Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Indie Authors: How to Beat the Agents to the Punch

The buzz around the indie world this week is agencies offering self-publishing services. Worries about ethics and what this means for the agency's current traditionally published clients abounds. However, one very important component of this deal isn't talked about, and that's the lower cost of doing business on a larger scale. This is what is meant by the term "economies of scale" that has been thrown around on a bunch of blogs here and there. If you're like me and slept through most of your 8:30 AM MWF Economics class, here's a good practical example....


NetGalley.com is a digital galley distribution system. Publishers pay a monthly fee, and professional readers can request galleys of the latest books to come out for their review sites. I learned about this site by reading popular book review sites when I was performing marketing research. I have a list of blogs I would like to ask to read my book and review it, and many of them have on their About page how they use NetGalley.com to get free copies of new books. 

So I began looking into NetGalley.com myself. Turns out, for publishers it's a dream. Not only is your manuscript listed for review, but the interface keeps track of who requested it, when, and where the review is. 

I became excited. I wanted to be a part of this. After all, looking at the lists of publishers, it's all the big names! If my book could be put into the pool for professional readers with the traditionally published books, it might help break down just one more wall between the two camps. So the next issue was cost.

Per an email from Susan Ruszala, Director of Marketing, there is nothing preventing a group of independent authors from signing up under one name and splitting the costs. Currently, for 2-5 books uploaded, it's $225 per month. I looked at that number and sucked in my breath.

Then I did some math. Let's pretend I made a loose co-op with three author friends in my genre. We decide to call our account "An Independent Romance" because that is the genre we all write, and I would insist we start with an "A" so we are at the top of the publisher list alphabetically. So under "An Independent Romance" professional readers can find books independently published with a romantic theme, though actual genre might be paranormal, cozy mystery, women's fiction, chick-lit, etc. 

Author A has been in the game the longest, she has 6 books out and publishes 2-3 per year. She wants 2 spots for book reviews. The rest of us are happy with one spot (and we can all change out the book to be reviewed at any time). The breakdown would be $45 a month for the three of us only wanting one spot, and $90 for the person with two books up for professional reviews. 

For one author using only one spot, that's $540 a year. NetGalley.com does require a year subscription. Now, Netgalley.com isn't just good for advertising, as in just for professional reviewers to stumble on your book. You also get a widget to put in emails or on websites and you have a strong interface to let readers read your book and review it for free. You still have to approve the requests, so that prevents just anyone from getting a free copy. It also builds a listing of reviewers, so when your second or third book comes out, you have a list of reviewers interested in your work to email blast. Maybe they don't review your second book, but I'm sure they'd like the news that an author they positively reviewed before is releasing a new book...

Here's what it comes down to: if we don't want agencies to crop up and confuse new authors by providing self-published services for 15% and fees, then we need to do a better job of working with each other. We all complain about collusion in the publishing world, how coincidentally the "boiler plates" all look the same...If we're all in this together, we will be stronger for it. 

If I can find 3-4 writing friends to create a NetGalley.com membership with me, I'd be interested in joining in September or October. $45 a month for advertising, I would only need 23 sales each month to be the result of reviews to make up the money. The exposure is harder to quantify.  

If anyone is interested in banding together to create a NetGalley.com account, let me know. I think it's a great way to start taking the mystical professional review process out of the hands of a select few and putting in the hands of authors straight to readers. I also think it will be a great value in time-saving, as the professional reviewers come to us, giving authors more time to write and edit.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.


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