Lots of aspiring authors are met with rejections from agents and editors because they don’t have enough of a platform. A platform is anything you’re doing (currently or in the works) that supports your author profile, gives you visibility, and shows a publisher that you have what it takes to reach customers.
Things that automatically count against you include: no email list; no or few Facebook friends or fans; no Twitter account or followers; no website. You MUST build your online presence if you haven’t started already. If you’re looking at this and shaking your head because you’re anxious to PUBLISH rather than work on your online presence, I have a strategy for you: publish an ebook first.
Right now it’s easier than ever to self-publish a book, and if you do an ebook only edition, you don’t have to spend a lot of money.
1. What’s the value of publishing an ebook as a first line of offense in your publishing strategy?
Getting an ebook published adds a publishing credit to your name. Today, digital content is just as valuable as printed content. The results have everything to do with who’s reading. Having a free or low-cost ebook that has a lot of downloads or sales is a valuable asset. I’ve often advised authors who want to grow into being a fulltime author to start with a small book. It’s best not to publish what you think might be your life’s work as your first effort. Better to start small and test the waters. See if there’s an appetite for what you have to say, and build from there. Publishing an ebook is a perfect way to learn, too. It’s better to experience the publishing learning curve on something that requires less investment of your time and money. You’ll make tweaks and have a better experience next time.
2. Where should you start if you’re ready to start thinking about putting out an ebook?
Infinity. This is a cool service by a company that charges a one-time set-up fee of $199 but distributes across all platforms (iPad, Kindle, Nook, etc), and you keep 70% of the royalties.
Smashwords. A free service, Smashwords gives you 85% of the net sales proceeds from your titles (70.5% for affiliate sales), and 60% of the list price for all sales through their major retailers.
Amazon. You can self-publish any length book through Amazon, or you can consider publishing a Kindle Single. Kindle Singles are typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words. Authors keep 70% of the royalty here.
Apple. Of course, Apple has just jumped into the fray and you can now publish on the iBookstore. However, my sense is that Apple’s biggest target is Amazon, and most iPad users I know are using the Kindle app on their iPads.
KidPub Press. A cool site for kids who want to get published for very little money. If kids start their publishing careers when they’re young, imagine where they’ll be when they’re 30!
3. What are some best practices and/or pointers for self-publishing an ebook?
• You should still have a strong cover. Smashwords offers covers at $50 (which is frigging cheap), but make sure the quality of what you’re putting out into the world matches the expectations you have for yourself. It’s worth spending a little extra money to have a solid cover because you can and should be promoting the work (and therefore featuring the cover) on your website, on Amazon, and through your social media networks.
• Get your work copyedited. Whether you’re publishing on a traditional press or putting out an ebook, your approach should be exactly the same. Do not sacrifice quality just because your format is digital.
Go forth and build! And consider joining me and Linda Joy to create and publish your first ebook in six months!