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    • What a great conversation! Thank you all for sharing your wisdom.

      I'll contribute my humble experience as a total newbie writer.

      When it comes to publishing, it might be worth keeping your specific target audience in mind. My book is a motorbike travel story, and as such sells to a specific niche audience. Being part of a community such as the adv riders scene seems to be a major contributor to getting a book out. All the advice and connections i needed to self publish came through fellow riders/travellers. And I connect with my target audience on a near daily basis via social media.

      I think that self publishing is the way to go if you're audience and expected impact are small. For my second book (when I get around to writing it ;) )I'm aiming for a wider audience. So I'll reconsider the process. However, if you already have a name and reputation in a community that ensures a decent size exposure, with good reviews and the workings of the Amazon algorithm you probably get your book seen and marketed to a wider audience.

      I agree with riderlola, get a good editor and collect as much feedback as you can from others. In the end, I believe good books can be self published or traditionally published. The key is to reach your audience and if I interpret the above correctly that comes down to the writers efforts either way

    • Wow thanks for the compliment Chris! And thanks for sharing the info. It still amazes me how far my journey reaches!

      When it came to writing the book. For me the key was to be 100% open and honest. No sensationalism, no over the top exaggerated stories. Just plain simple truth. And to my surprise it seems to work!

      I'm in no way the expert in bike travelling or writing but I'm always happy to share any experiences and advice! Just ask :)

    • Yes, traditional publishing is still relevant. It's about the only way to ensure that your book will be available in print in bookstores around the world. While self-publishers rule in digital publishing the traditional presses still have the bookstore and library market wrapped up.

      But hybrid publishing is filling the gap. Hybrid publishing is evolving, but complicated and hard to pin down. It's necessarily a creative deal between author and publisher or service provider. Distribution is the advantage you're looking for as well as professional help with editing, design, and marketing. To help you identify a good hybrid publisher, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) has published a Hybrid Publisher Criteria doc.

      Last week I interviewed Angela Bole, CEO of the IBPA, an organization that advocates for author-publishers and independent presses. We talk a lot in the podcast about hybrid publishing. The interview will be released on the Author Friendly Podcast on Oct 2, 2018.

      How does hybrid publishing work? Let's use She Writes Press as an example. She Writes Press is a small press who publishes authors under their imprint but they also offer a subsidized hybrid deal via their SparkPress imprint. Subsidized hybrid publishing is where authors invest in their projects up front and retain a large portion of profits. SparkPress's all inclusive package costs $5900 and you retain 60% of net profits on print (which get traditional distribution) and 80% of net on ebooks.

      They use Ingram Publisher Services who, like all the big traditional-style wholesale distributors, employ sales teams—actual people—to visit book buyers and pitch them on the books in their catalog.

      You can also enjoy traditional distribution if you've done all the work yourself (and your book is professionally published) by making a hybrid deal with a small press with a catalog that fits your book.

      Still another way that self-publishers can get traditional distribution is by applying directly to a traditional style wholesale distribution company like Small Press United (SPU), a branch of Independent Publishers Group (IPG), a traditional distribution company. (In the early 2000s I distributed my self-published books with IPG, and then SPU, before self-publishing services were available.) SPU only accepts about 40% of applicants. They do, after all, have to go out and sell your book so they need to literally stand behind it, and be confident there's a market for it. They (and you) do not want to lose money with book returns.

      But the truth is that most books are bought online now and most of those are bought online on Amazon.

      Amazon's top-of-the-heap status may eventually erode due to the recent launch of the Walmart iBookstore powered by Rakuten Kobo (See IBPA Industry news for my evaluation of the partnership and a link to my interview with Kobo Writing Life Director Chrissy Munroe.) Of course it will take a while. However, with Kobo's ties to independent publishing—they have long supplied indie bookstores with digital books through their partnership with the American Booksellers Association—and library markets, they may prove to become a more interesting path for self-publishers who want to reach traditional outlets. This is going to take some time but watch out for it.

      Today, the best case scenario would be to keep your digital rights and publish your print books with a publishing house. You have to have a fair amount of negotiating power to do that. (Bring a big platform to the table.) Bella Andre, the romance writer, famously made that groundbreaking hybrid deal with Harlequin in 2012. But she is a publishing powerhouse. Still, it gave publishers permission and a model to work with.

