In my grad program we learned woefully little about self-publishing. (There, I said it.) So in an effort to understand an ever-increasing segment of the book market, I selected Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright as a first non-podcasting examination of the process.
Writing is an art, and publishing is a business…You can be a pure artist (“just a writer”) if you publish traditionally, but you’ll never make it that way as an indie author unless you’re partnered with some smart, business-minded people.
While the statement above is hard to argue with, the ability for even traditionally published authors to be “just a writer” is dwindling. Authors are now expected to have major platforms and large audiences before they can be considered by many large publishing houses. That’s at least true in non-fiction…but more on that another time.
Is this one of those “look I’m rich and so can you!” self-publishing books?
The book is a very detailed manual on self-publishing, and goes methodically through its many steps: story plotting, actual butt-in-chair writing, building an e-mail list, designing (or buying) book covers, whether or not to offer print copies, sales funnels, and other marketing tips. Unsurprisingly, the paperback rounds out at 420 pages (heheh). Rather than a get-rich-quick treatise, it’s a DIY, pull-no-punches guidebook about the marriage of publishing business and relentless writing. (Like really relentless. Many of the profiled self-pubbers write over 3,000 words per day and release prolific numbers of short stories, books, and novellas.)
How valuable can a self-publishing book from 2013 be in 2018?
I’m not sure yet!
Skeptics may immediately think that a book written in 2013 will be completely irrelevant to the current state of self-publishing. Write. Publish. Repeat. is very self aware in that it knows that many of its tips on working with publishing and marketing platforms will be moot. The authors make the wise choice to emphasize “strategy over tactics” however, and the book currently ranks #18 in the Kindle store for Reference>Fiction and #20 for Reference>Research. Even someone with a traditional publishing mindset (like me!) knows that’s pretty good.
What are the main takeaways?
While there’s a lot of detailed information on the production process and actually getting your books online, there were a few points that really struck me.
- Get text-to-speech, get a seat belt to strap yourself into your chair, hire a typist, just don’t stop writing and publishing ever. The authors repeatedly emphasize that for an indie author, the only way to stay on top of money-making is to never stop the cycle of writing and publishing. (What could have possibly clued me in to that theme I wonder?)
- Spend 80% of your energy on what accounts for 80% of your success. Yes, yes, they did not invent the 80/20 rule, but it’s a good reminder not to get bogged down in all the ways to “grow your platform.” With my eye toward traditional publishing, I’ve developed the script that building up an audience with other kinds of content—blogs, podcasts, tweets, etc.—should take up a ridiculous amount of time. But guess what these guys argue your best marketing tool is? You guessed it: Massive mountains of actual published work.
- Hire professionals to keep your book from looking amateurish. I get that. I’ve tried to design things before and would never trust myself to make my own book cover.
- Establish your own home base and diversify the platforms where you sell your books. This is another familiar tip for business people and should be self-evident for anyone who has struggled with Amazon or Facebook. Social media networks rise and fall, but having your own bought-and-paid-for website to work from will help you stay flexible and not lose your entire audience. Or if the platform turns into a vicious cesspool and is not super relevant to straightforward book marketing anymore (I’m looking at you, Twitter). It’s much like Nassim Taleb’s principle of Antifragility. I would link you to his Twitter account but he hates editors and also blocked me for making fun of his shoes.
This was a good book to buy for someone trying to understand what goes in to self-publishing without getting too bogged down in current technical trends. It was enough for me to buy a hard copy. If you’re an aspiring writer who doesn’t mind being intimidated by the volume demanded of you, this will be a good kick in the pants.