The pandemic was… is… a game-changer for almost all aspects of our lives, including how we consume books. Being locked down, being on self-quarantine, and all the time living by the rules of social distancing, shifted most of our former activities to online platforms. There is much less foot traffic to previously-visited book stores or book cafes, and we could say that the current situation drastically pushed reading, hence publishing, to be mostly online. This huge shift from the print industry to an all-of-sudden digitalization of literature greatly affects all types of publishers, but most importantly, indie publishers.
These are authors preferring to market their own books instead of having some outfit gobble up at least 40% of the price of each book, or even higher. They are authors who prefer to be in touch with at least 80% of their readers. They are indie publishers trying out their first publishing project, hoping that the first 200- to 300-copies print run is rapidly gobbled up, allowing them to do a second run for a bigger volume.
We are authors or publishers who own a voice, a unique lens with which we view things, and want these shared with a wider audience outside of a few family members and friends. Southern Voices Printing Press is one such indie publisher. Though not extensive, it wishes to share its experiences and lessons with indie publishing and marketing to encourage more voices out there to be heard through publishing.
The first lesson on the list is this: Make sure you have a good original material that your readers will love, and write in a language your readers understand. You are bound for failure coming up with a material which you hope will be at par with a Dan Brown novel when you’re forte is comedy or sattire! On this we will not say much because you’re the one who will be writing in your favorite genre, in the voice you are comfortable with, and to an audience who know and love you well.
We next proceed to the biggest hurdle in indie publishing — funding. Unless you’re the son or daughter of a business tycoon, the odds are you will need a whole community of supporters who will help you through this difficult part of your indie publishing project.
There are at least three ways to go about raising funds: crowdfunding, pre-orders or publishing grants.
There are quite a number of crowdfunding platforms online – gofundme, spark project, gava, indiegogo, gogetfunding, airfunding, and lots more. Spend at least three days reading through their rules and methods so you can choose one that’s exactly right for you. A number of these platforms do not operate in the Philippines, but if you have good friends in countries where they do operate, you can have them sponsor your crowdfunding campaign. You only have to ensure that you still control the fund management aspect of it all.
Pre-orders work if you have a large digital network of friends, colleagues, relatives and supporters or fans who trust you, believe in your work, have read some of your works online, and are willing to spread the word. It’s a more direct form of crowdfunding as you don’t have another platform working for and with you. You own and control your content, your reach and your preferred social media platforms. Pre-orders are more successful if communicated through more than one social media platform.
Publishing grants in the Philippines are hard to come by but keep this in mind and keep searching for opportunities.
After you’ve hurdled your basic funding requirements, the next step would be working on your manuscript to make it print-ready. Find a good editor, preferably someone you trust and esteem professionally, and someone you can afford. Better yet, find an editor who’s also a friend, willing to support you by editing your book for free!
Then, find a graphic artist who can design a powerful cover concept for you. It’s not true that people do not judge a book by its cover. Whether on a bookshelf or an online carousel of books, you would want your title and cover to stand out and catch your intended readers’ eye.
Next, find yourself a printer who is willing to do short runs, normally at a minimum of 200 or 300 copies, and who understands your needs as an indie author. In Southern Voices Printing Press, we encourage connection, collaboration and communication. At this point, make sure you get an ISBN for your book ( http://web.nlp.gov.ph/nlp/?q=node/645).
Lastly, the most challenging aspect of your journey — market and sell your book online. So many media and blog articles have shared the sales experiences of booksellers during the 2020 pandemic. Their sales diminished from 50% to 80% of their 2019 averages. Many were forced to close. The ones who survived are those who were quick to pivot their sales and marketing strategies to online platforms. All recommend putting up a blog linked to various social media handles. These are not just Philippine experiences. Book sellers and lovers from India, Europe, US and Asia all share the same stories.
The successful ones give out similar tips — be patient and consistent in building your online audience from a few to a thousand or more, know what your audience need and want, be creative in reaching out to a wider audience and thank each one in supporting you and your book. Most importantly, welcome feedback from your readers.
We do not own the definitive guide to successful online marketing and selling. There are so many tips and guides online*. Read them!
And finally, believe in yourself. May the tribe of indie publishers increase! Good luck! ###
*Additional references to learn from:
**Southern Voices Printing Press is a member of The Indie Publishers Collab o TIPC (https://www.facebook.com/TheIndiePubCollabPH).