Are you a marketing tortoise or hare?

blue-growth-chartWhen my book, The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg, launched, I worked to promote it and get it into bookstores. It felt like an uphill battle at times. There’s a lot more bookstores than there are me and my co-author.

This leads me to an observation that I’ve found as an independent author. The difference between independent authors and traditionally published authors is like the story of the tortoise and the hare.

Traditionally published authors are looking for their books to take off with a quick start. They have to have strong sales right from the start in order to keep their book in stores and in print. Independent publishers certainly would love to have strong sales up front, but tend to see steady sales that stretch out over a much longer life for the book.

I’ve seen that with many of my titles. They may be 5 or 10 years old, but they still sell well.

I think this is because while I can’t put an army of sales reps and publicity people selling my book hard for a couple months before they move onto their next project, I can continually work on promoting my older titles along with my newer ones. The efforts build on themselves, expanding the books exposure and sales.

The key to promotion is to keep at it. Do something every day to market your book. It adds up in the end.

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How do you compare the two?

thSo it’s tax season, which sucks. I work on my taxes a bit at a time because I have to gather tons of documentation to do them. When I look at my final business income, I often wonder could I make more at a steady job instead of as an indie author.

The problem is that it’s hard to compare apples to apples.

As an indie author, I have the pay the business side of FICA taxes as well as the individual side. I don’t have an employer who matches my 401(k) donations, pays sick time, or picks up most of my insurance premium. I also regularly work more than 40 hours a week, which reduces what I make on an hourly basis.

On the other side, I don’t have to pay unemployment taxes. I also get to take deductions for my car, phone, internet, and home office that I wouldn’t get to take as a regular employee. Then, there’s the fact that I don’t have a commute, which saves me hours each week that adds to my hourly rate.

I’ve never been able to try and make an accurate comparison without taking more time than it’s worth. I haven’t even been able to make a ballpark comparison between the two that I have thought was worthwhile.

One thing that was nice was that I am responsible for what I make. When most regular employees were seeing little to no pay raises a few years ago, I was making double-digit increases in my income.

In the end, I have come down on the side that I love being an indie author, and with that, I have to take the bad with the good.

Still, if anyone has a worthwhile way to compare indie income with employee income, I’d love to hear it.

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Learning from Dean Koontz’s mistakes

dean koontzI was reading my copy of the seasonal newsletter that Dean Koontz sends out to fans via snail mail. It’s called Useless News. It usually lets me know what new books Koontz has coming out.

This issue, however, had two articles in it that reinforced one of the benefits of being an independent publisher. Essentially, there are fewer people who can screw you over.

In the first instance, Koontz wrote about getting the rights back to his first novel, which was half an “Ace Double” back in 1968. Ace Doubles were paperbacks that had two novels in one. The usual advance for half of a double was $1,250. The editor apparently told the young Koontz that since his novel was shorter than usual, he could only pay him $1,000 because he would have to pay the other author to be included in the double $1,500 to write a longer novel.

When the book came out, Koontz didn’t notice any difference in the sizes of the two books. He actually even met the other author years later and that author told Koontz that the editor had told him the same story about his book.

So the authors had been shorted 25 percent of their royalty and the publisher had saved $500 by taking advantage of the authors.

The other story he told was in an article called “Threats in the Arts and The Art of Threats.” Early in Koontz’s career, he had an agent who threatened to sue him when Koontz wanted to fire him. He said that the contract he had with Koontz wouldn’t allow him to be fire (which turned out to be unenforceable in court). The agent also spread lies about Koontz, which he only found out about because one of the editors who was told the lies told Koontz.

When I read these articles, I was struck by the fact that as many headaches as I have sometimes as an indie author, at least I haven’t run into these problems.

I don’t consider myself a control freak, but I do like having control over my books. After all, who is going to love a book more than its author? I want to make sure it’s how I envision the final product. I’m willing to take the advice of other experts on different aspects, but in the end, the final say is mine.

As for Koontz’s experiences, I’m sorry he had to go through what he did, but I’m glad he didn’t let those experiences derail his career. He’s one of my favorite authors.