Category Archives: cost

Naomi Asked How to Get Paid for Writing on the Internet

Naomi sent me a message. She asked:

“What I would like to know, is when you are trying to get a paid gig online, how do you find out if it is legitimate? And if they refuse to pay you at some point, what can be done about that. Most of us cannot afford a literary lawyer, since they are so expensive.”

Her question is a real problem for writers whether or not they write for an online site or for a traditional print source. I’ve had a good deal of personal experience with the latter. I was a freelance writer for a Midwestern newspaper for nearly two decades. I was paid by the article and any accompanying photographs, and retained the copyright once the work was published. It was difficult for other news sources to copy my photographs because newspaper pictures are very grainy when copied. As for text, if another source used parts of my work there was either an attribution given to me or the newspaper where my work had been published. Things became more complicated when newspapers began to publish their content online.

Back in 2006, maybe even earlier, I received a message about a class action lawsuit that pertained to writers whose work was published on the Internet. Once a work is published online there seems to be a Wild West mindset where everything on the ‘Net is thought to be fair game for use rather than plagiarism. The suit aimed at seeking restitution for writers whose work had been used without compensation.

The suit has yet to be finalized. An issue pertaining to the suit went before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was argued in October 2009.  Early in 2010, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Second Circuit on a jurisdictional issue and sent the case back to the Second Circuit for further proceedings, which is where the case is pending at this time.

Even if the court were to eventually rule that writers should be compensated in full by anyone who uses their work, the enforcement of this finding would be very difficult, lengthy and costly to enforce. So what’s a writer to do?

Here’s what I told Naomi:

It’s my experience that there is little you can do to force anyone to pay you, give credit for your work, etc. A writer has every right to be compensated for their work, but achieving this isn’t a given. Finding a source that will pay is no different than purchasing an item on the Internet, the writer needs to research the site to determine if it is legitimate.

If a writer decides to contact a social media professional for assistance in learning how to effectively use the ‘Net to sell their literary product, one of the first things you’ll be told is to build a relationship with your intended audience. The bottom line to this advice is that you’ll have to give away content. That’s basically what a blog does. It’s free content. I know of no statistics with any numbers, research-based or speculative, on how many writers become successful and earn serious money by publishing content on the Internet. I have seen a variety of models such as subscription blogs and ebooks for ways to capitalize on online writing but, here again, I have seen no comparative numbers to assess what works, if anything works.

In my previous post I shared the story of one woman who has made a success using the ‘Net with ebooks.  She basically gave away her books in the beginning.

Learning to use the ‘Net successfully involves a steep learning curve; and, at least for me, a good deal of frustration. It took 90 days to learn the basics, 90 more days to see glimmers of results. The results are mostly contacts, not financial reward.

In her message, Naomi mentioned that she is her own agent, PR source, secretary, personal assistant, etc. I told her that was my job description too. Filling all these positions leaves me little time to write, but I’m a lot less frustrated and negative about the experience then when I started (read the full blog to see my growth). Soon I hope to have some exciting news regarding my own positive progress.

I encouraged Naomi to stick with the Internet. (I imagine Mentor Mama will shed a tear when she reads this.) I also suggested Naomi keep her day job, because money and recognition aren’t going to come overnight. Even if she was to achieve a viral success the ‘Net is fickle. Success is likely to be ephemeral. For most of us, the recipe for success is to keep at it, be resourceful and creative.

The first measure of success is that someone is reading your work. You know this when someone leaves you a comment. The next measure of success is when a writer is asked to provide content. I’m talking about a guest blog post. No money is involved. Eventually, if Naomi builds enough connections, a big enough audience, and a resume of posts online, then she’ll have evidence that she has a following, an audience, and can use this as a resume to get paid for her work by legitimate sources.

To read my other blog where I write stories about extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read my book on how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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Filed under blog, cost, frustration, guarantee, income, job, perseverance, publishing, social media, statistics, success, Uncategorized, writers, writing

One Author’s Experiences in Publishingland

This second part of an interview with Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos focuses on her experiences as an author, and her views on traditional verses self-publishing.

Kathy’s first book Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is being shopped by NYC literary agent at Scovil, Galen & Ghosh. Kathy is currently finishing the second in her trilogy SURVIVING RECURRENCE IN CANCERLAND.

As a two-time cancer survivor Kathy saw the need for books designed to help cancer patients advocate for their successful recovery. She clearly has struck a nerve. In only 8 months on the Internet Kathy has gathered a huge.

