I’m starting today a weekend special on self-publishing, with four simple tips that can help you succeed.
When I self-published my first book, I was confident that I could easily put it forward, based on my professional career as web developer and marketeer. I expected to sell hundreds of copies, which I now have – but only after a lot of hard work. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped, but neither as hard as many seem to think.
Since that fateful October day, when I hit the “publish” button on Amazon and giggled like a schoolgirl for the rest of the day, I have read hundreds of articles, blog posts and comments regarding book writing and promotion. I have also made it a priority to help my fellow Indie authors succeed in their new endeavour, in any way possible.
Thinking back on what I did right and what I did wrong, I have come up with four simple strategies that make all the difference between succeeding and failing as an Indie author:
Write – a lot!
You are now an author, and you should start thinking like one. The sad truth is that authors don’t spend their life dancing from one party to the next. They spend countless hours honing their art, practicing and writing.
Writing doesn’t entail producing a War-and-Peace sized novel every year. It means that you should put down your thoughts; ideas; something that crossed your mind; a story you always wanted to write; a little poem that came out of the blue, or a children’s story that you would like to share. Just write! And yes, daily blog posts count, as they let you practice the art of expressing yourself through the written word.
Promote a lot, via all available channels!
Yes, that includes flying pigeons and smoke signals or any other unusual but effective means you can think of (just, please, let me know if you use any of the above)!
Use all available channels and be consistent with them. Update your blog with posts, visit your Facebook page more than once a month, welcome new followers on Twitter, do interviews, share reviews etc. The trick here is to not waste time and effort on channels that don’t suit you. If you hate the thought of interacting on Twitter or Facebook, but love blogging, focus just on that. Find out which channels appeal to you; the ones that you find fun and enjoy using, then use them to network.
Having said that, promotion works best when it’s low-key. Please don’t email everyone you know on a daily basis, asking them to buy your book. This will only lead to losing friends; not selling books. Feel free to notify them that a new edition is out or that you’re having a sale, but don’t overdo it. As with everything, moderation is the key.
Beta-read and hire an editor/proofreader!
Unless you’re Steven King (in which case, may I have an autograph? Make it out to your number one fan), chances are that your work is going to suffer from a ton of mistakes that you just won’t be able to see. We all have our blind spots when it comes to our writing, and it’s notoriously hard to proofread one’s own work.
This is where beta-readers, the most precious and under-appreciated asset an author can have, come in handy. They will point out anything, from holes in the plot to repetitive phrases. I love my beta-readers, as each and every one of them has helped improve my books more than they can possibly know.
Beta-readers, however, are not editors, nor proofreaders. Be sure to use both, to achieve as a professional result as possible. Remember: the sad truth is that an author published by a traditional publisher can get away with a lot of things that we, Indie authors, will get blown out of the sky for doing. A badly edited book will reflect poorly on the entire community.
Repeat as necessary
One thing that has impressed me is how much each new book I publish helps promote the rest of them, as well. Sales grow exponentially, and so does your visibility. This means that you need to go through the process again and again. My estimate is that it takes some 10 books before you can start earning enough to make a significant contribution to your living.
As I said before, I am both an author and web developer, so several aspects of promotion seemed pretty self-explanatory to me. Then, I began reading about what I should have done and realized just how many mistakes I had made. For starters, I hadn’t appreciated just how much work book writing and promoting entail! Becoming an Indie author means that you’re both starting your own business and building a brand for yourself. If you consider the fact that most new authors also work a day job to pay the bills, the amount of work that is required is immense.
But I wouldn’t change it for the world! 🙂
Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of the self-publishing special!
Great advise. I keep thinking this marketing thing is going to get easier, but it’s so much harder than writing a book. I appreciate all the great folks like you who pave the way for us newer ones.
Aw, thanks! I wish I had more knowledge to share, but I share as I learn myself 🙂
Super helpful advice! I’m sharing this with mah tweeps!
Nice advice! I’m self-publishing my new novel Automaton and trying to think of ways to conquer the market on a low budget. Never thought of smoke signals! On a more serious level, I’m trying to focus on social media, blog posts, and free bookmarks. Hoping it works!
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you 🙂
Wonderful tips. Thanks for sharing.
Marketing is such an overwhelming prospect, especially to introverts. Gah.
We do have the odds stacked against us, don’t we? 😀
I’ve heard sky-writing is effective but costly. Excellent advice, Nicholas. While doing all the above, I think it’s also important to relax and enjoy the journey, because success for most of us isn’t going to happen overnight. Patience and endurance are necessary and more easily accomplished if the venture is rewarding all along the way.
Lol – sky-writing, huh? I have to try that someday 😀
What a lovely (and always timely) reminder – thank you! I couldn’t agree more 🙂
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
A year on, this is STILL VALID 😀
Great tips thank you. I agree with you about marketing and creating a brand. However I do need advice from you and your readers I am searching for an editor who will work with me. We are connected on twitter and you can contact me there if you have any tips/advice on this matter. Thank you.
So where exactly can I get some of those flying pigeons? 😉 Actually, I had a somewhat clever, low-cost marketing idea. I also sell my used books on eBay on the side, and now I send out a business card with all of my packages. It’s direct marketing to people who read, and I figure if nothing else, it has to invoke some curiosity about who the heck I am.
Lol – Tinos, apparently (https://nicholasrossis.me/2014/06/11/my-disappearing-act/). Plenty of pigeons there! 😀
I love your idea, it’s one of those little things that can make a big difference! Thanks for sharing!
Excellent advice. I knew nothing about marketing when I started, so it was a lot of trial, error, and apologies. I think I have some handle on it now. The blogging definitely helped with that first tip because I’ve found people enjoy interacting with an author and seeing what makes them ‘tick’. Though one runs the risk of falling into the trap of blogging more than writing the next book.
I’ve been wondering about how many books an author needs to earn a living. Mostly because I’m coming up on my 5th novel in another month or two. I’ve heard 5, 7, and 10 are magic numbers for big success. Makes me wonder what the deciding factors are.