In her monthly column on creative self-publishing, Alliance of Independent Authors founder and director Orna Ross addresses the question of publishing values for indie authors and why knowing your values as a publisher is so important
It's not an exaggeration to say that for indie authors, publishing values are the foundation of your success. If you're feeling overworked and underpaid, if you're running around doing. all. the. things, as the latest creative community catchline puts it, getting clearer about your publishing values is certain to help.
Like your writing values, your publishing values are filters. They focus you, enabling you to avoid detours and distractions, doubts and dithering. They keep your creative energies flowing in the right direction and ensure what you offer is uniquely you.
They guide you to your readers, fans and followers, your team and tools, your customers and influencers, your genre, niche and micro-niche.
In the indie author community we often meet an assumption that the best way, even the only way, to self-publish profitably is to write fast and publish often. Yes, that is one way to succeed, but no, it’s not the only way and it's a model that's most effective with certain genres and certain book categories.
Yet we often see authors trying to fit into that model when it doesn't suit them or their books. The writer they are will never write two books a year, never mind a book a month (yes, that's happening!).
If they try, they'll quickly run to ground and may feel like they've failed (failed to be productive enough, failed to fix their mindset, failed to keep up with the latest best advice…) If there was a failure, it was a failure to understand that they have different values as a writer and as a publisher. That they shouldn't be organizing around a rapid release model at all.
The Value of Knowing Your Publishing Values
Our values give us our publishing principles and priorities, and that creates the framework within which we work, which helps us to choose the right business models and revenue streams.
Core to any creative project is selection. Most creative people find they can do lots of things rather well. Most creative people are attracted to new and interesting things. All fine and completely lovely if you're creating for yourself, but if you want to sell your books to readers, you have to focus.
Your reader needs to be crystal clear what kind of book(s) you're offering, what they can expect if they read, or they will ignore your books and move on to ones they trust to deliver. And you need to be able to balance your writing and your publishing tasks, if you're to reach enough readers to run a profitable publishing business.
How we write our books, how we produce, market, and promote them, how we organize our teams and set up for profit, how to choose premium products and services for our readers, how we sustain ourselves, and how we scale: our core publishing value affects them all.
When you work from your core values as an author and a publisher, you find your place among other people who think the way you do, care about what you care about, consume what you want to create.
Everything becomes clearer. You enjoy a burst of creative energy. You feel ready to face fears and take risks. You can work with intent focus without feeling drained. You feel everything has been leading to here. You see more clearly where you want to go.
The Three Publishing Values
From what I can see, from having observed thousands of ALLi members over the years, there are three core publishing values for indie authors to choose from:
Of course, these are all interlinked. We won't produce many books if we don't harness our creativity. We won't attract readers if our writing or publishing craft is underdeveloped. We won't grow creatively unless we're producing words and books regularly.
We need to value all three to a fair degree, but the question is: which do we value most? Which is our core publishing value?
Publishing Values => Publishing Framework
Our publishing values tell us our priorities, forming the framework within which we work. If we don't know what framework works best for us or our books, it doesn't matter which business model we run, we're unlikely to succeed.
The frameworks that form around the three publishing values are volume publishing (productivity), engagement publishing (connection) and craft publishing (artistry).
- Volume publishing: the number one value is productivity and the publishing priority is rapid release
- Engagement publishing: the number one value is connection and the publishing priority is reader relations
- Craft publishing: where the number one value is artistry and the publishing priority is creativity
Again, we all bring a mix of these values and priorities to publishing. We all want to sell more books, we all want to get better at our writing craft and publishing craft, we all know our readers are vital to our endeavors. But which is your number one? Volume, engagement, or craft? Productivity, connection, or quality?
If you don't know the answer to that question, you don't know your publishing priorities. Which means you won't know which advice to follow, and which is meaningful for others, but not you.
(Side note, by priorities here, I mean publishing priorities. As writers, the priority for us all is always getting the writing done.)