Q. Prior to Surviving Cancerland, what was your experience as a writer?

A. Other than writing papers for high school and college classes, none. I never wanted to be a writer, but sometimes life’s occupations are like kittens, they choose you! Writing chose me.

Q. What motivated you to write the book?

A. There is almost always a point in the process of illness where logic, reason, and medical expertise fails. It’s at this point a patient slips through the cracks, sometimes never recovering.

I survived cancer—twice…I survived by using something many in the medical field do not even acknowledge as being real. My innate intuition.

Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is my account of how I used my intuition to self-advocate a course of treatment, often against the vehement advice of my doctors, in my healing process. Always work with your doctors, but never forget you make the final decisions. I wrote my story to help others faced with this ordeal make better decisions. I don’t tell others how to survive I show them how I survived.

Q. Did you self-publish or did you choose a more conventional route? How did you decide which route to take? How long ago did this publication journey begin?

A. I went the conventional route and sought representation by a literary agent who had contacts with the large publishing houses. My publishing journey started with my second diagnosis with breast cancer. I was quite sure that my story of having the medical industry miss my cancer twice was not that unique. This was confirmed when I became a phone counselor for the Bloch Cancer Foundation and heard similar stories to mine. However, the outcome was less favorable because the patient had followed the doctor’s orders to, “Go home and come back for more tests in six months.” I wanted to teach others what tests they needed to find cancer and how to self advocate to get those tests. I also wanted to share the importance of the dream world during crisis. I searched bookstores far and wide for a book that could give me information on the day-to-day needs of patients undergoing treatment that included the dream world of crisis. I could not find any that were from a patient’s point of view. There were plenty of books written by doctors that were full of interesting scientific information, but I found them difficult to read and frankly, scary! So, I wrote one.

Q. How would you advise other writers who are considering self- vs traditional publishing?

A. Although I have not self-published I’ve been active in my husband’s self-published book Pope Annalisa. So I do have a comparison to my conventional route. Here’s the main difference, as I see it. With self-publishing, the author puts money up front to publish the book and then is responsible for the book’s distribution and the PR, and often signs away many of their rights. Most chain bookstores such as Borders, will not put self-published books on their shelves because they sell space by the inches to publishing houses. That is why most publishing houses will not publish a large book that is not written by a big money making author. They would rather place two smaller books on a shelf. Despite the fact that the self-publishing industry is growing, it still has a stigma attached to it. Most newspapers and magazines will not write reviews for it and many traditional publishing awards are closed to them. A positive note is an author planning to self-publish does not need to write query letters, book proposals, or deal with the rejections that often accompany them.

Conventional publishing requires time and money also, but in a different way. My book, Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing went through seven revisions by me and another two by a freelance editor and copy editor I hired. Most publishing houses have cut back on employees, and one of the first cuts was editors. Very few editors are kept in-house. Manuscripts sent to publishing houses must be nearly perfect. After I got my manuscript back from my content editor, I sent it and the Book Proposal and the first three chapters of my proposal to a copy-editor who works in a children’s publishing house in New York. She   made sure every sentence was perfect, and every t was crossed.. This all takes time and money. But the biggest difference is that big publishing houses pay the author money up-front in the form of an advance an advance.  They also take care of the printing and distribution to the bookstores. If you are a first time author, they are minimally helpful with PR. That is where a good platform comes into play. If you do not make back the advanced money in sales and begin collecting royalties, chances are very good that your other books will not get picked up by the publisher. Your sales record is your report card.

My advice to anyone considering self-publishing over conventional is to save self-publishing as a plan B. You can always go that route. Prepare to go the conventional route and do the hard work. Write the best manuscript you possibly can. Keep it between 70,000 and 120,000 words. Anything larger than that takes up too much space on the bookshelves. Edit it yourself many times and then hire a professional content editor to do it again twice. (This will not cost as much as self-publishing.) Most agents will not accept a manuscript that has not been edited twice. Then work on identifying your platform. Who would be interested in my book? How can I contact them? Then look for your competition on bookshelves and see how you can make your book better. Study books on query letters and proposals. Make yours stand out. Then send the proposal and the first three chapters to the editors again to perfect them before sending them to agents. Research your agents. Be sure you submit what they want and the way they want it. As the old saying goes, “Cut wood, carry water.”  Do the work.

