by Rob Kay
It’s been said that “everyone has a book in them.” Thanks to the Internet and the commensurate growth of technologies that support self-publishing, a number of Hawaii writers have taken the leap.
A case in point is local author Mike Schmicker, whose most recent book, “The Witch of Napoli,” is selling like hotcakes on Amazon. In March the self-published historical novel hit the Amazon Top 100, ranking No. 41 in paid books out of 3.3 million books for sale in the Kindle bookstore. That same day, “Witch” also earned the No. 1 slot in both the historical fantasy and victorian historical romance categories in three countries — the U.S., Canada and England.
A corporate communications vice president by day, Schmicker had previously written two nonfiction books on scientific anomalies — the first self-published, the second published the traditional way by industry powerhouse St. Martin’s Press, a subsidiary of the international publishing giant Macmillan Group.
“I’ve done it both ways,” he told me. “If you can land an agent and get that $30,000 advance like I did with St. Martin’s, that’s great. But if you’re an unknown, first-time author, the indie book route is the fastest, easiest way to get your book into print. Online book production and marketing tools today are easy to use, and the cost can be as low as $100.”
I asked Schmicker to share some tips with wannabe indie authors, and he came up with six quick:
- Start with an e-book.They’re cheaper to produce than a paperback, and you can sell them at an attractive price (typically $3.99 or less) while still making a profit. If it’s a runaway hit, you can up the price without changing the cover, because they’re print-on-demand.
- Use Kindle Direct Publishing(kdp.amazon.com ) to produce your e-book.The online publishing tool is easy to use, costs less than $100, and your book automatically ends up on Amazon.com, the world’s biggest book marketer, giving you a global, 24/7/365 marketing platform.
- Use CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) to add a paperback edition.Amazon also owns this online publishing system, which offers the same advantages as Kindle Direct Publishing to a neophyte author — it’s cheap, easy to use, and seamlessly integrates with the Amazon online bookstore.
- Buy the best cover you can afford.Readers DO judge a book by its cover. If your budget is minuscule, at least buy a professional image from services like iStockphoto.com.
If you can afford $250 to $500 for a cover, check out DesignCrowd.com; if you can afford $1,000, Schmicker suggests you consider the graphic artist who did the “Witch” cover, Andy Carpenter Design (acdbookcover design.com). Carpenter has produced covers for a half-dozen New York Times best-sellers, including Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit,” Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” and others.
- Create an Amazon author page.Use this as your primary author/book website, instead of creating a separate, expensive website. It’s free to build, has no maintenance costs, offers visitors a direct, immediate link to buy your book and features a lot of useful bells and whistles. Schmicker’s page at michaelschmicker. com is a good illustration.
- Join Goodreads.com.There, you’ll meet 30 million readers — and potential buyers of your book. Join the groups interested in your genre (Schmicker is a member of six groups who love historical fiction.) Once you show genuine interest, you’ll make friends who can beta-read your manuscript, write a review and help you create a buzz.
“Writing and selling a book is hard work,” warns Schmicker. “Don’t expect to get rich fast. But persist and you’ll succeed.”
Schmicker has helped other local authors such as my editor, Rob Kay, depending on his busy schedule.
“I’m happy to share my experience with any writers circle or club out there looking for a speaker. I remember how hard it was for me in the beginning. It’s my way of giving back.”
Reach him at schmicker firstname.lastname@example.org.