May 28, 2014

Over Thinking Self-Publishing?

Is there such a thing as over-thinking?  Or, in this case, is there such a thing as over-thinking self-publishing?


A writer could argue that they write about a subject, and when they do, they don't think about the process of publishing, or self-publishing, and it is usually made up the direction that they want to go.  Most of the time, if they are writing in a niche market, such as Transylvania, most will say there is only one route to go when publishing a book.

They are right in this regard. If the focus market is about Transylvania and the Saxons, most of the people who read this subject have background knowledge. They have likely read many other books about the Saxons, a group who has self-published in the area of "Saxon history" for many years.  It is not uncommon for writers who choose to write on a narrow subject to simply decide to self-publish.

That's not over thinking; it's a more a realistic mindset.  Which one of the traditional publishers would go and sign an agreement to a new author knowing that the best case scenario is to see a few hundred books sold outside of the niche market.


How about adding Hungary or Romania to the mix?  In this case, is a writer over thinking self-publishing?  Would it be possible to have consistent sales on Amazon or elsewhere with a self-published book on Transylvania?  It depends on the subject.


Almost any writer who has a blog on Transylvania will notice that diving into the political aspect of Romania and Hungary generally means that there will be some irate comments left on their blog.  The same is true for a self-published book on Transylvania that has a more political tone to it.  Some people will find it good, and others will argue, rightly and wrongly, that it is bad — all because the book doesn't support their own opinion.

This isn't a reason not to publish a book, but, as with all things about Transylvania, there are pros and cons to each decision.  It gives an author a reason to think about what should and should not be published, especially in the area of politics and Transylvania.  This is not to say it can't be done, but if you self-publish, and you make mistakes or quote sources that aren't viewed as legitimate, you can receive some bad reviews on your book on Amazon, which will in turn affect your chances of future sales.

If you self-publish and have a strong platform, and you have thought about what sort of reaction people could have towards your book, you have a chance to sway some of the harsh elements of readers who may often have a different point of view.

Over thinking self-publishing and a niche market happens when you spend hours trying to figure out when and where and who you need to have your book published with — for example CreateSpace or AuthorHouse or any number of other companies.  It happens when you focus on every possible argument people might have about the past or present of Transylvania.  A good example of a subject would be the history of Transylvania as it relates to Hungary.  Most people have a point of view, and if you focus on how the interior of a book might look or what people will think of the cover instead of on your content, you can face problems when facts are not correct.

Over thinking self-publishing in a niche market happens, too, when you worry about how many people may or may not buy your book based on your title, and then not worrying as much about the writing and editing.  When you deal with readers who are passionate about information and know the subject matter, the only thing that you should worry about is how much of your information is correct based on facts and figures from several different authors and sources.

What is over thinking, and can it hurt? It can hurt you when it stops you from writing a book and sharing with readers your own point of view, researched and well written, to the public.  


May 19, 2014

Transylvania, Romania and Its Place in History

Transylvania, Romania had an important role to play in the lives of people who lived in Eastern Europe.  Romania is one of the largest countries in what is  considered Central Europe, and Transylvania is a large part of this reason.


The place in pre-history Transylvania holds is a grey area.   Take, for example, the origins of the Romanian people in Transylvania and the many theories which surround it. In the basic travel guide of Transylvania (by Bradt), they comment on this in a nearly page long explanation called: The Draco-Roman Continuity Theory.  This theory is explained, and the writers of the guide go as far as to say to the reader that there is no written or architectural evidence of proto-Romanians north of the river Danube (see page 17 of the guide). What is not mentioned is there is no archaeological evidence to support the theory or to refute it.  The two theories that have remained in contention are also cultural.  There are also many self-published books discussing each theory.


There was certainly a Dacian Empire that was conquered by the Romans under the Emperor Trajan, and this victory is depicted in one of Trajan's Columns in Rome.  There are certainly people who lived there after the Romans left the area.  Because it is so far in the past, and because of the nature of the area, this will stay controversial.  This conflict happened in no small part because of the people who wanted and needed to get into Europe through the mountain passes of Transylvania.

