The key to being a successful self-published author

According to last year’s author earnings report, self-published authors were responsible for one-third of all ebook sales on Amazon. That’s quite an achievement for a group that used to be treated with disdain. Self-publishing in the past was derided as ‘vanity’ publishing.

Today, self-published authors are regarded highly more as proactive, entrepreneurial and tenacious as they bravely tackle the wide world of publishing that for so long has been something of a closed shop. Technology has changed that, together with online book-selling. It’s now an easy process to publish and distribute your own book (particularly if you are just after ebook distribution).

At Major Street we have helped many self-published business authors publish their books. From our experience we have come up with a few things that will help make your self-published book a success:

  1. Define your target market right from the outset – Even before you start writing your book it is important to work out who will read it. Pitch your content to those readers. Also pitch your pre-publication marketing (cover blurb, advanced information and social media posts, etc.) to that demographic.
  2. Edit your book professionally – This doesn’t mean that you get your mum (who is an ex English teacher) or your partner (former class spelling bee champion) to give it a read over. If you employ the services of only one professional, make it an editor. There is nothing that puts a reader off more than a badly organised, badly written book full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Particularly if your book showcases your business and puts you forward as an expert, the quality of your writing will be perceived as reflecting the quality of your other business services or products. Make sure that quality is high!
  3. Be prepared to do your own marketing – I often say to authors that writing the book is the easy part, the hard part is when it’s published and you need to sell it. Your enthusiasm for your book should be unbridled and ongoing. At every opportunity you must tell people about your book and promote it in any way possible. No-one can promote your book as well as you can. You know every word and why it was written.
  4. Don’t expect your book to make your rich – Unless your book becomes a global best-seller it will not generate significant income for you to give up your day job. In fact, if revenue from your book covers your costs then you are doing well. What your book will do is get your work out there. Most business book authors who we work with are experts in other fields – such as property investment or self-managed superannuation – they hope that their books will bring them new clients rather than a royalty income.

With self-publishing, as with anything, just because something is possible it doesn’t mean that you should do it – not on your own at least. Ask most self-published authors and they will wish they had got more professional help and/or they valued the professional help they did receive.

Major Street Publishing is here to help. We recently worked with Katie Marshall on her self-published book Chicks and Mortar.

Chicks and Mortar

Chicks and Mortar

Here’s what Katie said:

‘Writing and publishing a book was daunting. There was so much involved in the process and so many details to know. Even though I had design experience, I chose to work with a publisher to help guide me through the process and make sure my book was laid out perfectly. It was the best decision.”

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Bigger’s not necessarily better when it comes to book publishing

I’ve worked for small publishing companies, a mid-sized publisher and a global publisher and value the experience I have gained from each environment. It was wonderful to have the might and power of a multi-national publishing house behind you – particularly when you were commissioning new books and authors and wanted to impress! It was refreshing to share the creativity of the mid-sized publisher. Now that I’m back in small business, running Major Street Publishing, I appreciate the advantages that a small publisher can offer.

How the small, independent US publishers are doing it

A link to a Publishers Weekly article about how some US independent publishers achieve and measure success appeared in my inbox recently. The piece provided an excellent insight into the reasons for their success. Successful independent publishers:

  • Were able to embrace new business models, such as increasing direct-to-consumer sales and offering subscription services
  • Focused back on long-format titles
  • Relaunched their websites
  • Increased direct marketing
  • Restructured into small ‘publishing genre’ teams which allowed fast response to trends in the marketplace
  • ‘Partnered’ with entrepreneurial authors
  • Adopted a hybrid self-publishing model.

 Advantages of working with a small publisher

Happily, I can say that those reasons for success apply here as well. As a successful independent publisher in Australia, I would say that the working with a small, independent publisher provides authors and clients some distinct advantages over the larger, more cumbersome alternatives:

The ability to be nimble

keep-it-simple-superWhen I worked with larger publishing houses, we planned our new releases 12 months in advance. There were sound reasons for this (allocation of budget and publishing resources, etc.) but it meant we were not exactly ‘nimble’. As the US research noted, one way to succeed is to respond quickly to publishing trends. If you wait until a new current book fits into your schedule, you could be beaten to market by a competitor. One such trend that Major Street caught quickly was the need for information on self managed super funds. Two of our books: How to Invest in property through your Self Managed Super Fund and Keep it Super Simple are an example of this nimble publishing.

Decisions can be made instantly

In small businesses you can usually get an answer to a question or request instantly. There is no chain of command to work your way up, no office politics. If the idea is a good one, then it can get the go-ahead almost immediately.

You choose who you work with

A Major Street Publishing, we are business book publishers and many of our authors are entrepreneurs (another point raised in the US research). Working with energetic, successful entrepreneurs instils vitality into your business. We get to choose our authors and clients and love those we work with. From an author/client perspective, they get to meet everyone they work with in our small team, they have direct contact with them and generally a strong working relationship results.

Mixed publishing model

Finally, as a small publisher we get to mix it up a bit. We publish full length printed books, eBooks, even audio books. We help and advise self-published authors. We also continue to work with many of our authors (who run their own businesses) on further written communications such as blogs and articles and newsletters. We even write scripts for one of our authors with her own TV show. There’s more information about Major Street publishing services on our website

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You learn something new every day!

