Being an Indie Author

There are many benefits to being an independent author.

  • You make all the decisions
  • Publish when you decide
  • Make instant changes to your book
  • Promote as much as you like
  • Sell direct
  • Keep stats

So benefits all round? Not quite. Writing is the easy and the fun part. Promoting and Selling is a lot more difficult and some are better at it than others. The very best way to do anything is to join a group of indie authors, they maybe your competition, but they are also your greatest ally.
The group I joined on Facebook are awesome. They are always supportive and always friendly. That’s why they are known as the #Awesome Awethors.

Sharing is the key to success and I want to share what I have learnt and the ideas I have been given.

  • How to Cope with Low Sales
  • How to Promote
  • How to Sell
  • Getting Reviews

Low Sales

My monthly sales were looking grim for the year as I only reached 1 or 2 or sometimes a big fat zero. So were others doing any better?

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 12.29.06Anita Kovacevic, author of The Threshold said, “I’m in the same position regarding sales. I have been following the situation for several months – when I was really active on my blog, Facebook and Twitter, my sales were at least in the plus. As soon as I took a break – zero.
Which is precisely what I was realising. My sales were poor because I hadn’t been pro-active enough.

Markie Madden,  author of  Fang and Claw (book 1 of The Undead Unit series said, she only sold one books in August and Jason Greensides finished a week of promoting A Distance Sound of Violence and only sold a handful.

Simon Coates, says, ‘When authors say they are doing ‘ok’, it means they are doing 1 or 2 sales a month.’

I personally found that statement to be very encouraging. 1 or 2 sales is average and there will be many authors who do more than that, but knowing I was average and not below par was indeed encouraging.

The question is, what do we do about it?

How to Promote

One of the reasons some indie authors appear successful is because they are very good at promoting their books. They are able to keep a high profile without flooding the market with the same post and the same book all the time.

M Aslam says that ‘creating your book is just the first step. Marketing and promoting of your product is the key as you wouldn’t buy a product yourself that you had never heard of.’

Put like that, it’s true, isn’t it? You wouldn’t buy something in a shop never mind online, which is exactly what we are trying to do.

Simon Coates totally agrees with that. ‘The writing is actually the easy part; after all, that is the fun bit, and what you are good at. The selling is the other part.That is why, if you are a self published author, you have to be skilled as a book seller, too. A terrible book that is marketed really well will always do better than a fantastic book with poor marketing. Yes it is frustrating but it is the real world, unfortunately.’

Simon also says ‘I think the key is to get out there; I go to a hell of a lot of events, meetinScreen Shot 2016-03-27 at 12.28.09g people face-to-face, as I know it is the only way to gain a solid following and it gives a very professional image to your customers. Promoting on Facebook and the internet is very limited in its effectiveness; most people will just ignore adverts on Facebook etc. And sites that get a lot of traffic where you can promote your books get swamped very quickly. There is no blueprint for success; you just have to develop things as you go along.’

Joe Compton, author of a thriller called Amongst the Killing said, ‘Building an audience, and seeing results of hard work takes time and you just have to be patient. In my heart and head I know this but I am as far from a patient person as you can get. In the same token I am not after or needing instant gratification but it always nice to know what is or isn’t working. That the fruits of your hard labor, time, and efforts are blossoming. Then I think, what is the alternative? Not to put it out there? Stop Writing? That’s never going to happen for me.’

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 12.28.23

That’s true, and I have occasionally wondered what the point was if I was hardly getting any sales? Well, the point is our love of writing in the first place. What would we do if we stopped writing all together? Quite frankly I can’t see that happening, so Joe is correct, it’s never going to happen to me either.

Author Paul White adds, ‘I don’t write ‘just’ to earn money, I write because I love writing.’  We also have to remind ourselves of that statement sometimes.

