I came across a great blog recently at 90 Days Novel and immediately asked if one or both of the bloggers, Sean and Daniel Campbell would be interested in writing a guest post for other indie authors. They have some great perspectives on marketing, and they have been kind enough to share them here. I’ll hand you over to Sean …
I’m Sean, half of the duo behind 90daysnovel.com
Rachel invited us to guest on her blog to share our thoughts on marketing for indie authors, and we thought that the best way to do this would be to put together an outline marketing plan showing step by step exactly what we would do when bringing a book to market.
Step One: Market before you finish the book
Many authors think of the process of taking a novel from inception to virtual bookshelf as a staged process, and that it’s linear in that we go from writing to editing to proofreading (back to editing x 10) to formatting to publishing then onto marketing.
While clearly you can’t edit or format what hasn’t been written, you can start to market it. By spending a little time as you write letting people in on your writing process, you build interest. This should translate directly into readers on publication. Our project for example started with the buzz before we had any idea what we would write. By giving ourselves a restrictive 90 day deadline we forced ourselves to work hard, and fast. We’ve been open about our attempts the whole way, both what works and doesn’t. This sort of candour gets far more interest than spamming ‘Buy my book’ as many do.
Start building your platform as soon as you can – Collect email addresses, followers, likes, blog readers and word of mouth contacts. You’ll need them later on, and you want to have a relationship there before you attempt to sell anything (and even then, your stuff should sell itself if you’ve got the relationship part right).
Step Two: Market to the right audience
If you write crime, you want to reach people who read crime. If you write romance, you want to reach romance readers. It’s hard to find out reading preferences, especially when you are trying to connect on social media. Twitter is great for finding people who list ‘reading’ as an interest on their profile, or use the #amreading hashtag, but it’s too broad. If you’ve written a crime novel, but sell it to a romance reader then chances are you’ll end up with very poor reviews.
The other major flaw for most authors is the circle of reciprocity. Authors following other authors, lit agents and editors. While many of them are also readers, the banter you exchange with fellow authors is a bit like shop talk. Readers don’t want to read it, and you will get unfollows.
My advice here is that if you are going to engage with other authors, use a 2nd account, or stick to non-writing discussions. The latter is probably wise, as even if you don’t actively seek out other authors they will probably find you.
As we can’t poll users on their preferences, we need to try another tack – approaching those in the traditional demographic for your chosen genre. To stick with our crime example, that is usually those aged 40+, and tends towards women rather than men (Source – Penguin).
We then need to remember that ebooks have modified the traditional demographic – younger people have more ebooks, but it hasn’t hurt crime ebook sales. The best approach is to be clear and up front about what you are writing, and avoid the hard sell. You only want those genuinely interested to be buying – especially at first when early reviews will make or break an ebook.
Our approach here was to use targeted follows – we used twitter metric websites to find those who retweet often, are in our genre, and follow back, and followed them. They passed on the information to their followers, who have already gone through the vetting stage of choosing to follow that influencer.
We do now have a following that is quite diverse, but we monitor unfollows to see how our following reacts to each message. If something doesn’t hit the mark, we try to avoid tweeting on that subject again. If something does, we try and emulate that.
Step Three: Identify where you’ll be selling, and target their customers
Unless you are opting in to Amazon’s KDP select, and thus need to be exclusive to Amazon, you should be on as many sales channels as you can. (Here’s a post on when Select is useful.)
Broadly these are:
- Barnes and Noble PubIt!
- Kobo (Coming soon, but no fees)*
- Google Books
- Project Gutenberg
- Waterstones* (Via a ‘Content Aggregator Account’)
- Your own website via cart system (e.g. Xuni)
- POD – Createspace/Lightning Source etc
- Phone apps – a niche, but a profitable one.
- or the many distributors such as Smashwords
Once you know where you are selling, you can go after their customers. Advertising campaigns might include devices for each channel (“Kindle”, “Nook”, “Kobo”, “epub” etc) or might focus on the crack cocaine approach – give away tasters via WattPadd and Project Guttenberg. I’ve listed channels above in roughly ‘most to least useful’ from top to bottom.
Amazon is obviously the primary market, but you could get 25% more sales using other channels. Smashwords make it easy to hit the channels, but take a cut and don’t allow you to use quite as many keywords on B&N, plus it’s a bit off on formatting as it’s very much a meat grinder approach (when really formatting is incredibly important – If you get the formatting right in word using simple styles, save as xhtml, import into Sigil and convert with calibre then you should get a better result yourself than Smashwords will give).
* titles require an ISBN – which isn’t cheap. Waterstones don’t allow indies to go direct. You may be able to get a CAA account, but if not you’d need to use a distributor (such as eBook partnership who take 10% of your 60%). [Note from Rachel Abbott - this was correct when Sean wrote it, but the eBook Partnership - who do a great job - are changing their terms with a very reasonable one off up front payment. Check out their website from Sean's link for more info.]
Step Four: Many roads lead to London
The more roads, or in-links, you have to your site or product the better you’ll generally do. the exception here is again if you’ve targeted the wrong groups, all you’ll get is a high bounce rate, an increase in returns and a loss in your Amazon metric rankings (as they won’t buy, so your conversion rate will fall) .
You should be exploiting all the free social media opportunities you can:
- A blog – or website
Those are the basic ones, but you can add in offline advertising as well, via leaflets, QR codes, business cards, art prints, giveaways and anything else you can think of.
Step 5: Sell something worth selling, but don’t look like you’re selling it.
I’ve left this to last, as I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir – write a good book, format it well, get a good cover. Make sure you understand and use amazon metrics to your advantage. When you do sell, don’t actively hard sell people – they will stop listening. Instead give them something – advice, free content, a helping hand. They will reciprocate. People are not just buying a book, they’re buying into you as an author. Like it or not, you are a brand, and a minor celebrity (or, in our host today’s case, slightly more than a minor celeb!).
In summary – these is no magic bullet. We can’t make people buy our books, but we can make sure they see them. There on out, it’s a case of writing a good book, and then another and another. Books cross sell each other, readership will build over time. It won’t happen overnight for most, but keep at it, and you’ve got every chance.
Step 6: Stop following you own advice, and plug your new book like crazy
I’m going to break my own rule here – and mention my own work.
Dead on Demand was written just to prove we could write a crime novel. It’s out on Amazon from May 4th 2012, and more details can be found at http://www.90daysnovel.com
I’ll leave you guys with a huge thanks to our host, and a short blurb for Dead on Demand.
A career man, Edwin Murphy has always put more effort into his work than his family. Everything changes for Edwin when his wife files for divorce. On the brink of losing his home, his job and his little girl, Edwin orchestrates an intricate plan to eliminate his wife and regain his former lifestyle.
The police are baffled when bodies begin to appear all over London with no apparent connection between them. Inspector David Morton must think outside the box as he investigates the deadly web of deceit behind the murders.