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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Austin and -- Well, Just Austin

My friend Austin Comacho was of invaluable help to me in writing my own book, showing me how to manage my time which, as you know, is an entirely slippery thing. Austin is the successful author of the Hannibal Jones mystery series and the Morgan Stark action series. Some of his books are commercially published, and some are self published. I wondered why he continues self publishing, why he finds it so gratifying. His response was as interesting and upbeat as Austin himself, so I thought I'd share it with you on today's Blog. You can find all his book on his web site:   http://www.ascamacho.com/ Thank you, Austin!

The Joy (?) of Self Publishing

I am fortunate to have broader publishing experience than most authors. I’ve had novels published by Print On Demand companies, and published my own work. I am also published by a mainstream small press. People often ask me why, if I’ve managed to snag a main-stream publisher, I continue to self publish. What, they ask, could the benefits be?

Well for me the advantages are financial and emotional. When you self publish you don’t share the profits with a publisher so you can make a real profit on even a small number of books sold. Also, you own all the rights to your books and can sell them to anyone who wants to publish you in print, electronically, overseas or in audio.

Just as important to me is the total control I have. I choose the cover, the back cover copy, the interior design, the font… everything about the physical product. I like the feel of really owning my books.

Of course I face all the obstacles every author faces: getting my book noticed in the crowded field of genre fiction, getting booksellers to stock them, getting reviewed and building my name.

But I face some barriers that mainstream authors don’t. It is very hard for self-published and POD authors to get distribution, one thing that’s a given for mainstream authors. It is also much harder for us to get reviews in major papers and magazines. And we’re shut out of many of the most prestigious awards. For example, I’m not eligible for the Edgar awards, regardless of the quality of my writing, because the Mystery Writers of America don’t recognize me as a published author. Only books published by a short list of publishers qualify. My small press publisher, Echelon Press, has more than 100 authors, pays an advance and works with several distributors, but it’s not on the MWA’s list.

And no one else is trying to get my books into readers’ hands. I spend a good deal of my free time marketing my fiction. Most weekends I’m someplace signing books. That’s because I’ve learned that people want to take away a piece of the author with them when they leave and, for me, personal appearances are fun and profitable.

. I view my writing as my hobby and I don’t think I spend more time on it than a lot of other fellows spend on fishing, bowling, golf or role-playing games.

But authors often say to me, “I want to spend my time telling stories, not selling books.” Hey, me too. But I’ve spoken to a number of commercially published writers and what I learned from them has changed my view of this business. Most mystery authors are expected to “drop” a novel a year. This all makes good marketing sense. Nothing drives the sales of a first book as much as the publication of a second or third novel. Publishers give these authors a set schedule that only leaves four months for writing and another four months for the editing process.

What I find most interesting is that these writers are expected to spend the same amount of time, four months out of the year, on a circuit of book signings, conference appearances, and television/radio interviews. In other words, they are expected to spend as much time marketing their books as writing them. I looked at that model and decided that if it’s so popular among the big publishers, there must be something to it. I now spend roughly as much time on marketing as I do on writing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding. And I’ve found a lot of it to be great fun.

Most of what I’ve learned is compiles in my book “Successfully Marketing Your Fiction in the 21st Century” - http://www.amazon.com/Successfully-Marketing-Your-Novel-Century/dp/0976218186/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1290786461&sr=8-14

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, Austin. I was wondering how you handled it. Apparently too, mainstream publishers are trolling Amazon for solid-selling, self-published authors and picking them up -- an entire reverse of the process.