"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: October 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Building Your Author Following

Now, you might think that building an author following is something you do after you have a book to promote. 

However, most successful modern authors will tell you that building a fan base after you’ve written your book is, in many cases, far too late in the process.

Mainly because, if you don't have what's called an Author Platform, you have no-one to promote your books to and consequently no-one to buy them. 

This is one of the reasons traditional publishers are loathe to sign new authors - because selling an unknown name is much harder than selling books to people who are familiar with an author's work.

It's about name recognition. 

If a publisher knows that an author's name is familiar within a genre, they believe their marketing expenses will not be entirely wasted - because people generally buy books from names they already know. 

The same is true for movies. Hollywood doesn’t make films based on bestselling books because they necessarily contain better stories. No, they make these films because they’re banking on the name and title recognition based on the book’s bestseller status. 

Similarly, celebrity names sell books, film and music. Not because the products are better than anything produced by artists who are anonymous, but because the public is drawn to celebrity status first and product quality second.

Name recognition is crucial to any and all success in the entertainment industry. Without it, your work is often dead in the water. 

The first book you sell will often be the hardest. But, because of the name recognition phenomenon, once you get over the first book hurdle, your commercial viability strengthens with each successive product.

Building an Author Platform helps enormously when you're selling your very first novel, nonfiction book or any other written project. For two reasons: 

1.      People trust writers who are seen to be writing, rather than just marketing their work.

2.      Your first flush of sales, no matter how small, will be enough to cause a ripple within the book publishing world.

As I mentioned last week, an author’s chances of becoming visible to the general public is greatly enhanced by self-publishing, especially on Amazon Kindle. 

But first you need to get a few things straight in your mind.

The biggest mistake you can make as a author is to think short term. There is no sure-fire way to go from nothing to selling a lot of books in a very short time period. 

Selling books - indeed, writing books in order to become a successful author - requires a commitment to the long term, say two to five years, if not longer. 

And that’s just to make it – as in creating a solid enough platform from which you may build a writing career.

Of course it is possible to create a storm first time out - if you do enough preparatory work. 

But much will depend on luck, word-of-mouth and the quality of your book.

Plus, there will usually be a ‘big idea’ within the premise of the book that will catch the mood of the public, if your timing is right – and you have sufficient capital to spend on promotion. 

You can do that - and make several thousand dollars in a very short space of time. But the preparatory work for this kind of venture can be months in the planning and execution. Lots more work than the average writer has the requisite patience for.

Plus, aggressive marketing is often very expensive. 

Having been online for over a decade - and spoken privately with lots of guru types who go for the quick kill, I can confirm that the majority of figures bandied by these people are misleading at best - and downright lies and data manipulation at worst.

It's easy to forget that reports of seemingly large sales volume, for instance, often ignore the phenomenal cost of advertising and admin that results in those sales. 99% of profit may be swallowed up by marketing costs. And, as any businessman will tell you, 1% is not a great return on investment. 

No, as an author, you don't want to go down the get-rich-quick road - because, basically, it's often an illusion.

If you want to be successful as an author long term, you need to start building your Author Platform as soon as possible. Yes, even before you’ve released your first book.

Over the coming weeks – in this free newsletter - I’ll be giving hints and tips on how best to do that for little or no cost.

Before we start, I want you to know there's an important caveat to everything that follows:

Whatever you do, whatever decisions you make, be yourself. 

Don't ever feel you have to do things because I – or some other blogger - told you to. And don’t do things because it's what everyone else seems to be doing.

As an author, it's important to maintain your integrity at all times - and that you only do what feels right for you. 

Maintaining your integrity pays creative dividends over time, and will definitely help keep your sanity intact on the road ahead.

Till next week.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NaNoWriMo and the Merits of Self-Publishing

Dear Fellow Writer,


National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is fast approaching.

From November the first, you will be able to join the thousands of other writers who will try to create a novel in just 30 days.

Your preparation for this grand event should start now. Don't leave it to the last minute!

My book, The Easy Way to Write a Novel That Sells, contains a detailed section on taking up the NaNoWriMo challenge. Click on the cover for more info.

Keep writing!


The Merits of Self-Publishing

Cash Flow for Writers

When I conducted an online survey in 2003, the vast majority of writers (around 80%) wanted information on how to get published by a traditional publisher: the majors, or The Big Five, as they're sometimes called.

In my most recent survey (2013) only one in five expressed a similar interest - roughly 20%.

To me, this is a great sign. 

