Happy birthday to the Indie Author Group. Founded just as the trend of self-publishing took off by Valerie Douglas, and her co-founder Kai Viola, we are a vibrant team of writers and artists that look after one of the oldest communities for self-publishing and hybrid publishing on the Facebook. It’s our birthday today! We’ll be celebrating next week though, so watch the blog, group and page! (or the blog page!) To celebrate our 9th birthday, we’ll be overhauling, adding resources and doing a lot more, so watch this space!
We are now taking guest posts for three of our blogs, and we’d love to see our readers and members join in. If you’d like to guest post with us, all of the details are here!
The main rule of submitting to the blogs are that they CANNOT be fluff, no use posts that promote you. We are very keen to keep the quality of the blog high, therefore all posts should be your original content (we do accept reprints), with links to anything that you’re asserting that is to be backed up. So, for example, if you say that ‘The Benevolent Dictator says that nothing sells one book like the next book’, it’d be brilliant if you could also link those words to the page (https://twirl.indieauthorgroup.com/selling-books/). This means people can see where you’re learning from. Please do not link YOUR OWN blog unless you are an expert – you’ve got your byline at the end for that.
Aside from no ads, we also ask that people do not use affiliate links. If you link to Amazon books, we reserve the right to change the links to our own affiliate link, per our privacy guidelines. We do ask, on the whole that you don’t write articles with Amazon links in if you can avoid it, to avoid issues of this kind.
If you are linking to your own blog, we do ask that you link to specific posts, and that your own privacy guidelines are up to date.
Your byline can contain three links – one of which should ideally be a blog, or other site for people to follow you. We do not allow friend request links from Facebook – you must use a Facebook page.
Finally, we reserve the right to reject any articles that don’t work for our site, or fits with our guidelines. Full guidelines are of course listed here. Once you’ve read our guidelines, you can submit here. The blog posts will then be taken to tech or marketing, or posted to the main blog as the team decides is right. Please ensure you include your email, your byline and any images when you submit. We will not respond to return articles if we reject them, but we will of course let you know about accepted articles and your publication date. If you do not hear back within six weeks of submission, please consider that your article has been rejected.
We invite people to submit up to three posts. We know the categories are odd on the form, don’t worry about that, but if we reject all three, we do ask that you look at our guidelines (which are clearly listed in our post here, on the guidelines and at the bottom of the form) and then wait a few months.
Good luck, we’re really looking forward to seeing your submissions!
For those who aren’t familiar with Paper.li it’s essentially a ‘newspaper’ about whatever you want to share and it’s easy to use. Simply go to the site and sign up. There are two versions – free and paid. (More on that later.)
Give it a title but think long and hard before choosing one. Don’t make the common mistake of naming it ‘YourName, Author‘ or ‘RomanticTitle Series‘, because using your author name is a giveaway for ‘buy my book’ promotion and if you go off that series track you have to remember to go back and rename your paper.li. You want to consider it as part of your marketing plan but you don’t want to be obvious about it or no one will read it.
Since I write self-published fantasy, and that’s usually associated with sci-fi, mine references that. And, since no fantasy writer worth their salt shouldn’t also know something about archaeology (to ground their fiction in reality) and people are interested in that science, I reference that, too.
I’m also interested in giving back to other writers and educating them on the common mistakes many writers of fantasy make. Food, for example, was a lot harder to come by, you had to forage for vegetables and fruit, and it took a lot longer to cook. Say you have a character who takes down a bird or a deer. In some fantasy novels, writers roast them on a spit. A bird will take a fair amount of time. A deer is bigger than you think, it takes half a day to roast that way, with frequent turning. As another example of a common mistake, do you know why ancient peoples used chariots? Because most early horses couldn’t carry a person. Centuries of selective breeding (evolution) created an animal that could. Even so, a horse will take a long period of time, even with its longer legs, to get from point A to point B. More so if hitched to a wagon. And they get tired.
So, back to Paper.li. You can give it certain parameters to search for and feature, but some come with it.
First, remember that Pinterest is not a promotion or sale site, it’s simply another social media site except that it’s geared around pictures. For a writer, a Pinterest page allows readers to get to know the writer as a person, as well as your work. Your goal with Pinterest is to engage readers. So, with that in mind:
Create a Pinterest page for you as a writer. Not your book or books, but something like John Smith Books or John Smith Author (but not Author John Smith – there’s a lot of pages that start with Author). Don’t create a page for your book, unless it’s a well-known series. It will also make you easier to Google.
