boys of a certain age, and not from the gamer gen). The gamer gens are a group with wild imagination and very little in the way of preconceived notions or even hierarchy — so much so they are inspiring people who’ve never even seen a Pac Man game in an arcade to try playing World of Warcraft onilne with Mr. T and Mr. Shatner, etc… but I digress. Gamers arrived on the scene to find only the video game companies and a few of the Hollywood gang really “got them”… or were savvy enough to grab hold of this new group, new opportunity, with both hands and deliver content at the gamer’s speed and in the gamer’s preferred format.

    The trad pub houses have a lot more than the cost of trees and the coming self publishing explosion to worry about right now. What do I base that claim on? My own work. Corporations are in a real predicament right now. One of my jobs is to create games, paper and digital, for employee training…except that gaming in the training world is not a “nice to have” thing anymore… it’s the very spine that holds up our information training programs. Ignore that integral and imperative piece and we can’t get the outcomes or performance we MUST have on the job from the gamer generation in order to keep corporate America afloat in this economy. Do you imagine those paradigm shifts are not just as essential to the survival of publishing? As authors we now compete head-on with video games, movies and anything-that-goes in the right-now culture. I believe that we will ignore that plain fact at our career peril and at the peril of our entire industry.

    While marketing and business aspects of self pubbing are daunting, those who are willing to give it their all, or have experience with it, are likely to go farther at making money doing what they love than those wanting to self pub simply to get their name into print — or into download as the case may be — regardless of sales volume or targets. I know there are portions of my own marketing plan I will want to mostly drive myself, taking advantage of my experience running two companies, working with the Fortune 50 and using skills I learned as a reporter, a film student and a cable producer. Honestly, I know I’m also a risk-taker at heart – I’ve chosen to live with a man much younger than me (yes, gamer!), but there are limits to the amount of risk I want to take on in life… Truly foolish risks are a no go… And, I believe traditional publishing is jus that… a HIGHER risk than self pubbing right now. I honestly believe that at least half of the trad houses will go under by the time the books that are contracted by trad houses this month make it to bookstore shelves. That makes it more of a risk to me than any money or time I will spend on self pubbing when I’m ready to take that path.

    I agree with Frankie that the bottom line for an author is whether you are happy with the path you’ve chosen. If you are, another path is not better, it’s just different, but remember that all paths are evolving… (or not, and becoming extinct, whichever the case). I believe the major challenge with trad publishing in the current culture is that they can’t evolve fast enough to meet the Reader’s — or the next gen Reader’s needs -– their business model simply doesn’t allow for rapid change. Too big to fail? Nah. Too big to evolve, maybe. Perhaps authors need to pick up that evolutionary slack if we want to grow our reader base? Maybe we, as the infinitely creative souls that we are, need to evolve ourselves to create and embrace a better publishing model, too? Perhaps it will be a model truly driven by our customers?

  2. Hi Roxy!

    Janni, you are a rarity among traditionally pubbed authors

    That’s the thing though. I’m not.

    In this discussion I keep hearing this notion, every time I talk about something that traditional publishing does well (and I’ve never claimed traditional publishing was perfect–no business is), that I’m the exception, and that most traditionally published authors do not, in fact, have real careers.

    But that’s not true, as any quick scan of the bookshelves will tell you. I’ve spoken with enough colleagues to know that I’m far from the only writer who thinks her editor has made her book better, or that her publisher has helped her book find its audience. (If I was, not only the entire publishing industry but also every bookstore in the country would be out of business.)

    Here’s a useful test: First, name all the successful self-published works of fiction you’ve heard of. Then, name all the successful traditionally published books you’ve heard of.

    When I do this thought experiment, the first list is maybe a few dozen books long. The second list … I have to give up, because there are too many to keep track of. (Indeed, the oddest thing about discussions of self-publishing is how they dismiss every successful traditionally published author who comes up as an exception, while citing every successful self-published author who comes up as an example of what self-publishing can achieve, even though the former are far more common.)

    I’ve been hearing about the death of traditional publishing for more than two decades now–as long as I’ve been writing. And there are things self-publishing does well, something I don’t think I’ve denied.

    But right now, I think it’s fair to say that reaching a broad audience with a work of fiction is still not one of them. There are no guarantees anywhere, but by if one’s goal is to reach that broad audience, by the numbers the odds are orders of magnitude better in traditional publishing, and I one’s goal is to reach a broad audience, it’s important to understand this.

    If one has other goals, of course, then other methods may indeed be the way to meet them.

  3. So, why wouldn’t a crackerjack editor or an exceptional cover artist begin working directly for self-published authors who can pay a decent sum, on delivery, and through an escrow arrangement?

    I think the decent sum part is the problem here–and that most people do not understand just how much it would cost to buy the level of editing and production and marketing knowledge a publisher brings to a book as a matter of course.

    I’d love to see data on this. I’m guessing–but it is a guess–that to have truly professional editing and production values, all contracted at standard freelance rates ($50-100/hour?) would run about $10,000.

