In the span of less than half a decade, self publishing has been radically transformed from its humble indie origins and is now a viable first choice for professional writers. That includes consultants and professional speakers who want to grow their audience and help people along the way.
A few of the reasons for this shift are obvious: the meteoric growth of tablets and the shift to online book selling has helped nudge the ebook side of publishing into the tantalizing realm becoming impulse buys. For Amazon, Kobo and the iBookstore, it means they are plenty happy to meet demand with titles that readers want to buy—be it from independent writers or others.
But there’s another reason for this shift, and it’s one that up until now hasn’t really drawn as much attention as it deserves.
A self published book used to carry a stigma. For many readers, it was synonymous with lousy writing, half-assed packaging, typically fitted with a gaping black hole where a publishing and marketing strategy ought to be.
That’s not to denigrate the work of authors of yesteryear who chose the indie route. There were some great works out there. But far fewer were successful in finding readers repeatedly, which still remains at the core of why a writer chooses to release words into the world.
The crux of the problem was that far too often in self publishing, writing was being treated as a hobby rather than as a business.
What is increasingly clear, however, is that there are some fundamental business habits shared by professional writers who opt to self publish their work.
Today, there’s no reason why self published writers and their works can’t be viewed as peer-to-peer with those under the roof of traditional publishers.
The successful ones don’t settle for anything less. They treat their craft as a profession and approach all aspects of what they do and how they reach their audience with with a craftperson’s ethic.
Granted, that’s not much more than a platitude unless it’s accompanied by some kind of actionable plan backed by experience at doing the work. That is what Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant seeks to explain and explore in detail.
In many ways, this new title is a distillation of advice from the Self Publishing Podcast, co-hosted by the book’s authors, along with fellow writer and illustrator David Wright. It still has much of the playful, self-effacing humour that makes their weekly podcast so enjoyable (more than just being co-writers, these guys are good friends and that helps add a lot of personality to the voice of the book). But the book is also much more focussed, doing away with side-tracked conversations that at times can make the hour-long podcasts a bit frustrating to listen to in their entirety.
Write. Publish. Repeat. is a book about the work ethic you need to adopt if you want to get serious about the business of writing.
To be clear, it wastes no time on banal productivity tips on how you too can hammer out 35,000 words of copy on a weekly basis. That, to borrow an old expression, would be about as practical as dancing about architecture. Rather, its focus is on having a system you can use to take that manuscript of yours and turn it into a polished, professional product that readers want to buy. And do it again.
On that point, the book wastes no time in pointing out that self-publishing isn’t an easy route to internet riches. If anything, it’s a choice that means you’re on a hard, rocky road rather than an expressway, taking on a long list of added responsibilities that used to be a publisher’s job: editing, cover design, reader research, packaging, pricing, developing a launch strategy—doing it yourself or hiring skilled pros to help you. (Know in advance that many are not going to be able to fully emulate Truant’s unique model for obtaining quick, reliable proofreading services…you’ll just have to read the book to know what I mean).
The business of writing, publishing and repeating in the realm of self publishing requires that you take on added risk to be successful. And the only sensible way to do that without losing your mind or draining your bank account is by having a clear sense of what you are seeking to accomplish over the long term and an equally clear plan for getting the work done—not just in terms of volume, but quality wise as well.
Write. Publish. Repeat. covers all the steps involved in creating an ebook (the paper kind too)–from compiling to editing to pricing and marketing. It does so through the lens of what the authors are best known for–serialized fiction–but the advice here is just as relevant for those seeking to publish non-fiction, including business and self-help titles.
The deeper value of this book goes beyond its how-to steps of turning words into a product. It is the exercise of product polishing that requires just as much discipline as does the butt-in-thy-chair necessity of creating that work of art in the first place. And on that point, Write. Publish. Repeat. offers some of its best advice.
In the chapters “Mistakes That Writers Make (and That Publishers Usually Don’t),” “The List of Truths” and “The List of Myths,” Platt and Truant share what they have learned from first-hand experience of building a full-time occupation through self-publishing. Facts and imparted wisdom are a welcome change from what far too often happens in books of this nature, where the author simply offers a collection of musings about what they feel might be true about the subject.
This book is under-priced. Even a fraction of its considerable advice has the potential to help authors of all walks–from fiction to business writing–to build better books that find their way into the hands of readers again and again.