David Gaughran is a prolific author and a veteran self-publisher who writes fiction and non-fiction. He uses his blog to share tips, insights, and excerpts from his books on self-publishing to encourage authors to direct their own book-publishing efforts. David’s about to release his second book on self-publishing: Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed, And Sell More Books. We recently asked him some questions about his writing process, why he self-publishes, and why he gives so much of his trench-earned publishing knowledge away for free. Do you have a question you’d like to ask David? Post a comment.
You’ve got a new book coming out — can you give us a sneak peek into what it’s about?
Sure. It’s called Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed, And Sell More Books and it’s the follow-up to my self-publishing guidebook Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should.
Let’s Get Digital was based on my blog which provides advice and help for self-publishers, and covers all the exciting changes in the publishing industry. While Digital was more aimed at those taking their first steps self-publishing or those who hadn’t got their sales going yet, Visible is for the more experienced writer who has a firm understanding of the basics, but wants to take sales to the next level.
Writers in general are leery of marketing and promotion. They worry that they don’t do it effectively, that it makes them feel uncomfortable (or veers into unethical territory), and that it’s a massive time-sink — cutting into precious writing time. The thing is, most of the tactics they fret about don’t work anyway. Endlessly tweeting “buy my book” simply doesn’t work. But there’s a whole swath of strategies that are cost-effective, don’t take up too much time, and can really boost your sales.
In short, it’s all about visibility. There are over 1.6 million ebooks for sale on Amazon, but most of those are invisible to readers. They don’t appear on any bestseller lists and they don’t get recommended to Amazon’s customers. Let’s Get Visible is about understanding that giant recommendation engine and how to position your books to benefit from it.
The book won’t be released for another few weeks, but if you sign up to my New Release mailing list, you’ll be the first to hear when it’s out.
Tell us a bit about your writing process: do you keep to a set routine? What work habits do you find effective?
My process is completely chaotic but I try to impose some discipline. When you are your own boss, and your job entails sitting at a computer, innumerable distractions are but a click away. Writers especially are masters of procrastination because any kind of reading could be justified as research.
In the end though, the only thing that will get the book finished is chaining yourself to a desk and writing it. If you’re like me, and easily distracted, a program like Freedom — which kills the internet for set periods — is essential.
What motivated you to self-publish your books?
After 300 literary agents rejected my historical novel A Storm Hits Valparaiso, a change of strategy was overdue. I had been following the progress of self-publishing for a few months, and, at the time, Amanda Hocking was all over the bestseller lists. What was more convincing though, was the army of people who were starting to make a living from writing — for the very first time — because they had self-published.
I decided to experiment with a couple of short stories — If You Go Into The Woods and Transfection — to see if I enjoyed the process, and whether I would be able to sell anything. Within a month, I knew I would publish everything this way.
What is the most important, hard-won piece of advice you have to share with would-be self publishers?
That’s easy. Stay away from the middlemen. A whole host of disreputable self-publishing “service” companies are waiting to part you from your money. Industry watchdogs have received a stunning amount of complaints about overcharging for basic services and doing a shoddy job of actually publishing your book — and I cover those stories regularly on my blog.
You are much better off handling it yourself. It’s not that difficult to hire an editor and a graphic designer, and it’s significantly cheaper than using one of these companies. Another advantage is that you will have access to live sales reports (essential for measuring your marketing efforts), and you get paid monthly.
I have a section on my blog to guide people through the basics of self-publishing. It’s much less difficult than people might think, and you can hire help where needed.
You’re exceedingly generous in sharing excerpts from your books. In fact, you even offer your book, Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should for free in PDF format. Every writer needs to make a living. Why do you give so much away?
At the time, some of my blog readers worried that the free PDF version could cut into sales of the paid version. But the biggest problem any writer faces is obscurity. Anything I can do to get my name out there is going to reap long-term dividends. That PDF version has been downloaded over 30,000 times. I’ve given away roughly the same amount of the Kindle version. But rather than harming sales of the paid version, it boosted them; all those free downloaders jumpstarted word-of-mouth.
Why did you choose WordPress.com for your blog, http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/?
That was a simple decision. WordPress is light-years ahead of its competitors. The blogs always look the most professional, it has more options for customizing the look and feel of the site, and it seems to have way better SEO on Google — a very important traffic source, especially if you write non-fiction.
Do you have any questions you’d like to ask David? Post them in the comments!