Striking a Balance
2014 has been a rip of a year in our indie universe. New promotion sites went online, Amazon tossed Kindle Unlimited into the mix in July and the frenzy of Christmas books and collections literally swept the boards clean, and indie authors have been trying to figure out the market ever since. Now the question is: What can you do in 2015 to get a slice of the indie pie and put your books in front of readers?
The first rule: Promote.
2014 was my first full year of indie authorship. I started in June of 2013 and royally messed up. I spent the entire second half of 2013 learning the ropes, finding the best editors and formatters, cover artists and networking. I learned which promotion sites delivered downloads and those that didn’t and still don’t. When I got on a site and a link didn’t work, I was told to clear my cache, use Chrome. Administrators insisted that their sites worked. Now, I have a tech guru check the sites. Links were not set or did not work. One site’s submissions page was all in Chinese. Huh? I paid for promotion on sites that instead of linking my title to a sales venue, the book link sent the reader back to the site. Not fair and not ethical to take my promo $$$ if the site doesn’t send a reader to my book’s buy page. If you want to know the truth, I got angry. I got vocal. Now, I just get smart. 50,000 impressions is NOT the same as 50,000 subscribers. I use Alexa to check a promo site’s reach. If a promoter just uses an email list… I ask how many are readers? How many are authors?
If you think it is only authors who have egos, you are as wrong as a dumb rock. Promoters are worse. I’ve been told, “I have to charge for my time.” Hey! Sweetie, so do I. Some promoters have an incredible inflated sense of self. When I recently questioned an administrator about not a single download for a paid promo, I was told, “It is up the the author to write a book that sells.” Well, dang. Goose me with feather. Yes, it is and I do. Another promo site invites authors to promote books on FREE for free. That’s nice. I did so. Next thing, I got an email from the administrator asking for a $25 donation because she ran the free promo. Oops. Goin’ on my sh*t list, honey. Here is what an indie author needs: A return on investment. All of 2014 I kept a list and I started rating promo sites. I asked other authors about their experiences with sites to get a balanced view. Right this minute, I share my favorite sites in Useful Links on eNovel Authors at Work. Fair warning: If promoters keep annoying me and promising what they can’t deliver, I may start a second list.
The second rule: Network with like-minded authors.
The sincerest way to gather like-minded authors is to join a group or form your own. I founded eNovel Authors at Work. The group is a year old now and the knowledge, experience and support the active members bring to the table is invaluable. The main thrust of our all volunteer group is pay-it-forward. We have a webpage, every author has a books page, we engage in group events and we have a private Facebook page where we can share up to the minute news, promo sites that produce, those that don’t, and ehow activities. We have a Twitter account and a hashtag #eNovAaW. A single Tweet retweeted by our members has the possibility of reaching an aggregate of our more than 80,000+ followers. We have a monthly newsletter for readers. No chitchat. It is all about books and book events.
The third rule: Think for yourself.
Decide what is best for your book. Before Amazon unleashed Kindle Unlimited, my titles were all exclusive to Amazon. At the start of 2014 I set a goal to earn a $500 ROI every month.
That is not a huge sum in the scheme of things, but! I’m new at indie authorship and I reached the goal and then some–even with Kindle Unlimited, and having done little promotion since the end of October. I am rethinking exclusivity with Amazon. Here is why: To keep my titles in front of readers, I’ve learned I need to promote them more than once every 90 days FREE or in a Kindle Countdown Deal. I will put new titles in KDP Select until they have found an audience and gathered 100 reviews. After that I will decline Select and expand to all of the other sales venues. Via networking with authors experienced in other sales venues, I’ve learned using Smashwords may not meet my goals. Thus, I’m uploading my titles myself.
The fourth rule: Balance your readership.
I spent all of 2014 focusing on ebooks and left the paperback editions to linger in cyberspace. Beginning in February I am engaging in book signings. I’m starting with a signing at my neighborhood new and used bookstore and from there moving into the Kroger Author Program. I’ve ordered posters, bookmarks and in January will set the schedule. Kroger is a Texas and Louisiana grocers. Titles have to be approved for the program. I learned of the Author Program networking with other Texas authors. Book signing can also be arranged with your local libraries. In the far past, I did book signing at K Marts, Publix and used bookstores and was very successful. I have also bought and reserved promotion in one of the top journals in the traditional publishing universe, The New York Review of Books. You may also upload your books for FREE to Booklife, a division of Publishers Weekly. Do your book a favor. Make dang certain it is professionally edited, formatted and covered. PW and the New York Review of Books is where the big boys play.
The fifth rule: Boxed sets are hot.
Even if you only have one title, networking with other authors who write the same kinds of books, i.e. romance, mystery, or young adult, can lead to three or more authors joining together to form and promote a boxed set at 99¢. Boxed sets have a life usually 4 to six months. During the life of a boxed set, an author can continue to promote the title separately. I will have titles in two and possibly three boxed sets in 2015.
The sixth rule: Go to a writer’s conference.
Early in my writing career I went to several conferences a year, local and national. I even went to a by-invitation-only conference in the UK. The key to attending a conference is knowing what you want to take away from the conference. I am keen on meeting and networking with other authors. Keep in mind few of us are as successful as keynote and luncheon speakers. Too often I have visited with authors at conferences whose egos sagged in the middle after hearing so many success stories. Don’t fall prey to that. Every conference offers authors a promotion spot. Take advantage of it. Prepare your posters with thought, have bookmarks and giveaways that catch the readers attention. You may not sell a book, but the experience is valuable. I’ve chosen and paid for one conference that appeals to me for 2015.
The seventh rule: Save all of your pennies in the kitchen.
Did that throw you a curve? Laffin’. Well, I’m superstitious. 2015 is a Leap Year, only 28 days in February. To have great good luck all of 2015, you save all of your pennies in the kitchen in a jar or in your junk drawer…where ever. Just do it. I’m Southern to the bone, which brings me to New Year’s Day. Black-eyed peas and cornbread is our Southern good luck food. It works for me. What ever the tradition is in your culture–don’t skip it. We indie authors need all the luck we can gather.
I never like to wrap a blog post without sharing the best way to gather organic reviews: Put this gentle gem right after THE END in your books.
Thank you for taking time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated.
I’m Jackie Weger. Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome and please do share any great ehow ideas to my list. That is networking. We love it.