It's been a pleasure having author Fiona Leonard guest post this series. If you've enjoyed reading the series, be sure to show your appreciation by leaving a comment. A little birdie tells me this is not the last we'll see of her:-) You can read part 1 & 2 here and here. Find out more about Fiona on her blog and here.
African Authors and Self Publishing (Part 3): Go Where The Money Is
By Fiona Leonard
Most writers want to be Charlie when they grow up. By Charlie, I mean the boy from Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie is dirt poor, but one day he finds a winning gold ticket in a bar of chocolate. That ticket ultimately leads to him inheriting a magnificent chocolate factory and untold riches. He’s honest, hard-working and very loyal. He gets the lucky break and BAM! his world changes.
In ‘author world’ that gold ticket looks very much like a New York agent who chooses you and then, with hard work, diligence and a good heart, you are ultimately chosen to inherit the untold riches. Those gold tickets do still exist and some even lead to untold riches, but what self-publishing has done, is to change the game so you don’t have to sit around waiting to win the ticket.
Self-publishing gives authors the chance to put books straight into the domestic market without having to convince a local publisher to take a risk on their novel. This is particularly beneficial for authors in markets like Ghana where publishers have shown a preference for text books rather than fiction. With a bit of market research, authors can find outlets to allow them to target local, expat and tourist readers. And there has never been a better time to do this. In markets with limited local publishing it is easy to stand out and readers are always keen to find well-written local fiction. Pay close attention to peak market opportunities like tourist high seasons and the pre-Christmas postage rush.
For many authors, the international market has been completely unreachable. Now e-book publishing and print-on-demand, means that you can sell your works worldwide without ever having to leave home. You could write and edit your book in Nigeria, and have it on sale worldwide as an e-book within 24 hours. Selling your book through Amazon, for example, puts your work in front of a global audience, and what’s more, someone else handles the logistics like shipping and money collection!
The thing to remember though, is that you’re not the only one who has this knowledge. You are competing with thousands of other authors who are all looking to push their book in front of a paying audience. Selling your book means you not only have to go where the money is, you have to go where your money is – that is, the people who want to buy your book. Fortunately you can do all of this from the comfort of your own office chair.
Market Research and Building a Tribe
It would be nice if everyone wanted to buy your book. But in the first instance, it helps to be a bit more specific; to know what sort of people would be interested. There are all sorts of ways you can establish that, from researching other books like yours to writing a detailed reader profile – some authors even find photos or create avatars of their perfect readers! You need to establish what country or region they live in and start focusing your efforts. It comes down to asking two simple questions – who are the people who want to buy my book? And where do I find them?
In the past, marketing staff in the publishing house would have helped you put yourself in front of those readers. If you self publish you need to do that part yourself. One of the most effective ways to do that is to build a tribe of people who support and endorse your book. Initially these people will most likely be friends and family, but your tribe should expand to include people who follow you on social media – twitter, Facebook, and your blog/website. These are the people who multiply your efforts – you write a good blog and they tweet it. They buy your book and tell their friends.
The other tribe worth building is your sources of good advice. Ten years ago, African authors had to work hard to find the information they needed. Today, if you have access to the internet, you have access to the same information as authors across the globe. And there is an incredible range of information available.
As you build your tribe, construct your marketing strategy and set off in search of your readers the following are invaluable sources of information:
The golden ticket approach may seem simpler but it’s still very much of a long shot and it helps to have something to do while you’re waiting. If there’s one piece of advice I’ve received that I keep coming back to it’s this very simple question:
Q:What do you call a writer who persists?