Today, I have Tiffany Colter with me. She’s the owner of Writer Career Coach and Writer Career Coach Press. I’ve asked her to share her wisdom on self-publishing. Although this is a longer post, I encourage you to read it to the end. I’m glad I did!
Thanks for being here, Tiffany!
I am really happy to see the conversation we’re having on this topic. In the last 10 years since I started my professional writing career I’ve seen some very radical changes take place. I’ve seen us go from paper queries to emailed submissions. I’ve seen blogs explode as a form of advertising and publishing houses get websites that are more than just billboards on the information super highway.
I’ve also seen the rise of the ebook.
When I was an apprentice in Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild from around August 2002 to 2005 I was under the apprenticeship of Douglas Hirt. He was an INCREDIBLE mentor and I was so blessed to work with him. I remember him telling me that he had done an electronic book during that time. I thought it was a pretty odd concept. Remember, this was before texting and kindles.
Well, with the changes in publishing have come new opportunities for writers. I have been, and still am, an agented fiction writer [award winning as well] pursuing royalty publication for FICTION.
…what has changed for me in the last 18 months is I’ve also opened a subsidy press to publish some of the books that I write or edit for people who run ministries, non-profits, personal memoirs, speakers and other people for whom the royalty route isn’t practical.
Have I been successful!! You bet! As of the evening that I’m writing this one of Writing Career Coach Press’ books, “The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out.” Is a semi-finalist in the Humor Category for Goodreads.com best of 2011. We are up against books by SNL star Tina Fey, icon Betty White…well, 19 other crazyily famous people by major publishing houses…and then our book.
And that is what has changed. There are great new opportunities to distinguish yourself when you self publish.
Unfortunately, there are also amazing opportunities to fall flat on your face and make a total fool of yourself. What has been true in royalty publishing remains true today. No matter how your book gets out there the key to success is EXCELLENT writing [that has been edited at LEAST twice—once by a content editor and once by a proofreader], an incredible cover [Zakr Studio does our covers and they do an amazing job!] and the willingness to market yourself. Jen has a publicist, she has me and my staff, she has herself, she has her friends. We work at it.
This year Writing Career Coach Press released about seven books so far, with more books in the works. I wanted to share with you a few lessons I learned from the ideas that did well, the mistakes I made, and why it is I am a Royalty Author running a Subsidy Press.
- QUIT RUSHING!!! One reason there is such a stigma against self-published books is that people are trying to take a shortcut to success. I understand. I’ve done the same thing before. I rushed something to press because I needed it for an event I was doing…and it was awful. I was embarrassed by it. I pulled it from my line. There is an old saying, “If you cannot afford to do it right the first time how will you have time to redo it?” Well, that is the essence of self-publishing. If you rush out junk you’ll be defined by that junk. Take the time to do it right!
- Know your market. If you are self-publishing [or royalty publishing for that matter] you need to know who your market is and how to reach them!! The key to connecting to them is serving!! I did a 12 minute conference call on this November 15th. Here is the free mp3 link: http://tinyurl.com/brucg8o [you do not have to register to hear it. This goes straight to the audio]. You need to find the people who need the answer you have and serve them. Answer questions, meet needs and people will want to work with you. [If I spent this whole post telling you how awesome I am and why you should work with me, how would you feel? If you don’t like it, why would your target market?]
- Know when you should self-publish and when royalty publishing may be a better option. Even though I own a self-publishing house I don’t release my own fiction through my press. I know that in order to reach my target market going the traditional route will serve me better. Likewise, I know that trying to sell my workbooks and business development materials through a traditional publisher would be silly. My profit margin would be too low and it would take too long to get it done.
- Solve problems to get paid! People are paid based on the problem they solve. How much are you willing to pay the ER doctor who makes the pain of your compound fracture go away? How much are you willing to pay a tax preparer to keep the IRS happy? And how much are you willing to pay for a fast food burger? All of these people are using the same hour, but your perceived value is based on the problem they solve for you. What problem are you solving for your target market? Is their need intense enough to purchase your book? Do they believe strongly enough that you’ll meet that need? How can you convince them?