    • …and that most traditionally published authors do not, in fact, have real careers.

      So, I’m not sure which post I missed that you are referring to here? I certainly did not say this nor did I imply trad published authors don’t have a “real” career.

      After reading both your responses, I believe you have missed all of the major points I addressed in my post. To be specific:

      I’m far from the only writer who thinks her editor has made her book better…(If I was, not only the entire publishing industry but also every bookstore in the country would be out of business.)
      I did not say you were the “only” writer. You are reflecting on your personal experience having met many authors, and I’m sharing the same. I have spoken with, and gotten to know over 200 multi published (trad house) authors over the last decade during my involvement in RWA and with a few smaller group. (And, even before RWA when I was epals with a NJ RWA author I met through another venue). Now, you may say these are mostly romance authors and you’d be right, and I’m guessing the larger share of authors you have are speaking of are in the YA or fantaasy niches… But since romance is responsible for 49% of all book sales globally, where other niches represent a much smaller percentage, I would point out that my “test group” might carry some weight statistically). I have talked with these authors at length, asked questions about contracts, artwork, marketing, earnings etc. etc. while at conferences, on blogs, over email and in person at chapter meetings, cons and other gatherings…some of which, oddly enough, had to do with my consulting work for the Fortune 50 and not through attendance at a literary event (it really is a small world and I’ve run into lots of traditionally pubbed authors who have day jobs). MY discussions with these folks bears out that only a handful are happy with how they have been “handled” as a brand by traditional houses over the course of their entire careers (for some that’s 5 or 10 yrs, others 20 or more). Many have shared their honest feelings and expereriences, sans the details, to preserve their business relationships, and that’s all to the good.

      Separately, I believe I acknowledged that the overall quality of self pubbed works certainly needs improvement. This is not news, but again, self pub is, at the moment, a small portion of overall market, but growing fast. One of my major points was that the dynamics of this growth will drive quality upward and professional-level services and bundling costs to the author downward. I believe it will be quite significantly lower cost to the self pubbed author. On what do I base this assertion? It’s just happened over the last 5 years in my professional consulting niche with the Fortune 500, and is one reason I just took a long-term contract with a Fortune 10. I will have more stability but less money, and will no longer lose every weekend and many all-nighters to crazy projects that leave me no time or energy for writing. I am trading a bit of monetary gain and a bit of prestige in my field for something much more valuable to me at this stage of my life: writing time… not to mention sanity :). But to the point… Consultants in my niche used to charge $75-100/hr in the 90s, for what now costs $15-25/hr for the very same thing…and yes, the same quality…some of it is even better because of digital capability! The editors I have worked with in IT, financials, utilities, and yes, even publishing (freelance newspaper work, magainzes and a during a year spent at the former Houghton Mifflin) are now making almost nothing compared to what they used to earn when the world was their oyster. Things change. Business models follow suit. How will this happen in publishing? Same way it happened to business consulting: technology and changing end-user needs. Whether we like it or not, we are all redefining our work and our careers to adjust to new paradigms that drive our customers.

      To your other comment about all bookstores going under if all trad pubbed authors were unhappy, I would point out that we have already seen it begin… many, many bookstores have already gone under in the last two decades due to costs and shrinking sales. Even the big 2 chains (Borders and B&N) have experienced massive store closings, downsizing in all areas, major changes decreasing their ability to promote or help authors who are mid-list and lower, and both a shrinkage of physical real estate present on their store shelves as well as overall sales slumps in a variety of genres. The cost of a paperback is fast becoming more than the reader market is willing to bear. I would suggest that unhappy authors plays a factor in this equation, though it is, admittedly, very hard to measure inside a business model that has accutely bad measurement techniques to begin with. Many authors simply give up before their time, too exhausted and disheartened by a dinosaur machine that doesn’t serve them or their readers adequately. That’s really sad, though some would say they musn’t have wanted it very badly… maybe the cost to their daily life was too dear? A lose-lose environment is not where I want to put all my energy. That’s a choice. Every author must decide for themselves where they’re are willing to risk their time and energy.

      I’ve been hearing about the death of traditional publishing for more than two decades now–as long as I’ve been writing…

      So have I. But I’d like to point out that Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. have not been out in the market for 2 decades yet. The response to them has been phenomenal, particularly considering the latter two are brand new. It’s also worth mentioning that over the last two decades we have gone from the Big 50+ publishers down to the big 6 with downsizing and elimination of lines within the ranks a continual thing. We ignore paradigm shifts all around us at our peril.

      When I do this thought experiment, the first list is maybe a few dozen books long…(Indeed, the oddest thing about discussions of self-publishing is how they dismiss every successful traditionally published author who comes up as an exception, while citing every successful self-published author who comes up as an example of what self-publishing can achieve, even though the former are far more common.)

