What Indie Authors Can Learn From Other Industries

By Adonts (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adonts (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As an indie author, it can be fun (and helpful) to learn about what’s going on in other industries. Joe Wikert outlined on DBW what publishers can learn from the podcast model, by offering easy subscriptions (which could arguably be similar to subscribing to blogs or newsletters), delivering content on a regular schedule, and delivering related content to your audience. To me, this could mean working with a network of people to promote each other, the way podcast networks work to help promote multiple podcasts. Recently, I joined a joint author promo mailing list, where about 50 of us each offer a free book for a giveaway, and then we all work to promote the giveaway. The last giveaway we did resulted in a couple thousand entries, and I got a few new people to subscribe to my mailing list.

Authors can also learn from airlines, according to The Bookseller. Airline prices rise and fall depending on the day:

But what if the same seat-pricing model were to be applied to books? A model where the titles would have lower prices on Tuesdays and be more expensive on Fridays. Where the R.R.P. on the back cover becomes as dynamic as a company’s share price. Where we compete to buy books like we do in an EBay auction.

One way to apply this is to heavily discount pre-orders, and slowly raise the price the closer to publication date it gets. Then, the price could continue to fluctuate based on “interest in the author, the genre, the topic, and personalized to the reader’s own interests.”

Indie authors also have a lot in common with independent app developers. One person on Reddit shared how they made over $700k from a premium game and hit #1 in the App Store (and the New Yorker even wrote about it). According to the post, it’s very hard to do as an indie, but what’s important is to release regular updates, cross promote to other games, and ask for reviews.

Another thing authors can learn from is content marketing, which is very similar to writing books. Drift wrote about what they learned growing their website from 200 to 27,000 visitors, and they found that blogging is an investment (so content published a while back can continue to drive traffic, much like the first book in a series can continue to generate interest), quality content is important, as is the amount of effort it takes to promote that content (community sites are great that way, as well as working with influencers), and data can only tell you so much, so it’s better to focus on big picture things in the beginning and not small tweaks.

DBW also advocates content communities, and recommends that authors share research, back stories, databases, and more to allow readers to see what’s behind the scenes and feel part of a community.

Related to content marketing is omnichannel selling. BookMachine shared ten things they learned selling at a conference, including the fact that most people make purchases online and many through their smartphone, knowing their path to purchase is important (so when possible, selling direct may be a good idea), when it comes to making a sale, email is much more effective than social media, social media is helpful for customer service, and things are always changing.

Gumroad’s post, “Nathan Barry’s Lessons Learned Selling $355,759 on Gumroad,” sums up everything nicely. Basically, Nathan recommends being able to contact customers (like in newsletters), pricing based on value, using email to build relationships and launch products, and selling in packages at different values.

What other industries do you follow? Share in the comments!

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared December 2016.


10 Things I Learned About Online Courses and Publishing from Udemy LIVE 2016


This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Udemy LIVE conference, held at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. For those who may not know, I’ve had a course up on Udemy for three years, teaching DIY authors who to format ebooks and learn enough HTML and CSS to make their ebooks look professional. With so many options for making ebooks these days (like hiring someone, using Smashword’s meatgrinder, or leaving it up to Word or InDesign’s export functions and hoping everything still looks perfect), the course is geared toward a pretty specific audience. Still, it’s done pretty well and I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Udemy platform.

After a weekend of connecting with fellow instructors and meeting the Udemy folks, I’ve got an idea and an outline for a new course, about a completely different topic (dinosaurs). As a side note, if you’re interested in learning about what dinosaurs really looked like, and how we keep learning awesome new things about them (one dinosaur, Deinocheirus, was known for 50 by its giant arms, and then last year scientists discovered it actually looked like Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars, with a strange hump back, a big gut, a duck-bill, and horse-like hoofs), then please let me know and I’ll give you a discount when the course is published!

I learned a lot this weekend, and it’s interesting just how similar online courses are to ebooks. Not all of these are new concepts, but it was interesting to learn specific data about Udemy and to draw comparisons with indie publishing. Now, on to some more specific takeaways from the conference (in no particular order). Continue reading

Ebook Review: The Hybrid Author

Hybrid_Author_coverThe Hybrid Author by Dianne Sagan

A publishing industry in constant change, authors find themselves trying to make decisions about whether or not to self-publish or traditionally publish. Now you have a book that explains the Hybrid Author path. 

  • What it is. 
  • What the options are. 
  • How to decide. 

Including interviews with C. J. Lyons, J. A. Konrath, Hugh C. Howey, Marie Force, Barbara Morgenroth, Jennifer Archer, and Travis Erwin. The Hybrid Author is “a treasure house of useful suggestions and resources for any writer.” Continue reading

Penguin Becomes First Big-6 Publisher to Disrupt the Book Business Model

Pearson, the parent company of Penguin Group, acquired Author Solutions, a self-publishing platform, for $116 million. This makes Penguin the first of the big-6 publishing companies to provide full services, including editorial, marketing, and design, to self-published authors. Penguin will also be the first big publisher to start learning about customer acquisition and data analytics.  Continue reading

Visit to HarperCollins

My interactive media class was held at HarperCollins today. I don’t have the best photo of the building, but we were told to wait outside until 6:30 p.m. so as not to overwhelm security, and it was freezing. Below freezing, in fact, it was snowing, and we were waiting in a wind tunnel, longingly looking in at the cozy looking HarperCollins lobby.

Our guest speaker was Carolyn Pittis, the SVP of Global Office Services in the Digital Division at HarperCollins. “2010 is the year that things really shifted in book publishing,” she said.

Her emphasis was on data and data gathering. Book publishing has finally gone digital, and they are the last of the media to do so. But it’s tough trying to get a grasp on what all the changes mean. As Carolyn put it, “We are in an economy and an age of infinite choices.”

Fortunately, since books are the last to go digital, the industry can learn from the mistakes of others. For example, Carolyn said we learned from print media that free is a marketing model, not a business model. From TV she said we learned that people are willing to pay for content, and from film she said we learned that we should look outside of the US to grow.

The real challenge for publishers right now, is to prove to authors that they are still relevant and useful. Amazon is currently looking very attractive to those considering self-publishing, but publishers still have a much wider reach than Amazon, and are still better marketers. Still, the way publishers handle authors and how they determine their success is changing everyday. “We need new types of skills in publishing. We need innovation,” Carolyn said.

This is great for people like me who are just starting in the publishing business. As Carolyn said, “I’m very optimistic—for you.” Right now, the key is change. “Change it all! I think you should change everything. Do it quickly, because we need as much help as possible.”