One thing that’s not mentioned in Reedsy’s otherwise excellent article is a drawback of ‘going wide’—that is, using an aggregator to distribute your books or doing it yourself, publishing to Apple, Kobo, etc one by one. Should you change your mind, deciding to sign to KDP Select, then Amazon will insist that you take all your titles off whatever sites they’re for sale, before they allow you onto their hallowed ground. In theory, this should happen when you unpublish them on Smashwords or D2D, but in reality, it can take months and many emails to vendors before that happens—meaning your books are in the twilight zone, off most sales venues, but not on KDP Select.
At the moment, I’m contemplating removing my books from D2D to go with KDP Select for my Cornish Detective series, which I think makes commercial sense, but looks like creating loads more frustration for me.
No one said it would be easy (but, why does it have to be so hard?)
One thing that Mark Dawson and Russell Blake share is how prolific they are. I thought that I was doing well to complete five novels in four years, a total word count of 480,000 words, but Dawson has written 23 books in four years!
Curious about this, I had a quick look at these two authors’ work on Amazon, which allows one to access the first few pages. Initial impressions are that it’s action-driven, with little subtlety, very short chapters and the longest word appears to be Kalashnikov!
It’s certainly not literature, but few great works of literature are adapted into television series or movies.
I’m considering putting more work into the 45 titles I’ve already self-published on Amazon and Smashwords (and the vendors they distribute to), as querying literary agents is such a wearisome and time-consuming activity. I’m put off by the thought of having to schmooze through blogging, social media and my long dormant website. Such a campaign would be to generate interest in me as a writer, to launch my first novel.
I’d prefer to be writing new books—but if they ain’t selling, what’s the point?
The dreaded process of discoverability is a tough nut to crack, and it’s made easier if the writer is a marketing expert. Considering the amount of work Mark Dawson has done, it’s certain he employed advertising industry experts…he admits to spending hundreds of pounds on advertising, which is not something most of us can afford. Hit someone over the head enough times, and they soon get the message. It’s a truism in advertising that the more a product is promoted, the shoddier it is in quality—handmade and high-quality items don’t need promoting, as they sell themselves—how often do you see an advert for Rolls-Royce?
Newspapers are often irresponsible in the articles they feature, which make it look easy-peasy to achieve success through self-publishing. Like any human endeavour, it’s only a few people who win through. Suggesting that simply publishing your novel on Amazon Kindle Select will make you a millionaire, is as daft as saying taking up running will win you an Olympic gold medal!
Whoever said ‘Life isn’t a popularity contest’ didn’t know about ebooks!
Back in 2015, two years after I returned to creative writing, I instigated several measures aimed at raising my profile as a writer—hopefully, to sell more books.
I created profiles on Twitter, Quora, and Reddit and Pinterest and began a writer’s blog via WordPress and created a Facebook business page.
I had doubts about how successful such social media postings would be, for there are hundreds of thousands of people doing so, including many, many writers. I subscribed to the notifications of about twenty established and newbie authors, to see what they were saying. I swiftly became aware that many were struggling to fill the space, while there was an awful lot of repetition of publishing news. If someone was prepared to express an opinion, taking a stance with a sense of humour, I opened their newsletters with a sense of anticipation.
Pinterest is an entertaining site, with wonderful images pinned on ‘boards’, but I was bemused by how it could be used to help a writer publicise their books. I came across the suggestion of adding one’s blog address to each ‘pin’, as a way of tempting users into checking you out; to make the pins more interesting, I added information about the image.
I put up a dozen boards featuring things that interest me, including art, nature, trees and wise words, including one board of my own ebooks. These pins were intended to drive readers to my blog—which has since mysteriously disappeared!
I backed away from developing these various social media profiles, for various reasons, including reticence about wanting to promote me as a person (why couldn’t my writing do the talking?), ignorance of the process and irritation at the superficial level people communicate these days.
Recently, I’ve decided to return to self-publishing, so need to find ways of publicising my series of Cornish Detective novels. One interesting aspect of uploading ebooks to Smashwords and Amazon, that hooked my attention is the use of what are called ‘keywords’ as a shorthand way of describing the plot.
Thus, my first novel in the series, Who Kills A Nudist?, would have tags of Nudism/ Murder/ Cornwall/ BDSM/ Supercars/ Smuggling/ Human Trafficking/ Firearms/ Organised Crime/ Surfing
Such tags could also be used as the titles for boards on Pinterest, as discussed by Teagan Berry in these two articles here and here.
It makes sense to take advantage of people’s interests via the boards, for if someone is interested in surfing in Cornwall, and is not averse to reading about kinky sex and murder, then they might seek out my ebook.
Do any of you have a presence on Pinterest?
Have you used your boards to promote your books?
What do you think of it as an idea?
Of all the photographs I pinned on my Pinterest boards, this one has been the most repinned—which says something about people’s need for optimistic images:
My first foray into digital self-publishing was in 2013-2014. I’d written a lot of poems and song lyrics and a dozen novellas and short stories, so finding the Smashwordsbook distribution site offered me a free way of getting my work out there.
Laughably, I first published in time for Christmas, thinking to make a few quid, totally ignorant of how crucial marketing and self-promotion are. Without making potential readers aware of who I am and what my books are about, uploading a manuscript started to feel like emptying a bucket of water into an ocean.
I learnt a lot about digital publishing from Smashwords‘ founder Mark Coker, and his style and marketing guides are free and worth a look.
I self-published the same titles on Amazon, using their basic KDP option, but resisted theirSelect option, which gives higher royalties, as it insists on exclusivity. This would have meant me taking down all of the 44 titles Smashwords had published and distributed to other booksellers. In theory, this is easy to do, but in practice, it can take weeks. I disliked Amazon‘s bossy attitude.
I’ve spent the last four years writing five crime novels, occasionally running querying campaigns of literary agents when I felt like being ignored or rejected!
In 2019, I’m dedicating myself to selling me as an author and my books as commercially viable products. I’ve queried 88 agents, but increasingly, I’m favouring a return to self-publishing. Whether I do this or if I luck into a publishing contract with a book company, I’m still going to have blog, tweet and post on social media to let the reading world know I exist. I’ve been singing away, wondering if anyone can hear me.
As part of making myself look good, I reformatted the ebooks on Smashwords, adding hyperlinks from the Table of Contents to chapter headings, to ease navigation for Kindle users. I also tidied my biography and a self-interview. This is easily the most mind-numbing and repetitive task I’ve done in writing books, making editing feel like a walk in the park. With Smashwords, the changes have to be made individually for each book.
It was partly the slowness of conforming to Smashwords style requirements, that helped me find another book distribution operator calledDraft2Digital while searching for competitors.
This article compares Smashwords and Draft2Digital.
There’s nothing to prevent me from having my ebooks distributed by Smashwords and Draft2Digital, keeping them on Amazon. The main drawback will be duplication, including with ISBNs, which Smashwords and Draft2Digital offer for free…Amazon doesn’t require them, as they use their own ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number).
Apparently, there’s an easy way of migrating listings on Smashwords over to Draft2Digital, but this would feel disloyal to me.
What do you think of Draft2Digital?
Have any of you used them or Smashwords?
What has been your experience with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing?