Self-Publishing: The Business of Writing 101 (6 Basics)

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When I published my first book, I didn’t see my writing as a business. It was just me doing what I’ve always wanted to do. However, as I began to learn and as I continue to learn, I quickly discovered why Self-Publishing requires so much work: It’s a business.

That doesn’t take away from the fun of it, but the realization did help me to become more organized. I quickly learned why no one was buying: I wasn’t working! Writing is working, technically, and I was doing plenty of that. However, I was not working on the skill of writing, researching my industry, understanding tips to help me to write better books, promoting, marketing, and everything in-between. I was writing, sure. But the business of writing? I didn’t even know it existed. I was a writer and that was all. When I got into the business of writing however, that’s when I  became an author.

From The Online EC Dictionary:

Writer – (noun) a. a person who writes b. a person who writes stories, letters, books, manuscripts, manuals, c. a creative person who enjoys writing things down d. an artist who paints pictures with words

Self-Published Author (noun) – a. a person who finances, publishes, markets, and promotes their writing; b. a writer whose job is to publish books, may include attending book signing events, interviews, applying for grants, entering contests, etc., c. entrepreneur d. writer who paints pictures with words and then sends them out into the world.

The Business of Writing 101: The Basics

  • Author Platform – This is by far the most important part of your journey. BEFORE you publish your book, make sure you have either a blog or website that showcases your writing and personality to some extent. This is the most powerful way for people to get to know you. Why should people get to know you? Because you are not just a writer. You are going from Writer to Self-Pub Author my friend. No longer do you just paint pictures with words, but you are about to send them out into the world. But first, you need to introduce yourself to all of your potential readers. (I suppose you don’t need to start a blog but in my experience this blog plays a critical role (more so than a website and FB) in helping me to run my writing business by giving me a platform where I can receive instant feedback and constructive criticism on my work before I publish. I mean, look at all those faces subscribed to The PBS Blog, we can’t let them down now can we?) Below are the 10 Best Blog Websites of 2016:

Top Free Blog Sites

  1. WordPress (Yes, we’re number one baby!)
  2. Tumblr
  3. Blogger
  4. Medium
  5. Svbtle
  6. Live Journal
  7. Weebly
  8. Postach.io
  9. Pen.io
  10. Ghost
  •  Social Media – Set up your social media pages BEFORE publishing your book, not after. Primarily, set up a Facebook Page or Group, Instagram,  and Twitter account. These are the 3 basic social platforms but do not be deceived by the hype: They may not all work for you. Play around with what’s out there and stick to the one that works for you. YouTube is another platform, and Pinterest is another. I’ve found Twitter is my best home base. By Home Base I mean that place where I receive the most interaction. For you that may be Facebook or Instagram. Find the right platform for you, not for others. In fact, you want to be on the platform your readers are on. This means identifying your Target audience and then placing yourself in the places they are. In any event, start your social media craze before your books is born.  This will give you another easy way to share your writing and also connect with others.
  • Newsletter – Place a newsletter sign up form on your blog or website and start to collect emails early on. How to ensure people are actually reading your emails is a separate post. Right now we’re focusing on the basics and basically, get that newsletter up and running early on. Some people say not to worry about the newsletter if you have a blog. I say do worry about it. Look at it this way: Your email list is a permanent tool because if your website goes down or your blog or your social media pages you still have access to the group of readers who love your work. By collecting emails, you can reach people on a most personal level (Tip: Don’t sound all businessy (< Yes, made up word) in your emails. Let your personality shine. People like to connect with other people so be yourself). The link below is a good start for researching the email newsletter service that is right for you:

