I belong to the IndiRomanceInk, a Yahoo group with over 1000 members, some traditionally and indie published; others indie only. If you need advice on anything to do with self-publishing, this is the place to ask. A lot of writers on the group lately have hit milestones: 25,000, 100,000, 10,000 sales, etc. At the same time, other members are saying this past June was one of their worst months. As for me, I seem to be going on about the same.
I don’t want to go on the same. I want to get better. So when one of the members asked how the milestone-making writers did it and a couple authors answered, I paid attention. Kallypso Masters gave a great reply, and she was happy to share it here. Because not everything works for everyone, I’m giving my thoughts after hers. But first, here’s Kallyso’s list of what she did that worked for her:
1) Set up a Facebook and Twitter page–and any other social media you like/want, but I use Facebook primarily. It needs to be under the name of the pen name you plan to use.
2) Start a blog and post WIP excerpts to give people a sample of your writing. Leave lots of things hanging. Lots of teasers. (They may complain about being teased, but secretly readers love it. ) Also, invite guest bloggers to your blog site, especially those writing similar style books. The cross traffic will be good. After publishing, join blog hops appropriate to your genre–you’ll get lots of new readers/traffic to your site.
3) On/After Tuesdays each week, sign up to participate in the Six Sentence Sunday blog/meme at sixsunday.com. I started doing this a couple months before my first book came out and developed a following. (Look for other memes that interest you, because they bring you new viewers.)
4) Hire someone to do your covers.
5) Join groups on Facebook that cater to self-publishing to learn tips on marketing.
6) On Yahoo, join the group IndieRomanceInk for a wealth of support and information on indie publishing in the Romance genre. The link is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IndieRomanceInk. 🙂
7) Engage, engage, engage in social media. Do not start flooding the internet with “check out my new book” when it comes out. Start now by friending people (under your pen name), engaging in conversations (not promotions) on their FB walls (especially authors in your genre or who write like you), and talk about non-writing things going on in your life. Readers respond to authors they deem “real.”
I still get responses to e-mails and posts from readers who are floored that I even responded to them. (I don’t see how a writer wouldn’t respond to a direct message, but apparently some don’t.) When I went on Facebook in May 2011, I started talking about my characters, too. I’d send my Doms (heroes) out to visit my fellow authors or readers for a little “discipline,” if they needed it. (It’s what I write, as you know.) That got a buzz going and people told their friends to check out this crazy new author and her Doms. I actually attracted a lot of people to the BDSM genre.
When my book finally came out in August 2011, because they already felt they knew my characters, having interacted with them personally on Facebook, they were standing in line to buy the book. I don’t know if that works for everyone, but it sure made a difference for me. I had accumulated 625 friends on FB (all but 200 of them from people asking to be MY friend, not my asking everyone I knew and then some to friend me). I sold 248 of my first book that first month (Aug.) and 221 the next month, plus 77 of the second book, which came out on Sept. 30. Last month, I sold 11,216 (mostly books 2 and 3, because for most of the month, book 1 was free). Plus there were 34,000 downloads of that free book last month.) Most of the authors I’ve talked with who have made it big say it took about six months and three books, which is pretty close for me, too. My sales made five digits in January after the third book came out. In December it would have been about $4,000 without book three’s sales the last week.
8) Make a book free forever, if you can. It’s hard to do that on Amazon, but if you price it free on Smashwords and All Romance eBooks, then tell people to report that it’s free elsewhere, you will get Amazon to cave and make it free there in their Price Match program. (I asked Kallypso’s Street Brats, my street team, to report the free prices elsewhere and Amazon responded within four days.)
HOWEVER, be aware that you can’t make a book free on Barnes & Noble UNLESS you have Smashwords distribute to them. I would also have SW distribute to Apple. I upload my $-priced books to B&N myself, but the only way to get Masters at Arms on there free was via Smashwords.
But it’s best not to make it free until book two is ready to come out or is already out, or you won’t make any money. They need to have instant access to another book–not wait a few months or more for the next, because they’ll forget you and move on to other authors. So, if you have to hold off and finish another book–or take time to write an intro to your series like I did with Masters at Arms and put it out as your freebie, do so.
I had written Nobody’s Angel two years before (nothing like the edited versions that went out), but when someone told me about my needing a marketing piece, I sat down and penned Masters at Arms in about three weeks. Then it went to my new editor and I added another 20,000 words and really fleshed out the characters more. It became much more than a marketing piece and is highly rated, so don’t just put out something you don’t love. Hook them. Tease them. Leave them hanging on things to come in the series.
9. Hire professionals to make you look like a professional:
You need an editor (and not a writer friend or an English teacher, but someone who edits books in your genre for a living.
Hire a line editor.
Hire a cover artist. (I cheated on this, because I didn’t have money, so a friend did mine and I promised to pay her when I made some money, or by the following April when I was going to have to go job hunting if this one-year adventure didn’t pan out as a new career. Well, in January, she got paid, because the sales were going so well. )
Hire a formatter. Yeah, you can pore over the Smashwords and other formatting guides and waste writing time doing your own–or you can spend $35-60 on a formatter (priced based on size of manuscript) and get on to the writing of the next book. I spent two weeks trying to get my first book formatted and an e-publisher and a writer friend finally had to come to my rescue or I may never have gotten them anywhere but Smashwords.
I know published authors who still will spend an entire DAY OR TWO doing it themselves, after they “got the hang of it.” Think of all the writing and promoting you could have done in that time! I know money is tight when you start out, but you don’t want to be penny wise and dollar foolish.
10) Google your pen name and check availability for the simplest, most logical domain name. If not available or some famous person has your name, choose another one. (One of my early pen names ended up being a porn star. My biggest mistake was not selling her the domain name myself, rather than just letting it go, because I did beat her to it. But I opted not to write steamy and went for erotic, and Kallypso Masters was the name I’d chosen for that). There definitely aren’t any other Kallypsos out there!
I forget it I added other tips, but those should give newbies ideas and maybe even some seasoned authors.
I agree with everything Kally says and I’m already doing a lot. But I think you have to go with your strengths, and that much social media is not my strength. As for cross blogging, unless your writer friends get a lot of reader traffic, try to blog or do interviews on reviewer sites. Though I buy friends’ books, there are a lot that I don’t buy. I’m just too busy writing my own books to do as much reading as I’d like. I know my writer friends are going through the same thing.
I did try the 6 sentences for a few Sundays, but here again that’s writer-to-writer promo. Since you need to reciprocate in order to get a lot of traffic, I felt it cut into my writing time. My non-writing time, too.
But I am going to make a conscious effort to blog more. A writer friend blogs three times a week, plus she works full-time and has a young daughter and a husband. If she can do all that, I should certainly be able to blog three times, too.
Which of Kally’s suggestions do you think you might try? And do you have any advice you’d like to add?