Getting a book published is not easy no matter what road you take. But if you try the conventional route first and it just doesn’t work, it is easier to switch to plan B than to have already published and try to go with Plan A. That will be swimming upstream while doing all the work required for conventional publishing.

To read stories of other extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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5 in a series of 4 on Twitter! Is Twitter a Good Resource for Writers?

Okay, Okay. I did say I was done discussing Twitter. However, Mentor Mama sent me some good Twitter information written by Glyna Humm (glynahumm.com). I felt obliged to pass it on to help everyone get the most out of their Twitterland experience.

Humm offered a list of some of her favorite Twitter applications. With so many available in Twitterland – some free, some not – I think it’s helpful to have a few recommendations. I’ve added a few of my own and I end with a question.

•   Twitzu – Promote your business, special offers, promotions and events with Twitzu. [I haven’t tried Twitzu. I have not running a business and, therefore, won’t be offering promotions, etc. I’ll take Humm’s word that this is a valuable application.]

•    Social Oomph.com – This app allows you to post Tweets at a later time and date, set up direct messages to be sent to your followers, among many other things. [I’ve tried Social Oomph. There is a free version, and an upgrade for a fee. The free version is cumbersome. I prefer HootSuite. HootSuite, a free app, allows you to see your Home Feed, Direct Messages, Mentions, and Pending Tweets on a single screen. I’ve begun to appreciate this feature more and more.]

•    Twitter Alerts – Keeps track of conversations that mention you, your products, your company and anything else, via mobile devices. [I’ve never tried this app. I signed up for Google Alerts which I imagine are similar. I find the alerts annoying, probably because I don’t understand how it helps to be told that GA has come across some information I launched onto the Internet a few days back.]

•   Mr. Tweet – A personal networking assistant for Twitter. It helps identify relevant followers, recommends other users and regularly computes Twitter usage statistics. [I could see how this could be handy especially early on or to hone in on users you don’t get randomly. At this point, as I’ve said many times already, I’m happy to have all the new followers I can get, but I am not actively seeking more. There’s too much else to spend my time on. I prefer responding to each of my new followers and letting them know I am happy to engage in real conversations.]

•   Twittonary – A dictionary of Twitter terms. It provides explanations of various Twitter-related words. [I don’t see much use in this except for newbies. I rarely come across a word I don’t know. If I did I could easily get an answered by tweeting a question.]

•   Twellow – The equivalent of Twitter yellow pages. [This one I’ll have to check out. I haven’t got a clue what yellow pages for Twitter means.]

•    Just Tweet IT – Just Tweet it makes it easier for tweeters to find other tweeters with similar interests. [This too sounds like a valuable app.]

•    Twuffer – Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets and schedule their release. [This can be done with HootSuite, see my comments for SocialOomph.]

•   Twtcard – Send a greeting card, a surprise message or an invitation on Twitter. [This is another app I’ll check out if I can find the time.]

•   Twitbacks – Free twitter backgrounds. [This sounds like a nice. If I ever have time to Twitteraway, I might try this. The best background I’ve seen so far is @domovoy2007. Hers makes me laugh every time I see it. Too bad she doesn’t speak English.]

Once again, I recommend you avoid TweetSpinner.  I mentioned in an earlier post that the company doesn’t appear to be interested in customer satisfaction, and they aren’t trustworthy about refunds.

Now look at these statistics:
225 Following, 11 Followers, 1 tweet
307 Following, 33 Followers, 7 tweets
371 Following, 87 Followers, 203 tweets

I suspect these are new Twpeeps. If I was asked which one I suspect is a ‘real’ person, I wouldn’t think twice.  The other night someone new began following me. I checked their statistics. They were following nearly 1000, and had less than 10 followers and 0 tweets. Can you explain that?

Those who can understand the significance of this question know why the number of followers a person has is not necessarily a good gauge of success.

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Filed under blog, cost, good read, guarantee, Pamela Ferris-Olson, social media, statistics, success, Twitter

So What’s My Verdict on Twitter – Is It a Useful Tool for Writers?

My friend Leslie (moondustwriter.com) asked her readers earlier in May to write something in 160 characters. She challenged: “What can you do in 160 characters? A story surely not! I have titles longer than 160 characters for goodness sake.”

Leslie’s a poet, so I playfully sent her an email to ask if 160 characters had become a new form of Haiku. What writer can resist a challenge?  My response:

“Must say it 140 characters on Twitter. Leslie’s poet challenge 160. Ironic, no? Poets typically use fewer words 2 convey more meaning now want 20 more to do so!”

