Why some folks are ruining the Indie pub market!

Wrong, wrong, just so wrong!

Wrong, wrong, just so wrong!

One of the well known montras for savvy authors in the Indie publishing world is to avoid shouting out “Buy my book!  Please, buy my book!”  Just ask Jonathan Gunson at Best Seller Labs.   Yet, the goal of course is to sell as many books as you can.   Learning the tricks of the marketing trade isn’t easy.   As egotistical as many writers are, sometimes their biggest failure is in promotion.   Here’s a great post on that exact subject from Martin Crosbie, a contributor to Indies Unlimited. Gone are the days when the big six publishers market you.   Not to mention small Indie press.

You might sign with a publisher, have them order ten thousand copies of your book only to have those books returned to you at cost because they did not sell.   Your ten thousand dollar book advance, now in arrears.  It happens.  Everyday.   Why do you think shops like Books a Million and Half Priced Books exist?   It is called returns. 

One of the advantages of being Indie pub’d and print on demand, POD is that your books aren’t returned en masse.   In the next week, AgeView Press will host a guest blogger, author and publisher Amanda Thrasher who is an expert in navigating the slippery slope of Indie Press.    What exactly is the relationship between CreateSpace, Amazon, Lightning Source and Ingram.   Who is in bed with whom?   How does it all work?

There is a new game in town.   Small press cooperatives.   Within these cooperatives are authors just like you.  Looking to get that edge.  Sure, it is an ego booster to say that you have your own Indie press:  i.e. you self pubbed your books and now are owner of “xyz books.”   But just take a look on Goodreads and Amazon.  There are over one million books Indie pressed each year.  Each year!  The competition is daunting.  

Not everyone is going to be an EL James or Amanda Hocking.   There is strength in numbers.   Don’t contribute to watering down the industry with onesy and twosy “Indie” Presses that you own yourself.    Shop around.  Find a small press that offers you what you want.   Better yet, form a cooperative with several authors yourself.   But buyer beware, the latest rip off are the fees that some of these small presses charge you to participate.    There have been scalpings for sure.  

Do your homework.  Check them out.   Find out what is required on your part.   Explore what bang you get for your buck.   Ultimately, you will find that with faithful social media, blogging, and a small budget for advertising the sky is the limit.   So tell us, what is your biggest struggle with shameless self promotion?  Do you have a marketing secret?  Please share it below.   We won’t tell.

How you too can be a successful break out writer!

About a year ago, at the Lexicon Writer’s Conference I ran into a team of new writers. Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer. Immediately I was drawn to their ecclectic personality and antics. Their display table looked awesome. They were gregariously out there mingling and meeting. They were on the ticket to lecture to a packed room. They were on fire.

But how? How did two retired gentlemen who only published their first book a little over a year ago, become so popular so fast? It was something I wanted to find out. I found it was no secret. You’ve heard it before. They established a brand. Their brand and boy was it working.  The Black Eagle Force series.

Ken Farmer and Buck Steinke

Establishing their brand

Buck and Ken write in two genres, military fiction and action adventure. When they are out there, they are events that align with their brand . . gun shows, cowboy days, Indian events, military association gatherings, Western wear stores. Anything and everything that promotes their genre, their brand and thus . . .their books. It isn’t magic, its sound business sense.

Now, sure . . . they are retired and have time to do it. And they do it full time. But don’t go there, as a writer you can do it too.  However, they have another secret too. They have more than one book out there. They took the time to make sure they produced a second book, and then . . . a third, and a fourth. It is this type of succession that keeps their brand out there and keeps people wanting more. Most readers, if they like one book, will purchase a second from the same author.

So, really, it’s more than just successful branding and marketing. It is writing. We’ve all heard of the one hit wonder. As a writer, you do not want to be that. The proof is in the pudding. . . your second book.