‘It’s tough, says Isaac Jourden ‘If I’m actively stumping for my book – going to message boards, meeting people, posting in Facebook groups, staying visible nonstop, I sell books. If I don’t do that stuff, I sell nothing. One of the most difficult parts of being an author with so much out there fighting for attention, is that selling books isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. No matter how much you sell or how good your book is, the reality is, no one knows it’s out there. If you’re lucky, you might have someone who loves your book to death and if they do a lot of pushing, they can get a couple sales as well. But getting “automatic” sales doesn’t really happen, or, at least, it’s a rarity.  Now, with my second book coming out, I have maybe 30-40 people who are really excited to buy it, because they loved my first one. (And finding those 30 diehard fans took a year of pushing my book hard.)  I’d say 90 or 95% of the time I sell a book, I never hear about it again, I don’t even know if they read it.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 12.28.34

Promoting Suggestions

  • Tweet, and ask people to retweet – vary your tweets
  • Cross promote on other author’s Facebook pages
  • Arrange a blog tour
  • Mention your book at every occasion
  • Make a poster and take your book to a local book store
  • Give a copy to the local library
  • Get a following, build your brand
  • Keep promoting, don’t stop

How to Sell

I had been bemoaning about small sales, and then realised I had just re-launched my book, Joanna’s Journey and offered signed copies. I sold 25 copies almost immediately. That is more sales than I had all year and that is what the Indie should concentrating on.

JoannasJourney347pages

Deirdre Mapstone, author of Sigrun, suggests keeping up with marketing plans and always try to think of new ones.

Thinking of new ideas is difficult and I find talking to others and sharing really helps. Markie Madden, had produced some wonderful little cards for her books and they are a great idea for giveaways and promotions too.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 12.28.46

When I relaunched Star Struck, which later became Joanna’s Journey, I did a blog tour and enlisted several bloggers who would have me as a guest on their site. I also asked for people to advertise those sites on their own social media account. Hopefully potential readers clicked on the links that went with them and actually bought my book. This is very much like a blog tour, but I also set up my own group for the week of the launch, so I could give everyone a different day to post on and co-ordinate the way people blasted it out on Social Media.

Paul White, is one of those successful authors I see round the Internet. He constantly posts a host of good short fiction and has a great website. To my surprise he told me that last month his sales were dismal, 3 ebooks and 4 paperbacks and he knows why too. ‘I took my foot off the gas pedel regarding promos as I’ve been busy writing new stuff and doing other things than promoting and selling.’

Patty Fletcher wrote Campbell’s Rambles, about how a seeing dog retrieved her life and she has plenty of ideas for promoting herself and her book.

‘I don’t get tons of sales unless I buy the paperbacks directly and physically go out and sell them. Then I make money. You’d be amazed, but even then it is hard. The trick is advertising. If you can get business cards with your name, your book cover, and website and a phone number you will do well. One of the tricks that got me $35 worth of sales last month just on Smashwords, was events I attended. I went to a grand opening of an art gallery in the area and handed out about 150 business cards. So $35 of sales just from one event was not bad at all. I went to 3 such types of events. Once I went to a symphony concert for the Symphony of the Mountains and handed out books after for $10.00 a piece. There are all sorts of things you can do. Match the event to the type of book if you like. If you’re a mystery writer go to dinner theatre plays that are inexpensive and hand out business cards at murder mystery shows. If you write horror hit up a movie theatre just releasing the latest horror film. You get the idea. Flyers, business cards, book marks, free free, and small. People like free and small.

Interestingly Simon Coates said the same thing. If your book has a theme, aim it at an event. He sold his book Bike Racing into the Red at a cycling event. He also looked at my books and told me they had a theme and I should use it. Star Struck is set in the 1980s and he suggested I contact clothes shops in the city that might appeal to people who are in the 40s and 50s, who grew up in that era. I also have three short story collections, Behind the Music, I could contact a event organiser who puts on music gigs, and Heroes, I could try a local army group or local branch of Help for Heroes.  I also have The Missing, and I am sure there is an outlet for that as well.

None of this had entered my mind, so sharing and talking about your books means that you can pool your ideas together.

Patty went on to say ‘The other thing, right now through the first of the year, for my area, paperbacks will be the ticket. Holidays bring out the buyers. If folks are out Christmas Shopping I go out in the thick of it. Hit the mall day after Thanksgiving and last year sold $150 worth of paperbacks for $10 a piece in one day. I lowered the price from $12 to $10 and rocked it out. I bought my own Christmas that year and it was awesome!

