5 Common Indie Publishing Errors

Indie publishing is growing. Indie published titles now account for about 17% of all books sold. This is great news. Sadly, many indie authors don’t take the time to fully educate themselves on important aspects of publishing a book. Then these authors wonder why people don’t stand up and take notice of their books.

Following are five common errors that indie published authors make. I encourage you to read this list and educate yourself. Don’t make these mistakes.

1. Thinking that being self-published is a badge of honor.

Congratulations. You have self-published. Yes, it was a lot of work. It took time and dedication. However, being self-published is not a badge of honor. For years, self-published books were highly stigmatized. Most people viewed them as subpar. While self-published books have lost much of their stigma, it has not fully gone away.

If you are only marketing your book to readers, then loudly asserting that your book is self-published may not be that detrimental to your marketing efforts. But, if you are trying to obtain media coverage or reviews for your book in trade publications, then announcing that your book is self-published will ensure you do not receive coverage. Your press release or book will be thrown away. Most industry professionals still view self-published books as second-tier books. In other words, don’t announce in your press releases that your book is self-published.

2. Not purchasing your own ISBN.

Many indie authors are so happy to get their book published, that they accept the free ISBN from the publishing service they are using. This is another way to signal to the industry that you are self-published. ISBN stands for Industry Standard Book Number. Every book published receives an ISBN. This number is linked to the “publisher” of the book. If you purchase or use an ISBN from a service provider like CreateSpace, then your book is forever linked to that service.

Look professional. Get your own ISBN for your books. ISBN numbers are affordable. They can be purchased through Bowker.

Once you have an ISBN number, be sure to give the 13-digit number, not the 10-digit number when asked for your book’s ISBN number. The 13-digit is the industry standard.

3. Listing the publisher of your book as CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing.

CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. Let me state that again in case you missed it. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. They are publishing services that allow you to take a book and get it listed in Amazon’s online bookstore. Both services also allow you to purchase print copies of your book.

These services are not publishers because they do not do the tasks publishers do of editing, proofing, layout and design, and marketing. They simply allow you to sell books that you have uploaded to their service.

Books that have CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing listed as the publisher on Amazon shout self-published. As I stated earlier, while much of the stigma over self-publishing has gone away, it has not been erased. You will have greater success hooking more readers if you look traditionally published.

If you did use a CreateSpace ISBN, at least pay the small $10 fee that CreateSpace charges to list yourself or your company or ministry as the publisher on your Amazon listing and in expanded distribution.

4. Thinking that bookstores order books from Amazon.

I previously wrote a blog post on “Amazon is Not a Distributor.” I will reiterate that here. Amazon is a bookstore. Bookstores do not order books from other bookstores. Bookstores order books from distributors at a minimum of a 40 percent discount from retail price so that they can earn money off the sale of the book. If Amazon is the only place your book is for sale, bookstores will not order your book.

5. Listing the book cover designer as the illustrator.

An illustrator is someone who has provided illustrations for the interior of a book. Most adult fiction and nonfiction books do not have illustrators, while most children’s books do. However, it is standard to have an illustrator field for metadata because those books that do have illustrators need them listed. It is okay to leave this field blank if your book does not have an illustrator. Don’t list the book cover designer. I am amazed at how many authors who nominate books for the Christian Indie Awards list their cover designer as the illustrator.

I know there are more than five common mistakes that indie authors make. I have just chosen these five to list. If you have a mistake that you have seen indie authors make and want to share it, please do in the comments section.

Related Posts:
Amazon is Not a Distributor
I Don’t Know Anything About Publishing
How to Become an Indie Author

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Are You Stuck? Here’s the Antidote!

Stymied. Stuck. Stalled. Stopped.

Ever feel this way? Maybe you have run out of steam or ideas. Or maybe you are just discouraged. Or maybe you just aren’t sure what the next best course of action is.

You are not alone.

In John 21, the disciples know that Jesus is alive after his crucifixion. They have seen him twice. Yet, they are not sure what they should do. Jesus has not given them any specific instructions and they are no longer “traveling” with him.

Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” The other disciples tell him, “We’re coming with you.”