Transylvania was always a prime land for invasion, and in the twelfth century the Mongols tribes from the East invaded and destroyed many of the villages and cities that were in their path.  Up until 1571, Transylvania was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, which was a large country at this time, unlike many places in the area.  The country of Romania was not formed until 1859.  (This is known as the Little Union.)  Transylvania was not a part of this merging, as it was a part of the Dual Monarchies of Austria-Hungary.  It was not until 1918 that Transylvania became a part of Romania. (This is known as the Great Union.)

Transylvania has always held a place in the hearts of many Romanians, and this is often shown in The Balkans, a book which focuses on Bulgaria, Romania and other countries spanning the years 1804-2012.  What stands out is how Romania had as much cultural diversity as Yugoslavia, but it didn't fall into the civil unrest that the other country did.  Possibly, this avoidance of civil war is because there was always some type of protection in Transylvania for most of the cultures.

During the many years that Transylvania has history, it was a part of Hungary, it was a part of the Roman Empire, it was a part of the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Romania.  Each influenced how people viewed themselves in terms of living in the area.  The Germans who lived there say that they were invited by the King of Hungary to help populate the land and defend it.  To them, its place in history is built on the fact that they were needed and they could contribute there.

The same holds true with the Romanians who have lived in the area for centuries.  To them, Transylvania should always be linked to Romania, or linked to the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia.  Before the year 1918 this happened only once, when Prince Michael (The Brave) united the three principalities under one rule, and it lasted for less than a year before his untimely death.  To them, its place in history is culture, and cultural identity with Romania.

Each group who has lived in Transylvania views it as important, just as they view Romania, the country, as being important.  To them Romania holds either a strong history or it is one country that they live in but do not view it as being their "hearts."  Transylvania does not have a glorious history, but it is unique in so far as that it is still a reasonably culturally diverse area within Europe.

May 14, 2014

Self-Publishing a Book on Transylvania and Working with Amazon's Market

Self-Publishing a book in a niche market isn't as big a  challenge as it once was.  Self-Publishing a book on Transylvania, and using Amazon is a different beast.


After all the hard work of writing and editing and re-writing, then choosing the interior and cover, you are about to self-publish your book.  Now is a good time, if you haven't started the process, to look into the readership of your book to have the success you want it to have.  If you are self-publishing your book, and it is non-fiction, in a niche market (such as Transylvania), you will have more of a chance to see some sales. If your book is a fiction book, getting sales will be a lot harder.

Take, for example, the topic of Transylvania or Romania.  These two topics are large, and someone could write and publish books about various parts of the history or political landscape of the area. A publisher wouldn't need to worry that it might end up becoming too full of other authors.  This is still a niche market within which to work, but there are smaller markets a writer can find and develop.  My own book,  In Search of The Lost Ones, is a niche market book. I deal with the topic of  the Transylvanian Saxon men and their experiences of the Second World War.  It is a small, focused topic, but there is one large "market" I was able to put this book on.

Amazon.com.  Most writers don't see Amazon as a market.  Rather, they see it more as a place to distribute their latest book or to find a book they are looking for.  For self-publishers, Amazon is a way to get the book out and into the hands of people who need it.  However, there is more to this "market" than a person can understand, especially for a writer/self-publisher.

Let's take on Transylvania and what it does on Amazon.  There is the book market of "books" that a reader can find, either in an e-book format or as a hardcover or paperback version.  Most of the well known publishers who publish books about Transylvania focus on travel; there are others who deal with politics or history. Most of these focus on Transylvania as a part of Romania or, if it's a history book, as a part of Hungary.

It is possible to self-publish a book on Transylvania when it deals with the topic of history.  There is not much in the way of traditionally published books that focus only on Transylvania.  There isn't much of a market for them, even on Amazon.  A good example of this is the book Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe.  Its ranking is quite high on Amazon.com, and it is not self-published.  I found this book when I typed the search term "Transylvania."  The next few titles down are self-published, such as the Rise and Fall of Saxon Transylvania, which are doing well based on their sales rank.

