The Joys of Marketing for the Indie Author
What a fun topic this is … ha. If you are like me and you struggled with what to do in this extremely competitive field then you’re not alone. Most of us, there are always exceptions; find it difficult to maintain a steady flow of purchases when our names are barely out there. It takes what seems like luck to be one of ‘the ones’ who makes it big and gets to break free from this thing we called life. Now I am not saying that my methods (and yes, there are quite a lot) are the end all be all. But I am saying that this has worked for me. I list ‘some’ of what I do here … there is really too much for just one blog post. Before you dive deep into this post I want you to stop for a moment and think about this question …. What is a successful author? The reason I am asking this question is because success is very subjective. What I find great and wonderful you might find mediocre and unfulfilling. To me, personally, success is a three prong combination.
My Three Prong Success Package
Prong #1 – The Author
What I find most fulfilling and satisfying from being an author is the feedback from readers. Knowing that I have touched a life that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Now I know that it isn’t always easy to get to events and get your name out. I am extremely lucky to be living in a city where I can have book events every few months. But you too can touch lives. There are plenty of forums to post your work for sales and giveaway’s to touch people’s lives, and social media to help spread the word.
I was recently at an event in Houston and a teenager, an eighth grader, came up to my table with her mom. I, as always, give my speech about my BLOOD SERIES and this teen fan girled out. She gave her mom these big pouty eyes and said “Please can I get them?” It is moments like that, for me that I live for. Her mom later emailed me on Facebook thanking me for being so sweet to her daughter. And you see, now I have super fan. Someone who will reach out and help me, without question. A few days after that the mother posted my buy links on her Facebook site for her fans to see telling everyone how nice I was to her daughter.
It is these moments that tell me what I am doing is paying off. It is also the added knowledge knowing that this is a conquest of personal struggle to me. All through school English was extremely hard for me because I missed the key developmental stages when I was in first and second grade. As a result, I never thought I would be able to do what I love. Now, after four years of intense writing, learning, reading and working, I am in a place in my life that I can be proud of.
Prong #2 – The Quality of Product
As Indie Authors we have one thing that traditional authors don’t – the ability to change as we go and develop a fluid method as opposed to a stagnant one. What I mean by this – as we discover new ways to make things better, we adapt and grow. We can work backwards to fix mistakes we might have had before. We can take suggestions and improve on them in our current works and our future works. This is a great tool for us. We have this chance to right our wrongs.
Here is an example of my own personal experience. I wrote a new novel that came out in December, SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT, and honestly I think it is my best book yet. (On a side note, I think each book we put out should be better than its predecessors, but that’s neither here nor there.) I was extremely proud of this product of work and I was ready to show it off to the world. I asked an author that I had done a review for if she would swap reviews and read SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT. She said yes. About seven days later she emails me telling me she has a major dilemma. She likes my story, she likes my characters and she likes the flow … but she has issues with the grammar. Now, it had been through three rounds of edits and I was extremely shocked and upset when I got this email, as anyone would be. So I asked her to elaborate and give me examples. She pointed out one rule in the English language that I didn’t know, my beta’s hadn’t caught and my editor didn’t think about.
So we went back and for a fourth time, edited the book. Luckily I am a self-publishing author so I was able to pull the book from sales for the week until we were finished fixing these mistakes. Now the novel is polished and right as rain. So let us look at the other side of this coin, with the authors who use publishers. My debut novel, BLOOD PURPLE, had a similar experience. I found a home for this book with a small publishing house and within five months it was out for the world to see. I had no idea what I was doing and the reviews were all coming back a strong 4 or 5 from various blogging review sites.
And then the professional review lands … 2.5 Stars. The reviewer sited grammar issues and flow issues … So what did I do? I emailed her. Tonya and I got to talking and she explained all of her issues she had with it and I was just dumbfounded. Everything she had pointed out my editor with the publishing house said was okay. I vividly remember sending email after email with the editor asking about these issues. So now I had a dilemma … what do I do? I had to beg, yes beg, the publisher to have someone else re-edit my body of work. This review landed in October and it wasn’t until March that it was re-edited. I honestly mean this when I say it; thank god I only sold 110 copies of Blood Purple with the publisher. Only 110 people were exposed to this horrid debacle.