      Your comment perfectly underlines my point about volume and not comparing apples to oranges. Self pub is, as yet, a very small portion of distribution. The fact that you, as a traditionally published author can list offhand a few dozen books, after having spent most of your career focused on traditionally published books, points to the very thing I posted about… When the volume of self pubbing authors increases and begins to represent a larger portion of the market, we will see a dramatic increase in overall quality and a dramatic decrease in professional packaging and marketing costs. Right now, professional quality (former editors and big name artists) can be had for much less than you are guestimating. I can think of one famous artist who has done book covers and whom Frankie and I are both personally acquainted with. I’m sure you’ve met her, too. You might ask her directly about earnings. Don’t take my word for it, ask around. Artists have always been underpaid, which is why traditional houses used to be so lucrative, or at least a break-even prospect for an artist. But they aren’t so much anymore…if you can even land a project now that there are only 6 to work with and they continue to downsize and drop lines every year.

      Frankie, I hope your book does sell to a traditional publisher. But when you get the contract, you might have an attorney ensure you are protected from the nightmare of mergers and the rights-in-limbo occurrences when publishers close, because I do believe that the big 6 as we know them now will likely shrink a lot more, and those that do survive won’t operate the same way in 5 years, nor will they have any NYC real estate as overhead. I’m guessing they’ll become virtual operations, following in the footsteps of many businesses who made that shift for survival.

    • I suspect an author using one of the freelance sites for editing, cover, and interior formatting would pay much less than $10 K, but it would still be a significant sum. Freelance copy-editing alone runs about $.01/word, $.02 – $.03/word for conceptual editing. So an 80K word novel would cost at least $800 to be professionally edited.

      • Agreed. And, let me also clarify that I was by no means suggesting that it’s “free” or that it will be 🙂 However, consider that this $800-1000. fee is the price in the current market with the current level of competition, and when the competition increases, the cost will come down further, or service providers will find more creative, more streamlined ways of doing their work. I’m not sure exactly what that would be, but with the technological advances come new ways of doing the same job for less, or in less time, either way, allowing for a more affordable deliverable to the customer.

        Sheesh, looking back at the several volumes of The Sequel to War & Peace I have posted, I think I may be taking the “soapbox” portion of your blog’s title a little too much to heart. 🙂

      • Except editing of course is not just copyediting. (And production is not just cover design.) Thinking about my understanding of a typical book, there’s

        – At least two rounds of revision–for plot, character, language, voice, tension, etc., etc.
        – A copyediting pass (which gets reviewed by an editor as well as the copyeditor)
        – Cover/jacket design (this especially is more time-intensive than most people think, at least if one wants a truly polished look)
        – Typesetting (also pretty time intensive–it’s more than dumping type into a word-processing program)
        – A couple proofreading rounds (different from copyediting) of the typeset page proofs

        There’s really no way one can get all these things done to a professional level for $800-1000.

        And that’s before one even gets into distribution and marketing.

      • I wasn’t suggesting all of that could be done for $800. I was very specific. I was talking about what copyediting cost.

      • Yes, there can be a lot of moving parts to pay for in a book project. Kris Tualla speaks to this at length on her blog (in an entry posted a couple weeks ago) with some suggestions on how to do this professionally if you are not made of money bags — and most of us are not. Depending on how much of the overall package you are willing to do yourself AND have some experience or talent in (or have friends who do and are willing to steeply discount, etc…. and this is, perhaps, where you thank your lucky stars you networked like crazy at all your previous jobs), you can accomplish the 10K package as an LLC (tax breaks) for about 2500-5000. Some authors will groan even at that figure; however, realists view self publishing as a business, not a hobby. Many authors don’t realize traditional publishing IS a business and expect a very different machine from what they discover.

        When you start a franchise, or any business, you do not expect to start without investing something. I spent more than $5K to open my consulting business back in 1994. It was a worthwhile investment and worth the risk since I made over 70K in my first 12 months (Pity I lived in Boston at the time, where rent took almost $2K a month out my pocket). gads, what memory. (I am thrilled to own a house now in a place that has a modicum of pricing sanity.)

        But… the quality, marketing plan and operating plan of your venture to self-publish, should be viewed and approached as an investment! One from which you will earn money if all the quality pieces of the pie are present and are the best they can possibly be. You will earn, even if it isn’t a return of 85% the first year. (General business has notoriously been better on returns than any art form, overall, since the beginning of time). If, at the end of your plan timeline, your first book earns you a profit, is it worthwhile if the profit is small? Depends on the author. That’s why the path you choose is not for everyone. Some self pub authors will have brilliant and unique marketing plans that pay off in big sales and terrific brand recognition. Others will do just okay and others will lose money. The latter will have to re-examine their plan, product and options and decide whether another path is better or if a change in the product, business or marketing scheme is what’s needed… It’s really no different in traditional publishing — some books are marketed well with money spent wisely, others are hardly marketed at all with no funding and tend not to do well, often spelling the end of an author’s brand with that publisher before it even begins — but in all of that the author has NO control over implementation. Personally, I prefer the control and the risk that come with being my own boss. I spent long enough doing that, let’s hope I learned enough from those experiences to make it work for me.

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