 

There are some great lessons here:
1. Know your reader and your genre
2. Know what events are out there that match your reader and genre
3. Get booked into those events
4. Don’t be afraid to establish yourself as a character, an action hero, a cowboy, a philanthropist, a diva!
5. Get your calendar out and plot out which events will make you shine
6. Develop your marketing plan, start it, and keep the momentum going
7. Promote others that write well and guess what? They might just promote you.
6. Keep your keyboard and computer warm and running . . . keep writing!

Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer have become good friends and colleagues. I continue to be amazed to watch their brand grow successfully. They selected their genre carefully and have kept it narrow. As such, their novels have gotten onto Amazon’s top sales lists. Go take a peek for yourself.

Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer

Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer

The Nations
The Black Eagle Force seriesIf you get the chance, register and attend one of the most amazing, really helpful, networking conferences goign on in DFW – The Lexicon Writer’s Conference. What you will get there is a chance to network with writers who will promote you.  The founder’s philosophy is simply this:   “Would you rather hear someone saying ‘buy my book, buy my book’ or instead hear ten other people telling ten others to get this great book.”

At Lexicon you will hear talks on marketing, branding, social media knowhow.   You’ll meet publishers, agents, and successfull writers.  You’ll get a great bang for your buck and actually get a chance to meet these guys in person! I guarantee you’ll walk away motivated.   Don’t miss your chance to sign up.   Click here.

How to get tagged, tweeted, and most of all read!

Hawk on perch

Hawk your book in the right places!

Many authors will tell you . . . “writing isn’t the hard part.  It’s the marketing.”    As the market continues to get flooded by everyone under the sun who has had a book in their head, it becomes evermore important for a writer to create their presence, their brand, their own way on social media.   The recommendation from the pros in the book industry is to find your niche.   It will be the perfect niche that will hook your writers.

Initially, it will be easy for you to find other authors.   In following them, and they in turn following you,  your presence will expand on social media.  However, it will quickly become apparent from the frequented #hashtags out there, that gaining a following of only other authors will not sell your books.   Your numbers will go up to be sure.   But unfortunately, not your sales.  Only your mates that are fellow authors might buy your book.   For you see, other authors are trying to sell their own books.  You must find readers.   But a good start is to build your brand by promotion of fellow authors.

In building up a colleagial relationship with fellow authors, you must promote their books.   Tweet them, blog them, facebook them.   Extol your fellow author’s talents.  In turn, if they are savvy about book marketing, they will return the favor and promote yours.   One such writers conference that encourages such efforts is Lexicon.   According to the philosophy here, readers would much rather hear another author promoting a strong book, as opposed to an author screeching “Buy my book.”  As such, it is important that you promote brands that match your own caliber of writing and style.   Promoting every wanna-be writer out there, one whose material isn’t quality will water down your brand.   Preview their work, surf their blog and webpage, then if you like what you see, promote away!

Here are two examples of successful Indie marketing journeys:

The first is a pair of writers, Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer.    Both have presence on social media.   Their niche?  #historicalfiction and #militaryfiction.  As such, in developing their marketing plan, they booked themselves into events which characterized the themes of their writing.   Some of their most successful sales have been gun shows, military gatherings and cowboy events.  In these events, they dress the part in character.   Set up a display with objects related to the theme.  They visit.  Greet.  And yes, even flirt.   The results?  Sales.  Sales.  Sales out the wazoo!    One of their books, The Nations is now in the top 50 books on Amazon in historical fiction.    Wow! The Nations - a historical fiction in Amazon's top 100 - Ken Farmer and Buck Steinke

A second example is even more grassroots.    Brinda Carey is a survivor of incest and domestic abuse.   Her book tells of that story.   Brinda who initially found it hard to talk about the subject, must less write about it, found comfort in sharing her story to help other women.  As such, she speaks at women’s shelters, public health forums, groups which attempt to prevent domestic violence.  Her tweets and blogs are directed at helping other women break free of the imprisonment of domestic violence and abuse.    She provides them comfort and strength.   It is through her public speaking appearances that she has sold over 1000 ebooks in the first year of publication for her debut memoir, Don’t Cry Daddy’sHere.

Don't Cry Daddy's Here book on Amazon

A must read for anyone dealing with abuse!