After purchasing my rights back from that publisher I went and had my own editor rework it. And now, BLOOD PURPLE is a book I can be proud of. The whole point of this is … don’t rush your process. This is the most important part of marketing … MAKE SURE YOUR PRODUCT IS MARKETABLE! As Indie Authors we already have a bad stigma attached to us. We produce less than best quality of work, you get what you pay for (cheap book cheap quality) and formats just tossed together to get it uploaded into the KDP program ASAP.
This is the WRONG THING TO DO!!! If you don’t know how to format, pay someone. Or find another author who does format and offer to pay them or trade services. You’re an author, you can beta read, possibly line edit or edit for continuity, maybe you can help with a blog tour or something. DO NOT GO CHEAP ON THE FORMAT!!! I also review books on my blog and I am finding out more and more why formatting is almost as important as the words on the page. Sometimes I look at these indie books and just shake my head. There aren’t page breaks. Or the header and footer show up in the middle of the body of work. Or the indentions are off center on every other paragraph. I won’t review those books. It is too distracting to me as a reader to constantly have the flow of the book broken up by formatting issues.
Yesterday (March 1, Saturday) I spent seven hours formatting two books. My MAVERICK TOUCH THE HIGHWAY and Stacy’s MYTH SERIES book. Yes, SEVEN HOURS! You might ask, why did it take so long? Well, because I go through every single line of each body of work to make sure it looks good. I make sure each new section has the bold and italic lettering that Stacy and I want. I make sure that each new paragraph has the proper spacing that Stacy and I want. I make sure that the pages are laid out perfectly for Createspace, PDF, KDP, SMASHWORDS, All Romance Ebooks, and Bookstrand. Formatting is VERY time consuming if you are doing it correctly. Slapping stuff together and calling it formatted is the first way to show that you my friend are an Indie Author. Because that’s what readers are expecting.
You must disguise yourself, yes, we’re Indie, but we are just as good as the New York publishers! Take a look at this image below. It is the first two pages of my book coming out March 24th. Let’s discuss what we see.
First – there is a title page, the title is the same size as my name, and it is all spelled correctly. (Sad but I have seen some that aren’t!) The left side of the page is uniformed; everything is lined up exactly the same. And we have our brand logo at the bottom.
Why is that important?
Branding is one of the most essential things in marketing that you can do. It will set you out from other people that you are competing with inside your field. You want to be set out in a good way; you want to be given that competitive advantage. If you brand yourself as crap, that is what you will get. Stacy and I worked long and hard on coming up with a logo for our company. We cross market our products so we want everyone to associate each of our books with one another. Trust me, what you think you can do on your own; you can do better with a team! You will notice the larger A and S, while Art and Safkhet are written there; it is also a representation of Ashley and Stacy. Which people will think when they see the two of us together and our branding. We also have the Egyptian symbol on top with the eye … Stacy and I write a lot of our stuff from that part of the world, we have a lot of mythology in our books. It suits the direction that she and I are taking.
All of this combined logic comes together and now, in 2014 we are launching our ‘brand.’ This is the symbol that will be associated with us from here on out. You too want a brand. You want something that sets you apart. And preferably you want something that you create. Not an image you purchase (as others can end up using it too.)
Now let us look at the second page …. What do you see? I have the copyright page that is in all traditional trade books. You have the title, the copyright, the credits to those who contributed, the do not steal my work clause and the ISBN numbers.
What does this tell you? It tells the reader that this book is official! Now, all books ‘are official’ but this sets it apart. This looks like a traditional trade book.
Now combine the first two pages and you get a standard introduction into this body of fiction just like you would with any other book. NOTHING on these two pages says “HELLO I’M AN INDIE AUTHOR!!!!”