The 25 Best Email Marketing Newsletters and Apps

  • Investment – Save your money. I know, not a lot of people talk about this when it comes to Self-Pub and it was the furthest thing from my mind when I set out to publish my first book but you can do better than I did. It’s a mistake to think about the financial aspect of book publishing during the publishing process. Everyone remember the 6 ps? Say it with me: “Proper Planning Prevents Pissed Poor Performance.” There’s nothing like a strong foundation and so yes, save your sheckles. Investment doesn’t have to be a scary term. It’s not like you’re buying stocks. Investment just means to put money toward a product, or service for profitable or material gain. I don’t like fancy smanshy words so let’s keep it simple: You’re saving money to go toward your writing to increase the chances of you making a profit because as with any business you have to be willing to invest in your work.  You will need to pay for book cover design, editing, formatting, and the cost of print books, business cards, book marks, and promotional items (all of which increases the books chances of selling and i.e. you making a profit). While there are tons of free ways to produce all of these to some extent, for a truly professional outcome it’s going to cost you some investment. Let’s face it, no one wants their books to look bootleg. Createspace’s available book cover freebies? I don’t think so. There’s just too many Self-Pub books to read to take the easy route. Cover design is the difference between me deciding to read your book and make a sandwich. (The most important investment is time. At the end of the day the books that sell are the books that are well written. At the end of the day it is still about the story so make sure you’re putting time into your writing).

The most important investment is time. Make sure you’re putting time into your writing.- Tweet This

  • Streams of Income –  Authors aren’t rich. Well, most of us aren’t (Can’t speak for you six figure Indie Author makers. Y’all better work!) So, for this reason, if you’re deciding to quit your job and write books, first you need to take the time to invest the money you have into your book publishing business. Yes, I said publishing business. No, I won’t explain, we’ve been over this. Writing is a business. So, back to the point, before you throw in the towel you may want to  seek grants or enter contests where the prize is large sums or even small sums, of money. The most wise thing however, is to take the money you’re making from your 9-5 and invest it into your writing. (I think those with jobs who want to write books are in a great position. You have the financial resources to save!) Writing a book doesn’t mean you can’t get a part time job or offer other services that is going to put money in your pocket to dedicate to your books. One of the first things you’ll notice as you begin your journey is that the money you do make from writing books is going to often go back toward your work. Everything made is going to go back in and it’s going to be many years before you start to see some real profits. However, you can avoid the feast of famine with proper planning, investment, and multiple streams of income.

Cover design is the difference between me deciding to read your book and make a sandwich. – Tweet This

  • Less Talk, More Action – I’m a workaholic for a reason. In fact, many entrepreneurs are. There’s a saying I try to always keep in mind as I work. It helps keep me motivated and planting seeds: “Bad boys hit hard, but move silent”. Self-Publishing is the “IT” thing right now. Everyone wants to show that they’ve written a book even though the reality is that not everyone has the skill. While it’s exciting to boast of having written a book, make sure you’re also sharpening your writing skills, and doing the hard labor on the back end that ensures proper presentation and production of the end product. Make sure  that your books are actually reaching people. I’m not saying to quit because no one read your book because that’s not the reason (I’d hope) that you write in the first place. What I am saying however,  is that I love to write, but I refuse to keep pushing out work without also monitoring the growth and development of that work. As part of the Self-Publishing process, I do not just write books and neither should you. I also study the writing field, calculate the financial cost of publishing a book, surround myself with professional men and women who could help me, surround myself with family members and friends who will support me, and write books that will expand conversations and start discussions.

Bad boys hit hard, but move silent. – Tweet This

Self-Publishing: Pricing Your E-Books

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Price. Money. Mulah. Paper. Dollar Bills. Dough. You get the point.

The financial aspect of Indie Publishing is not something I speak much about or that I hear much about in the blogging world. Maybe its because money has always been that personal thing that belonged to just us. In many ways, this is true. How much is in your bank account is not something you sound a trumpet about nor should it be. Not only that, but there’s a lot of things I’ll never tell you about my financial life. Even in relation to Book Publishing. Some things are just best kept on the low.