160 characters is a luxury one doesn’t have on Twitter. Although Twitter limits users to 140 characters, if someone wants their message retweeted (RT) they need to reduce their character limit further generally to less than 150 characters.

A good deal can be said within the confines of 140 characters. With the right message and what amounts to an Internet version of the kids’ game Telephone (where the first kid whispers a message into the ear of the kid next to him, who then whispers the message into the next kid’s ear, etc.) a writer has what appears to be a boundless audience. The caveat, as I have mentioned in my earlier posts, is that because of the massive amount of scam, spam, and garbage Tweets the likelihood that a tweet is read is small.

Assuming a tweet is read, how much value is it likely to produce for the writer? That depends on what you goal is. A writer who hopes Twitter will significantly increase sales is likely to be disappointed.  I can state unequivocally that in my first four months of using Twitter, it has resulted in an insignificant number of sales. However, some of the connections I’ve made have been worthwhile. There is a possibility down the road that some of these will become golden.

Early on, I was so focused on building my Twitter following that I had little time to attend to emails, phone calls and other, what I refer to as, old-fashioned networking. Sales plummeted. The lesson for me was that Twitter is a tool, but only ONE tool. Other tools I need to employ are Facebook, a variety of other social media platforms like Digg and Reddit, blogs, emails and more traditional means of getting the word out.

In my next post I will begin a discussion of Facebook. I have asked a SM coach to assist. However, before I end my thoughts about Twitter I want to make a disclaimer. My four posts on Twitter are based on my desire to promote a non-fiction book. I am looking for the best way to spread the word about my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I am aiming at national distribution, and sales well beyond those commonly cited for an indie author and publisher.

I don’t think Twitter would affect sales much different if I were trying to market my book locally, I had written fiction, or the subject matter was about something other than women’s search for identity, self-esteem and happiness. What would change would be the mix of the social media and traditional tools I chose to use. Keep reading. I’ll cover these in future posts. In the meantime:

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 2

Just before I started writing this post I looked at my Twitter account. I had 1,621 followers, and was on 131 lists.

I began my adventure with social media by seeking the advice of a social media coach. One of the first assignments was to” follow” 50-100 new people every day.  There were many ways to accomplish this. The easiest and cheapest it seemed was to find someone on Twitter who had lots of followers. I could scroll down their list and click FOLLOW.  It was a fast way to accomplish what I had been instructed to do. Later I discovered it wasn’t an effective method.

Why do I say it’s effective? Some of the Twitter accounts turned out to be inactive. Some of the accounts were rarely used, others were OVERused. I had other issues with a stream of tweets that were scams, spams or garbage.

So, until I knew better, I would scan down a page and click FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW wherever I saw a person’s face.  I was sure that in a month I’d accumulate a follow list equivalent to the population of Rhode Island. I got giddy watching my follow list grow. However, when I took the time to think about what I was doing I asked myself: “How is this was going to help me?” I realized I could click “FOLLOW” buttons until my fingers were sore, but it wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal. It wasn’t going to make people aware of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. What I really needed was to have people follow me. That was the only best way to be sure they’d see the messages I tweeted.

Getting followers was a more complicated proposition. Not everyone automatically followed me. My mentor suggested I use Friend or Follow, a free program that identifies who among the people you are following is not following you back.  I considered dumping everyone who wasn’t following.  I realized this wasn’t a great plan. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since  I had starting following some of these people. Unless they had an auto follow program I needed to give people time to follow me. I certainly didn’t want to unfollow someone I had just started to follow. There were also people on the list I thought would be good people to follow even if they didn’t follow me.  I decided to poke these people to see if they simply needed a poke from me before they added me to their follow list.

Of course there are programs for purchase that are designed to increase followers. Some programs target specific demographics. These programs  search for Tweet peeps who are more likely to be interested in what you are  selling. As I was in a hurry to be successful I decided that such a program would be a terrific way to build my Twitter empire. I thought I had nothing to loose by taking advantage of  free trial offers. What I discovered was that some of the programs weren’t user friendly. At least not for this newbie. I didn’t understand the social techie language, and I didn’t need help managing multiple Twitter accounts.

I dumped each program long before the trial period expired. I gave up on Tweet Spinner in less than 24 hours. I emailed the company right away to tell them I was canceling long before their five-day free trial expired. Tweet Spinner still charged my Pay Pal account for a one-year subscription. The company has refused to refund my money! I’m out $14.95. Pay Pal says I have to get a refund from Tweet Spinner, but after my first email exchange with Tweet Spinner they have stopped responding. My suggestion is don’t try any free trial offers if they ask for payment information before the trial expires! Some companies aren’t user friendly!