Finding a niche isn’t easy.    Sometimes it is hit or miss.   From what I have learned in seeing a work of my own, Flying Solo published this year, I can already see the mistakes I made initially, that could have boosted sales.    But no need to cry over spilt milk.   A historical fiction, well written has no expiration date.    One advantage of the genre to be sure.    Take your time, do your research.   Explore and experiment with several multi-tiered layers of marketing.    Be a hawk!   But most of all, don’t give up and keep on writing!   The world is waiting to read your words.

Facebook. . as an author your friend or foe?

Facebook logo in words

Friend or Foe?

This post may rattle some cages, but that’s okay.   Controversy oft makes for good journalism.   Facebook, the hugely successful, social media platform can be an author’s friend or foe.   There are many advantages to utilizing Facebook as an author.    Mainly, it gives you a free platform to post a fan page, a small Indie press page, even individual pages for your book.    Free is great.   Electronic exposure even better.   But you have to understand Facebook’s limitations.   Unlike Twitter, not everything you post is going to be available to all of your friends at the same time.    In fact, some of your “friends” may never see your posts at all.

Despite how public or private you make it, Facebook randomly determines which “friends” it thinks should see your material.   Example, you may have close to 500 friends or fans, but not all of your posts will populate their newsfeeds.    You can customize your newsfeeds, in order that your material is seen frequently by key people posted, but many folks on facebook do not take the time to choose these preferences.   The Harvard Business Review posted an interesting article on this fact.

Another drawback of Facebook is legitimacy.   Anyone can post almost anything on Facebook.   It’s validity, however, may not be guaranteed.   Prime example recently?   The Morgan Freeman death hoax.    Many received notice via Facebook newsfeeds that Morgan Freeman had died of an abdominal aortic anuerysm on Sept 6th.  Within minutes, like rampant wildfire,  Facebook and Twitter exploded with posts.  There even was a RIP Morgan Freeman page on which thousands posted memorials, retweeted, and reposted on Facebook.  Interestingly enough, despite Morgan Freeman’s publicists’ staunch and very public denials that he was alive and well, this rumor persisted for more than seven days!     Yet, no major news outlet was reporting the story.

Point?   Many people rely on Facebook as their official report of news.  They don’t bother to check out their sources before reposting like wildfire on the gossip grapevine.    Reliable news sources simply were not verified.   Folks were just keen to “share” the juicy gossip.   Thus, the danger of facebook.    Not one of these people who tweeted and fb’d bothered to check a real news source prior to hitting “share” or “like.”    The problem with that?   Rampant gossip without validation of fact.    Wendy Bauder, a columnist for the Independent Voice warns that frivolous facebookers will end up eating a lot of crow.

How does that harm you as an author?    Another case in point,  the Lend Ink debacle.   Lend Ink was a legitimate lending site.   But when a few fearful and uninformed facebookers grabbed hold  accusing them of piracy of their ebooks,  Lend Ink was dismanted within days.  Many were  guilty of not checking their facts.   As backfire, bloggers launched an counter assault.   Many authors as a result, negative reviews that cannot ever be removed were posted on author’s Amazon and Goodreads pages.

The same wildfire inflation occurs with mutual author “like” pages.    Authors go down a list and randomly “like” everyone’s Amazon, Facebook, and website pages.    As an author, you are working to establish your brand.  By randomly “liking” each book posted on these pages,  you are watering down your brand and word.    Be careful!!  Only “like” books which you are sure are well written.    Also, only “like” books which are in line with your brand.    A woman’s Christian fiction writer certainly wouldn’t want to be “liking” a sadistic slasher novel.   You get the idea.

The concern with all of this?    Superficiality.    Authors should indeed support authors.   As small Indie press authors, you could be at risk to water down the Indie press brand.    Only back quality!    But remember, first and foremost, your buying public are readers.

Make sure you are spending your time wisely on Facebook, doing what you can to research and find means to reach and grab the fleeting attention of your readers.    Book clubs,  genre specific events.    Unusual places to do book signings.   That is where your time would be well spent.   In the end, that genuine word of mouth pathway will make all the difference in the success of marketing your book.