The market on Amazon is quite vast, but most of the time readers can find your book based on the correct search terms.  With my own book, typing in Transylvania Saxons and sorting the list based on relevance puts in the top ten books readers should buy.  Flip this around to new and popular, and Danubia is found near the top of this list.  The point that a self-publisher needs to take away from this example is that there are certainly opportunities for a reader to find their books on Amazon, as long as it is treated as a market in and of itself.

Although Transylvania is not a "hot topic" on Amazon, Romania, the country it is a part of, is, and that is where the challenges begins. In comparison to Transylvania, Romania has a larger reach, and therefore it is a "hotter topic."  Searching for the term "Romania" on Amazon gives a person the impression that there is a lot of books out there. The person would be correct in this view as there is close to 15,000 items which come up based on this topic. In comparison Transylvania has fewer than 2,000 items.  One of these books is The Rise and Fall of Saxon Transylvania which as an e-book edition says "Romania explained to My Friends Abroad."  Because of this additional subtitle, readers find it in Romania.  This is a smart move by this self-publisher, and the result is that the book reaches more than one part of the "market."

Self-publishing a book about Transylvania necessitates a bit of careful planning, and platform building.  You should be focusing not only on your book, but also on the beast that is Amazon.  If you can focus on what works for your book and for you as a writer, you will find that a niche market is not as hard to work within as you might have thought.




The most important part of writing for a niche market is understanding that there are people who have different views from you.  Some might know a lot of information about Romania and the more recent politics dealing with Transylvania, and some will know about other parts of Transylvanian history.  

When you self-publish your book, think about where you have your focus.  Again, the fact that the Rise and Fall of Saxon Transylvania has the keyword "Romania" in it, certainly expands its market.  This does lead to some challenges if the book is written for a specific group — for example, the Saxons of Transylvania, who might be looking for less information about Romania in general — but who have a great deal of knowledge about the Saxons.

It is a balance between creating a book which is of value to a niche market, but also one where there is a continual building of readers from other areas of the Amazon.com market.

May 9, 2014

Should an Author Use Social Media and Still Publish?

Transylvania is a hard topic to keep publishing material about, but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for it.  


Social networking sites are becoming the go-to platform to get people to read your book, and most authors know or understand that they should have an author page on Facebook and a Twitter account so that people will find them and find their writing.  This is even more true when it comes to Transylvania, which is a niche market at best when publishing a book.

Since 2012, my author page on Facebook is one of the many author platforms I should improve on, but I also need to build an audience who will either buy my work or talk about what I I write.  In this case, my focus is to get more readers interacting with me so that I can continue to grow.  With a niche market such as this topic, updating is a must.  The fact that Google often takes into account how many "likes" or "shares" a page has to promote it a bit more means that my author page needs to be more active.

Social media platforms like Facebook, are important, especially when it comes to Transylvania, Romania, and working with this small community, as the market is only so large, but that doesn't mean it has a glass ceiling.   I would estimate that the reach of the people who love Transylvania is a lot stronger when it is combined with other social media sites and worked on as a business.  This means it needs to be done correctly.  I admit that, so far, I haven't taken social media as seriously as I should have.  It is partly because there is always something new to learn about, but also because it is overwhelming.

Has this particular brand of social media helped my book sales in any way?  I am sure if I was a bit more famous, or updated my author page more, I am sure that there would be more people who would know about Transylvania and my book.  However, I can admittedly say that I am not using my page to its fullest potential.  I plan to change this soon, since I will be publishing another book on Transylvania.  Without a strong author page, the chances of continued success are low.

Twitter is an entirely different beast in terms of audience and "voice". I've been tweeting for about a little over a year.  Internet social media seems to be the place for every author to go and promote their book — or themselves — and that's not a bad thing, but it does take time away from what authors are really about: writing.

In short, Twitter also is a good platform, but I have found that it takes time away from my writing.  Social media is a black hole for many new writers if they don't focus.  It isn't something that goes away, and in a niche market such as writing about Transylvania, it is a necessary promotional tool.