Adding 50-100 people a day and watching the numbers grow might be the cheapest, least time consuming way to grow a list, especially as most of those tweeps are going to follow you back. It can be addictive watching the numbers grow. BEWARE! There’s a Twitter posse. They patrol for speeders. You can commit a violation by adding too many people TOO FAST. I’ve heard it said that there is also a rule about the ratio between follows and followers. A person can’t be following too many more people than are following them. Otherwise, you could be considered a stalker. I don’t know what these numbers are, because I quickly decided that I didn’t want to play the numbers game.  Adding people for the sake of increasing numbers is in direct conflict with the NUMBER 1 rule social media gurus place on their social media “do” lists. The NUMBER ONE rule is BE REAL.

A person can’t be real if they are only interested in numbers. The number that  is important to me is my tweet count. It’s 2,217!  Those aren’t auto-generated tweets. Some guy a while back called me a conversationalist!

Here’s how I operate. When I get a notice someone is following me, I check them out. I go to their Web site. If they aren’t a bot or aren’t simply selling something I send them a personal tweet. If they tweet back we may continue our conversation.

During my introductory phase in Twitterland I spent more than an hour or more in one session working on building and pruning my list – clicking follow buttons, weeding out non-followers or people with inactive accounts, or viewing mindless tweets. Now I may spend an hour each day, but I don’t do it all at once. Much of what I do now is have conversations. I enjoy most of my time on Twitter. I’ve got special tweeps I look forward to “seeing” every day. I’ve got a tweep who talks to me in French. “Bon jour Martien. Comment ca va?” My French is tres mal, but I still look forward to talking to him. Yesterday, someone I only recently met tweeted me with a possible lead about being on public television.

There are good people out there. But in order for me to find them I had to stop playing the numbers game. I had to think about the people.  Now, I don’t even look for followers, they find me.

So what’s with Twitter? Some say Twitter is IT. Others say Twitter is already OVER. What I say is: Don’t use or abuse Twitter, it’s the people who matter. My Twitter peeps may not be contributing in any direct way to book sales, at least not yet, but I enjoy my peeps.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Publishers and Media: Do they conspire against self-published authors?

I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t some type of unspoken yet accepted relationship between established publishers and the media that has made it difficult for self-published authors to get recognition in the press, on the radio and television. I can’t remember reading a review of a self-published book in a mainstream newspaper or magazine. So I decided to do a little research of my own.

First I contacted a syndicated National Public Radio show host. Her response wasn’t all bad news.

“I know how hard most authors work on their books so I know how easy it is to take everything personally but it is simply a matter of volume. I may get anywhere from three to five books a DAY, unsolicited. Some shows get easily 150 books a MONTH. There is no way all of these authors are going to get the attention they would like. I personally have done two self-published books, neither particularly well written (to be honest) but the news hooks were so strong I felt compelled. There are also documentaries to cover and other cultural works. Add to that the fact that most NPR hosts insist on reading the books themselves and you can see why we can only address a fraction of the material we receive.”

Then I queried Jane Friedman, editorial leader and brand manager for the Writer’s Digest writing community (including Writer’s Digest magazine, Writer’s Digest Books, Writer’s Market annuals, WritersMarket.com, WritersOnlineWorkshops). Her answer provided less hope for self-published authors.

“Yes, there is definitely a bias. Most self-published work is considered inferior in quality.”

Friedman referred me to a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services last updated on Feb. 20, 2010. I WISH I had read this before I’d decided that two dozen rejections, some personal handwritten notes from agents and publishers, were too many and it was time I go the self-publishing route.

I’m not going to quote the entire SFFWA article here. It’s too depressing, but I’ll refer to it again in the future. The article touched on a number of issues I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The article says that Print-On-Demand (POD) services are not a good fit for writers looking to establish a career.

“ POD services’ policies on pricing, marketing, and distribution severely limit their books’ availability…, and are likely to result in tiny sales and readership, even for authors who diligently self-promote…It’s unlikely that a book published by a POD service will be considered a professional publishing credit, or that, as many authors hope, it will provide a springboard to commercial publication (according to a 2004 article in the New York Times, out of the 10,000 or so titles published to that time by POD service Xlibris, only 20 had been picked up by commercial publishers).”