But, what I will share is some important tips for pricing your books. Specifically, your eBooks. Believe it or not your book price has a role to play in your books overall image. What do I mean by image? I mean that when someone comes along, or scrolls along, through Amazon’s list of reads and sets their mind on which one to pick, there are a few things that make up the books overall image in the mind of the reader. This is not something that we, as readers, are always consciously aware of, but it is something that we do on that subconscious level. We are looking at:

– Book Title

– Book Cover

– Book Description

– Book Price

Usually in that order, but this is not always the case. Remember that when I write posts like these they are based on my personal experience in this field because I think experience is just a good teacher. So, in my experience (you may have done your own research), usually readers tend to decide to purchase a book based on these elements and in this order but not always in this order. In the event a reader is not judging in this order it usually has something to do with the price. This is when book pricing takes on a greater role and rises from the bottom of the list to the top.

I believe that the relationship between marketing and buyer habits is connected. Meaning that by paying attention to how people buy books, this can give me some insight on how to better market or sell them. So as an avid reader, I pay attention to myself in how I go about purchasing a book and usually I’ve been known to bypass books based on price. If the book looks interesting but the price is extremely too high, I may skip it. Not that I won’t come back to it, but you don’t want to give me the room to come back. You want me to make a purchase out the gate, sorta speak. Books I skip based on price tend to look something like this:

– The Title is not very encouraging, but it will do

– The book cover is plain, but I can work with it

– The price is too high

In this list I’ve ignored the other mediocrities and made up my mind to give the book a try. However, I looked and saw that it was $6.99. For the most part, these are instances where I just can’t. These are also instances where price can be the first determining factor in eBook sales even against the title, description, and cover. Sometimes all of these can be on point but the price is still too high. Now, prices of books can also be too low! But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, lets get some insight on how we should price our eBooks and what these prices should be based on. Now, I’m going to let someone a bit more experienced discuss this part. This excerpt is from an article written by Laurence O’byran whose services I acquired not too long ago to assist with the launch of the final book in the Stella series. Laurence is the author of three traditionally published novels from Harper Collins and runs a book promotion service I’m sure you’re tired of seeing on Twitter ; ).

What Is The Best Price For An Ebook/Kindle book in 2016?

Free

Only if you have a closely linked series and book number one can be priced at free to get readers started on your series.

.99c

If you are a new author and you want make it easy for people to buy your book, and you want to increase your total earnings. This price can be used for a short period to get your book onto a best seller list and then you can move the price up. When deciding a price do not consider the effort put in to write and produce it, consider what total earnings you want. By pricing at .99c, and then increasing the price you can achieve higher earnings. I have seen this working.

.99c can be used during a launch period, for a relaunch with a new cover, or for when you add a new book to your series. How long you stay at .99c will depend on total sales and whether you are continuing any paid promotion periods. It will also depend on if you have a new title coming out in the near future and what level of buzz you already have for the title. If there’s a lot of media attention on the title your period at .99c may only be a day or two.

$2.99

This is the recommended price long term. It’s considered by many to be the sweet spot for long term Kindle book sales. This price may also be appropriate if the first book in the series is $.99c. Your earnings should go up when you reach this price point. The period at .99c is used to gain you exposure, build that vital word of mouth and get you as high up the rankings as possible, with as many reviews on Amazon as possible.   

And that is pretty much the extent of the primary cost brackets that are good for eBooks. Yes, just these main three. Anything else is going to be too expensive if its not a popular read by a well-known author or the other components (book description, title, cover) are not up to par. And even then anything over 2.99 is too much. I’m speaking from personal experience. I realized too late that the first book in my Stella Trilogy was too high and because I published through Lulu at the time, I have to re-submit  blah blah blah to change it. So what happened is that the other two books did much better financially than the first. So, don’t be like me. Although $3.99 is not extremely too high, it is something I need to change, even possibly marking Book One in my series down to $.99 or even $1.99. Paperback books is a completely different subject matter and this is where you make your money at if you want to set high prices. Paperbacks are supposed to be more expensive because of the cost to print and so you can reap a nice profit from those print book sales. For eBooks however, though profit is to be made, it requires a little more strategy because of the competition. Like I said, marketing your book how you yourself buy books can come in handy, for instance:

When comparing your book to the pricing of others, consider that a big percentage of book sales are now going through sites such as BookBub, where free and .99c books are the norm. If a reader can buy a known top name author’s ebook for .99c or your ebook at $4.99 or more, what do you think they will do? – L. O’Bryan

What would you do? Exactly.

