The Business of Writing & Self Publishing–a Q&A with Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier

What message do you find yourself repeating over and over to writers?

Sue: The difference between true self-publishing and the so-called “self-publishing companies”—and why that difference is so important for authors to understand.

Marilyn: Marketing. Marketing. Marketing. It’s mandatory in today’s publishing environment to be proactive and get behind your own work.

Would you mind sharing a recent self-publishing success story?

Sue: One of our clients recently received a blurb for his book from Ken Blanchard, of The One Minute Manager fame. This is a testament not only to persistence but to the fact that we put together a well-edited and well-designed book—both of these items are critical if there is to be any chance for good reviews.

Marilyn: Another of our clients is quoted regularly in such publications as The Huffington Post because he has worked on establishing his author platform—before he even wrote his book.

What piece of advice have you received over the course of your career that has had the biggest impact on your success?

Sue: Have the confidence to believe you can do it. This is good advice I’ve received from Marilyn over the years!

Marilyn: Set measurable goals and audit your results quarterly. Believe in yourself. You can do virtually anything if you believe you can.

What’s the worst kind of mistake that new writers, freelancers, or book authors can make?

Sue: Not realizing the importance of marketing and promoting. Building an author platform should start well before a book is published.

Marilyn: Not realizing that writing is a business. Creating the product is only one half of the whole.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Sue: I’m up before dawn to put in several hours of work before my preschooler wakes up. I catch up on the social networking sites, as well as my blog and email; then I put together a to-do list for the rest of the day. Once my son wakes up, I spend a few hours with him in the morning, then I am back at my desk to work most of the afternoon, usually on client projects. I also sneak in a run or a workout during the day.

Marilyn: I have no typical day; each varies.

If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?

I would change the belief by many—both in the industry and outside of it—that everything that is not “traditional” publishing is “self-publishing.” It’s become common in recent years for vanity presses to call themselves self-publishing service provides. This is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. Only an author starting up his or her own publishing imprint and who obtains his or her own ISBN prefix can truly be called a “self” publisher.

Marilyn: Eliminate bookstore returns. When a book is sold it should be sold. No other industry has such ludicrous policies.

In what way (if any) has your writing/publishing life changed in the past 5 years?

Sue: The huge growth of social media marketing has dramatically impacted my life on a daily basis. Not only am I very active for growing my own business but in helping clients sell books. Five years ago I had no idea how radically this would change the face of the way we do business.

Marilyn: I became semi-retired, so my interests and priorities changed.

Do you have any advice for new writers on building an audience?

Sue: Become an active blogger by contributing to your own blog regularly as well as commenting on other blogs in your genre/area.

Marilyn: Using social media to promote makes a lot of sense. Also get your message out in other ways: write and contribute articles (even free ones)both on and off line, begin speaking on your topic of expertise, establish networks with the players in your genre, etc .

What about advice for writers seeking agents?

Sue: Have your manuscript edited by a professional before you submit it anywhere.

Marilyn: Do your homework. Be sure to approach agents who work in your genre. Get a referral if possible.

What do you see as your biggest publishing accomplishment?

Sue: Revising and updating the fifth edition of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing. It was a pretty massive undertaking—and seemed daunting at times—but I am very proud of my imprint on Marilyn and Tom’s epic book.

Establishing a strong pyramid of writing/speaking/consulting. This allowed Tom and me to become the experts in our field and build a profitable three-pronged mini-empire.

Any final thoughts?

Self-publishing is a business. Authors and writers who are not interested in being entrepreneurial  might want to think twice before going the “indie” route. But for those who love the idea of being an independent publisher and controlling their own destiny, it can be very rewarding.

Marilyn: If authors want to be successful, they must take control of their own destiny. No one cares more than you do about your career.

Learn more about Marilyn Ross’s and Sue Collier’s The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing

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