At last authors are beginning to understand that their futures are not necessarily connected to some nebulous idea of 'getting a publishing deal' - as if this was in any way a guarantee of success. Ever.

The dream of such an event - which has always been statistically slim - is beginning to be seen for what it is: a nice fantasy but hardly a sure thing. 

This change in perspective suggests that far more writers are now grounded in reality, which means they are aspiring to do the viable and sensible thing, which is, at least at first, to publish themselves. 

Many writers are resistant to change. They like the idea of books on shelves. But the problem with books on shelves these days is that's where they tend to stay, as many traditionally published authors discover. 

If you aspire to be published by a traditional publisher, then your first step toward that goal would be well served by publishing yourself first. Because, ironically, it's self-publishing that will increase your chances of getting a traditional publishing deal exponentially, mainly because the Big Five legacy publishers regularly look to online book successes to fill their floundering catalogs. 

Don't be fooled by the old mindset that publishers take care of all the hard work like marketing and distribution and that they can essentially create demand for your writing when there was none. That's not actually how it works. 

The reality is that books sell on their own, based on quality and word of mouth. And, because of this phenomenon, you have just as much chance of a book becoming a bestseller on Amazon as you have with a traditional publisher. Actually much more chance, because Amazon often provides greater visibility to a new author.

The Internet has exposed quite a few myths about legacy publishing in recent years. 

For example, we now know that the majority of published authors - actually 98% - have never been successful enough to leave their day jobs. This fact used to be a well-kept secret because publishers (who rely on submissions from desperate writers) need authors to believe otherwise. 

Now that we can publish ourselves, we too can now experience what the 98% of writers have known all along: that creating a real world bestseller is like winning the lottery. But the simple fact is, getting an Amazon bestseller is much more straightforward and hugely better paid than being a slave to a legacy publisher will ever be. 

So, right now, this is the basic choice you have: 

Aspire to become an overworked and underpaid slave to a traditional publisher (with a day job as backup) with a faint hope of winning the publishing lottery…

OR self publish through Amazon and collect some royalties. The main advantage of this second approach is that you still own your writing even when you’re getting paid for your work.

Let's get down to basics - by which we mean the money, of course. 

Consider this: 

Recent statistics show that the average number of books sold by a new author is less than two hundred. Yes, 200. This figure is true for mainstream authors and online authors alike. 

Now, if you're with a traditional publisher, two hundred sales may represent about $500 in royalties after tax - which would probably not arrive until around eighteen months subsequent to signing your coveted publishing deal. 

Hardly enough to retire on.

The above $500 figure is based on the average 10% royalties for a $30 book. 

You'll get less if you have an agent who takes his or her fee out of your royalties - usually about 15% - which would take your royalties down to around $425. 

That’s $425, for perhaps one or two year's work, or at least three months work if you write, edit, and format for publication quickly – something, incidentally, that is not a strategy legacy publishers encourage, mainly because they can’t keep up with that volume of output from an author.

Now, if you sold those same two hundred books on Amazon Kindle, for the same price, you'd receive around $4200 in royalties - and receive that amount in a month or two. 

Plus, there's no agent fee to lose.

The reality, however, is that you'll probably sell your own Kindle book for around $3 - but you'll still get 70% royalties and will likely sell a lot more than 200 copies over time, especially if you keep writing and put out more books. There's no better motivation, after all, than receiving income for your efforts.

If you self-publish, you own your book. You are free to keep selling it yourself or you can submit it to publishers as well. 

But, why would want to lose the rights to your book when you're already making money on it? 

Why would you exchange your immediate success for a promise of a few hundred bucks much later on down the track, if a traditional publisher picked up your book? 

Can you now see why bona fide authors - as in those people who want to be professional writers - have increasingly little real need for traditional publishers anymore? 

And that aspiring to getting a publishing deal, basically for vanity's sake, seems almost silly when the most effective way to become a successful paid author, these days, is to write and sell your own books.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell



Monday, October 13, 2014

My New Book Designs

They say branding is all these days.

Authors need a 'look' that helps their readers know when they've come across a particular writer's work.

In the spirit of this advice - which you hear all the time these days - I decided to have all my fiction covers redesigned. You can see the result below.

I'm pleased with the look - it's kinda dark, thriller-like and obviously makes the books appear connected.

I hope you like them too.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
Purge by Rob Parnell
Willow by Rob Parnell
Kindred by Rob Parnell
Nine Tales from Rob Parnell

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!