They all don’t know what to do next. Peter has an idea. It sounds good. They know how to fish. It’s comfortable. So fishing they go.

Then Jesus shows up. He gives Peter instructions. Jesus tells Peter to “feed my sheep.”

The same can be true for you.

Are you unsure of what to do next? Wondering which marketing endeavor you should undertake? Unsure of which book you should write or publish next?

Here is an old poem that addresses this issue. It is titled “Do the Next Thing”  and Elisabeth Elliot re-popularized years ago.

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

Today, just do the next thing that is before you. Trust that God will show up. He will either tell you to do something else or confirm what you are doing.

By the way, today, April 26, is Poem in My Pocket Day!

Related Posts:
Poetry: A Difficult Genre to Sell
Do You Have a Poem in Your Pocket?
What’s Holding You Back?

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I Don’t Know Anything About Publishing

“I don’t know anything about publishing.” The gentleman standing before me started with this sentence. Then he went on to state, “…but I published a book on CreateSpace.” He reached into his brief bag and brought out a book. Next, he asked, “What can Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) do for me?”

I explained that one of the things CSPA does is help authors like him learn about publishing. That we have on-demand seminars that teach indie authors how to publish an industry-standard book and we offer a Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book as a resource for our members.

“What would you suggest I change on my book?” The author asked next. I gently pointed out the following to him.

  1. His book title needs to be able to be easily read from six to 10 feet away and also in a small thumbnail sketch. I noted that I had difficulty reading his book title two to three feet away due to the fancy font he used and that I definitely could not read it six feet away.
  2. I suggested that his interior was not laid out to industry standards. His margins ran too close to the edges and his font-size and layout made the book look like it was for a middle-grade reader, not an adult.

The author insisted that he did not want to change the font he chose for his title—that he liked it. He stated that he liked the interior layout because he had envisioned such a layout for a larger landscape book (however, this book was a traditional smaller portrait paperback). He kept insisting that he liked what he had done.

I suggested that if he had just published the book for himself and his family, that liking what he had chosen was perfectly acceptable and sufficient. However, if he wanted to sell this book beyond his small circle, as he had indicated to me, then he needed to make the book industry standard.

I explained to him that readers know what a book is “supposed” to look like. When a book does not look like what they expect, they will often pass it up. In publishing, looking different or out of place does not sell books. What sells books is compelling covers and prose.

Next, the author asked me what I would do to help get more attention for his book on Amazon. I suggested the following.

  1. Make sure that his Amazon author page was complete. To have a good author photo, a bio, and links to his websites on his Amazon author page.
  2. Use great keywords to help people discover his book. I explained that his book was an Advent devotional, yet he did not use Advent anywhere in the title or subtitle. As a result, he is missing out on people searching for Advent books. I pointed out to this gentleman that this was the type of information CSPA regularly provides to our members in our monthly newsletter.

The author told me that he did not want to change his title or subtitle, that he liked it. I told him that he did not have to take any of my suggestions. I reminded him that he had asked my advice after telling me he did not know anything about publishing.

Advice is just that—advice. I give it. You don’t have to take it. It’s your book, your life, your goals and dreams. But, let me offer one last piece of advice.

If you want to sell books, you can’t be too tied to your first idea. Let your idea germinate and grow. Let others water it and help nurture it to maturity so that your end product is something that is beautiful and excellent and actively fulfills the purpose for which God birthed it in your heart.

Related Posts:
Is Your Book Cover Too Cluttered?
First Impressions Matter
Sales Text that Sells

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Overcoming Roadblocks to Marketing

The numbers vary, but they are usually small. The average nonfiction book sells around 250 copies per year and around 2,000 copies over its lifetime. The vast majority of indie published books sell far fewer than 200 copies over their lifetime with one large self-publishing house sales averaging 41 copies per title published.

Why the poor sales? I believe there are three main reasons:

1. A glut of books.
No other industry introduces as many new products every year as the book industry. Each year in the United States alone over 750,000 new titles are introduced.

2. Poor quality.
Sadly, many indie published books are inferior in quality—either in writing or design. This hurts sales.