I’m not hiding who I am … I am just presenting myself like I want to be perceived … as a professional!
Prong # 3 – Making That Sale
When I first started with the publisher I did what they told me … I bought Google Ads, I bought Facebook Ads, I signed up for Blog Tours and I promo’d the hell out of my work. I even kept statistical data on how much each action drove my sales. Do you want to know what I found out? The single action that increased my sales was one friend who had 2000 friends posting my link on Facebook. She drove more people to purchasing my book than any of that other stuff I did. And that is when I knew this system was wrong!
I had no idea what I needed to do … So I went to Vegas. There was a convention last year, The Romance Novel Convention, hosted by cover model Jimmy Thomas and InDTale Magazine (the only magazine for small press and indie authors by the way). And Oh My God, this place changed my life. So here is what I do now.
My Blog – My blog is insanely active. I have over 1500 views in a rolling four week time period constantly. It is very very time consuming! If you don’t already have a successful blog, I might not try this cause it’s a pain in the ass! Lol. But I host other authors. I read books for my Sunday Review line; I am a tour host for three tour companies. Do you know why I do this? Because all of these companies and authors are bringing readers to ME! It takes nothing for me to get them on my site. Sure, I have the other author’s links on my pages and what not…but what do I have on my side bar? What do I have at the top? MY BOOKS! And trust me, people are clicking these links! I monitor my traffic and see where people go.
Goodreads – I use Goodreads for the reviews I post on my blog, along with all my blog posts doubling over there. Do you know why? Because, statistics show, it takes seven, that’s right, seven times for a reader to see or hear your name before they will pick up your book. So I want all of my ‘friends’ on Goodreads to see my name actively in their news feed. I want them to recognize it, and pick up a book.
Free Books – I don’t see anything wrong in giving one book out of each of my series away for free. Lilliana Hart gave a great presentation on this … and she was right. I went from 110 sales of BLOOD PURPLE in the first 7 months … to …. 23,000 downloads in 2013. Yes, those were free book downloads but still. 23,000 people have MY BOOK in their hands. Have ‘Ashley Nemer’ on their reading device. And you want to know what … 1-2% of those downloads have bought BLOOD YELLOW. So what does that mean? That means every day, on one site or another, at least one person is buying an Ashley Nemer book. Some days it’s up to 5 a day, others its just 1 or 2. But I am getting consistent reoccurring sales. Would I have that if I didn’t give BLOOD PURPLE away for free? Nope. And now, I know that each and every sale I get is because that reader wanted more of my works. And that is an amazing feeling.
Cross Marketing – There are endless readers out in this world, and not helping one another out as authors is a disservice. We need to help each other promote. Help celebrate each other’s release days. Send our readers to other author’s sites. Because not only does this help your Karma … but that other author will do it for you too! People who stay isolated and don’t branch out and work together with our peers in the end won’t have the better deal. You need a support system. They say it takes a tribe to raise a child … well our books are our babies … give our books a tribe!
So does all of this mean, “Ashley Nemer is a successful author?” Back to the original question? I don’t know. To you maybe not. But to me yes. Every day I am selling a book somewhere in the world to someone I don’t know. Every day! I have touched the lives of people I had never would have met had I not started this journey.
So you tell me? Am I successful?
Mark Coker the founder of Smashwords says that the average author will only make $200.00 a year, TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS! That isn’t very much. So I know by statistics I am doing better than average. I’m not a NYTimes Best Seller, but, I don’t need to be. I don’t do this for the money or the sales. I do this for self fulfilment and personal challenge.
That’s why success is so subjective.
I wish you all luck and hope that I have been somewhat of a help to you.
If you want to be featured on my blog, either via review (3 months out for reserving spots) or on a guest post, spotlight or interview just shoot me an email.
If you have any questions about anything I talked about again just shoot me an email.
And you should check out my books.
BLOOD PURPLE, MAVERICK TOUCH THE CAT, THE CAFÉ and BUD’S CHRISTMAS WISH are all free on all ebook devices.