One of the few cases where the article suggests a POD service may be a good option is for writers of a niche nonfiction project. “These can be a tough sell for commercial or academic publishers, but they can do well for the motivated self-publisher who has a way of reaching his or her audience, and is able to devote time and money to marketing and promotion. Writers who can exploit ‘back of the room’ situations may also do well with a POD service–someone who lectures or conducts workshops, for instance, and can sell books at these occasions, or a restauranteur who wants to make a cookbook available to his or her customers.”

The article points out that there are people on the Internet who are eager to dispute the negatives of POD. “They’ll tell you that self-publishing is the way of the future. They’ll claim that the stigma traditionally associated with paying to publish has all but disappeared, and that it’s becoming ever more common for self-published books to be acquired by bigger publishing houses. They’ll often be able to point you to a news story about a writer who parlayed self-publishing into a lucrative commercial contract.

“But like the hype from self-publishing “evangelists,” articles about self-publishing success are often biased, inaccurate, or overstated…And there’s nothing new about big publishers picking up self-published books that sell robustly–just Google What Color Is Your Parachute? or The Christmas Box. As for the self-publishing stigma–unfair though it may be in many cases, it is alive and well.”

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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What’s the Best Way to Sell Your Book? Are Giveaways Worth It?

A recent post at NovelHelp.com consisted of an interview with purported indie book publishing guru Todd Rutherford at Yorkshire Publishing. The March 5 post gave a list of 11 actions an indie writer needs to do to promote their book.

I’ve discussed some of these already, so I decided to address item #8 entitled, Is it important to give books away? The answer given: “It is the most important thing to do, as long as they are being given to influential people or wholesale book buyers.  Most major publishers give away 3000 to 5000 books when they release a new title.”

Let’s get the math out of the way first. To give away 3000-5000 books, you’d need the distribution network of a major publisher. In practical terms for an indie writer, you’ll have to give out books to anyone you are hoping will review the book – online, radio or print reviewers, bookstores where you’d like to do signings, people with connections.

The cost of a complimentary copy for me is: $4.71 (my cost for a book) + $0.50 (roughly the cost of postage for shipping from publisher. I buy in lots of 50) + postage to mail the book to person receiving the complimentary copy (about $5 as the USPS has a limited tier of rates. If the difference between slow boat to wherever and priority is $0.25 I chose to show the recipient I care and spend the extra quarter). This adds up to nearly $10.25 per book.

Free books are definitely part of the public relations campaign. I agree books should be distributed to influential people, people who are likely to result in multiple sales of your book. I don’t agree this is the most important thing you can do to sell a book. YOU are the MOST important equation in book sales. How much energy, heart, time, perseverance you put in IS what counts. Of course, this is providing you have a good product, you are a TERRIFIC salesperson, or have a GREAT incentive gift to accompany sales.

I have friends who are giving free books away on their Web sites and blogs. I’ve been encouraged to do the same. I haven’t yet. Why? A giveaway isn’t worth much unless there are enough people competing for the freebie. If you don’t already have an audience interested in your product, it’s unlikely you’re going to generate one simply by offering a free book, even an autographed book, if no one has heard of the book or the author.

Being a writer and one’s own public relations staff is tough. I don’t want to be a salesperson. When I wrote my book, I didn’t envision myself in a full-time sales position. I was foolish enough to think that when my book appeared on Amazon.com, the power of that bookselling titan would be sufficient for my book to fly off the digital bookshelf. It didn’t work that way. Building a SM platform, working the traditional public relations routes – newspapers, radio, TV, bookstores – takes a lot of time. There are repeat calls, looking for new ideas, and work, work, work. They all take time. Time I’d prefer to spend on writing my next book.

There’s no question that an indie writer has to spend money to sell a book. Where and how you spend it will, most likely, depend on trial and error. There is no single method that is guaranteed to be a success. Unless you have an endless supply of cash you’ll need to determine what avenues you need to pursue on your own and where you can get help. I chose to employ a SM coach.

I’ve written and distributed my own press releases, and have been following up on my own. I can tell you from years of working with a newspaper, follow through is VERY important. A press release whether by email or snail mail gets lost in the clutter of a blizzard of PR. That’s why follow threw is important.

To turn a phrase: You wrote your book now you’ve got to live with it. You’ve got to work it every way you can.

I’ve got a friend who’s just beginning her own indie published journey.  I’m going to ask to relate her experiences in a future blog post.

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