The Three Publishing Values and Frameworks
Let's look a little closer at each of the three publishing values and frameworks for indie authors.
Publishing Values 1. Volume Publishing
Volume Publisher Example: Michael Anderlé and LMBPN
Volume publishing works best in the genres that attract what are known in the business as “whale readers.”
“A whale reader reads at least a book a week,” says Michael Anderlé, founder of LMBPN Publishing, who counts himself as such a reader. “We can read three to five books in a weekend. When you start feeding whale readers really quickly, they like what they see and they will get it fast.”
Anderlé and his wife Judith built LMBPN Publishing on that kind of reader, running a volume publishing model built on rapid release, using other writers to ghostwrite and to write within worlds Michael had created. Anderlé released his first book in November, 2015 and through his indie publishing company then five more books within the next 90 days, thereby crossing five figures in monthly income. Fast forward two years and he had released over 30 books and additional novellas and collaborated with over 15 other indie authors, to help them keep to a fast-paced publishing schedule.
Today, LMBPN Publishing has over 200 titles through actively encouraging fan fiction—where another author bases their work on Anderlé's characters, settings, or other intellectual properties. Their books have attained bestseller status on Amazon on multiple occasions, in multiple genres, and Anderlé himself ranks in Amazon's Top 100 authors, while running a team of writers and editors currently processes more than two million words a month.
Leaning in as a volume publisher:
You / Your Team: You build a streamlined, online marketing team that keeps your costs as low as possible through savvy automation. Ideally, you collaborate with and hire other writers to feed your rapid release model.
Social Media Focus: You are a broadcaster. You put out your updates, automated, on as many platforms as possible, and engage only when it suits you, if at all.
Sales and Marketing: Your focus on digital data, aiming to drive the algorithms, using pay-per-click advertising, discounts, and value pricing to win advantages over other publishers in bestseller lists, to give visibility.
Publishing Values 2. Engagement Publishing
Engagement Publisher Example: Brandon Sanderson
Everyone on planet earth must by now know about Brandon Sanderson and his $41 million crowd funder project on Kickstarter. What fewer have bothered to notice is how Sanderson built that achievement on decades of carefully managed reader engagement.
Leaning in as an engagement publisher:
You / Your Team: Actively engaged, receptive to reader's needs, reactive and nimble in your responses. You set up a structure that allows you to communicate effectively with your readers.
Social Media Focus: High engagement, giveaways, contests, quizzes, providing answers to readers' problems
Sales and Marketing: Social media marketing and sales, online and physical events, hand selling, social commerce.
Publishing Values 3. Craft Publishing
Craft Publisher Example: Rupi Kaur
I am water.Soft enoughto offer life.Tough enough todrown it away.
Leaning in as a craft publisher:
- You / Your Team: You build a culture of creativity and quality and ensure your publishing team and assistants appreciate your mission to offer unique and prized products and experiences
- Social Media Focus: Sumptuous book trailers and author explainers that show your work and your value proposition
- Sales and Marketing: Special campaigns, premium products.
Publishing Values are Neutral and Equal
Publishing Values, Frameworks, and Business Models
Once you've established your publishing values and framework, your business model becomes clearer. In a previous post, we discussed the five publishing business models for authors and how they build on values.
- Exclusive Model
- Wide Model
- Rights Licensing Model
- Publisher Model
- Creator Model
Volume publishers may choose to use an exclusive or wide self-publishing model. Engagement publishers are more likely to choose a rights licensing or publisher model. And craft publishers often employ creator economy models with multiple income streams. But again there are no rules.
You need to test, experiment, and explore to see what's right for you, your books, and your publishing business.
I also run a patron program for authors who want to develop profitable. Creative Planning for Profit
Find out more about this and how it all hangs together in my book, Creative Self-Publishing
So what is your core publishing value? Which kind of publisher are you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.