I recently read an interesting article in the Sunday magazine about that iconic British actor, Dame Judi Dench. I couldn’t believe that she is 80 years old! She seems so fit and well and on-the-ball when you see her on television interviews. She revealed in the article that she made a point of learning something new every day. This could be the meaning of a word new to her or an obscure fact or statistic. What a wonderful idea! It seems to be working for Dame Judi.

In the good old days
This got me thinking about the access we have to knowledge and how it has changed over the past thirty years or so. We used to learn from books, encyclopaedia and dictionaries, newspapers, journals and magazines. To watch a visual documentary at school, for example, they used to wheel a big television in front of the class. Who remembers that?

TV

How times have changed
Today we still have all of the above but we have the option to view them online or in hard copy. We have wonderful search engines to help us find the information we are looking for, in seconds, and we have bigger (but thinner televisions)!

Books plus
As a publisher whose career has been predominantly in book publishing, I have had to adapt over the past five years, since I started Major Street Publishing. There are still plenty of people out there interested in the topics we specialise in – business, personal investment, property investing and leadership – and many of them still prefer to purchase and learn new things in these areas from a book.

Sometimes a complicated superannuation strategy, such as investing in property through a self managed super fund, lends itself to a long format discussion, completed with examples, that a book can cover.

Investing in Property Throuhg SMSF

Investing in Property Through Your Self Managed Super Fund

We now also produce an ebook version of all our publications for those who like the information delivered digitally to their Kindle, iPad or other e-reading device. We work with some of our authors on an audio version of their book for those learners who prefer to access information audibly.

We also publish for the time-poor, producing excerpts of books as downloadable, mini-ebooks. We have authors and clients who want to share their expertise via a blog or a regular newsletter, and of course everyone communicates through social media these days too.

With so many different formats and delivery channels for information, there’s no excuse to ever stop learning, and to continue to learn something new every day. We’d love it of course if you find your new daily learnings from one of our books or communications. Just visit http://www.majorstreet.com.au

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How long does it take to publish my book?

Now with a picture 🙂

News from the Street

How long does it take to publish my book?

How to Achieve Property Success by Margaret LomasProperty Success

At Major Street Publishing we work with many authors and clients on different publishing projects. One of the most common questions we are asked is: ‘How long does it take?’ This question is really the proverbial ‘How long is a piece of string?’

There are many variables in publishing and they all contribute to the length of time it takes to complete a publishing project. These variables apply to most publishing projects: a full-length book, shorter-format ebook, newsletter or blog.

  1. Length of the work. We measure the ‘length’ of the project in terms of word count. A 200 page, standard paperback book comprises usually around 40,000 words. An ebook is generally 3,000 to 5,000 words and most newsletters are this length too.
  1. Standard of the writing. We understand that our clients and authors are busy and we offer editorial services…

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How long does it take to publish my book?

How long does it take to publish my book?

How to Achieve Property Success by Margaret Lomas Property Success

At Major Street Publishing we work with many authors and clients on different publishing projects. One of the most common questions we are asked is: ‘How long does it take?’ This question is really the proverbial ‘How long is a piece of string?’

There are many variables in publishing and they all contribute to the length of time it takes to complete a publishing project. These variables apply to most publishing projects: a full-length book, shorter-format ebook, newsletter or blog.

  1. Length of the work. We measure the ‘length’ of the project in terms of word count. A 200 page, standard paperback book comprises usually around 40,000 words. An ebook is generally 3,000 to 5,000 words and most newsletters are this length too.
  1. Standard of the writing. We understand that our clients and authors are busy and we offer editorial services so there’s no need for them to submit word-perfect manuscripts or drafts. It’s our job to fix up the spelling mistakes and structure and ensure it is readable and consistent. However, the closer the original submission is to ‘perfection’ the quicker it will be processed and the shorter the timeframe of your project.
  1. Level of changes: At Major Street, we are your publishing partners. We work with you to produce the book you want. This means we are inclusive in the decision-making and value your input. One thing that can add considerable time to a project is the level of changes the author or client makes. For example, if we have edited your book and you decide to re-write huge chunks of it after it has been edited, we may have to almost completely re-edit. Using tracking does save time as we can see what changes you have made. But it is a far smoother process if what we start work on at the beginning of the project is what you are happy with.

 

  1. Vision for the book. This is really an extension of the point above. When we start work on your book, promotional ebook or newsletter, we talk to you about the look and feel of the book. The cover is an important part of this discussion. While it is nice to have a blank canvas to work on (i.e. the author suggests the publisher comes up with the design) this only works if the author shares your taste and vision. This situation can result in the author rejecting one or more designs or concepts and this adds time and expense to the project. It is usually better if the publisher and author discuss what the author wants and the publisher agrees will ‘work’ and a firm brief can be given to the designer.
  1. Final format: If you are printing hard copy, then you need to factor the print time into your schedule. We usually allow two to three weeks to print but it depends on who you decide to print with and how busy they are. If your book is hard cover or full colour then it will probably be printed off shore which means adding six weeks to your schedule. If your book or newsletter is in a digital format only, then you cut these print times out of your schedule.

