Full session notes from Why New Authors Should Think Like Indie Bands


Why New Authors Should Think Like Indie Bands
#indieauthors
St. Ours
Alan J Porter alanjporter.com @alanjporter
Amelia Gray @grayamelia
Timothy Willis Sanders @timothysanders timothypresents.com
  • Have you seen things changing in the publishing world? Does Amazon, Kindle, CreateSpace.
    • It’s become a lot easier to become a known quantity. Historically self-publishing has been looked down upon by traditional press. But in the comic industry, it’s the complete opposite. You have to be self-published, to prove you are committed, you have an audience. That will start to happen in the traditional publishing.
    • I could publish a story in the Missouri Review. maybe 20 people would read it, 10 people would like it, and 5 people would like it enough to seek me out. But if I put it online, I can reach many more people. The old print journals start to lose a little bit of their prestige.
    • The best print journals now have really vibrant web presences now. 
    • My editor contacted me through my web site. I didn’t have an agent. it was totally backwards from the traditional expectation.
  • What successes have you stumbled on?
    • Porter:
      • Different social media places have different audiences. I do promotional stuff on twitter, I do personal stuff, slice of life stuff. I like to keep it a mix. Through it I’ve got to know several editors and people in the publishing industry. When/if I meet these people at a conference, they know who I am, and can put a face to a name.
      • Building relationships both with your readers and the people who publish and distribute your work.
      • I used to blog, but now my blog is more of a static site, and I interact more with people on Twitter
      • Last novella I told was completely because of Twitter: was following a publisher, find out about anthology, and was able to get novella published.
    • Amelia Gray: 
      • Do accept friend requests from everyone, use it to promote stuff and do my business.
    • Willis Sanders:
      • It’s such a new problem: how do I manage my twitter, social media accounts?
      • It’s very different for writers and literature, because so much of what we do is in a very old-school industry. Where else do you study material hundreds of years old.
      • Fiction writers grapple with new technologies in their own fiction. Fiction doesn’t reflect our realities: we’re on Facebook every day, yet Facebook doesn’t make it into fiction. 
  • Do publishers take that following into account? Does it have weight?
    • Gray: The marketing people are obsessed with how many hits my blog gets, what are the search terms, how many followers and friends do I have. (my day job is online marketing/search engine optimization.)
    • Porter: 
      • It’s a great way to study relationships - who does this editor friend? 
      • Too many authors are burning bridges, not realizing that editors are following them. An editor may go from one publisher to another, and you can run into them again and again. 
  • Are writers finding a way to give things away to fans online, the way bands do, and how do publishers respond to that?
    • Publisher (???) has printable books, iPhone app, storigami. They have a huge commitment to design.
    • Publishers and journals don’t like to publish what’s already been published. But there are many online journals/presences that you can be linking to from your own blog.
    • Some of the more forward looking publishers realize the genie is out of the bottle: anything you can find online. 
      • all these books were being bit torrented. so harper collins gave away books for free. which ended up driving more sales of the printed book than before.
    • I took my self-published book, which was $15 for the printed book, and did a $2.99 book on Kindle. It was slow for a while, but sales have taken off, and they’ve even driven up the sales of the printed copy.
    • My main motivation is to have as many people read my stuff as possible. I don’t care how it happens, I just want it to happen.
    • Self-published authors can be book tours and signing. If you can offer a book store an event: a mini-concert plus a reading. Found a local Beatles tribute band to tour and do book signings.
    • Did a cross country book reading tour at bars.
    • Merchandising:
      • Not a lot of writers make T-shirts and buttons, which is something that bands do, which raises money and spreads the world.
    • Of course, it comes down to the work being good.
      • No different than music.
  • Now you can be a full-time author, not being published, just publishing on your own. Will publishing go away?
    • Porter: 
      • Publishing won’t go away entirely. In the end, you still need an editor, a designer, a promoter, and a publisher is still an effective way to get that.
      • What is changing is that publishing is no longer a matter of moving paper around. It’s more about the content than before.
      • Print is still the best user interface around. Books that have great photography and great graphics, I still want in print. The throw away novel I’m going to read once, I am happy to read on my iPad.
    • Gray:
      • The big houses can still afford to pay more, they can hire the best designers, best editors, and they do great stuff. 
      • And they are hiring great experimental people too, doing innovative stuff.
  • Marketing of the book is always going to be a important.
    • Porter:
      • You have to do the marketing yourself, even if it’s a traditional publisher. You have to market the book, and you always have. Now it’s just easier to do. Once upon a time you had to get in the car and drive to every bookstore in the country. Now you can get a national or international following through online tools.
    • Willis Sanders:
      • It’s cool because now the writer has more control. Traditionally, when an indie artist gets popular, their record label starts to focus on what will sell, and the band loses artistic control. Publishing houses are similar: they choose the cover, and the author gets no say.
      • The writer gets more control over the public image of their work.
  • What have you found that hasn’t worked so well?
    • Willis Sanders:
      • Measuring your self-worth by how many twitter followers you have or how many people friend you is a danger
      • Writers are nervous, anxiety ridden people - when they approach social media it can either make them really excited or depressed or both.
    • St. Ours
      • Writers can be slow to adopt social media technology.
      • But once you give them the nudge, they can be eager to adopt.
    • Porter
      • The downside as a writer is that we can look for anything to do besides write: so you can spend all your time on social media, and have no product to promote.
  • Questions
    • Q: There are lots of tools for indie musicians to publish their work and see it rise to the top. e.g. with one site,
      • Fiction audit (fiction off?, can’t find the reference): you put a story up, and people vote on it.
      • Revolutionsf.com
      • There are individual forums and websites that do that.
    • Q: Publishers care deeply about follower count and “platform”. If I have to come with the audience and the content and the legwork, exactly what is the publisher there for?
      • A: Exactly.
      • I’d rather do it on my own terms.
    • Q: What are the terms that make you feel successful?
      • “Success and writer?” do they go together?
      • There are writers with six books and 5,000 followers, and they live in very small apartments.
      • A success is being able to write another book
      • A success is when somebody comes up to me and says thank you.
    • Q: Have you tried giving away first chapters, and then sell the rest? Using the free to sell the non-free?
      • I tried it with one novel, and it bombed. Not sure if that was the writing or the method.
      • But $2.99 is an impulse buy. 
      • Plus with the kindle, you get a free first chapter.
    • Q: Comment from the publishing side: The really great writers are good at building their communities. But you need to find readers outside those communities. You might get 5,000 books from the community, and 15,000 through the curators: NY Times Review.
    • Q: ???
      • An editor is going to read hundreds of manuscripts, and find the one golden one. Writers who are adverse to the online communities can still be successful.
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