Every Facebook message or Tweet or Retweet or blog or book sold gets us that one step closer, Wolfgang Schimanski said, ‘For me I love to sign and sell books in person and do as many live events as I can. This online stuff can really get on the nerves, especially mine but  seems to be a necessary evil.

It’s important to build your brand and there are many well known authors with several books to their name who simply sell because people read their previous books and like them. They write a certain type of book and gain a following. So if all your books are similar in some way, then that is your brand and that’s what gets you followed. I’ve written one book that is set in the 1980s. My second The Secret, due out towards the end of the year, is based in the 1970s. So a theme is developing and I am hoping that I will be able to build a brand that way.

As writers, we are also readers and haven’t we come across a series at some point and either read them in order because we liked the first one, or gone back to read the rest? Series are a great way of getting the reader hooked and selling more books. Especially as the author continues builds their brand. I’ve heard that it’s a good formula is to do a series and give book one away as a taster and then sell the others. Also cross promoting or writing for anthologies will get your name noticed. Keep writing and selling books as its the only way to get your name out there build your brand. It just takes time.

Chrissy Moon says ‘What really makes a difference is the marketing campaign. And yes, the money for said campaign. Right now you are building the foundation for your brand. I am as well. We just have to keep doing what we do and encourage each other along the way.

Larry Deibert says that he has seven books out and most of his sales are at from book signings, although he does have online sales too.

Another idea is to go into Sheltered accommodation or groups or organisations that have speakers. Give them a talk and tell them what Indie Writer’s are. Talk about each other your books and get them interested. Perhaps read excerpts from it. Get them involved about what they like to read, then find a way to say, ‘My book entitled… sounds just the type of think you may like. Do a raffle for a free book and give the money back for ‘party days’ or ‘outings’ Even if you get 1 or 2 sales, it is worth it. If you don’t feel you have enough variety of books, why not buy some of your fellow Indie author books. Particularly ones that you have read, so that you can highly recommend.

Sales Suggestions:

  • If your book has a theme, find an event
  • Hand out business cards
  • Go and stand in the thick of the Christmas shoppers with your books
  • Look for events where you can have a table
  • Do book talks
  • Do a blog tour

Getting Reviews

Lil Surgeson admitted that her sales are pants too. ‘The people that read them, like them, but they don’t invest time in writing reviews, etc. Simon Coates agrees saying, ‘As for reviews, to be honest before I was writing and using Amazon as a publishing platform, I didn’t bother with them. As an author, I now realise the value of them; but most people won’t bother, sadly.’

My reviews have stayed static for a long while despite asking at the back of the book to leave a review. I make sure I review every book I read, but as Paul says, before I started writing, I didn’t either.

Simon Coates said, ‘The phrase that is so apt is ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. It’s true, but as author’s we have to keep trying and keep asking.

Patty Fletcher writes back to all those who review her, good or bad. ‘I’m always be kind to those who do not like my book, but I have so far only had one negative review’

‘I don’t generally respond to reviews unless it’s by someone I’ve had prior contact with.’ says Rebecca McCray ‘Even then, I rarely reference anything in the actual review. I just thank them. If a review is constructive (i.e. negative, but not mean or positive with thoughtful comments), then I’ll consider the comments. Although Patty Fletcher disagrees, ‘If people find you to be an approachable author they will tell others and it boosts sales. Each his own I suppose, but it’s good networking with your fans, and if someone takes the time to review my book, if they leave their contact info they’re going to get a note from me. I found this to be extremely effective. The public is your pay check.’

I read in countless places that it is better not to respond to reviews just as Rebecca says, although I do understand what Patty means. Most of my reviews are on Amazon and you aren’t able to respond on there anyway. (Actually since writing this, you can through Author Central). The other place I have reviews are on Goodreads. Two of those were from people I know. They had taken the time to read my book and offered a comprehensive review. I responded to both, although not on the Goodreads site, where it could be open for discussion. So yes, in a way I agree with Patty in as much as each to their own, there is no right or wrong way. It is whatever works for you.

You also have to be careful what you say on Amazon, because if they think you know the author, they will not put up the review. I know of several people, who don’t actually know the author and Amazon has removed it simply because they presume from what was written in  the review, which is of course, very unfair. There is an article about this in a Los Angeles newspaper.

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