Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant with David Wright
Sub-titled The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success, this book examines the processes employed by these guys who, as listeners to the Self Publishing Podcast will know, write jointly under the imprints Realm and Sands (Johnny and Sean) and Collective Inkwell (Sean and Dave.) Write. Publish. Repeat. is as much about their personal story as about general principles. This makes it an interesting and lively read, if a tad long-winded in places. That said, it’s full of excellent advice with plenty of actionable take-aways, covering the topics of writing, production and marketing. It’s important to understand, however, that these guys work like crazy and have built a huge catalogue of work in a very short period of time. This is key to their marketing strategy which centres around the idea of a funnel, defined thus: “A good funnel …is wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. You want to scoop as many people into the top of your funnel as possible, then understand that they will sift apart – some sticking with you and others deciding your stuff isn’t their cup of tea – as they move downward.” Their aim is not to please everyone, but to find their “true fans” who will stick with them and buy whatever they write. It certainly works for them.
Let’s Get Digital – How to Self-Publish and Why You Should by David Gaughran
This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the key differences between traditional and indie publishing. In clear and articulate prose, Gaughran describes how the internet is disrupting traditional publishing just as it disrupted the music industry. He argues coherently against Digital Rights Management and offers a sobering analysis of royalty structures in traditional publishing. He examines the rise of Amazon in the marketplace and warns against self-publishing scams which are to be avoided at all costs. The second part of the book covers the self-publishing process, including working with editors and cover designers, formatting, pricing, uploading to the retailers, marketing and platform building. In the third part of the book thirty indie authors describe their own self-publishing journeys. There are comprehensive appendices at the back of the book. Highly recommended.
Let’s Get Visible – How to Get Noticed and Sell More Books by David Gaughran
Following on from Let’s Get Digital, this book aims to help you understand Amazon’s algorithms so you can increase your visibility. Amazon’s recommendation engine is such that it will recommend books to readers that it thinks those readers are most likely to purchase, regardless of who published the books or how much they cost. Amazon offers a more level playing field, making it possible for indie authors to compete with big name authors. Gaughran looks in details at sales rank, best seller lists, categories and charts such as Top Rated, Hot New Releases, Popularity charts, searches and Also Boughts. He examines the use of “free” as a sales strategy and whether or not you should be in KDP Select. There is a useful section on advertising and assessing promotion sites, advice for launch strategies and a brief look at retailers other than Amazon. Overall, this book is comprehensive and informative. Highly recommended.
Business for Authors – How to be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
I’ve written a longer review of this book here. This is an excellent book for showing you how to take your writing career to the next level. This is for people who see themselves as true author entrepreneurs, or who would like to get to that position. It offers useful advice on running a business, whether or not you should set up a company, hiring and employing other people, keeping accounts, time management and lots more. This a comprehensive book and depending on what stage you’re currently at you may find that some of it is not yet relevant. However, the book is packed with excellent advice and comes with bonus workbooks and links to a multitude of other resources. An excellent reference book to have on your shelf.
How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn
In her trademark upbeat and accessible style Joanna looks at different types of marketing, what works and what doesn’t. She debunks marketing myths, such as “If I get a traditional book deal, I won’t have to deal with marketing” and the idea that “the launch is everything.” There is some overlap here with Business for Authors, for example in the sections on defining success and managing your time, but otherwise this book complements Business for Authors. The book deals mainly with long-term marketing, that is to say things which will (hopefully) reap rewards in the future. Joanna describes her own marketing strategy as being “useful and interesting and passionate, sharing as much as possible to help others.” There is the usual advice about producing a quality product (editing and cover design). Joanna also goes into some detail on categories, algorithms, pricing, exclusivity and box-sets and gives advice on how to get those all-important reviews. There is good advice on paid advertising, traditional media, building an author platform, creating a brand, websites and mailing lists, whether or not you should blog and the difference between content marketing and social media. For the more adventurous author Joanna discusses audio, podcasting, video and book trailers. She looks at how to get the most from popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads without wasting too much time and finishes with a section on launching your book. Packed with good ideas.
Reader Magnets – Get Readers to Come to You by Nick Stephenson
This is a short, free book in which Nick Stephenson sets out the methods that have enabled him to build an email list of thousands. It’s all about “making meaningful connections with your audience and creating a direct line to your readers.” Nick’s numbers are impressive and this strategy is clearly working for him, however it does require you to have a decently sized catalogue of work because you’re going to make one book permanently free and offer another in exchange for readers’ email addresses. Assuming you have enough books to implement this approach then Nick gives clear step-by-step instructions on how to set up your web pages and integrate them with Mailchimp. He also discusses mailing strategies and how to offer real value to your readers. A quick but informative read.
Supercharge Your Kindle Sales by Nick Stephenson
Nick Stephenson starts by giving a detailed explanation of the different ways readers find books on Amazon. This is important information because authors can use this knowledge to better position their books. Being in the right categories is fundamental to enhancing your book’s visibility and Nick gives clear guidelines on how to use keywords to get into different categories, and how to find the right keywords. It’s all about being in categories where there are enough similar books to attract a decent audience, but not so many books that yours is lost in the crowd. Part Two looks at mailing lists and using Mailchimp in particular. Lots of good, practical advice here with easy-to-follow explanations.
Audiobooks for Indies – The One-Stop Guide for Authors Looking to Make More Money Selling Audiobooks by Simon Whistler
This is an excellent guide for anyone thinking about getting their work into audio. Simon Whistler discusses all the options in a clear, engaging style. He explains the differences between royalty share deals and paying upfront for production, how much you can expect to pay and whether this is a good investment. There is a lot of useful technical nitty-gritty stuff in case you want to do it yourself. This would also be good advice for anyone thinking of getting into podcasting. Throughout the book he uses real-life case studies to illustrate his examples. There are also lots of handy links to websites for anyone requiring further information on a topic, and a comprehensive appendix at the back. This is a must read for anyone thinking about going down the audio route.
As Tim Grahl himself describes it, this book is about “The act of building long-lasting connections with people.” He defines marketing as “(1) creating lasting connections with people through (2) a focus on being relentlessly helpful.” On a practical level this book is really about building and maintaining an email list but Tim expands this into his connection system which has four steps:
1) Permission – the reader allowing you to contact them.
2) Content – what you send to those on your email list.
3) Outreach – focusing on the intersection between what your readers want and want you want.
4) Sell – how to sell in a way that is not sleazy.
There’s a lot in this book on social media and what you should and shouldn’t be spending your valuable time on. It’s a short but densely packed book with actionable tips at the end of each chapter.
How to Make a Living with Your Writing by Joanna Penn
If you’ve got Business for Authors then you probably don’t need this book. However, if Business for Authors looks a bit intimidating and too detailed for your requirements right now, then go for this one instead. In this easier-to-digest book, Joanna leaves aside the business jargon and focuses on direct ways to make money (writing and publishing) and indirect ways, such as affiliate income, consulting, speaking, advertising and sponsorship.
Please note that all Amazon links are affiliate links. Thank you.