Sabrina Ricci is an indie author, the blogger behind Digital Pubbing, and the co-producer of I Know Dino, a podcast for dinosaur enthusiasts. We had a chance to speak with Sabrina to pick her brain about self-publishing, as well as the indie and startup publishing industries. She also gave us some tips on how authors can effectively market their literary works.
Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to start the Digital Pubbing blog?
I created Digital Pubbing as a way to force me to write regularly. Then I started the M.S. in Publishing program at New York University and began to focus on the book publishing industry. I met some incredible people through the program and gained valuable experience working at a few publishing companies in the city. Digital Pubbing evolved into a blog about the industry, and then I started self-publishing my own books. So I decided to share everything I’ve learned and use my blog to help out other authors.
How can a self-published author go about marketing his or her book so that it will stand out from the thousands of other self-published offerings in the market?
By making connections. Word-of-mouth is important and has an amplifying effect. If you connect with people in a meaningful way and meet influencers who like your book, that can make a big difference in the success of that book.
The best thing you can do as an author can do is build an email list. That way, you can directly connect with people who have expressed an interest in your work. Then, when you release a new book or run a promotion, you can easily let people know and drive sales. You can also use your list to find beta readers who can give feedback to a work in progress. These readers are often your biggest fans, and you can make them feel special by giving them early access to your stories.
One effective way to build up your email list is to offer something free, such as a short story or a prequel. You can also make one of your ebooks perma free and inside the book have a link directing readers to your website, where they can join your email list.
If a self-published author were to say to you, “I don’t need a personal website. It would take up too much time and expense for too small a return,” how might you respond?
I’d say that having an email list is the best way to stand out from the thousands of other books in the market, and the way to build an email list is to have a website.
What marketing tactics or techniques are effective for taking an author’s social media fans or followers and converting them into actual customers?
One effective technique for converting a social media follower into an email subscriber is to run a limited time giveaway. Offer a prize and let people enter the giveaway by signing up for your email list. Create a sense of urgency, and promote your giveaway multiple times a day with images that show what benefits readers will get from taking part in the giveaway.
Name some places where self-published authors or startup publishers can search for potential new customers that they may not be aware of.
For publishers, it depends on what kind of customers they’re trying to attract. If they’re trying to attract authors, then they can go to author forums, such as Accentuate Writers Forum, or to author groups on Facebook or LinkedIn.
When startups or independent publishing houses are searching for books or authors to partner with, should they place a higher emphasis on quality material or their ability to market the material?
Quality. In my opinion, always quality. People won’t want to buy books that are terrible. Marketing is a tough job, but building a platform can be done over time. That said, startups and publishers can help authors with both.
What advantages do startup or independent publishers have over the mega-publishers? How can they exploit those advantages?
Smaller publishers are more nimble, which makes it easier to experiment. Some examples are hybrid publishing, serialization, subscription, interactivity in stories, and having author tribes. These startups can test initiatives and update as necessary.
What do you expect for the future of self-publishing and startup or independent publishers? Will they be able to capture a significant market share of their industry?
It’s hard to say. Self-publishing is definitely growing. Bowker reported that 727,125 ISBNs were applied to self-published works in 2015.
Thad McIlroy recently published a list of book publishing startups in the U.S. that have been founded since 1997. There are nearly 900 startups, 600 of which are still in business. The accompanying analysis says that “the self-publishing business now represents some $500 million in consumer spending,” with an estimate of 500,000 active indie authors in the U.S. These startups together raised $925 million, though only 15% of them received any funding (the rest were bootstrapped).
Understanding the industry and finding a niche is important. Just make sure it’s something you’re passionate about, or else you will lose motivation. I’ve been fortunate enough to find my passion through dinosaurs. My husband and I have a dinosaur podcast, and the last couple of years we’ve been self-publishing dinosaur books. It’s not a huge market, but it’s incredibly fulfilling.
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