Tag Archives: publishing

Launching your book: Could you benefit from a beta audience?

In the past I have talked about beta readers as a way to test my book. Today I came across an article about an author who is publishing his book to a beta audience of 1,000 people before he even makes his work available to the public. While this size sample audience is likely too large for most self-published authors, it does raise an interesting idea.

By releasing a book to a smaller audience, there is an opportunity to build a buzz and a collection of ready-reviews before your book is available for purchase. Admittedly, I am more likely to buy a book with at least some reviews (even mediocre) than one with none at all. Likewise, it provides more opportunity for refinement as readers provide input before the book hits Amazon.

Now, I know many authors question the validity of seeking so many different opinions, but perhaps this method of a larger beta audience (be it 1,000 or 100 or 10) provides the opportunity for a consensus to form. While the opinion of one may not be extremely useful, the overlapped opinions of many start to hold more value, particularly if the audience is picked intentionally. In the article, the author seeks readers in his academic community, not just any old volunteer.

I am curious of your thoughts– do you see advantages to a larger beta audience? Is there some secret to successful marketing in this approach?

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Changing the Way We See Self-Publishing

This morning my perspective on self-publishing shifted. I had always seen it as a second phase, either the space you reach when you cannot find an agent (at no fault of your own, of course…) or the choice you make when you’re already established and want to regain control over your profits. Sure, I had read all kinds of success stories, but I had also scrolled through the sea of titles, lost in the myriad of choices, uncertain of the quality and dissuaded by the prospect of reading on an electronic screen.

However, this morning as I sat over tea at my favorite French bistro with my uncle and my husband, I was swayed a different direction. Suddenly, self-publishing was the indie choice I loved all along without ever realizing it, akin to making an independent movie instead of waiting for a big studio with its formulaic tastes to discover your project. I adore many independent movies. I don’t know why I never made this connection before.

In fact, this past weekend, I saw an indie flick at Tower Theater in Sac, the kind of place you sit and revel at moviemaking’s past, the crown molding and neon sign making up for the struggling air conditioning and sagging seats. We watched Frances Ha, a movie which at first makes you wonder if you’re witnessing a slow theatrical train wreck but eventually blossoms into a genuinely funny and touching film. Indie movies may have their flaws, but they also bring you into worlds more refreshing than those where everyone has a shiny new car and drinks Coca-Cola with the label pointed outward.

I see my book as kind of the same deal. It may lack some of the sheen of a blockbuster, but there is enough beneath the surface to make it worthwhile, especially if you stick around until the end. Likewise, I recently read my uncle’s first novel, a book which marries Dan Brown’s ability to create suspense with Pillars of the Earth’s timeless heroes and villains. It is exactly the kind of thing I would expect to see on the bestseller’s shelf at the local bookstore, yet he has not been picked up by an agent. Proof the old system is imperfect, overlooking true gems in the ocean of submissions.

So, as I left our little book meeting, I could see my novel self-published with an indie charm, no less meaningful without the mark of a major publisher on its spine. I’ve always been an acquired taste, as my father likes to say. It only makes sense I would find a quirky world for my words to thrive, an audience who appreciates this sort of thing, the kind of people who go to sit in Tower Theater instead of always opting for the comfort of the megaplex. The gatekeepers may bemoan the changes in the publishing world all they like, but it is about time the indie book market follows in the footsteps of its movie-making big sister.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is also learning to experiment with e-readers. So far, the borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is learning to enjoy e-readers. So far, this borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

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Dream Big or Go Home

Every fall, the organization I work for holds a region-wide professional development day. With roots in Silicon Valley and tech start-ups, my charter school group is forward thinking, technology-driven, and business minded. Last year’s theme was the importance of reframing failure as a welcomed opportunity for improvement.

This year, the theme was BHAGs, Big Hairy Audacious Goals. The idea, you have to dream bigger than you can imagine in order to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. You have to think decades, not just years. Then, you have to create an actionable plan to bring these goals to fruition. The more seemingly outlandish, the better.

While I applaud my charter organization for having BHAGs, I decided I needed to also have my own big hairy audacious goals. Usually, I think just one year at a time, maybe five at the most, stretching for what is within reach. Instead, this evening, I pushed myself to imagine the kind of over-the-top success I usually only let linger in my brain for a few minutes before settling on smaller, more seemingly attainable goals.

So, here you go. My BHAGs.

1. Be an internationally published author with readers around the world. I am currently living vicariously through Eowyn Ivey, author of the Snow Child, on her trip around the world to market her book and visit her foreign publishers. To achieve this BHAG, I need to write, write, write, and write some more.

