02 December 2012 by Published in: Jet 16 comments

I have made no secret about how difficult it is to make it as a writer. And as an indie author, it’s doubly hard, because you are not only writing, but also marketing your work, choosing covers, selecting editors, acting as salesperson, marketing pro, designer, etc.

But there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of success.

I’ll give you several basic ground rules I use. These are things I do to keep myself on track and selling well. If I was going to advise new or seasoned authors who are thinking about self-publishing, these would be engraved in stone.

The first thing is to set a publishing schedule for yourself over the next year. Plug in release dates, then write to meet your deadlines. You would be surprised at what a powerful tool that is. Looking at your calendar and realizing you only have 45 days before your next release can be a powerful catalyst – 45 days to complete your WIP, schedule book covers, allow time for editing, organize blog tours, target reviewers for advance copies, etc. If that doesn’t create a sense of urgency and get you motivated, I don’t know what will.

The concept of discipline, and working at writing like it’s a second job (or a first if you don’t have a job), with hard dates you have to hit, is crucial to maintaining productivity. Writing may be art, but producing and selling books is a business, and businesses have to be run in a business-like way, or they generally fail.

Another obvious rule I’m guilty of forgetting: do everything you can think of to get your name out there. That means spend time in chat rooms that your target reader demographic would frequent – not to place thinly veiled ads for your books, but rather to contribute. Perhaps you can tag your signature with a link to your website. Nothing more overt than that. People don’t want to interact with a salesman. They can smell duplicity a mile away. So join groups where you’re genuinely interested in the topic, and contribute content that’s worth reading. And always try to give more than you’re receiving. Being selfless with your expertise is never a bad thing. On twitter, try to get across a sense of what makes you interesting and unique – be you, not some sanitized caricature of you. Same with Facebook.

If you don’t have a blog, start one. Your readers and target demographic will be a lot more receptive to you if you periodically share your thoughts with them. Contrary to some tomes that advise attempting to glom onto some celebrity in an effort to go viral, I would say just write about what interests you – really interests you. You can’t fake it. Enthusiasm is infectious, and I personally would rather buy a book from someone with unique insights, who seems enthusiastic and knowledgeable, than someone who seems boring. So don’t be boring.

On the marketing side, try different types of promotions. I’ve done cross promotions with other authors. I advertise, and when I do, I push the envelope in the type of advertising I do – I recently did a month on a site devoted to drunk driver arrests – just to see if it would get any traction (it didn’t, but the point is I tried, and continue to look at creative or unorthodox options). I do free book giveaways. I experiment with pricing. I do .99 books or free books for the first in a series.

I never, ever get complacent. You’re either shrinking or growing. Stasis is the beginning of decline.

Divide your writing day up with a set amount of time for writing – no internet, no kids, no distractions – and also allocate time for marketing. Make it disciplined and regular. It takes 30 days to create a habit. Figure out what your routine should be, something sustainable, then stick to it for a month. If you do that, the second month will be easier. And the third, even easier.

Finally, don’t wait for the muse to come to you. Go barging in, bravely, and force her to dance for you. Start writing, and something will come up. It always does.

Do these things, and you’ll be ahead of 99% of your fellow authors. And your odds of success will have just gotten better.

Now for gratuitous self-promotion. I will be releasing JET IV – Reckoning, on December 8, if all goes well. Then, I’m going to take a little break. I was going to try to get Requiem for the Assassin done in time to release December 27, but I don’t think I’m going to make it, so it will be a mid-January release, with JET V targeted for a Feb. 20 or so release. But I have to say I love the new cover for JET IV, and I had to share it with you. When you look at the whole series, it’s pretty cool, I think. JET is selling like cipro during an anthrax scare, so I am grateful for that. If you haven’t given it a whirl, please do. It’s promo priced through year end at .99, so don’t be a cheapskate. Find out what all the buzz is about, and discover why I will have sold over 100K books by year end. JET is a good example of what I do, and I think if you try it, you’ll like it.

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Comments

  1. Mon 03rd Dec 2012 at 9:51 am

    Fantastic post and so dead on. I’ll be looking at some of your suggestions to see if they can’t help jump start things on this end. Great insight!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 03rd Dec 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Glad it resonated. I find keeping a publishing schedule going out a year is a hell of a motivator. You never have as much time as you think, and it gets me focused every day on making strides. Just because I cut myself my own checks, and they don’t come from a publisher, doesn’t mean I don’t have an agenda to meet.