Rollercoasters of praise and rejection, which one will you dare to ride?

Huge rollar coaster at Six Flags Texas

Ride the waves of your writing career!     Being a writer, is not unlike being a bipolor, manic-depressive.  Would you not agree?   One minute, you are full of emotion, supercharged with motivation, and typing away furiously on the computer with your latest story idea.   The next, you are staring at the computer wondering why no one has like your brilliant tweet or blog post.    Can you relate to this juxtaposition?

Many writing coaches and publishers will tell you, the writing is easy.  It is marketing yourself and your work that is the killer.   It is flat out exhausting.   Tweeting, facebooking, links, and hashtags.  Talk, talk, talking about your book to grocery store workers, women at the salon, book clubs, book signings, and book festivals.   Seemingly, there are not enough hours in the day.     This constant demand on your time can fuel the rollarcoaster of emotions.   You, like your public will find that you vassilate between self confidence and self-flaggelation.    You are not alone.

Recently, there was a presentation at the Lexicon Writer’s conference entitled, Marketing your business on a shoestring, by Julie Hall, owner of Custom Websites 2 Go.    She talked about the importance of getting the word out there constantly about your book, especially with the short attention spans of your potential buyers.    At some point, you might consider investing in a service that would help you automate your tweets and generate connections for  yourself.   If you are Twitter naive or Facebook naive, take a course.    Only you can make your facebook and blog postings personal.    But at some point you have to care for yourself too.    Research and invest on small business that specialize in promotion of writers.  Several have been mentioned in previous posts (Ralphs Designs and DeliAskthepublishingGuru; AuthorMedia).

In utilizing these specialized services, they can help extend the connections that will make an impact for your book and your sanity.   The hard part is patience.  It can take from three to six weeks for the results of your marketing to show.   Not every effort, or blog post, or tweet will “go viral.”    Don’t you secretly wish they would?   But stay the course.   Keep putting one foot in front of the other.    Pay it foward by supporting other authors.    Like pages you really like!   Retweet posts that mean something to you.   But be genuine!    Establish your voice and brand.   Don’t just “like” to “like.”    Make those followup phonecalls;  log those book signings and book festivals;  and keep on writing.

The waves of emotion come in whether your book or poem is praised or rejected.    You surf to Amazon hoping to see likes, wait on baited breath to see your book review,  or eat a tub of Ben and Jerry’s after reading a not-so-positive review.    One minute you are being praised at a signing.  The next minute no one opened your mass email containing your book reviews.    It happens.

The biggest lesson, which is the hardest of all?    Don’t be afraid of the big coaster.    The journey up it can be terrifying, but the payoff for your efforts is a huge, exhilarating high at the end.

Are You Marketing Your Book by the Numbers?

lots of books in bookstore

Your book among the millions!

Several posts have been written about book marketing and yet, there is more to learn everyday.   In today’s ‘I want it yesterday’ mindset, having to wait for some distribution reports to post 60 days after the fact is excruciating!   Fans tell you, “I bought and love the book” yet, the author cannot see where.   It takes stamina not to shout,  “Where?  Where did you buy it?  Amazon, B and N?  Alternative book sellers?  Smashwords?  Where dang it?”

Recently, a very savvy book marketer, Jason Rutherford, otherwise known as the Publishing Guru gave some valuable insight to book marketing by the numbers.   For a fresh novel, six months is your target range.    By that time, if you are headed in the best seller category, your goal should be 1000 copies distributed.    About 1000 to 1500 is your critical mass, whereby enough people that have read the book will begin telling other people, “Read this book.”    Remember the message is “Read this book,” not buy this book.

A good word of mouth response with direct sales results follows this pattern.   For every 1000 people you contact, through blog reviews, personal appearances, book signings,  book festivals, public speaking and social media you should hope for a 1% return.  In other words, out of that 1000 people you tweeted, told, begged, borrowed and bribed to buy your book, you generated 10 sales.    For those of you into immediate, rapid rise to stardom, those numbers must be daunting.