- I have learned I cannot be perfect—and that is okay. See, it is really hard for me to say that. I really want to be the best…no…not the best…perfect at everything I do. I don’t allow myself off days or to get sick. I have no time for the extra phone call or the misplaced comma. I’m too much of a perfectionist and too critical. It has only been in the last 8 weeks that I’ve had to accept I cannot be everything to everyone. This is double hard when you are self-publishing and you may feel like you have to “prove” something to overcome the stigma of “The Vanity Press”. When you self-publish, recognize your own limitations, do your best and—when possible—hire people who are strong where you are weak in order to fill in those gaps.
- AUTHOR BEWARE!!! I started my publishing house because I saw how much people were paying to get their book published [cover, ISBN, Barcode, Distribution] and I was FLOORED!! $3,000-$4,000 or more and they were still left trying to figure out how to market the garage of books they now owned. I found a way to publish the books for $600 and then partnered with other companies who could provide book trailers and demo spots for $595. I found people who could help with promotion for a low hourly fee. I met people like Mark Russak who is a professional voice talent and I started to build a list of people I trust. Now when someone comes to me asking about services that are outside the scope of what I do, I have someone I trust I can refer them to. If you’re going to self-publish work to build these kinds of trust networks. Don’t be tempted to sign over your rights to a publisher who will “Partner” with you for a huge chunk of your profits. I charge $1 over the cost of my printer. That is it. I am not sharing this to promote Writing Career Coach Press. I’m sharing it to say there ARE other business models that don’t require a second mortgage on your home. If you’re self-publishing it is because you believe in what you’re doing and you want to earn money doing it. If you’re going to go through the effort to write the book, go through the effort to publish it affordably and keep your Intellectual property rights.
- Finally everyone panics sometimes. I’ve done ghosting, developmental edits and content edits on DOZENS of books for people who publish with me, with royalty houses, or not at all. One thing EVERY writer has in common—that moment where you are gripped with the fear, “Will ANYONE want to read this or is it junk!!” It is the phase right before you publish. It happens to all of us. It is okay. Your book is great. Get the edits. Get the feedback. Put in the effort. Release it to the world.
I realize this is a VERY long post, but I want you guys to do well. There are so many opportunities to grow in your writing. My road to success has been a bumpy one. If you’d like to see what I said in October about Failure go here:
Who is Tiffany Colter? Tiffany Colter is an award winning writer whose credits include Charisma Magazine, Toledo Business Journal, regular columns for Afictionado E-zine and the Suspense Magazine where she writes the “Ask your Writing Career Coach” column.
For Tiffany, writing is about a relationship. It is more than stories. More than communication. It is even more than a way to make a living. Writing is about connecting with people and understanding them where they are. As a business owner, making this connection is imperative to the success of your company. Words evoke feelings. They engage your senses. They change you.
She earned her BA in Political Science from the University of Toledo’s Honor’s College in 1998. She earned a Summa cum Laude distinction and was inducted in numerous honor societies, including Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key.
She is the owner of The Writing Career Coach and Writing Career Coach Press. Tiffany teaches and speaks on connecting with your target market through written communication at live events and through online workshops.
Whether you are a business owner trying to communicate your message, a teacher or speaker who wants to transform their spoken words in to book form, or an aspiring novelist who is just learning to navigate the ocean of publication. Tiffany and her team work together to understand where you are and where you’re going.
What is Writing Career Coach?
Writing Career Coach was created to be a place where writers could learn about businesses and businesses could learn about writing. It has grown to encompass individuals who work at all stages of the writing and marketing process.
In August 2010, we officially launched Writing Career Coach Press, to help our clients have a high-quality, affordable option for their book length publishing needs. We specialize in collaborative writing and creating workbooks to go along side clients’ projects and workshops.