Today’s interview is with Sean Platt, co-author of Write, Publish, Repeat. Sean is a novelist, co-host of the of The Self-Publishing Podcast, and together with his partners Johnny Truant and David Wright published nearly two million words last year.
Your book is Write, Publish Repeat. One of the ideas behind your book is that one book isn’t going to cut it. If you want to make it as an indie author you have to keep writing and publishing. The example you give is Hugh Howie. Wool made him look like an overnight success, but in truth, he kept putting out one book after another until one finally took off. Is that really the secret to writing success, putting out more books, and waiting to be discovered?
Sean: I don’t think it’s the answer to writing success, no. But I think it is an answer. And not that simply put. You can’t wait to be discovered. You have to connect with your reader’s one at a time, and do smart things to get them on your team, helping to tell others about your work.
One of the things you talk about is you only need 1000 true fans to be successful. Just what is a true fan, and where do you find them?
Sean: A true fan is someone who will buy all of your books, and tell friends about your work. She doesn't need to read a product description before she buys because everything she’s ever read has been great.
Another concept you discuss is your product funnel – developing an introductory product, and then the next step. Can you discuss how authors should develop their product funnel? Is it developing a series, and giving the first book away for free? Or is there more to it than that?
Sean: That’s the skeleton for sure. How you dress, it is completely up to you — how you want to communicate with your readers, and how you want to divide your work. You may like long, elaborate novels, with a definite beginning, middle, and end, with few places to go. Looking for intersections in that story to elaborate on might be more of a challenge. But it’s your work. Look for the areas that can be expanded upon, and use them to lead people to your larger project.
One of the things you mention is every book should contain at least one call to action at the end – to buy another book, visit your blog or website, or leave a review. How do you make sure readers actually act on your CTA?
Sean: You can’t make sure, but you can make sure that you have strong, effective CTAs that do a really great job of telling your reader what to do and why. Specificity is important. Writers are often too timid here. Readers deserve to know what to do if you expect them to do it.
You say, “Your best strategy is to build fans, and you’ll do that a few readers at a time. Your second book will sell better than your first, and your third will sell better than your second.” I know from experience that’s true, but isn’t there a way to build your fan base quicker?
Sean: Interact with people as much as possible. That can be difficult if you’re juggling a lot at work, and can only write on the side, or are trying to get as many words down each day as you can. But I think the best advice is to be in it for the long haul, don’t be in a hurry or allow yourself to take shortcuts. They rarely are. Do the work, even when it’s hard.
“You are responsible for your own success.” That’s empowering, and intimidating at the same time. Can you talk about what this means for self-published authors?
Sean: You hold all the cards. There are no gatekeepers as far as publishers. You can go around them. But there definitely are millions of gatekeepers who can decide whether they will buy your book, and that's a wall you can't circumvent. The better your work, the more likely they are to buy something else that you’ve written. The more you engage with your reader, the more he will likely share your work.
eBook pricing is all over the board right now. Most authors go with either 99¢ or $2.99. Then there are a few authors asking $5.99, or $9.99. In your book, you say, “For both eBooks and print, an overpriced product still won’t sell well, and an underpriced product will confuse customers and cause them to undervalue it.” With that said, how do you price your book for optimum sales?
Sean: We don’t always price for optimum sales. That’s counter-intuitive, and many people disagree with us about this. They’re not wrong. Neither are we. We price our premium products higher. They take us twice as long, so we want to see if the market will justify the time. It's just the way we do things.
Another thing you emphasize is the need to be professional. Part of that is ensuring that your book is properly edited. Can you discuss the different types of editing, and how they contribute to a better book?
Sean: There is a spectrum of pricing for this service, and it’s not always consistent. It’s hard to know what you need, from thorough developmental editing to a simple copyedit to rinse the work of typos. Only you know your work well enough to know about where you should start looking, or what you can afford to pay, but I always suggest getting the best edit you can afford.
Most self-publishing guides go out of their way to let you know Amazon is the big dog and authors should buy into KDP. You make a point to say that Amazon’s big, but you’re missing out if you’re not on Kobo, Apple, and Nook. Should authors use KDP first to build their platform on Amazon, and then take the leap off site? Or should they offer their work on as many different platforms as possible from day one?
Sean: If you’re not in Select, then I don’t see any reason not to publish everywhere that makes sense to your business, all at the same general time (if not the same day). Most of the work is getting that first file of your book. Uploading to multiple platforms should be an extension of the action.
The last question, I promise. You encourage readers to build their own platform. Can an author be successful without building a mail list?
Sean: Yes, an author can absolutely be successful without a mailing list, but considering that’s the one tool that allows you to communicate with your reader in the one place where they are every day (for most people) you’re making your job harder than it needs to be.
Sean Platt is the co-author of Write, Publish, Repeat. Sean is a novelist, co-host of the of The Self-Publishing Podcast, and together with his partners Johnny Truant and David Wright published nearly two million words last year. You can catch up with Sean by visiting http://seanmplatt.com/, or you can check out The Self-Publishing Podcast at http://selfpublishingpodcast.com/podcasts/.