I thought I would share a few learnings before I start taking what I have picked up for granted. After many hours I’ve learned one thing more than anything – authors need to keep learning and connecting with their readers and peers. Because self-publishing is a constantly evolving enterprise and world.
How to reach an audience online? Partly it’s about luck, mostly it is about toil and being interesting for your audience.
Here in no set order are some tips. I hope you find them useful.
1) Set-up your own website with your own branding and content relevant to your books. Cross-link your online presence in all directions with your website as the hub. Brand your website and link to reviews, sales points, samples and everything else you can think of.
2) Make absolutely certain that your books are as good as you think they are AND as good as they can be. Find some critical readers and correct ALL the typos, mistakes and rubbish parts. Polish, polish, polish. IF the feedback is poor or ‘iffy’ STOP. Re-write your book until it shines under all lights. If you cringe when you read back a section, it is because it is not good enough, YET. Or it might need to be cut out completely……
NOTE: Omit this step at your peril. Bad reviews can not be deleted later when you attract a level of interest. If your book(s) suck paying customers really will tell you so….. and in so doing tell the whole world. Plus you could spend a lot of hours promoting yourself and your work with a relatively poor product to sell. And that will ultimately prove painful.
3) Join a group or two of like minded self-publishers. I recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors. This will help you to stay in touch with developments, meet helpful people and ultimately keep you relatively sane. And contribute what you can in return as well – it’s good for the soul.
4) Set-up and use Twitter, being authentic, interesting and book / fiction centric in the main. Your aim is to connect with people who can help you, read your work and people you can help in return – by entertaining them with great books or sharing learnings.
If you use Twitter automation tools be aware that Twitter could suspend your account. So be careful and as low key initially as you can be. I do not recommend buying followers or for that matter book reviews.
5) Set-up and use Facebook. Create a Facebook page for your books. Upload interesting content and cross link to everywhere. Friend authors, readers, book clubs and anyone you reasonably ‘know’ or share an interest with. Avoid complete strangers and people peddling non-book stuff.
6) Set-up and use Goodreads. Become an author and ‘claim’ your books. Use the groups to make connections. If you have print copies, create ‘giveaways’ over a 2 to 3 month period. Use a ‘pull’ model to attract and invite interest. Do not chase or hassle on Goodreads, they don’t like it! They could bar you.
7) Set-up and use Librarything. Load your books etc. Use your Bio (that you created way back for your website) and run e-book or print giveaways.
8) Set-up and start writing a blog. Use it as your own lessons learned log and a way of talking about your journey. It’s your blog so experiment with the style you prefer. Do you want to be a book / writing tips consultant? Or maybe a reviewer / blogger? Or perhaps a commentator on a particle genre of media that ties in with your books? Your blog. Your call.
9) Keep writing your books. All the above is pretty much useless until you have written your next and subsequent books. Why? Because it will take you time to do and you need multiple titles to cross-sell to your audience. Satisfied customers will ask – ‘when can I read the next one?’
10) Commercials matter. Price appropriately and DO NOT give away too many books. You are a business and you do not want to promote yourself as a ‘free writer’ who values their work as only good enough to give away. Possibly run promos for limited periods across titles, possibly have a sacrificial promo title that will always be free. Remember basic maths – making one thousand bucks is a whole lot easier if you are charging 2.99 than if you are charging nothing or 99 pennies. Remember, the big indie authors usually have lots of titles and a huge audience. You don’t. Yet.
11) Monitor your SEO and presence online by regular Google and Bing searches. Check what sites are moving up the rankings and promoting your work. Your work will still have to sell itself ultimately, but your page rankings matter if you want to attract browsers. You will also have to take a realistic look at your book market and Google Adwords analysis of terms ‘searched for’ can be a sobering exercise. Are people really looking for funny books about duodenal ulcers and the family consequences? That’s not a dig, but you do need to be realistic about your market expectations. Not every genre sells and that’s a reality.
12) Treat all your online contacts (messages, posts, responses, emails) in a consistently jovial and constructive manner. Never enter a slanging match EVER online. Because it will not go away, it will be recorded for a long, long time. Ignore bad reviews; block inappropriate followers and comments; delete what you have control over if it is plain abusive. HOWEVER – leave constructive comments alone and learn from them.
13) Write this out and repeat it daily. ‘I will learn more from a constructive and harsh critic of my work than I ever will from my friends’.
It’s true. You will. It will hurt initially, but you have to learn how to open your mind to the reality that no one’s work is perfect. Everyone can improve how they write, how they plot, what they write about etc etc. Even the pros. Check out any successful book’s reviews on Amazon to see the array of thoughts if you don’t believe me.
And of course you can select which parts of the feedback to action. Often people will give conflicting suggestions, so look for the patterns. Consider whether they have a point. (That is after you’ve (privately and offline) fumed and vented your initial reaction).
14) Last and by no means least – be yourself across all sites, media and in the real world. Have fun and consider all the new skills you’re learning as positives. In theory, you could now promote almost anything online. You will also have to learn firm time management and how to stay healthy – another time perhaps for those topics.