      So yes, there's a place for both. But level the playing field. Do your market research and competitive analysis, and write a damn good book. Get it edited, designed, formatted, and proofread. Pay for an eye-popping book cover. Engage your readers, listen to them, and keep writing.

      This is not a fast process and being too quick to publish is the biggest mistake 99.9% of self-publishers make. They write it, slap a cover on it, and upload it to Amazon. And then wonder why it doesn't sell. Boo hoo. Throw some money at marketing it. Boo hoo again. Here's the reality: Marketing starts when you start writing the book. If you can't get traction with fans who read early chapters, then think twice about completing it. (Unless it's strictly a personal project, of course.)

      Traditional publishing does not publish in a hurry. They take 12-18 months to publish a book. Before they even accept it they make sure that the book is relevant and wanted (acquisitions editor).

      Then, they hover over the author to make sure it's written and edited to that market (developmental editor).

      Creating marketing buzz happens far before the book is even finished, with the author posting segments to social media and developing superfans from their bank of early readers.

      Then advance review copies (ARCs) or galleys are sent off 3 or 4 months in advance to the trade reviewers.

      An awesome cover, or two, or three, gets created and tested, maybe by the author on social media. (I've even seen covers morph even after publication. Take a look at Chris Pavone‘s The Expats for example.)

      The final "proof" copy is proofread (which is a separate process from copyediting).

      The publishing house PR team is, all this time, urging the author to keep their tribe engaged by doing all the social media things, blog tours, personal appearances, radio, television.

      The author's literary agent may have negotiated a marketing budget as part of the deal, perhaps where the PR department handles traditional media stuff with the author committing to a certain and perhaps matching budget to market herself. (Yes, literary agents rock. Get one if you want to publish traditionally.)

      All while writing the next book.

      Self-publishers need to learn to slow down and do all the things that traditional publishing does to publish successfully and keep our eyes open for hybrid deals that bring the creative and business sides of the business together in a way that benefits both parties. And if you can take advantage of the power of traditional publishing, go for it. Just don't count on it completely.

    • What an awesome, super informative post, Carla. Damn.

      write a damn good book. Get it edited, designed, formatted, and proofread. Pay for an eye-popping book cover.

      I just looked up your books and now my reading list is getting crazy. I didn't know about your podcast, but wow, so much good info for authors.

      P.S.: I ride a Ural like you do.

    • Thanks much, Chris. Riding, writing, reading. So little time. It's about time to ride the Ural down to Baja. I'm looking forward to exploring with it. It's so... durable. Here's a shot from Morocco.

    • Hi Chantal! Thrilled to see you here.

      Great observations about the audience. I wonder what was it like before the internet, when books had to reach people via...hmm... Book stores? TV interviews? That's about it, right? Nowadays, it's "all about your tribe". I wonder how authors found their tribes in the middle of the 20th century, for example.

    • Carla, I'm curious why you chose a Ural. I love mine, but I'm a little bit chicken on the freeways at speed the way it pulls when I brake, the limited power at speed. I know some people are crazy about them. I'm crazy because I like to take kids and dogs, and I love the way it looks. Dunno if I'd be crazy about taking it to Baja.

    • Haha GREAT photo!

      Well, I was the original test rider for the brand when it came into the USA under Ural America back in 1994/5. I rode (repaired) it around the USA on my tour of America's borders with the coasts, Canada, and Mexico. Test riding, and blogging (though it wasn't called blogging yet) for O'Reilly & Associates were jobs... yes, great jobs! and ended up leading me to a "female" moto-journo career for a while. Was then invited to China to do an American Borders style series of posts on a Chang Jiang (the Ural's Chinese cousin) thereby repairing a CJ across the country, and I'm still working on that book. Then an Enfield in India, Guzzi in Italy/Adriatic, etc.

      I love the BMW boxer twin engine - the original Urals were crappily manufactured but now they're better. And I love low-tech - the easy access to the valves, the air-cooled heads, the carbs (though they do fuel injection now) - because I don't want a diode or something unfixable blowing on me when I'm out in the middle of nowhere.

