Last weekend, my friend and I drove to Indianapolis to attend a writers’ workshop given by Liliana Hart, hosted by Indiana’s RWA chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear Liliana Hart speak, jump at it. She’s awesome, but just listening to all of the work she does, writing and marketing, made me tired. She repeated to us over and over again that if you decide to self-publish, you have to think of yourself as a business.
You have to hire or beg a copy editor to go through your final draft to make sure there are as few mistakes as possible. You have to come up with a professional, eye-catching cover that lets the reader know the genre and tone of your story. And you have to map out a strategy. You try to write the best book you possibly can and then come up with ways to help readers find it. Because if you don’t do your homework, there are millions of books available. How will a reader find yours?
I’ve read Lindsay Buroker’s blog posts for a long time, and she and Liliana Hart gave some similar advice. Both said it’s hard to attract readers with one book. Both said it’s smarter to write at least three books and put them up in short order to attract an audience. Hart suggested having five ready to go. Readers like series. You can’t really do much creative advertising/promotion with one book. I’ve posted this before, but here it is again, in case you missed it: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book
Both Lindsay Buroker and Liliana Hart stressed having at least one series of your books on multiple sites. “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” both warned. Amazon makes it easy for authors to publish and promote with them, but Hart encouraged writers to try iBooks (with Apple). She warned it takes a year and a half for an author to get established there, so there’s no way to get rich quick, but readers on iBooks aren’t enticed by 99 cent, $1.99, or $2.99 books. They expect to pay more for better quality.
Both authors also encourage advertising your books. It doesn’t do much good to promote a book if you only have one available. The real benefit comes when readers download your first book and look for more in the series. The trick is finding an advertising site that works for you. I’ve had good luck with The Fussy Librarian, but my friend who writes Regency romance has better luck with Ereader News Today. So it depends. Bookbub is wonderful, but it’s hard to get an ad there.
I’ve often wondered how effective social media is for selling books. Quite a few authors lately have posted that they might have lots of followers, but there’s not a lot of carry-over in sales. For me, that’s a little disheartening. Social media, it seems, connects writers with fellow writers, but it’s hard to connect with readers who’ll enjoy your genre and books. Tweeting, blogging, and having an author’s facebook page helps, but they warn to spend more time writing the next novel than losing time on social media. Their message? Don’t spend so much time playing on social media that you don’t WRITE.
I’ve heard over and over again that the most effective way to promote your work is by connecting with readers who like your books by offering an e-mail newsletter. I’ve done a crappy job on this. I started a newsletter, using Mail Chimp, but I didn’t think it through enough. Liliana Hart didn’t mince words. “If you don’t offer them something special, why should they join?” I sent the readers who signed up for mine updates and news, but I need to offer more. Hart suggested contests, where the winners get free books, etc. Buroker does the same. Hart goes a step further and has a “street team,” fans who’ll spread news about new books and novellas she writes through word of mouth. Quite a few romance writers have street teams. They send them swag–bookmarks, pens with a new release’s title on it, etc.–to pass out and spread the word.
If you choose to self-publish, remember that you’ll also have to self-promote. That doesn’t mean tweeting your book over and over again on twitter. It means connecting with readers somehow without sounding like spam. If any of you have found ways that work for you, I’d be happy to hear them. And the most important thing–Happy Writing!