Independent Rocket Science

The July Issue

Now that Independence Day is past, let us concentrate on “Independent Days” for the rest of the year. Yes, indie authors and publishers CAN compete with the big royalty publishing houses, and you CAN achieve success if you spend the time and money to do it right. It may not be rocket science, but here’s some plain-spoken advice from a real rocket scientist, Darren Beyer, in a recent blog post at Digital Book News, “3 Keys to Self-Publishing from a Space Shuttle Engineer.”

“The journey to writing and launching that first book is one of the most challenging things anyone can do in their professional career,” begins Beyer. “It’s no wonder that as many as 80 percent of the books that hit the market fail to sell even 100 copies.” He then lists and describes the 3 Keys: Publish a Quality Book, Covers Sell Books, and Marketing, Marketing, Marketing. Here are some excerpts:

“The developmental editor I engaged for my book, Casimir Bridge, ripped my original manuscript to shreds, forcing me into a year-long, cover-to-cover rewrite. While it was an extreme exercise to undertake, it took my novel from, as she put it, ‘an amateur manuscript to a professional quality draft.’ It was the best thing I could have done for my book.”

“They say not to judge a book by its cover, but most people in fact do. Spend the time and money on a very strong cover, it will be well worth the cost.”

“The world is littered with failed products, not because they are poorly conceived, but rather because they weren’t marketed effectively. This is especially true of books. Don’t be afraid to spend on marketing, even if initially what it costs to market is more than you get from sales. Most products that hit the market lose money until they generate enough awareness that organic sales push them into profitability.”

Here’s a case in point: SWING, a novel by self-published author Philip Beard, won our IPPY Gold medal for Contemporary Fiction in May, and then got a print review in Sports Illustrated in June. Beard adds his own “keys to success” to the three listed above:

“Honestly, persistence is the first, second and third key when it comes to self-published fiction. This first national review comes more than two years after I published the ebook version of SWING, and more than a year after I rolled out the paperback. I never say no to an appearance, no matter how small. Publicity-wise, I started local and moved (slowly) outward from there. I was lucky enough to have built some local media relationships with my first two, traditionally published books, so that gave me a head start. The top contests are well worth the entry fees, too. Even though I have a friend who is a Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated, he couldn’t get his editor there to look at SWING until I’d won the IPPY Gold Medal for Best Contemporary Fiction. When you can say you’ve won something that Dave Eggers has won, people pay attention.”


Jim Barnes, Editor and Awards Director