      I don't like riding the Ural on freeways either, and you're right, it pulls even if you have the toe-in set correctly and the limited power can be frustrating. But the ride from San Diego to my home in Mulege on the Sea of Cortez should be just fine, though there is a no-mistakes-or-you-die region in the middle near Catavinia with no shoulder and sometimes high winds that worries me a little. But I can put myself behind a local's Toy ta and just hold on. :-)

      Really I'm looking forward to keeping it there for trundling over the dirt roads from Mulege to Scorpion Bay, with camping gear and plenty of water. Exploring those side roads you see everywhere off MEX 1 all the way down. Locals are always intrigued by motorcyclists, and I think to be able to load the sidecar up with kids (and adults) would be a fun way to explore and get to know the country... I'm too isolated in my gringo neighborhood, though I love it so.

      Here's a shot from Overland Expo.

    • Thanks much. I'm actually a fan of any kind of publishing. Many authors self-publish some books and traditionally publish others, and use "hybrid" services to help them self-publish. It's a much more natural way to go about it.

      I work with several authors who have published with a house and use small books like prequels as publicity tools for those books. Their publishers embrace these efforts, as marketing usually falls squarely on the shoulders of the author. Though a great literary agent can negotiate for better marketing efforts on the part of the publisher.

      I prefer self-publishing because I can update my books and they're never backlisted. So many books fall into obscurity just because the publisher is busy with the new ones. I've made much more money with my books than I ever would have with a publishing house, even though they may have provided wider distribution.

      So it's a tradeoff. Narrow distribution (your audience) with more profit or less profit with wider distribution (the publisher's audience).

    • Editing is crucial but before hiring an editor you can use critique partners to help and also beta publish with early readers who give you feedback on your stories. Even before the critique partner step, use an electronic editing tools like ProWritingAid (my favorite) to help you identify and correct your weaknesses.

      There are a few really great tools to help you do create great stories and test them with critique partners and early readers, and I've interview the founders on my Author Friendly Podcast. (Find it on iTunes.) I recommend you listen in this order:

      1, First, for story editing [episode 15], then,

      2. BetaBooks for critique partners [episode 3], and finally,

      3. Leanpub [episode 2] for early, iterative, and serial publishing (and formatting and selling, too).

      4. Or you can crowdfund using the usual suspects or a newer book-only crowdfunding platform called PubLaunch [episode 7].

      5. Then you can distribute going direct with Amazon and Kobo [episode 11] and all the other major retailers, or use a distributor like Draft2Digital [episode 12], IngramSpark [episode 17 and 18], Smashwords [episode 6], StreetLib [episode 5], Publish Drive [episode 10]...

      I also talked a lot with Angela Bole, the CEO of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) about hybrid publishing and hybrid deals and hybrid authors, in episode 13.

    • Thanks for the link to that book. And what a great experience it must have been working with all those amazing authors.

      Story can be difficult to master, for sure, and I think a lot of adventure travel authors fail with the narrative arc of a book (me included) but are better at shorter "around the campfire" stories.

      I struggle with that so much.

      A ruthless editor is invaluable. I interviewed the founder of an AI(ish) tool called Fictionary that electronically analyzes your story. I've tried it and it is jaw-droppingly amazing. Hear my conversation with founder Kristina Stanley here.

      I am halfway through listening to Andrew Stanton's TED talk THE CLUES TO A GREAT STORY and I already know that I am going to have to listen to it a few more times.

    • It's funny, I was working for NeXT when Steve Jobs was proposing a Pixar movie to Disney, and he sent me to Pixar a couple times. I ended up with friends there who told me about how Toy Story came to be, and in the telling they say Jeff Katzenberg, head of Disney Studios and co-founder of Dreamworks, thought Toy Story was missing an essential element of story. It needed a conniving figure in Woody. Eventually he lost that debate.

    • Sorry for the late reply. Goodreads is essential. It's owned by Amazon so your Amazon reviews will filter to Goodreads. Get great reviews from your fans-street team who you have already recruited. Use BookFunnel to deliver ARCs as part of your book launch. I am creating a course on book launches soon - I just did one and I will never publish another book without a pre-order and early reviews from fans. Stay tuned!