If given the option to add a “Pin” button, take it.
Create a board of your genre or genres – that’s what readers usually search by. In that board, you’ll want to add your book covers and a short blurb with a link to where the book is available. Or go to the sites where it’s available, find the image of the book cover, and Pin should come up. Pin to the appropriate board.
Suggestion: Create a board called Inspiration for your book title or series, and add pictures that evoke that book or series, or the characters. (I’d caution about the characters a little. As one famous quote says – “People will bring their own thing to your book”. That includes the characters. You might want to let them put their own image on the characters.)
As a social media site, it’s a place for readers to get to know you, the writer. Create a Board of your favorite quotes, things you like or something you like or love – like movies you’ve watched, or your pets. Funny images are great, too.
Update regularly. Give readers, other writers, etc. a chance to engage. Keep them coming back so when you release a new book, they’ll be used to looking at your page and see you have a new release. You can prep folks for that new release by adding pictures that are helping to inspire you.Pinterest can be a great social media site for interacting with your fans or potential fans. You can also add promotion for other writers you like.
I n all honesty I suspect that Scribd found the path of least resistance in their romance/erotica decision. (Witness the petitions to Jeff Bezos/Amazon asking him to change the review policy.) The truth of the matter is likely to be a more harsh reality – a lot of romance/erotica readers were downloading books, finding them to be dreck and so they didn’t finish them, they just deleted them off their e-readers and went onto the next. Scribd, however, still had to pay the writer for the unread book. So, rather than try to evaluate hundreds of thousands of e-books, they just decided not to carry the vast majority of romance/erotica.
Here is the truth. Amazon/Jeff Bezos owes us nothing. If you want tea and sympathy, go to Smashwords. Mark Coker is a genuinely nice person and will offer you a great deal of encouragement. However, Smashwords also pays quarterly, not monthly, so be prepared to wait for the check. Also post to B&N, Kobo and D2D for the most bang for your post. You’ll make a fraction of what you make with Amazon, but there you go. Understand that Amazon is a business – a business that provides a venue for Indie authors to post their books and – possibly – make money at it. Indie authors are a drop in the vast bucket of products Amazon offers. The vast majority of their profits come from the Big Five publishers and all the other products Amazon offers. Be ungrateful for the opportunity, become enough of a pain in the butt and they’ll drop the program like the annoying hot potato it’s become.
Sadly, a large number of Indie authors came into the game thinking ‘oh, yeah, I can write my novel at long last’, it’s easy and I can make money at it. As many of you have now noticed, the easy bit is harder than most thought. Writing a book isn’t necessarily easy, and writing a good book is even harder still. Even worse, some folks are still looking for the magic wand that will write the book for them. Some also turned to Indie writing because they suspected that the Big Five wouldn’t take them (not to mention the fact that the author gets a pittance of what the publisher gets. We need a Taylor Swift for that.) And that’s before you get to the marketing. Then there’s the cover art, the editing, formatting and deciding where to upload it. Too many are taking shortcuts, unfortunately, skipping over the most important, the most expensive, and the hardest parts of the process – editing and cover art. Just take a look at many of the Indie books being offered. (Especially the erotica since the explosion of 50 Shades.)
Think this is harsh? Take a look at Scribd, a subscription service much like Kindle Unlimited. They’re removing a vast number of romance/erotica novels – even good ones. Why? They say that too many readers are downloading so many books they’re putting them out of business.
Regarding reviews… Remember the comment about Scribd and the crappy books? It might be overly simplistic, but there is some degree of truth there. Most of those awful books didn’t get reviews saying they were awful. They were just deleted. For all we complain about the mean people out there, most people really aren’t and it takes time to write a review. Rather than take the time, they just deleted and moved on. Want to get reviews? Understand that unless you write something people want to write a review about – and even if they do – most won’t. It takes time. Try to write something good enough they’ll want to review.
Want to get your reviews removed or to devalue reviews? Forget to ask those people who received ARCs or free copies to add ‘I received this book in exchange for an honest review’ to their review so Amazon won’t pull it. Participate in easily trackable review exchanges or give positive reviews to books you haven’t purchase or read. That’ll do it.
