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DFW Conference: A Panel Discussion on ePublishing, Self-Publishing and the Future

I participated on a panel at the DFW Writer’s Conference with Russell C. Connor of Dark Filament Books another self-published author, Mark Hollingsworth, a Pubit Representative and Sharene Martin-Brown of Ampichellis eBooks, a former literary agent turned publisher. This was my very first experience on a panel and could very well one of my best experiences’ at a conference ever. The topic was epublishing, self-publishing and digital publishing.

We began by introducing ourselves, our respective companies and why we chose this particular publishing path. Then we opened it up to floor for questions. It was a lively group and they had a lot of excellent questions.

While we on the panel all came from very different publishing backgrounds, we all agreed on three basic points that authors need to consider and educate themselves on before entering the world of self-publishing.

The first is that every author must have a plan. Russell was the first author to mention this and both myself and Sharene nodded vigorously. Sharene has a unique viewpoint because she helped guide many writers in the world of traditional publishing as an agent and now she is publishing them. Mark from Pubit agreed. Simply putting a book up for sale doesn’t mean it will sell.

This is something Bob has been preaching for years and is one of the reasons he started Warrior Writer. Everyone teaches us how to write, but no one teaches us how to be an author and how to manage our business. When it comes to writing, all authors are asked if they are plotter or pantser. However, does anyone ever ask you if you are a plotter or pantser when it comes to your business? Writing is a business. It’s the author’s business. There is no such thing as flying by the seat of your pants. You must have a plan if you are to succeed. Bob and I are constantly revisiting our plan and making adjustments as we learn what works and what doesn’t. The last post Bob mentioned our promotional price drop for Atlantis and Chasing The Ghost to .99 and the effect it had on sales. We didn’t just one day wake up and say, hey lets drop our prices. We discussed it… at length… for what seems like the entire time we have been in business together. It came down to whether or not we could achieve the desired result of hitting the Amazon best-seller lists, and it worked. We are currently studying buying patterns (as much as we can without going crazy) so that we can modify our business plan accordingly when the time is right to increase the “sale” price back to our retail price.

The second is cover. We have discussed this in great detail here at Write It Forward. The panel agreed it had to pop in thumbnail and had to be done professionally. Mark from Pubit mentioned size requirements before a cover could be uploaded. This is important because if you don’t have the right JPEG size, the cover won’t load, and without a cover, you won’t see the desired results when it comes to sales. Russell also brought up author branding by using the identical font and style for his name every time he publishes a book. This is something we have considered at Who Dares Wins Publishing and just today we did our first mock-ups for the Duty; Honor; Country trilogy we will be releasing on 12 April 2011 to commemorate the start of the Civil War. However, we have more authors to consider along with more genres. When we changed the covers for Bodyguard of Lies and Lost Girls we made sure they were tied closely together by using a base color along with a base font and background photograph. When our Write It Forward line comes out, you will see a base font, a base picture (or logo) but the difference will be in the color so it’s easy to tell the books apart.

Again, it wasn’t something we just decided to do. We looked closely at what we wanted to achieve with our covers and planned accordingly.

Finally, this self-publishing thing isn’t as easy it appears to be. It’s a full time job and learning all the various platforms, conversions, covers, promoting and continuing to produce more product all takes time and skill. A big issue an author faces is there no uniformity in file formats. It is argued that ePub is taking the lead, which is what Pubit and the iBookstore uses, while the mobi file is what Kindle uses. Personally, ePub is probably better, but our Kindle sales are often double what they are on other platforms.

This is why Bob and I created a team, and are currently looking into expanding that team. During the conference, I spoke to potential new authors and  PR person. Meanwhile, back on an island off the coast of Seattle Bob is working hard on the first non-fiction book for the Write It Forward line (How To Get The Most Out of a Writers’ Conference) and finishing up the final touches to his Civil War Trilogy we plan on publishing this April. Self-publishing is both time intensive and requires some overhead.

The bottom line is authors have a choice about how and where they want to publish their work. It’s not NY or bust anymore. However, the key to success as an indie author is four-fold.

  1. Content: You must write the better book.
  2. Have a career plan: Know exactly what it is you want and why.
  3. Education: Lean as much as you can about every facet of publishing. Pay close attention to what you are getting and what is required of you before making any decisions.
  4. Promotion: Without it, you wont’ sell your books, it’s just that simple.

Write It Forward.

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