Expert Interview Series: Suzan St Maur of HowToWriteBetter.net With Advice on Self-Publishing

Suzan St Maur is the founder of HowToWriteBetter.net where she and some of the world’s top writing experts share articles and tutorials no writing professionally for any purpose.

Suzan enjoys consulting, writing, editing for and coaching clients as well as running her other business interests, writing her own books, blogs and articles, plus giving blogging workshops, radio interviews, etc., on how to make your writing more successful.

We recently checked in with her to get her advice on self-publishing. Here’s what she had to say:

You are quite a prolific author on a variety of topics. How do you decide what you’re going to write about?

I write about writing, across many genres. Needless to say I can’t write as an expert on everything so on my website I have guest contributors and columnists who share their expertise on topics like writing fiction, writing for job search, academic writing for students, etc., which complement my own writing which focuses on business, marketing, online content and general promotional activities.

On a more personal level I love writing humor and have had a few joke books published, one of which has been, on and off, an Amazon No. 1 category best seller for 14 years.

How has the self-publishing industry changed since you started your career?

It has emerged from the doldrums of “vanity publishing” to being a very viable business model for many authors worldwide, including me.

What are the advantages of self-publishing?

Freedom to make your own decisions on titles, formats, cover design, etc., which often are badly restricted by conventional trade publishers who are likely to have much less knowledge of marketing and promotion than authors like me.

If you play your cards right you can gain a much higher return on price per unit sold by self-publishing than you can with the conventional publishers.

What are the drawbacks?

Probably a less advantageous distribution element, especially if you write self-help and business books connected to your business. However that’s not so much of a problem if you get out there and promote your books yourself, and if you do speaking engagements on your topic you are likely to sell hard copies of your book in quite satisfactory numbers “back of room.”

To make a go of it, however, you do need to be good at promotion online and offline and need to invest some time and money into that.

What should writers look out for when seeking out reliable self-publishing tools like Bookemon?

They should look out for the scammers, of which there are thousands and thousands. I help other authors sometimes, as a coach, and am horrified at the stories I’m told about the cowboys out there taking advantage of wannabee authors … especially fiction authors. Not much has changed since the bad old days of vanity publishing.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve had to learn about the publishing process?

With traditional trade publishers:

They have very little ability in terms of marketing and publicity, unless you are likely to be a million seller in which case they draft in people who – at last – know what they’re doing.

I work in marketing and across all my books published by trade publishers (about 20) I have despaired at their naive lack of professionalism in marketing techniques.

That’s why I self-published my last book and intend to do the same with the next few.

With so-called self-publishing services:

Varied. There are some who are worthy of respect as they are honest but equally there are some who capitalize on wannabee authors’ – particularly fiction authors’ – desire to see their beloved works in print and are willing to be scalped stupid for the privilege.

What’s one writing tip you find yourself repeating over and over again?

Write as your audience speaks and in business, write only about what benefits there are here for you, the reader, i.e. what’s in it for you?

Start creating your book on Bookemon