      Reply
  2. Robert Jones
    Mon 03rd Dec 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Russell,

    Great advice, as usual.

    One thing I was wondering about though, concerning those target audience websites. What if you wanted to give away some copies to members of those sites, as a way of getting some word of mouth going?

    Thanks,
    Robert

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 03rd Dec 2012 at 2:17 pm

      I think that would be fine, but I would do it gracefully, as an offer, something like, “anyone interested in how I weave my interest in X into my fiction is welcome to contact me for a complimentary ebook copy of my latest.”

      And I would wait until you’ve spent a few months being a dynamic and valued contributor. Again, you don’t want to simply join sites to spam them. That’s not the idea. You want to build relationships with kindreds who might also find your work of interest at some point down the road.

      Reply
  3. Robert Jones
    Mon 03rd Dec 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Good approach. Thank you, Russell.

    Reply
  4. Becky
    Tue 04th Dec 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you Blake for this excellent post! Most helpful, well…extremely helpful!! Great points to be taken that are not difficult to do…..now any suggestions on how to light a fire under me to get me going?? Just kidding!!
    Thanks again!!
    Becky

    Reply
  5. Tue 04th Dec 2012 at 5:05 pm

    You’re doing a lot of things right Russell! Thanks for sharing.

    I work a day job and have a family, so it’s all about focus and priorities. This past year I focused on starting writing projects while trying to learn the indie pub game as well as expanding my one title: ebook, paperback, to audio book and recently, the Spanish translation.

    2013 will be the goals of publishing the next title(s). I have the second in my series started as well as two related novellas.

    Need to set goals and a schedule to stay on track or else you find the time just slips away.

    Stay on track and keep writing!
    Doug

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 04th Dec 2012 at 5:34 pm

      I appreciate that everyone’s situation is different, and so it’s necessary to tailor one’s publishing and marketing schedule to something realistic.

      It’s funny, because one of my friends, who has pubbed a few books, is now an enthusiastic believer in my 3-5K word a day philosophy – one that might have seemed an impossible task a few years back. I’ve found that if you structure a realistic schedule that demands you improve in all aspects of this business – not just writing, but marketing, production, etc. – that you will force yourself to greater heights, which is what it’s all about.

      I can’t wait to hear about how your foray into audio and Spanish go. I’ve got JET being translated, and am looking for a German translator as well as another Spanish translator (with as many books as I have, I can keep ‘em busy). I believe that’s a sound and logical next step.

      Good luck on your 2013. I’d recommend sitting down and figuring out what the best release schedule would be from a marketing perspective, and then figure out a way to manage the writing part so you can meet the goals. Because in the end, it’s what will result in the best sales that should determine the schedule. At least that’s how I work it – backwards.

      Reply
  6. Thu 06th Dec 2012 at 8:00 am

    Really interesting and useful blog, thanks, have printed it off – will now check out your books

    Reply
  7. Thu 06th Dec 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Excellent advice, as always.

    For the record, I’m mightily chuffed that JET IV will be out this weekend. I love this series!!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 06th Dec 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying it. Lot of fun to write, too. If the editor and proofreader get done, it will be Sat or Sun. I’ll send out an e-mail notice to everyone on the list.

      Reply
  8. Fri 07th Dec 2012 at 1:09 am

    Your blog should be required reading for serious newbies. I liked, especially, the advice about not waiting for the muse – very true. Write and something will start to happen. Write shit even, it’s better than nothing and it’s what roses grow in best :)

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 07th Dec 2012 at 10:07 am

      Thanks for the kind words. Yes, many’s the time when I haven’t felt like going to work, but once I sit down and start, pure love of craft takes over and something always gets written. Whether good or not, I can always use the practice. And sometimes you surprise yourself.

      Reply
  9. Larry WHelan
    Tue 15th Jan 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Great advice! You mentioned blog tours, do you work with any specific companies that organize this? I have been looking online, but there are several and I am not sure which ones can deliver what they promise. Was looking for some recommendations. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 15th Jan 2013 at 6:13 pm

      Sorry. I generally contact each blogger myself. So have no guidance WRT companies that do that.

      Reply

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