There is no rule of thumb for how long it takes to publish a book, but most of our paperback books take six to eight weeks from receipt of manuscript to finished book. Books such as Margaret Lomas’s How to Achieve Property Success, take a little longer as it is almost 500 pages long.  Full colour books take longer as they print off shore and the images need to be sourced too. So Sell Your Property Fast for More by Katrina Maes took three months.

I hope this information assists prospective authors with their publishing schedules. Contact us on info@majorstreet.com.au to discuss further.

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How I, how they, how we, how-to — The nature of non fiction

As a publisher and avid reader of non-fiction books, I often ponder at the different styles of writing approaches. There are broadly five styles of business non-fiction:

How I (the autobiography)

If the non-fiction writer uses the first person (‘I’) the book is regarded as an autobiography. The success of a business autobiography usually depends on the success of the writer. Richard Branson’s best-sellers Losing My Virginity, Screw Let’s Do It, Lessons in Life reflect the success of his entrepreneurial business achievements.

Good ‘How I’ books are entertaining and informative but sometimes inaccurately perceived as ‘true’. In fact, autobiographies rely on the writer’s memory and perspectives and are often not substantiated by research or other people’s recollections. You know what they say, “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

How they #1 (the biography)

Other star-quality businesspeople – think Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs – did not have the time or inclination to write their stories, but this didn’t stop them being written about. Very often their life stories are recorded through interviews with the subjects and their friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Their business achievements and the keys to their success are also recorded. ‘How they’ biographies can be very inspirational, educational and motivational. The best-sellers in this genre are first and foremost a good read about a genuinely interesting person!

How we (allegorical or parable)

Allegorical non-fiction or business parables are books that tell a story from which the reader takes a message (or messages). For example, they read about a fictional business or financial situation but the way “we” resolved the challenges in the story are full of lessons for the reader.

This approach can be the most popular, but in my opinion the most difficult to get right. For every “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” or “Who Moved my Cheese” there have been hundreds of parable-style business and motivational books that have sold only handfuls of copies.

Those that do fly straight to the top of the best-sellers list are often very simple and easy-to-read but their simplicity hides a genius very difficult to replicate. Of course, a huge marketing budget will always help too.

How-to

Last, but not least, are the much-maligned ‘how-tos’. How-to books are often derided (“those who can do and those who can’t write about it”). However, in my opinion this is unfair. A well-written and structured how-to book can be an invaluable guide to a new subject for the reader. Many Major Street books are how-tos, written by experts on the subjects (who can do and can write). They are written in plain English and often cover quite challenging subjects, for example, managing your own superannuation, building a profitable property portfolio or understanding depreciation. Very often these books are ‘primers’ – they are no replacement for professional advice, but readers can seek professional help or coaching with a better understanding of the subject.

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The MONA Effect

Who’s been to MONA?

Over the Christmas break, my husband and I took the car across to Tasmania on the ferry. We were spending a week exploring the east coast. The weather was beautiful and the scenery magical. What’s not to like about sunny Tasmania? Even the food was delicious, everywhere we ate.

The highlight of our trip was our visit to Hobart. We had been before six years ago. I knew it was precisely six years earlier, as we went there on our honeymoon back then, at the same time of the year.

There’s an infectious buzz in Hobart between Christmas and New Year. The ocean-racing yachts sail in to finish the annual gruelling Sydney to Hobart (congratulations Wild Oats XI for the seventh time) and the tired, tanned, barefoot boaties are milling around clutching stubbies of beer (and it’s only 10am). Then the TASTE festival is in full swing, with stalls selling the bountiful fresh produce from around the island.

But we weren’t in Hobart for the yachts or the tasting, we were on our way to MONA.

For those of you who don’t know, MONA is the Museum of Old and New Art. It is a privately-owned museum/gallery, funded and founded by David Walsh – art collector and gambler, the latter pastime having funded the former passion.

What’s remarkable about MONA is that almost everyone does know about MONA. A trip to Tasmania is no longer complete without visiting the place and the reactions from visitors range from “stunning” to “a load of crap” and everything in between. The point of this blog is not to go into too much detail about MONA. You can Google it or read the book (a beautiful hard back production) or better still visit it yourself.

What I really wanted to comment on was what an achievement it is to build and open a new Museum in a time of global austerity, on the outskirts of a remote city, and within a very short time, everyone seems to know about it. To have the vision and passion to see through such a huge, creative project really struck me. The book written about the Museum is fascinating as it reveals the thinking behind many of the decisions and initial aims and objectives of MONA and how it has been marketed to achieve such awareness.

Working in publishing – a creative but challenging industry – my visit to MONA actually inspired me (not to start painting or sculpting a modern masterpiece!) but to continue to look at different ways of doing things. To find more innovative ways of marketing Major Street books and authors and of producing and designing our books and other publications. It has motivated me to return to work this year with renewed energy and new ideas. Holidays do that for you, sure, but I like to think that I’ve started 2015 with new confidence and creativity and that that is in some way due to my visit to MONA.

Thoughts?

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