2. At first I wanted to have a blog following of 1,000, but that seemed minuscule in the shadow of a big hairy audacious goal. Instead, I want to establish a following of 10,000. Why not? The more readers of my blog, the more potential readers of my books, and the more likely I can sustain myself as a writer. 10,000 definitely feels big and hairy. Again, I need to write, write, write, and put myself out there.

3. Live or have a vacation property overlooking the ocean. It’s easy to say you want wealth or any number of things that come with it, but I think specificity is important to achieving goals. I want to wake up to the ocean, write with the sound of the waves, do yoga on the beach until I’m a little old lady who can’t do yoga anymore, (aka dead). Again, sounds like I need to write, write, write, because teaching certainly isn’t going to buy that dream.

To write by the sea is the life for me.

My dream.

As writers, I think we’re often discouraged from dreaming big because most of us will never get there. However, as long as your happiness doesn’t depend solely on whether or not you achieve your goals, I disagree with all the disillusioned souls who say it’s too hard, too unlikely. As long as someone out there is doing it, it’s possible. Might as well be me, or you, or better yet, both of us.

Reminds me of my beloved Marianne Williamson quote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So shine on and be free with me.

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Why E-Publishing Calls My Name

Let’s be honest.  We all prefer traditional publishing.  You know, a real, hard copy of our books available in bookstores nationwide, worldwide even.  Just the idea of holding my book in my hands, tangible, validated by some credentialed person who does not know me, gives me that funny, excited feeling in my stomach, butterflies. However, I keep getting the same little message presented to me by the universe.

If I can’t get an agent, at least e-publish and put it out there.

A coworker friend is married to a writer who just finished a non-fiction book.  They live in a local university community and are friends with people that are both published and publishers.  Instead of querying agents, her husband plans to simply e-publish and hope he can build an audience before approaching or being approached by the necessary people.  His strategy is not unusual.  I read about authors almost daily that e-published, found readers, then published traditionally.

Then, of course, there are all the agent blogs that criticize e-publishing.  A few try to suggest it’s a viable option for some, but the undertone is always condescending, like it is still some kind of vanity press.  My friend pointed out that of course they feel this way, e-publishing diminishes the value of an agent.  Numbers speak to publishers for themselves.  This recent Forbes article sums up the indie publishing debate quite nicely.

Still, I would be thrilled to have an agent fighting for my book.  I’m planning to query the little list of agents I assembled in the spring, thirty some-odd people that represent successful works similar to mine.  But, when I reach the end of that list, rejection rite of passage likely complete, I will be left with the choice to e-publish and put it out there, so perhaps, some people who like it will find it in the sea of other novice, e-published authors.

If you have e-published, how did you decide to price your work?  What platform(s) did you choose?  With what success?  I’m inclined to charge just a dollar or give it away for free, because really, my goal is not so much to make money, but rather to begin the foundation for a lifelong career.  Other books will follow.  I know this is a debated topic, so I am curious to hear your thoughts.

Of course, the goal is this, but maybe in the beginning, it’s better to start somewhere than nowhere at all? (And, yes, this is a recycled pic from my leftover pile of summer reading I wish I had time for!)

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How do you really feel about your writing?

I’m halfway through rereading my book.  I’m moving slowly because life has taken back over. Teaching, family, friends, my smelly dog.  While the pace is frustrating, I’m trying to relax and just accept that it will all happen with time.  This is my first book.  The hurry is self-created.

R-E-L-A-X.

A couple questions keep resurfacing, that I am very curious to know how others feel.  The first, do you ever really love your writing?  I want honest answers.  It won’t sound arrogant to me to hear yes, or self-depricating to hear no, I’m just curious because I bounce all over the place, even within the same piece.  While I love to write, I’m not sure I love what I write.

Some days I think it’s good, others I recognize I still have room to grow.  Probably, it is some mixture of both good and need for growth, I get that.  I just wonder whether writers commonly like their own work or continue to be critical of it even after they finish.  Other than reading for flow and mistakes, I’m done with this book.  I want to move on, I feel like I will do better with a fresh story.

To be clear, I’m by no means saying my story is bad or that I’m giving up on it, I just don’t know if it’s unusual to feel so mixed about my writing.  I’m proud I did it, I think it’s readable, I like the plot, I just know I’ll also get better as I go.  I’ve decided that if I can’t get an agent/publisher, which I know is highly possible, I want to e-publish just to share it, to put it out there, to help me grow.

So, here are my questions for writers:

How have you felt about your writing when you’ve finished?  Confident, unsure, both?

What e-publishing communities have you enjoyed the most?  I spent some time on smashwords and amazon today.  Not sure what’s the best option, although as usual, I’m a couple steps ahead of myself because I still need to finish and at least submit it to some agents for the ritualistic rite of passage.

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