What Langston Hughes Taught Me About Writing

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, Google Images

What known historically famous writers, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, have taught me is that writing (far as fiction, / non-fiction, poetry, novelist type writing), is not about making money. Before you throw your stones at the computer screens listen carefully: You can surely make money, but writing is not about making money, if you can understand that. Though I write for a “living” I can honestly say, with my integrity intact, that I have written not one book and not one poem with the intent to make money. I don’t think any writer sits back and says, “Self, lets’ get this best seller on out the way shall we?” Personally, I write because I love doing it and I publish because I love sharing it. But, how did Langston Hughes help me to understand this?

For those of you who are not already familiar, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston are two of the biggest names in literary history. Just mention The Harlem Renaissance and their names are the first to come to mind. When you look into the lives that they lived however, you see two interesting facts: a). Both were very famous b). Both were very broke.

You wouldn’t know it from the looks of it. Not the way their names are plastered into history books. Not their quotes and faces and the people they’ve known. In fact, to the untrained eye one may come to think these people were rich. Yes, just like any “successful” Traditional or Self-Publisher always before the face of the people. The truth is that Langston Hughes had many side jobs throughout his career that made him money. This included many speaking engagements, teaching, traveling the world, and even working as a bus boy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. Hughes attended Lincoln University but that was because he couldn’t raise the scholarship money to attend Howard. In addition, both Hughes and Zora worked closely under Charlotte Manson, their rich white patron (she was also a big racist but that’s another story) who paid them for the work they published (she also dictated the works they could / could not publish). They also worked closely, most especially Hughes, with Carl Van Vechten (infamous for his book “Nigger Heaven”) who got him lots of work.

I do not say this to discourage anyone from being an author. I say this to say that there is a passion and a drive to writing a book that has nothing to do with royalties and books sales. This is what the promotion and hard work is all about, or at least mine is.  Writing and promoting books that people want to read. There were times where Langston Hughes could barely pay his rent and yet he still managed to know pretty much everyone there was to know during the Harlem Renaissance and the era to which he lived in general. This is a man who was surrounded by millionaires and billionaires on a regular, not because he necessarily  made the same kind of money but because of the way that his work changed people who were drawn to his message. This is what it’s all about: Changing lives. This is also why the Traditional-Indie argument is so stupid right now. It doesn’t matter how you publish the book and whether or not you’re “making it rain”. What matters is whether or not your book has a voice. If it does, then the people will gather to hear you sing.

Stella’s GoFundMe Campaign

EC can't wait to use her new camera in Atlanta
EC can’t wait to use her new camera in Atlanta

I hope everyone is having a great weekend so far (get yo rest on!). I’m just here to remind you of Stella’s current Go Fund Me Campaign. You see, Book #3 is about Joseph McNair, Sidney McNair’s son, and he and his friends are on their way to Atlanta. So I decided I would accompany them on their trip but we need your help.

We have to raise some money to make sure that we have enough books available at the first Stella Trilogy Book Signing Event in Atlanta GA. The event takes place Friday, February 26, 2016 @ 12:00 Noon EST at the Metropolitan Branch Library. It is also the same day I will be launching the release of Book #3.

As you all know Self-Publishers are also self funded. Whatever you can give, no matter how small, is most appreciated and I look forward to continuing to share Stella’s journey with you.

Also do not forget that I am giving away free review copies in exchange for honest reviews but copies are limited! Only 18 left from now until February. Just roll your eyeballs up to my pages and click on “Sign Up For an ARC of Stella Book 3”.

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BTW: Your support is not just financial. You can also give your time. Schedule a trip to the ATL and meet me there! Stella is very excited to meet all of you! Help me set up or volunteer to help me in general. Its going to be fun!

$2,500 Small Business Grant to Help Entrepreneurs from Underrepresented Communities to Grow their Small Businesses

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Special thank you goes out to Rich McIver, Founder of Merchant Negotiations, for reaching out to The PBS Blog in regard to this tremendous opportunity for small business owners!