If you think Indie publishing is hard, try traditional. Write query letters to agents/publishers, gather rejections, hope for the moment they ask for a revise and resubmit, or a request for a partial or a full, get your hopes up, get them squashed when they decide not to take your novel because it’s not a reiteration of King or Roberts or Sparks or James, or whoever is the flavor of the moment. (For perspective, where is the writer of Twilight right now?) Then, TADA, you find a publisher who will take you. HURRAY. And then you discover you’ll still have to do the editing as well as a large part of the marketing, just to be a mid-list writer – unless you’re one of the rare few who make it big. Or you can follow the Hugh Howey model and write a unique novel, self-publish it, and let the publishers find you. (By the way, he can now afford a boat. A biggish boat.)
The best things in life aren’t free – they take work. Do you want reviews for your book? Do the work. Make people want to review it, but also understand they they don’t have to.
Yes, it really did need two posts! There was a LOT of information! I was getting overwhelmed, so if I misrepresent things, forgive me!
Hunter Boyle spoke about using e-mail to keep in contact with your fans and to build your fan base. He also advocated setting higher expectations, creating e-mail connections with the offer of a freebie. Create a compelling call to action – i.e. Sign up now to receive a free excerpt or copy of “Title” – so people will sign up to your newsletter or e-mail.
There was also discussion of using paper.li (I have a paper.li newspaper) by directing it to fans of your genre(s), and to help promote other writers. Connect with authors in your genre(s) and interact with them and their fans. DON’T promote. If those fans like you, and like your input, they’re more likely to check out your writing.
Deb Carney of Bookgoodies and Vinnie O’Hare from Awesomegang were a great tag team. (Another appears later.) If you’re not using their pages, you should be. Both are very generous in helping indie/self-published writers. They discussed Fast and Easy Ways to find your True Fans and Rabid Readers with Social media. They talked about using Hootsuite effectively and other twitter software like Shareist, Buzzsumo and Click2Tweet. They broke down each very effectively. I suggest experimenting with things like Hootsuite.
Andrea Vahl is a Facebook marketing Expert, and she advised not using boosts, but rather targeted ads – putting money in your pocket, not Mr. Zuckerberg’s, he’s rich enough. Track your progress. Do split testing – running the same ad with differences in focus or description. Run conversion tracking. How many clicks became sales?
As many of you may know, I’m a huge proponent of having professional covers made by professional cover artists. Derek Murphy echoed what I, and many of my cover artist friends, often advise – don’t expect a cover artist to recreate that great scene from the book. For one thing, that scene is probably too busy. Since all cover artists use stock art (even the Big Five) it’s very difficult to find an image that will match, and to create it will be that much more expensive. Earlier in the day, J. Thorn had shown the difference between a self-made cover, a professional cover, and the difference they made in sales.
As a cover artist, Derek was able to show that even more clearly by showing and discussing the difference between a good cover and a great one. He advocates using faces to help convey the basic emotion of the book. What was refreshing about him was his willingness to help self-publishers. For a full cover he’s probably outside the range of most new writers, but he does offer advice on how to improve the cover you have. He has a webpage called http://diybookcovers.com/to help those who want to create their own covers. He also created a neat little program where you can post your cover and folks – including him – will vote whether it’s effective or not. If he thinks he can help make your cover better, he’ll contact you. (Don’t expect him to do that for free!)
The closing/keynote address was delivered by the other tag-team – Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt from the Self-Publishing podcast. One of their key points was the difference between strategy and tactics. Tactics is running a freebie, strategy is using freebies effectively as part of an overall plan while also remaining flexible. That was another point – being willing to pivot – to make changes. My other favorite phrase – The only constant is change. You have to be willing to change, too.
For all of you who thing that the gatekeepers have gone away, you’re wrong. There are more than ever. They used to be the editors for the Big Five. Now there are new gatekeepers – they’re called readers. You need to engage and connect with them, and you do that by being personal and personable. Act professional. Put out a professional product.
If this seems to be a little overwhelming, take it in bites. Get edited. Check to see if your cover art is effective. Keep writing. The number of one-book-wonders can be measured on one hand, maybe two if you stretch it.
When you’re not writing take a look at other authors in your genre, or that interest you. Like their page and interact with them and their fans. Set up your first audiobook with ACX. Learn a new promotional program – like Hootsuite, Paper.li – the following week.
Congratulations, you’re an authorpreneur.
