I wrote a parody of writing/self-publishing self-help books a year ago, and one of the suggestions was to hire a group of Indian boiler-room workers to buy your books, boosting your ranking on Amazon so you would receive better visibility, which would then result in more legit sales as you land on peoples’ radar screens. Little did I know that was what at least one famous indie author (now infamous) who shall remain nameless (hint – it’s the name of a famous English philosopher) more or less did. His defenders claim that it is no worse than what many traditional publishing outfits do. Others claim that it’s fraudulent. Everyone needs to make their own determination on where they stand, although the apologists come off as pretty smarmy, at least to my ear.
NEWS: A really fun and flattering blog and review, about Silver Justice and my sense of humor, from talented indie author RS Guthrie.
I thought that I would assemble a punchlist for new authors of what to do in order to have any chance at all of being successful. Call it my dirty dozen. I left out the, “Buy 300 reviews and game the algorithms” part – just assume that’s always an option.
1) Create a website. It should feature a bio, your books, and some information about you that you feel readers would like to know.
2) Get on Twitter. Interact with folks. Don’t just post “Buy My Book” tweets. They don’t work. Nobody wants a salesman at their door. Be funny, or spontaneous, or whatever you are, but be genuine. Devote twenty minutes a day to building a social media platform. Retweet others if something resonates with you.
3) Get a Facebook page. Some people love Facebook. Obviously not purchasers of its recent IPO, but I digress. You need a Facebook page. I have one. Although I’m not that sure why, but still. Do as I say, not as I do.
4) Blog. At least once every 10 days. Blog about things that interest you. I could recommend that you try for heartfelt blogs that glom onto the tribulations of an ailing celebrity or a sex offender enabler, but that’s already been done, so it won’t work – assuming you believe it ever did. If so, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Call me. It’ll go fast.
5) Write good books. This seems obvious. Don’t put crap onto the market. Take your time, write quality, and then get it edited by someone competent.
6) Write more good books. The best way to sell your last book is to have another good one releasing. And another. And another.
7) Try to be active in forums that interest you. Don’t go because you’re trying to drum up interest in your books. Go to contribute. If you do, eventually forum members will be interested in more about you than just what you post there. They might check out your books. If so, super. If not, you got to make new friends. Stop being such a calculating weasel and enjoy yourself a little.
8) Make sure your book covers are eye-stopping and professional. Most judge books by the cover. Don’t cheap out or try to do it yourself. It’s shortsighted and will make you look amateurish unless you have a background in design. And even then, I’d hire a pro. Why? Because the most important thing I can do as a writer is write. I’m not a designer. Or a formatter. I’ll leave that to those that are. I’m a writer. Given a productive choice, I will choose to write.
9) Work on your product description until it pops. Read other successful ones in your genre and model those. After the cover, the next most important thing in the purchasing selection process will be the product description, so get it right.
10) Distribute books to reviewers. You need reviews. Apologists for the aforementioned not-to-be-named author notwithstanding, they’re important. People read reviews. They do matter. And be nice to book bloggers and reviewers. Unless they’re clowns. You know how I feel about clowns. Grrrr.
11) Scour the internet for the latest on what is working for others and what isn’t. As an example, what was working 90 days ago (KDP Select free days) doesn’t work as well now. Pay attention, people. Stay current on the latest marketing trends so you don’t find yourself working systems that stopped being effective months or years ago.
12) Do interviews. Make them interesting. Be interesting. Nobody wants to read the work of a bore. Try to average at least one interview every two weeks. But be worthy of being interviewed. That’s where the interesting part comes in. And try not to be a self-involved twat. The world has enough of those.
13) Bonus tip: Don’t waste your time getting wrapped up in the marketing part of this. Marketing is important, but writing good books is more important. Spending 4 hours a day with your new twitter friends is fine, but spending 4 mastering your craft is better, in my opinion. So use your time like your most precious resource. In the end, it is the only thing you really have.
There it is. I could take 50K words to tell you this and try to charge you $5 for it, but you probably wouldn’t buy it and I’ve got better things to do with my time. Like writing my next thriller. Which is what I’m doing right now. If you want more detail on what not to do, along with a lot of belly laughs (and some cringe moments now that the cat’s out of the bag on the review debacle), go buy How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) for $2.99. But be warned – I think everything is deserving of mockery. But don’t try that at home. Especially around your mate.
My little odyssey thus far has been an eye opening one, and I recognize I beat the odds. Only a handful out of every hundred thousand authors can do well enough at this game to make a living at it. For that I am consistently grateful. I understand that it could crash and burn at any time, or continue for another twenty years – as long as I’m still plying my craft and delivering value. The above represents about everything you need to have the same shot I had. Use it well.
And now for a little break from our weighty matters, bowing to pressure and in an obvious attempt to pander, I am posting a puppy photo. But in an effort to not leave readers with a cloying syrupy taste in their mouths, as well as to remind them what happens to people that don’t buy my books, I am also including another, far more ominous snap. Something for everyone.
Awww. Little guy is thinking, “Hope someone buys Russ’ books so he doesn’t sell me as taco meat.”
The horror never fades.