This doesn't mean it should be the only focus.  Part of becoming a successful author in a niche market, and earning respect, is writing and publishing another book.  On that note, the first draft of anything is easy, and it usually doesn't take much time or effort.  It is the subsequent drafts which take more time to create and refine.

Writers in niche markets must continue to use social media, but they also need to publish another book to work with the momentum that this style of interacting with readers can bring.

May 3, 2014

Is Self-Publishing On The Subject Transylvania Overdone?

Successful writers need to publish a book.  When you are dealing with a niche market, the problem is not the market itself, but the market to get to that market.  If you are writing about a small market such as Transylvanian history, there are possibly one or two small presses who might take an interest in your writing.

However, should you chose to, you can write and self-publish your book about Transylvania, Romania in a fairly short time frame.  This leads to the question of market saturation.  If you go over to Amazon.com, most of the books about Transylvania, and the history of the area, are written by a few people.  Some authors even have several books on the market for people to purchase.  Looking deeper, it is possible to see that a few of these authors are successful in a niche market, but most are not.



The possibility for the lack of success of most authors comes from a basic economic tool: supply and demand.  There are a lot of travel books published about Romania and the many Eastern European countries around it, and these do well, but should a person who self-publishes a book try to get a small corner of this market, the chances are high that they will fail.  What's the reason for this?  There is already a good supply of travel books out there that met the demand for tourists. Also, most tourists are more likely to rely on a brand name published book, such as Lonely Planet, and not something that is self-published by an unknown author.

Travel books are hard to write, and they are also hard to market.  Most writers will tell you that writing a book is hard enough, but what about writing fiction on Transylvania?  

If you were to write a fiction book about Transylvania, you are faced with stiff competition in this marketplace.  The simple fact is that fiction about Transylvania is already saturated with novels on Dracula, or some other legendary figure.  Most readers who are interested in the area have read Bram Stoker's Dracula or have seen many movies about vampires or the area.  There isn't a lot of romantic fiction, but there is also not a demand for this style of book from readers.  There are self-published authors out there, but they are also focusing on Dracula or some other dark element of Transylvania.  In this case, yes, the self-publishing on Transylvania is overdone, and there isn't a lot of choice out there.

The history of Transylvania might be the area where a self-published author should see some form of success with their creative writing.  When you spend some time looking at Amazon.com, you'll get a good grasp of how much of a niche market this subject area really is.

A quick look at twenty history books about Transylvania showed that most are not long — about 60-200 pages — and almost all of them are self-published.  Some of them are available for no cost, and some are offered for only 99 cents.  Clearly, this means the market is full, but not over-saturated.  It looks that way when you simply add the search term "Transylvania" that there is a lot of choice, but 6,333 search results in all departments is not a lot based on such a general term.

In books, using the same search term, there were 1,936 books linked to the word "Transylvania".  If you base your success on the fact that a reader will find your book on Amazon since there isn't much competition, think about the fact that there are over 8 million books and counting on Amazon.com.  To reach a reader in given subject area, you will have to market on your blog or website.

This seems easy, but break this down even more.  According to some self-published writers, including Aaron Shepard and Dan Poynter, most writers, be they traditionally published or self-published, don't sell a lot of books.  Some quote the number of books sold as a self-published book to be about 41 books outside of family and friends.  If there are already a lot of writers out there with books on Transylvania, and many of them are targeted to a niche market, it is likely that they sell reasonably well, but not exceptionally well.

Most of the books that are found in the subcategory of Transylvania are specialized. If you self-publish there, you will find the books are short and are a part of a series.  This makes it seem as if there are a lot more books out there.  If you're looking for a book on the  history of the Transylvanian Saxons, you will find about 15 which match this criterion, of these books, I would estimate there are about 5 unique authors, and most of them self-published their book.  Most have had readers purchase a book, and most are reasonably priced.

The deeper into specific areas of the history of Transylvania a reader goes, the more likely the book is self-published, and the more likely that market is over-saturated with writers.  In this area, yes, self-publishing on Transylvania is overdone because of the niche market's nature.