I’ll be honest, I was half afraid that the seminar would be nothing more than a sales pitch, but it wasn’t. Even the sponsors didn’t promote, which was refreshing. (And made it more likely for someone like me to recommend their services.) The speakers were by and large very informative and sometimes funny. Some of it was more geared toward non-fiction than fiction, but even that had some value to indie/self-published writers. For me, the most informative speakers were content marketer and author Joe Pulizzi, horror/dystopia writer J. Thorn, social media providers Deb Carney (Book Goodies) and Vinny O’Hare (Awesomegang) , Facebook marketing guru Andrea Vahl (Don’t use Boost), cover artist Derek Murphy, and authors/podcasters Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt (although they went on a little too long). Okay to break it down: Joe Pulizzi talked about finding the niche between your book and your readership, and how to reach the last. (There was a strong drive toward e-mail subscripting throughout the day). Find your influencers, successful writers in your genre. He also talked about finding 4 – 1 – 1 – the spot between influencers, content, and translating those to a sale of your book. 4-1-1 is also the divisions of marketing – 4 posts/twitters about yourself, one about your content, and one about ‘buy my book’. He talked about the three-legged stool – offering e-books, print and digital versions of your books. He spoke about using popovers rather than popups – especially using software like Pipity – in conjunction with e-mail subscriptions, and using keywords to make it easier for programs like Google to find you and your book.
He looks younger in person
Horror/Dystopia writer J. Thorn was a riot. Like so many early self-publishers he made the same mistakes most most of us did – not getting properly edited and creating his own covers. I give him major kudos for humorously posting on-screen those early reviews – if you thought yours were bad, his were worse. (This is literature?) It was really funny. Fortunately, and wisely, he also realized that many of those early reviewers were right, and took the necessary steps to improve. He hired an editor and a professional cover artist. He definitely recommends outsourcing those skills. (He’s a techie so he does format his own books. I recommend hiring a formatter, too, if you don’t have the same tech skills.) He also advocates not reading your reviews once you’ve dealt with those issues. Reviews are for readers, not for writers, and not everyone is going to like your writing. (Where have you heard that before? *grins*) He also emphasized the importance of having multiple books. He used gardening references, like watering your garden – finding better ways to promote your books. Books, plural. Nothing sells book one like book two. Find marketing sites. Make changes to the book. Do revisions. Try different descriptions. Use Amazon’s Select, or find another way to run your book free. Price pulsing (run one price during the week, another on the weekend, or some variation thereof). Use #mondayblogs. Do series! Do boxed sets of your series, or in conjunction with other writers. He talked about weeding the garden. In his early days he wanted to write fantasy, and did. Those were the books that garnered some of those horrible reviews. He had them properly edited and hired a great cover artist. As time went by, though, he realized he enjoyed writing horror and dystopia, and wanted to read more, but there wasn’t more out there. So he wrote the kind of novels he wanted to read. And that’s what every self-published writer should do – write what you want to read. Back to weeding the garden. Those early novels? He took them down. One of the truisms of writing is that you really have to write a lot, and keep writing, until you find your voice, your niche. Most of that early work will be crap. I wrote several full books, and scrapped them, before I wrote something I felt so compelled to write – and write well – that I couldn’t deny it. (Personal advice – never delete those early works. You may be able to rework them, or the idea. Some of mine I still have, and may revisit.) There’s also no Kindle Gold Rush. Those days are gone. He did suggest using Kindle Select, but also branching out to other vendors, and also using promotional tools like #mondayblogs, price pulsing (running one price during the week, another on the weekend) or experimenting with pricing, and the importance of writing series and creating boxed sets of those series. He also spoke about the need to work with others with no expectation of return – creating boxed sets of similar books – to build your name and associate it with other successful writers. Using his methods, he went from selling two books per day to selling 200 per day. David Lawrence from ACX spoke about using audiobooks as another leg to your stool – another method of providing content for your readers. He’s done TV and lots of audio. (I have to be honest here, I just started with the audio experience. It started out good, but didn’t finish that way. I was hoping to learn how to find a new, moreopen-minded narrator. The response I didn’t want was the one I got – “I can’t help you.”) However, there was a lot of useful information in his talk, including the biggest mistake that most writers make about those who provide services to authors – expectations. Expecting the narrator to sound like the voice in your head. Expecting them to understand the names and terms you use. They can’t read your mind, or duplicate what’s in it. Work with them. What seems obvious to you isn’t to them.