Writer AJ Borowsky likes to think of his first book as a practice run. Since publishing his second book, What Next: A Proactive Approach to Success, he’s learned more about the work that indies must devote to moving their books. AJ shares that information here.
1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?
I’ve written two books but the first was just a rehearsal. I wrote that one, a personal finance book, under a pseudonym and I’m glad I did. That book really had some good ideas but the execution wasn’t there. I may re-release it in the future. I wrote it because I was tired of reading personal finance books that purported to know the “secret” to building wealth or getting rich when the reality is there is no secret.
My latest book, What Next: A Proactive Approach to Success, was written for two reasons. The first was that I was shocked to get a royalty check for the first book. It was for only six dollars but if someone (or two or three people) bought it, then maybe I could do better with a well-written, researched, and marketed book. The second reason I wrote What Next was because I realized that the most successful people I know shared several traits: they were curious, adventurous, and were willing to take risk.
Those traits can also be used to describe independent authors. We are curious or creative enough to write, adventurous enough to share our writing, and willing to take the risk, and expense, of publishing our work.
2. How have your sales been?
It’s very early in the process but let’s say I’m thankful for friends and family. What’s most important to me is the feedback I’ve gotten. It’s one thing for friends and family to buy the book but quite another when they read it and buy several more as gifts or recommend it to their friends. I’ve been encouraged by that. Unlike fiction, the number of people who are looking to read a non-fiction book are a bit limited. Although I don’t like the label self-help that really is the genre of my book and that market is even more limited. But I feel I approach the material a bit differently.
3. You’ve decided to not go the route of traditional publishing. Why?
Not being famous severely limited my options when it came to publishing in my genre. That’s the point of my book, that success is personal, that we all can’t be billionaires and that’s okay, that there are many silent successes out there and there’s a lot to be learned from them.
I’m not sure I would even want to publish traditionally, however. I have complete control over the process and, on the downside, total responsibility for marketing and promotion. My understanding of the publishing industry is that unless you’re already an established author the support you can expect from a traditional publisher is minimal.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
I’ve had my ups and downs in the process. I really like having control over all aspects of the book, but at the same time, really need guidance. As I noted above I would rather self-publish than have a traditional publisher in spite of the pressure.
5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, and which ones have been most successful?
I’ve been slow to ramp up the marketing and this is a lesson I hope more independent authors will learn. Your marketing plan should be in place well before publication. I’ve mostly been using Facebook, Twitter, and my own blog.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
No. As a matter of fact I’d try anything once if I thought it would lead to sales.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
There is certainly a lot to learn about the process but there are also a lot of resources, like you, Kris, that can help guide a writer through the process. My first book was published using iUniverse and I really liked some aspects of their service. The editing was very professional but their royalty structure wasn’t, shall we say, generous. What Next was published using Createspace and while their customer service was excellent and their royalty structure is very fair, some of the services, like editing, were lacking.
I’ve learned to be more selective in the self-publishing process. I think I would mix and match services from the various companies like Createspace, iUniverse, and Lulu.com.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I think it’s really important to have a good editor. I would seek out an editor I trust and whose style matches mine rather than relying on whomever the publisher chooses.
9. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
Writing the book is the easy part, selling it is hard. I point out in my book that success is commensurate with enthusiasm so I would say that you should be talking about the book to everyone all the time. Be bold. If you don’t ask, if you don’t try something, you’ll never know whether it works or not. Of course you don’t want to alienate anyone either so know when to hold back as well.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
I want What Next to make people think, to inspire them and spark conversation. As 2011 winds down and people begin thinking about the New Year, I will be introducing a monthly feature to my blog tentatively called “You’re What Next” (that’s not spelled wrong; it works as both you are and your) where readers can profile someone (even themselves) they think embodies the concepts of What Next; curiosity, adventure, risk taking, and who they view as successful.
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Be curious and make every day an adventure.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
My website and blog are probably the best places to keep up with all things What Next. The website (which incorporates my blog) is www.askwhatnext.com. Of course we want to be “liked” and I have a page on Facebook called What Next? (with the question mark).