by Will Viharo
Whether you’re digitally generating your own books or someone else’s, or both, as an indie publisher you need to be very fastidious about your professionalism, since the skeptical scrutiny regarding your products will be extra intense, and competitive.
If you’re working via CreateSpace – and chances of that are high - the first introduction most potential consumers will have to your book is its public product page.
Make that first impression count, because it will anyway…
It’s never been easier to basically start your own publishing company with a relatively modest investment budget, thanks to Amazon’s CreateSpace, which currently controls 85% of the self-publishing industry. Some would bitterly argue it aggressively and unfairly monopolizes the marketplace, but this hard fact remains. I have worked with Lulu and found it to be a frustrating experience. My experiences with Kindle were far more satisfactory, so pivoting over to CreateSpace when I decided to reissue some of my OOP (out of print) anthologies via my own imprint was a no-brainer.
Though you will need a brain, along with a computer and Internet access, to make it happen. That’s about it, though, other than the will power, patience and dedication to publish your work, or someone else’s (a major responsibility) effectively. I’m choosing to publish only own work, since I don’t want to deal with the logistics of paying royalties, etc., to other authors. Plus I don’t want to be in the position to reject anyone’s work. I’d rather just stick with what I know and love best: my own work. And no other publisher in the world is more qualified to publish my books than me.
Since as of this writing I’m still awaiting my physical proof copies of my four Thrillville Press titles, which CreateSpace suggests your order once all files have been accepted (I highly recommend this as well, since the online file viewer can be unintentionally deceptive), below is a screenshot of the product page for another one of my books, published by Gutter Books. They are a small press specializing in crime fiction, and they are a very slick organization, one reason I trust them.
I am using their product page design as I create my own, and it’s a good template for you as well. Basic, yet comprehensive:
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how it all comes together:
I’m fortunate to know a lot of great artists that provide me with outstanding cover art, as well as both exterior and interior designers that help shape my books into products that can compete with traditional publishers in the marketplace.
For extra fees, CreateSpace will help design the cover and interior of your book. I preferred to hire outside help that I know and trust. In any case, I strongly recommend springing for this extra expense. It’s a worthwhile investment in your book’s (and imprint’s) longevity and credibility.
This is where you make your pitch. Summarize the basic plot without giving away any essential details, but mostly, explain why this book should appeal to specific sensibilities, and why it stands out in an overcrowded field due to its individually compelling qualities. This page can be edited via your Amazon Author Page.
This space is reserved for glowing quotes from fellow authors, “legitimate” book reviewers (i.e with established, respected platforms/blogs), and cherry-picked accolades from previously published critical reviews. You can access it via your Amazon Author Page.
You will have to secure these in advance of launching the product page by sending out ARCs (advance reading copies) of the books. Most reviewers and blurb-friendly authors will accept MOBI files, which are basically pre-publication Kindle editions. Since I paid a freelance pro to create my MOBI files, I have them handy. They can be read on any Kindle device.
If you want to try creating a MOBI file yourself, here’s how. As someone who is technologically challenged, I opted to just farm out this labor. The interiors of my books are all formatted by the same source, too.
The aim is top-of-the-line merchandise, and this needs to be accomplished any way it takes if you want your imprint and just your own name as an author to be regarded respectfully by peers and readers alike. It’s also a matter of self-respect, which in itself is priceless.
These are the critical responses most book shoppers care the most about, since they come from fellow readers, not “professionals.”
Word of mouth remains the most effective marketing tool ever invented, since it’s generated organically and best of all, free of charge to the author.
Other than requesting reviews via your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts, the best way you can make sure readers will post positive reviews on your product page is to write a book that compels them to do so.
Otherwise, it’s simply out of your hands.
Another thing within your power is making sure reviews of an out of print title are transferred to the new product page, which can be accomplished via a simple phone call to a customer service agent.
Everyone has had their issues with Amazon, including me, but the ability to personally reach actual people to help solve your technical problems quickly and efficiently makes them the best publishing partners I’ve ever worked with. Communication makes all the difference in any relationship, and for a major global conglomerate, Amazon is amazingly accessible to its authors.
Can We Talk?
When you can get one on the horn, what you need to request is the consolidation of both the Kindle and new print editions of your title, while importing reviews of the old, out of print edition to this new page as well.
As long as the content is identical, and you retain all rights to the material, this should be accomplished easily and quickly, typically within a day or two of the request.
Keep in mind that product pages for out of print titles by other publishers remain live indefinitely, so that merchants can sell used copies of the book for any price they demand. And you won’t see a penny of it. Neither will the original publisher.
Case in point: “used” or basically unsold copies of my book The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection, Volume 1 are going for nearly $5,000! However, when my Thrillville Press reprint of the same title, with the same cover art (which I paid for, therefore own), just a different publisher’s logo, is issued soon for only a $14 cover price, that outrageous asking price for the old Double Life Press edition will drop drastically.
This will link automatically to your Amazon Author Central page, which features not just your biography but also your bibliography on Amazon. Make sure every title available via this platform is included, whether it’s a short story collection, magazine, collaboration with another author, or solely your own work.
When you publish other author’s works, you need link to author’s pages as well, and ask them to include the book issued under your imprint is listed in their bibliography as well. All contributors will be linked at the top of the page, beneath the title (you will notice this when you follow the regular prompts during the publishing process).
It’s all about networking, and the more pages you link to, the higher your public profile will be, and the greater your chances at not only getting noticed, but read.
Next: Promoting your imprint
PHOTO: WILL VIHARO (ART BY MATT BROWN)