A decent twitter following is greater that 100 real contacts.   Not generated contacts that mean nothing.  Industry contacts in the book world, writers, publishers, editors, and fab peeps including friends that will tell everyone about your book.  Twitter gold is 500 followers.  Twitter platimum 1000 followers who are looking to retweet your posts and links.   Again the goal?  Trafficing them back to your website or blog to give you credibility and a following.

Facebook stardom is 500 friends.  If you have more than that, you are well on your way.  Remember, however, that just because you post something in facebook, not all 500 of your friends are going to see it.   Therefore, the key is linking.   Make twitter, talk to facebook. talk to your blog.   And make your blog, blog worthy!   Don’t post just to post.

To check on how your book is doing,  a handy site is:   www.Bookfinder4U.com  There, you can see exactly what alternative channels and how many are selling your book.   Not actual sales, but distributors that have ordered from Ingram.   One of the reasons to like www.createspace.com is that even though you must patiently wait for sales totals, at least you get some kind of report.   Because some information is better than none.

So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, continue to write everyday.  Plan out your marketing strategy and put it into action.   With fortitude, practice and a little bit of savvy, you too can have the next NY Times best seller.

The dreaded M word . . . .

Talking about FLYING SOLO

Talking, talking, talking FLYING SOLO

The dreaded M word for most authors is marketing. Marketing, marketing, marketing! And I don’t mean the cute Mother Goose tune about “taking a pig, giggety gig.” Some authors believe that the hardest job is the writing. The writing is easy. Great marketing can make your book into a NYT best seller. Poor marketing can relegate even the most well written book into oblivious resale shops. Marketing is not something that is taught by the publishing houses.   It is encouraged, but not taught.   If you are self published your book will remain unknown unless you are a marketing champion.  If you hire a publicist, make sure they are savvy about today’s book market.   Gone are the days when 20,000 copies will sell themselves.   But don’t shy away, one can learn to market.   You must embrace it with shameless self promotion.   Babble about your book.   Let’s break it down with some tips to make it easier:
M   Make the most of every opportunity to talk about your book.  Don’t shy away.  Tweets, blogging, and facebook are all your friends.

A   Advocate for your book.   Whenever you around anyone, have fliers, business cards of your book, and information to readily hand out.  Make it easy for people to find and read your book.

R  Research, research, research.   Look at the type of customer who seems to be attracted to your book and zero in on where you can find those people.  Bookclubs, meetups, church groups.   Find where they are hanging out and plan to be there.  Consider public speaking.   Dave Lieber the Yankee Cowboy is the champion on this.  There are online communities like Createspace and forums, like Indie Publishers in your own towns to discuss these topics for authors.

K Kismet.  Sometimes the starts align and put you in the right place at the right time to meet a person who loved reading your book and writes a great review.    Not all the best reviews are paid for!    Many are free.  Look for Amazon top reviewers.

book signing FLYING SOLO

Book Signing at ARealBookStore May 2012

E Educate yourself on how to go about self promotion.  Dont’ shy away from the experiences of other authors.   Take a few workshops on book promotion through meetup groups.  Read, read, read the outstanding free publications all over the internet.   A great example of that is Author Media.  Learn the trick of the trade on how to link your tweets, blog posts, and facebook postings to make them synergistically bring in more followers and fans.

T Take the time to learn the ins and outs.   Be patient.  Start a momentum and build it.  There are no secret tricks to marketing.   Be ready to learn from what works and what doesn’t.   Collect ideas and test them to see what gets the best bang for you buck.   You don’t have to spend all the profits from your books on paid services to market.   Great quote from one author, “make sure you get some promo copies of your book into the hands of the reader.   Remember your slogan is not ‘buy my book’ but read my book.   Word of mouth in this business is everything!   One reader who share with another and another and another.   Best example of this, The Help.

So, don’t get frustrated or have a panic attack when someone in the industry asks you about your marketing plan. Follow the tips here, make yourself a list of activities and like NIKE says. . . . just do it!