3. Lack of marketing.
Many indie and self-published authors are focused on getting their book to print. Marketing is an afterthought and an activity that many authors despise and don’t understand.

For those indie authors serious about marketing, a number of roadblocks make success difficult. Following are the two biggest obstacles that indie authors face in marketing a book.

1. Scarcity of funds.

Few indie authors have deep pockets. Many sink most of their available money into creating their book through paying for editing and cover design. Few funds then remain to put into marketing.

Enter creative marketing. It is possible to substitute time for dollars in creating a good marketing campaign. There are many no- to low-cost strategies for marketing a book. I outline many in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Following are two strategies to get you started:

  • Get influencers to talk about your book. Find bloggers to review your book, interview you or host a guest post by you. Seek out interview opportunities on podcasts and internet radio shows that speak to your target audience.
  • Build an email list by offering quality material in exchange for people’s email addresses. An email list is a great marketing tool. It offers a great way to garner sales by offering coupons, discounts, and specials to your subscribers.

2. Stretched too thin.

While you can substitute time for money in creating an effective marketing plan, most indie and self-published authors simply don’t have much time because they are already stretched too thin. Most already have full-time jobs and families, not to mention church responsibilities. In addition, as an indie author, all the tasks involved in bringing a book to production and marketing fall on you. Most authors simply don’t have much time to invest in marketing.

Enter time management. Just as you must decide to dedicate time to writing to be able to actually pen a book, you must also dedicate time to marketing to effectively promote your book. Either set aside a specified amount of time each day that you are going to dedicate to marketing tasks or determine to do a certain number of marketing tasks each day. Unless you make it a priority, it won’t happen.

Every author faces roadblocks. Your challenge is not to let these obstacles detour you, but to rise above and persevere. Then you will continually move toward your goal of selling your books.

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Are You Thinking Like an Entrepreneur?
Are You Running with This?
Five Tips for Staying Focused

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Conferences Are Worth It!

Why invest time and money to attend a writers conference when you can just watch a webinar online? After all, many online webinars are free, or at least cheaper than the cost to attend a conference.

I believe that there is great value in attending live events. Here are three reasons why attending a writers conferences provides greater benefit than reading a book, watching a webinar, or engaging on a forum.

1. The Live Experience

There’s nothing like being in the same room with other authors. Being with others of the same ilk in a room learning together heightens your senses. Learning in a live setting with others deepens the experience and makes it more meaningful.

2. Interaction with Experts

Writers conferences give you a great chance to not only learn from experts, but to interact with them one-on-one. Many conferences allow attendees to sign up for one-on-one consultations with the instructors so that you can glean from their expertise in the area that you need the most direction. Writers conferences truly give you the best return on your dollar in terms of training and consultation from experts. In addition, the passion and energy conference presenters exhibit are catching.

3. Networking

Due to the nature of writing, being an author can be isolating. Writers conferences are a great place to meet other authors. The networking opportunities are limitless. You can find others writing in the same genre who will be willing to support you, write you an endorsement or a review, or collaborate with you on a joint marketing venture. In addition, you will be amazed at what you learn just from talking with other authors.

In a nutshell, writers conferences offer you information, encouragement and support for your journey. I guarantee that if you attend a writers conference you will come away with a renewed vision and passion for your work—like this Christian writers conference attendee:

“I want to begin by thanking you for teaching such a wonderful and enlightening class at the Christian Writer’s Conference. I was blessed immensely with all that you shared, and it was an answer to prayer. I had intended to attend another continuing session when the Lord prompted me to attend yours instead. I’m so glad He did! It was precisely what I was praying for and needing. I can honestly say that because of your class, I was able to return home with everything I had wished to glean.” ~Erin

Writers conferences are not just for aspiring authors. Many Christian writers conferences often have more attendees that are already published authors than those who are not. After all, you can always learn new skills and strategies to improve your craft.

If you live in or near the Carolinas, I invite you to join me at the Carolina Christian Writers Conference in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on March 9th and 10th. I will be teaching two workshops. You can learn more about the conference at https://www.fbs.org/christian-writers-conference-2018.

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Four Truths Every Author Should Know
What Are You Learning?
5 New Years Resolutions for Every Author

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