MerchantNegotiators.com announces a $2,500 Small Business Grant, to provide entrepreneurs from historically underrepresented groups with the seed capital they need to start or grow their small business. The contest is open to any current small business owner or entrepreneur who meets one of the following eligibility requirements:

• U.S. military veterans or active military
• Minority Owned Businesses
• Women Owned Businesses
• Persons with a diagnosed disability as defined by the ADA

If you fit the following criteria, you have the opportunity to apply for a grant and finally make your aspirations of becoming a business owner a reality. But get ready! This small window will not be open for long. Applications, available at MerchantNegotiators.com’s website, are open June 1 through August 1.

Below is an excerpt from the Press Release as obtained from the website:

Why Supporting Minority Entrepreneurs Is So Important

IMG_4381Entrepreneurs and their small businesses are the engines of the American economy. Half of all private-sector workers and 70% of all new jobs are generated by small businesses, and small businesses are responsible for more than 50% of US GDP or over $6 trillion dollars annually.

Today, minority owned businesses make up almost 15 percent of the 28 million small businesses and employ 5.9 million workers in the United States and are one of the fastest growing subsets of small businesses. Despite this growth, however, Hispanic and African-American owned companies still comprise just 15% of American small businesses, a massive under-representation considering they make up 37% of the US total population.

This under-representation is due in part to the fact that the banking, grant, angel funding and private equity communities consistently underfund and inadequately support minority’s entrepreneurial ventures.

“There’s clear statistical evidence that minority entrepreneurs have been disproportionately denied capital when they apply for it,” said Rich McIver. Because more than 80% of small businesses use some sort of financing to launch their business, the fact that minorities have a harder time accessing start-up capital means fewer minority-owned businesses are started.

Raising Awareness of Systemic Underfunding of Minority Entrepreneurs

on-the-web-training-for-minority-owned-small-businessesThe MerchantNegotiators’ Small Business Grant is a small but tangible step that the company is taking to help rectify this disparity, and raise awareness of the problem of the systemic underfunding of minority entrepreneurial ventures. Beyond providing seed capital to three entrepreneurs, the company views this as an opportunity to raise awareness about the abundance of minority owned businesses that are currently being underfunded.

According to Rich McIver, founder of MerchantNegotiators, “Given that minority entrepreneurs have a harder time accessing start-up capital, there are a lot more great business ideas in that community that are going untapped, that investors and bankers would be wise to consider more closely. We view this grant as not only a way to help a few of those ideas to materialize into small businesses through our seed funding, but also to encourage awareness, discussion, and change in the larger social causes underpinning this funding discrepancy.”

While $1,500, the winner’s grant amount, may not seem like enough for a person to launch a small business, it is in fact sufficient to cover the actual out of pocket cost outlay for most small business launches. Because more than 80% of small businesses use some sort of outside financing to launch their business, the funding hurdle for many minority entrepreneurs is whether they can come up with the 1% origination fee and related costs necessary to secure a small business loan.

Eligibility Requirements:

This grant is limited to individuals who own a small business (defined as having fewer than 50 employees) or want to start a business AND identify as members of one the following historically underrepresented groups in the small business community: Minorities, women, U.S. military veterans or active military, or persons with a diagnosed disability as defined by the ADA.

Submission Requirements:

Applications must be submitted electronically at MerchantNegotiators.com by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on August 1, 2015. Applicants must review and adhere to the full application rules and deadlines listed on https://merchantnegotiators.com/#small-business-grant. This document outlines program details and instructions for submitting an application.

Media Partners:

1. Encourage your readers to apply for the Small Business Grant
2. Add an application badge to your website
3. Write about the problem of the funding disparity for minority entrepreneurs
4. Support minority owned small businesses in your community
5. Engage with other minority entrepreneurship advocates by including the hashtag #GrantUsAChance in all communications regarding the grant

Remember: Every little bit helps!

Click Here to Learn How to Apply

Click Here to View Entire Press Release