Today I'd like you to meet colorful author Tristram la Roche whose books are selling like hot Portuguese custard tarts. Tris is both traditionally and self-published. I asked him to share with us his experiences.
Sue: Why have you decided to go the self-publishing route when you've been traditionally published?
Tris: Well, I have and I haven't if that makes any sense at all. Perhaps I should start by saying that I remain a firm believer in traditional publishing - the whole agent, mainstream publisher, bookstores and book tours thing. That is still the only way to go if you want your books for sale across the bookstore network, if you want to be known to the widest possible audience. Despite all the claims that e-Publishing would end this model I see no sign of it. Anyway, both can exist as they satisfy quite different markets in my opinion. When the rights for On My Knees reverted to me (yes, time flies) I had to make a decision what to do. Through my writing I came across another author, Daniel deLoite. Daniel only self-publishes and he has been quite successful with short stories for Kindle. I had a talk with him and he persuaded me to try it. Of course, as a writer, I was also very curious about how self-publishing works; no sense in remaining ignorant about a sector of your industry, is there? That's burying your head in the sand. You may have seen the rise in people and agencies advertising to help you self-publish (erm, doesn't that defeat the object?) for staggering amounts of money. My natural curiosity had to be satisfied: how hard could it be to self-publish a book? Is there any need to pay for help? By self-publishing On My Knees I've found some very interesting answers. Hmm? You want to know what they are? Oh, right! (Read more)
Well, first of all, it's easy. I mean really easy. I suppose if you are a total waste of time with a computer and lament the demise of the quill you will have problems, but how many writers today can be that helpless? How can a writer afford to be that out of touch? So really, there is no need to pay someone to do it for you. Except when it comes to the cover! Your book cover is your first and best shot at selling your book. If you have an eBook - which is really what we are talking about here - you need something that will look good as a thumbnail. If you are competent at photo manipulation you may be able to do your own (I did, using Photoshop Elements - but I had used Photoshop before) but unless you can produce a professional cover, for heaven's sake spend some money on getting one. The rest is a cinch and costs nothing except time. You are a writer, so making sure the text is good and tight, free of errors, should be easy enough. Get your beta readers on it. And just as if you were submitting to an agent, polish and polish and polish. A bad book won't do you any good. If you know an editor who will edit for free, all well and good, but if not think about paying one. Yes, I did say that, but if you do pay an editor remember you may well never recover the cost. Don't go into this thinking the sales will necessarily roll in. A sobering thought is that once you click the publish button you have done all that some of the e-Publishers do. Think about that. Once your book is on sale, the big thing is to sell it. Do you know where to start? Again, if you are clueless, you may wish to think more about your options. Don't assume that all publishers will work to make your book sell, though.
Tris, can I just butt in a second? Talking about editors and polishing your work, I know that Steve Emmett is really good at improving works in progress and I can highly recommend him. He has a site for this: http://thewritingcouch.
Sue: Sorry for interrupting. How are you promoting your self-published novella? Are you doing anything different to your traditionally published ones?
Tris: Different? No, not really. Short of taking out paid ads - which I am convinced do not work (I could write more on this but won't bore you) - authors are left with the very hit and miss social media like Facebook and Twitter. I have my doubts whether they really work. Daniel told me something interesting. When he started publishing he purposely had no website, no Facebook, no Twitter. He simply clicked publish. And his books sold. And sold. He was unknown, did zero promo and it worked. He has since created a presence and tells me it's made not one jot of difference. I'm looking at more subtle ideas at the moment and I will come back and tell you about them if they work. In short, I believe a good cover, good blurb and top notch writing are the three keys to success. So what about the total drivel that has done well on Kindle, you ask? Yes, that's true and I put that down to two things. First, price. Don't let anyone tell you the eBook market is not price sensitive (unless you are already a big name in demand, that is). There are many people out there with an e-reader of some sort who will read anything if it's cheap. Sad, but true. Second, being internet savvy works - and this comes back to the subtle approach I touched on.
Let me add this, if you will. Take with a pinch of salt all the bloated blog posts and marketing splurges telling you to contact the libraries, to get speaking engagements, go to schools and so on. Unless you are very, very lucky; unless you have some very particular niche message; unless you really are married to a bisexual werewolf with x-ray vision who makes lemon curd for the farmers' markets - no one will want to talk to you if you have a self-published book. Not that they will be much more inclined, to be honest, if you've had a book published by a small publisher whose print books are entirely Print on Demand (POD). For all the good arguments in favour of POD (and there are many), getting them into bookstores is a major hurdle. One reason is the cost of producing each book, and when there's the printer, the distributor, the author and the publisher to pay you can see that a. prices have to be high and b. someone is going to get squeezed - and that means the bookstore (the author is squeezed already!). The larger bookstores need around 40% minimum discount and the only way to achieve this with POD is to make the cover price above what the market can stand. As a result, self-publishing a POD book can mean an acceptable cover price, but don't expect to see it in Waterstones.
Tris: On My Knees was the first thing I ever wrote. Imagine my delight when it was a genre bestseller on Kindle! It also had some great reviews which all served to encourage me to write more. It's a coming out story about a nice guy who is caught in a downward spiral; a failing and loveless marriage and a business going down the toilet. Mark just doesn't fit in, never has, and assumes he's just some kind of weirdo. One night, after a terrible row with his wife, he goes to the gym where he meets Attila for the first time. Mark is drawn to the newbie and allows himself to be persuaded to go out for a drink. One thing leads to another and before the night is out Mark understands that he isn't weird at all, he's gay. Of course, life doesn't follow a straight line and the pair have some ups and downs, but we do actually have an ending that is 'happy for now' at least.