Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Indie Book Collective: A Great Resource for both eAuthors and eReaders

This is my new post, which is also cross-posted in the Huffingtonpost Books Section.

The publishing industry is at a crossroads. It’s trying to figure out what it means to do business in the Digital Age, which has transformed the landscape of its business in ways no one could have imagined. Since late January, e-books have been outselling the purchases of hardcovers and paperbacks. And self-published e-book authors, once repeatedly shunned by traditional publishing houses, are finding ways to produce bonafide bestsellers and make a phenomenal living.

Author and humorist Rachel Thompson has found great success with e-books, and, has helped establish some great ways to assist others in the international community of authors. She co-founded the Indie Book Collective with fellow authors Amber Scott and Carolyn McCray as a way to help independent writers tap into the power of social media to promote their work. So far, the results, and buzz, have been tremendous.

Their Blog Tour de Force – a 12 stop tour with 12 authors and 12 e-books was a great success, and BestSeller for a Day was created combine their social media resources for ONE author on ONE day, driving that author's book sales into the Kindle Top 100. In between their workshops and radio shows, and a recent appearance at the annual South by South West, Thompson sat down with me for a talk about technology, her firm, and the future of publishing.

Author Rachel Thompson. Photo
Courtesy of the Indie Book Collective

e-Books now outsell hardcovers. This is an amazing development. Why do you believe much of the industry has been slow to embrace the new technology?

Like any large, well-established industry, the publishing industry is used to doing things a certain way. There is a certain amount of inertia due to decade's long practices being challenged. Many large houses are struggling to simply format their eBooks properly for the variety of eReaders. If the bosses don't know or understand the changes taking place it is very difficult for their company to truly move ahead quickly. Smaller, more adaptable publishing houses and indie authors are able to respond much more quickly and embrace new technology to its fullest.

I am sure that in five years New York will catch up, however, right now the advantage goes to the indies which is why so many of them are so high up in the Amazon charts. They are able to harness social media and use it to keep up the sales pressure up in lieu of large ad campaigns. That’s also why promotions such as the Indie Book Collective’s Bestseller For A Day - one author, one book, one day for ninety-nine cents to propel it onto the Amazon Kindle Top 100, which has 85% of the eBook market - is such a great tool for indie authors. With a minimum of study and prep, and the support and use of social media, we have had amazing success for what is truly minimal outlay compared to what a large publishing would have to spend.

That's awesome.

Thanks. During our last bestseller promotion on February 28th, Carolyn McCray’s book, 30 Pieces of Silver, reached #183 out of the millions of eBooks on the Amazon chart that day, and #1 on the Men’s Adventure list—ahead of Clive Cussler! Truly an achievement for an indie author. It’s a matter of education. Many people don’t realize they don’t need an actual e-reader in their hands to read eBooks! If you have a smartphone or computer, you can download a free eBook application-- no Kindle - or any other kind of reader - required. The apps are all FREE and downloadable to your iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or laptop. It’s s-o-o easy, much less expensive, and of course, greener, than buying a hardcover or even paperback. Many eBooks are even free.

I notice your book is priced at $2.99. Talk a little about the issue of affordability, and its impact on sales.

Price point is one of the most significant factors in online sales. As an indie author, whether traditionally published or self-published, you have no name recognition so reader trust is low. If you were to come in as an indie at $9.99, very few new readers would risk that much cash on an unknown author. At the IBC we normally recommend authors to choose $2.99 to start with since it is the lowest price available to still receive 70% royalties at Amazon (and many other retailers). However, we urge authors to monitor their sales and adjust their price based on interest, promotions, and even the day of the week when deciding on their price point.

This is again the beauty of being indie. You can be extremely sensitive to the market and be very flexible in your marketing approach. The promotions the IBC offers to indie authors like Bestseller For A Day and even our Blog Tour De Force go miles in establishing credibility for indie authors by helping authors get the reviews they desperately need, increasing interaction on their Twitter stream and blog, and most important, getting people to buy our books. Our free monthly workshops and boot camps discuss many of these tips and tricks to help authors learn that pricing your book is but one part of your platform. You are your best promotion.

What was the motivation behind your book?

I’d been writing since age ten and my blog for a few years. After quitting my full-time job and having a second child, however, my inner snark kicked in after eighteen years of marriage and I wondered “Hmmm. Why do men want to change the world but not a toilet paper roll?” Men are confused. Is there a special girl code? Was there an Advanced Placement class in high school they should have taken in order to understand women better? Yeah, probably (Laughs). Why do women set their watches differently than men? Why do we speak in shoes?

So I wrote my first Mancode post, Men are from Seinfeld, Women are from Friends, last year in 2010 and the response was astounding. I had clearly hit a nerve. I continued writing my thoughts deconstructing the goofy stuff guys do and how we gals try to figure it out. You know, the Stupid Pants Syndrome, the Grocery Shopping is a Foreign Country Where They Only Speak Wolf (Laughs). And as my blog and Twitter audience grew, I was hit by an awful personal experience-- the suicide of an old boyfriend with whom I’d recently reconnected on Facebook. Writing became not only my outlet but also my salvation.

I poured all my emotion into the essays: Mancode, Chickspeak, and the death of someone I thought at one point I would marry. It’s ALL in my book A Walk In The Snark. I’m thrilled by the response I have received in reviews - 5/5 stars across the board - from both men and women who have read it and are recommending it to their friends, coworkers, family, even their neighbor’s cats are reading it at this point.

Additionally, as a cofounder of The Indie Book Collective, here I am teaching writers how to use social media to promote their work – whether they are bloggers, traditionally published authors OR indie published – and we’re doing all these great, exciting promotions for published authors like the previously mentioned Blog Tour de Force and Bestseller For A day – and I could not participate! So that was it. I worked closely with a professional editor to make sure my book was of good quality and with Carolyn McCray (my IBC cofounder and mentor) and we released the book in late January. I’m so happy and excited to now have it published and available! And I don’t get happy and excited so that’s saying something.

What's next for you guys?

Our next Bestseller promotion will be co-founder Amber Scott, who was a traditionally published author and switched over to the dark side (Laughs) on March 14th with her historical paranormal romance Irish Moon. I’m up next on April 4th with my book. We include incentives for our readers so be sure to check the Bestseller For A Day site and learn how to get involved in this amazing promotion. Support indie authors and learn how you yourself can jump into the pool!

To learn more about Rachel Thompson and the exciting projects and authors connected with The Indie Book Collective, connect with them through their website.

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