Omar_Shabka5
Omar_Shabka5

We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Venda, you may remember our Strategy Director, Rob Smith spoke at the last Venda Conference.  It’s through this relationship that we’ve met Omar Shabka. Omar is a Venda employee who’s followed his dream of writing a book. But in today’s digital world, where do you start with getting your book published and sold? We’ve been talking to Omar about this and it’s very interesting so we thought we’d share…Over to Omar

There are still plenty of unchecked things on my To Do list, have been for months, but with the big launch only days away, I have to be realistic—I won’t be getting them done. But that’s okay. What I really need on Friday the 13th is for my product—my novel—to be ready. It is, and it has a pretty good brand identity too, if I do say so myself. Exit Strategy. Published by Berkeley House Press Ltd., London, UK. Catchy, no?

You may not know Berkeley House Press Ltd. or me yet, but we are amongst the growing ranks of indie authors and publishers set on disrupting the established book publishing industry. Amazon has been challenging it for years. Now they—and others—have upped the ante by giving writers and indie publishers the tools they need to bypass the old guard and set up their own multinational publishing operations, all from the convenience of a laptop.

Yes, it really is that easy.

As launch day approaches, I take confidence in knowing that I have a best-in-class global infrastructure behind me, one that rivals the combined might of the world’s biggest mainstream book publisher, distributor, and retail outlet. All I need is a web browser. Amazon takes care of the rest. CreateSpace for on-demand printing and distribution. Check. Kindle for digital distribution. Check. The biggest retail channel in the world with millions of shoppers. Check.

So, if it really is that easy, why have I been burning the candle at both ends for the past six months? Because that was the easy part.

Guy Kawasaki, whose articles I have been reading for decades longer than I care to remember, wrote a fantastic book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book. The acronym sums it up nicely. As Author, you have probably spent years writing your book. As Publisher, you need to refine and polish it, and get it ready for market. As Entrepreneur you have to build your fledgling publishing business from the ground up, develop a marketing strategy, and don the many hats all entrepreneurs must wear.

book
book

If you work in digital, you are already at an advantage. You know online, you are comfortable with social media, and you are an innovative and creative professional. You will need to apply that in spades for your new venture to succeed, because that is precisely what it is: a new venture, a start-up. Don’t think of it as self-publishing—that’s the wrong frame of mind. Plenty of people self-publish every day—they do the easy part, hoist a book on Amazon and hope their aunts and uncles buy a copy. If you are at all serious about marketing your book, the first thing you have to do is take ‘self’ out of the equation. You are starting an independent publishing company. Get that mindset squared away and it will change how you approach everything. You will start seeing it as a business, which is what it must be to succeed. 

Now that you have made that shift, you need to do your research, understand the market, the industry. There is a wealth of great advice out there, some featured at the end of this post. Read, absorb, build a business plan, develop a marketing strategy. Your To Do list will grow and grow. Don’t be daunted; just keep ticking things off and hope you are doing that faster than you’re adding new ones!

One of the most important things you will need—whether you go indie or mainstream—is a platform. Mainstream publishers are mostly interested in authors who already have one. If you’re like me, you don’t. You’ve probably never been evicted from the Big Brother house, are not a politician mired in scandal or a footballer sleeping with his teammate’s wife, and you don’t have anything more than a few run-of-the-mill skeletons lurking in the back of your closet. Your platform today consist of nothing more than a clutch of LinkedIn connections, some friends on Facebook, a few people who read your blog, and maybe a Twitter follower or two. You will need to innovate and think of creative ways to leverage and grow this.

I heard once that it only takes 23 strategically positioned people in a stadium of 80,000 to start a Mexican Wave. That inspired me. I decided I would make Friday the 13th—launch day—into International Buy Omar’s Book Day. Get everyone I know, and as many people as they are willing to reach out to, to buy my book on the day. The idea is to drive Exit Strategy up the Amazon Bestseller list. That will give my novel more visibility and expose it to people I don’t know. Will it work? We’ll find out on Friday.

As well as turning the publishing industry on its head, digital is breaking down the barriers between writer and reader, fiction and reality. It offers a virtual place where writers, readers, narrators, and characters can cohabitate on equal terms, a place of useful imaginings where a reader can wander into the narrative stream and a character can step out of the pages of a novel. With that thought in mind, I decided to serialize the novel as GETExit Strategy, an online experiment in what I call DIY Metafiction—using social media to create new layers of storytelling that run alongside the novel. Curious? So am I. Friday the 13th. @GETExitStrategy.

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