You probably landed on this page because you are an independent novelist and are tired of seeing the low monthly sales from Amazon. You wrote a book (or four) and have hit a promotional slump. You may also be hard up for cash as your writing life is mostly a hobby that you would like to transform into a more lucrative source of income.
I don’t guarantee any of those things.
I do, however, think that most indie writers go about promoting their book the wrong way. Most writers who aren’t sure how to market their book take to Twitter and blast the heck out of it or hire a book blast website to do it for them. This is also not a guarantee for book sales.
I’ve been playing this game since 2009, produce a bi-monthly podcast “Fanboys on Fiction”, write on this blog, and tweet out writing tips and tidbits through Buffer. But again, I’m doing it all wrong.
The past couple of weeks I’ve been re-thinking what I do. Mostly my podcast doesn’t plug my books or my author site at all, my blog is just a traffic stop for most writers who are not my real audience (or are not my readers because they are writers) and for the most part I’m not really drawing a readership to the most important place, which is my author site.
Time to think outside the box, so here are the tips (note: most of them are free):
- Everything Must Plug – Everything you do as an indie writer must be carefully considered using this litmus test: Will it draw readers to my books through engagement? If you produce a podcast then it darn well better be focused at readers. If you write a blog, then it should be about your writing process and where you get your ideas. The blog should be a kind of extra features segment on a bluray release. Mainly, comment often, blog often, podcast often, but really just engage a readership and not necessarily a writership.
- Short Story Podcast/V-Log – As I’m writing away at the latest novel I get stuck once in a while. When I get stuck I write short stories. I’m also pretty good at voice acting as I can actually do all of the voices from King of the Hill. (I know, I’m not proud of it). I will, in the next few months, be creating a YouTube channel where I will record some of my short stories as radio drama plays with sound effects and voice acting using Garageband. I will utilize my daughters or my son for other voice acting as well, and hopefully build a following on YouTube. This is something that is relatively inexpensive and will get your writing out to people who may become people who will buy and read your books. This handy article by Will Fleiss provides several ways that you can speed your YouTube channel to monetization and notoriety, because money is a good thing.
- Public Appearances – This one has to be taken with a grain of salt. Last year I was involved as a “media guest” at a local convention, a convention I thought would help me gain some readers through “pressing the flesh” so to speak. I gave away two copies of The Terminarch Plot to a couple of writers who were supposed to read and write a review of the book. I’m still waiting on that. I was shuffled from panel to panel, and discovered that I was only a warm body to fill several science fiction and fantasy panels so that we could waste a lot of hot air about topics that were only relevant to the ten or so people who came to the panels. The point here is to be careful about where you appear and for what reasons. I have decided to do book signings, because with my Facebook and Twitter contacts I can actually get people into the store to buy books. That is much more worth my while. Also, buying a table at a convention is really expensive and doesn’t really net any profits and doesn’t really provide any new notoriety either. People don’t buy things at conventions.
- Use Twitter for Conversation – Many indie writers have the wrong idea about Twitter. They think it is their personal billboard for finding readers. The truth is that it is not. People scroll right by the book ad to get to the funny quip or interesting article. I look to see what hashtag is trending and then use my creative spark to write several tweets about that hashtag. It has been the best way to gain followers, and not all of them are writers. I also engage people on Twitter, posting articles that make people think who then PM me and I am good about responding quickly. Twitter is a conversation, not a billboard.
- Write Good Stuff – Spend about 80% of your writing time actually writing and perfecting your craft. The thing that will drive readers to your writing is good writing. Write engaging and unique stories. Don’t write what everyone is writing because you think that this will gain a best-seller status, write what is in your heart because that is what you want to write. Spend quality time writing, re-writing, editing, vetting, shooting it to beta-readers, and re-writing again. Spend quality time making great cover art or hiring it out. Hire an editor. If your work is great, then the readers will come.
- Brand Yourself – I’m not talking about what Batman did to criminals in Batman v Superman. Ouch. If you write a blog you should make sure your name is prominent and that it leads people back to your author site frequently. You should market yourself as able to do the one thing you are good at doing. This article by Dan Schawbel provides a nice introduction to what it means to become a brand, and even though it is geared toward business it has many good tips for writers to get their name out in front of readers.
- Build an E-Mail List – On your blog you should create a way for people who visit to provide their e-mail. The video on this page is a good introduction to a practical way to do this in WordPress. Once you begin building an e-mail list, it is a great way to announce new book releases, provide these readers with special “give-aways” that they can participate in, and make them feel like they are on the “inside” when marketing your book to the world.