I read an article this week that is getting a lot of play in the writers' groups I belong to. I'd like to discuss some of the points. First of all, the article is here (http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/smashwords-ceo-mark-coker-indie-authors-need-to-become-great-publishers/). It's by Mark Coker, who is the force behind Smashwords. Smashwords is the online ebook publisher most authors turn to first when they're self-publishing. If you follow the detailed formatting guide, it's not too difficult to make yourself an ebook from your manuscript. The processor takes your Word file as input and produces multiple files in formats, such as mobi for Kindle, epub for most other ereaders, pdf, html, etc.
So, that's who Mark Coker is and what his product is. I was amazed to learn that Smashwords is only 4 years old! He comes from a public relations background, so knows how to sell his product. Not that the author pays anything up front. One thing I'll commend him for, okay, one among many, is his refusal to go public. He's afraid a stockholder or venture capitalist might want to charge writers for using Smashwords. Of course, they take a cut of the published book, but much less of a cut than a traditional publisher takes.
Here's the nugget that's getting discussed. He says, " The biggest challenge faced by self-published authors, it’s not marketing, it’s not discoverability, it’s adopting the best practices of the very best publishers. It’s about becoming a professional publisher."
What does he mean by that? What IS a professional publisher?
He also says, "I imagine a book is an object and attached to the object you have dials and levers and things you can tweak and turn and twist, things that can increase the availability, discoverability, accessibility, enjoyability to readers."
His first dial is price. How do you know when you've hit the right price, though? Set it too high and it won't sell, for obvious reasons. Set it too low and you devalue your product. Or do you?
The second is the cover. It should give the browsing potential reader an idea of what's inside. Mary Ann has mentioned this several times. A misleading cover can indicate the wrong genre and will disappoint the readers who buy expecting a different type of story.
The book description sounds obvious. It's hard, though, to distill your year (or more) of labor into a few sentences. You gotta do it though.
What else can the indie writer do to increase chances of success and to make books visible? I guess if anyone knew that, he or she would be outselling all of us. And probably wouldn't share the secrets here. I'm happy, but not ecstatic with my sales, so would love to hear ideas!