Congratulations. You’ve written a book. You actually did it like you always said you would. You spent all that time (months, maybe years) crafting your baby from nothing into something beautiful. It began with an initial idea – that spark of eureka – and the journey went on until the moment your baby packed its bags, left home and became available for all the world to enjoy.
Thank God that’s all over, huh? Time for a beer or something even stronger. Sit, back, and reap the rewards of a job well done. Watch your books fly off the e-shelf. One by one by one. This indie author malarkey – it’s not a bad life, no?
No. It’s not a bad life. But…put that beer away (or at least drink it fast!) And when you’re done get back to work because as those who’ve written more than one book know, there’s still a ton of work to do. That’s if you want your work to get noticed. You see, the great and shitty thing about being an indie is that no one else is going to sell your book for you. It’s shitty because it would be nice to kick back and let someone else do all the work. But it’s also great because you have all the control. You are the man or woman in charge. But one thing’s for sure – don’t do nothing. Because if you let your work drift away it’s going to drown.
Now I’m relatively new to this indie author thing. But I’m learning fast and finding things out as I go along. Here’s where I’m at just now. Maybe other writers in the same boat can relate.
On December 8th, I released my first book ‘FAB’. It’s an eBook (but the paperback will be coming out soon paperback fans) Like many others before me, I distributed the book to the usual digital publishing outlets – Amazon, Smashwords, and this time I used Draft 2 Digital to distribute to the likes of iTunes, Kobo etc (In my opinion, D2D are more user-friendly than Smashwords)
As I was writing the book, I thought about little else other than getting it finished. And getting it finished on time. That’s because ‘FAB’ had a serious deadline attached. It was written and released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I only started working on the idea in late October when my wife suggested getting it out on time for the anniversary. It was a good idea, but shit it was scary too. It was certainly going to take some doing on my part because I’ve always thought of myself as a slow writer (in actual fact, I’m a slow editor!) I’ve never written anything at such breakneck speed. I was kind of going along with NaNoWriMo, but only in the sense that I was writing fast. I also had to be aware of not sacrificing quality for speed. It was a hard slog. I was working every day from morning until night but it was happening and hey it was exciting too. The finish line was always in sight. Brain cells were lost in the process, but so what? I was on my way to completing my longest piece of fiction yet. My longest piece of writing! Over time, the novelette became a novella and thanks to my helpers – my wife, brother, editor, cover designer, and formatter, we got there.
The writing part was finished.
But now, like all writers with a new release, I have to make people aware of it. That’s where things get tough. Have you seen how many books there are on Amazon? And all the other digital publishing platforms? It’s incredible. Inspirational and a little bit absurd, not to mention off-putting. How will my book ever get noticed amidst all those gazillions of other titles? How am I supposed to compete with the likes of ‘Now That I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay’? The joy of indie publishing of course is that anyone can publish a book. Literally anyone. However, just because everyone can do something doesn’t mean everyone should. But lots do. And truth be told, some of the indie books out there look bloody awful going by the covers. But it doesn’t matter because even shit looking books are legit. They’ll stand side by side with your work on the digital bookshelves, as will Stephen King and James Patterson and all those guys and girls. The competition is fierce. New books are at risk of death by obscurity.
But what the hell, right? Give it a bloody good go. Because it can happen. You’ve just got to get your work noticed.
Take me for example. I’m an emerging/mostly unknown indie author with zero marketing expertise. I’m not too proud to admit that I need help and I’ll gladly lean on whatever wisdom people are willing to share with me. Indie authors don’t have the clout of big publishing companies and their marketing departments. But regardless of who’s doing your marketing, these days it’s up to the author to promote themselves. Even traditionally published authors are expected to do a lot of their own legwork. At the moment, I’m trying a bit of everything to see what works. More experienced indies might laugh, but they’d be wrong to do so. I’m trying. And I’m asking for help too ‘cos I need it. Fortunately I have a brother who’s an expert in digital marketing and he’s very kindly offered to show me the intricacies of setting up Facebook and Twitter ads. That is, maximising your ad’s potential and making sure the specific settings will target the right people.
Even the more experienced indie marketers can do better. If they think otherwise, they’re kidding themselves.
There are so many options out there when it comes to marketing and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But try things. Try a Blog Tour (a reputable one though) Try publicising your work on social media, which includes opting for those paid ads I mentioned. You can feature samples of your work on sites like Wattpad and Bublish. By all means, try it. Look for eBook marketing sites. Some of it will work, but some of it won’t. Some of it you’ll have to pay for, but a lot of the best things – mingling on Goodreads or Library Thing for example – are free. Experiment, fail and try again. The game is young and it’s always changing.
You also have to find the time to do it all. See how hard it is?
It all comes down to how much you want it.
Be brave and enjoy the grind. We’re trying to get people interested in the stories we tell and that’s a noble task. Most of all, remember that being a writer is not a sprint – it’s a gruelling marathon on a twisted hot summer’s day. Personally, I believe that the most effective piece of marketing is simply to keep writing. Produce more books. It’s that simple and that hard. The more work you have out there, the better. That gives you the ability to set up free promotions and create effective product funnels, and all that kind of stuff that’s easier to pull of with volume. More books = more options. But remember! Produce a quality product. This is so important. Never sacrifice anything for speed. Never. One day, when your readers find you, they’ll thank you for it.