So you just created your first book and you’re done with the editing. You have someone lined up to help you with the formatting and to help you upload the ebook to the online retailers.
You’re an indie author and you’re going to self-publish. The ebook will be available for anyone in the world to buy. Look out Patterson and Hocking. Your Romance novel is in a hot genre. It won’t be long until you’re helping find someone to play your lead character in Hollywood. It’s the author’s dream.
One of the first things you realize is that you’re not alone. There are hundreds of authors in your same position with that ‘must read love story’ and they are all fighting for the reader’s attention.
The next thing you realize, you didn’t start marketing soon enough and there is no one to hold your hand while you do it. You will find out quickly that trying to sell your novel is a full time job.
The first big decision: Do you go the social media route or do you hit the pavement?
Do you try to build a large social network or do you rely on the online retailers, word of mouth and a website to do the selling for you.
There are a lot of questions and the answers aren’t easy to come by.
The Paper Route
If you are from the old school and you’re trying to adjust to online marketing, going Indie presents some problems. Your sales will rely directly on your marketing approach and you find out quickly it is going to be a long journey.
There are a dwindling number of book stores and there are no publishers helping you will drive. The covers and the blurbs are up to you or someone you engage to write them.
Your book may get great reviews but your challenge is to get someone to read them and then buy your book.
There is no shelf space limit to worry about. In fact, the problem is just the opposite. The shelf space is limitless and so is the number of authors, all trying to find a way to attract readers to their book.
The Need for Speed – Online Marketing
You are how competing in the online world and the Internet Super Highway speeds up the whole process. Readers can buy your book 24/7, if they can find it.
This approach is what I call the Conventional Online Method. You self-publish your book and post it at an online retailer’s site. In turn, they provide the reader/prospective buyer with information, so they can make a buying decision. That may include reviews, star-ratings, book descriptions, your author profile and a bestseller tag, if you’re lucky.
This is, in itself, a passive approach to marketing. You need to use more of the Internet to make your presence felt and to sell your books.
There are many things you can do at this point to draw attention to yourself, as an author.
You can create an author’s blogs and have an Internet site with contact information. You can conduct giveaways and promotions or participate in book tours. You can provide your readers with free content and samples of your work.
There are a lot of things you can do online to promote your book.
The web is a vast arena for the Indie author. If you look hard enough you will find book trailers (live movie trailers), videos, pictures and other promotional material marketing books.
So you are all set up. Now how do you get readers to look at your book and buy it?
Now the Fork – Enter Social Media
The questions that really stand out if I go down this road are:
1. How do I target my genre and the readers in my genre?
2. How do I jump start my marketing activity?
3. How do I engage readers and get them to take a look at my book?
4. Should I make that turn in the road and get in the fast lane?
5. Should I get involved in social media? I mean really involved.
When I am talking about social media, I am talking about Twitter and Facebook. They are the most popular communication methods with the most activity and the biggest audience.
What will you find if you go down that road?
1. When you take this fork in the road, you will really have to shift your direction.
2. You will need to develop friendships and relationship with readers and other writers.
3. You will also find out real quick that you need more time in the day to work your social media crowd and write and do all the other things that will get in your way.
4. You will find interaction with others is the key to developing an audience.
5. You will find that this is not a smooth road.
6. You will find crazy drivers and lots of traffic.
7. You will find if you’re use to writing your thoughts in an email, 140 characters are not enough to get your message across.
8. You will find once you start building your following that Twitter has a barricade of 2001 followers plus 10% and that can be a problem.
9. You will find you need to keep working the system.
So do I go all in and take the turn to the left, down the fast lane or do I go the conventional route?
How do I get in the fast lane and step on the gas?
With the ‘how do I’ part of this, I turned to two veterans of the social media trip.
Author M.R. Mathias @DahgMahn (http://www.mrmathias.com) is an award-winning self-published Fantasy Writer. At the last count, he had over 88,000 followers on Twitter. He is a true student of the social media game.
His words of advice are:
1. Use social media to get the word out there.
2. Push followers but not too hard.
3. You must keep working it.
4. Be patient. It is a slow building process.
His book is a must read for new Indie authors: The First Ten Steps – To Take AFTER You Publish Your New eBook.
Another veteran of social media is prolific Twitter host Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 (http://www.claudebouchardbooks.com). At the last count, Claude had over 300,000 followers. He is a Canadian, Best-Selling Author who has chosen to use social media big time. He shares his theory with us on going all in with social media.
“It is simple logic…the more followers I have the more people would learn about my thrillers.”
When asked if he could measure the impact of social media on his sales, he said,
“The honest and correct answer is, ‘I don’t have a clue.’ I do have people occasionally telling me they just bought one of my books but most don’t comment.”
He outlines his process of building a following on Twitter on his blog: How I Really Got a 1/4 Million Followers.
Is it Worth Taking the Social Media Highway?
What are the benefits by using the social media highway? Here is what some awarding-winning authors had to say about the benefits they got from social media.
(Note: Author’s name links are to their personal profiles with a Q/A session and their book list.)
Joanna Penn @thecreativepenn
“I find social media brilliant for connecting with people, mainly my writing peers and people in the industry.
Here’s my breakdown of how social media can help sell books:Sell Books with Social Media.”
John Needham – @jakeneedham
“I get 20 or 30 communications from readers through it every day. Happily, not a small number of those communications are from readers who tell me they are happy to have just discovered my books through something that somebody said on Twitter.
Facebook is a completely different story for me. It’s been absolutely useless as a communication tool. I hear from virtually no one on Facebook.”
Stacy Eaton – @StacySEaton
“I do … try to stay in touch with fans. I communicate with them when I can on Twitter and get on Facebook … I like to work with other authors and help them by doing interviews and posting them on my blog …”
Benefit or NOT: Effective
Amy Metz – @goosepimpleisms
“I try to like, and share, and post something on Facebook, as well as tweet something on Twitter, every day, but I’m not sure how effective it is.”
Benefit or NOT: Avoid Overkill
Cheryl Bradshaw – @cherylbradshaw
“Social media is my primary focus. I use it to promote, but only when I have a new book out or if I am running an incentive, like a freebie.
The main importance for me is using it to connect with my fans and fellow authors. Many authors don’t understand why Twitter doesn’t work for them—and it’s because they are going about it all wrong. They use it to promote their books 24/7. It’s overkill.”
Benefit: Sales equals Followers
Katherine Logan – @KathyLLogan
“I’ve discovered that sales are directly related to the number of followers. As one goes up, so does the other. Most of my marketing efforts are Twitter related. I’ve made some incredible friends.”
Benefit: Spread the Word
Monica Mathis-Stowe – @MMathisStowe
“Social Networking is an excellent marketing tool. I use Facebook and Twitter … to help spread the word about my novel.”
Benefit: Foreign Authors
Maree Ward-Russell – @mibbymw
“Social media is all of my marketing plan. Living in New Zealand has its geographical limitations – especially when your target market is on the opposite side of the world. Twitter and Facebook have become vital for me to reach the masses, without them I would be lost.
You must be prepared to engage with your followers. A reciprocal relationship is the key.”
Anne Allen – @AnneAllen21
Anne is a UK author. She says,
“You need a prominent profile before a book is published. I now know that having a writer’s blog is paramount.
I think I’ll just have to keep trying to raise my profile through blog features, book reviews etc.”
Benefit: Small Press Experience
R.P. Dahlke – @rpdahlke- @allmysteryenews
“I love hearing from my readers. When I was with a small press, no one could contact me directly. It seemed so silly. Now I have Facebook and Twitter and I’ve made wonderful new friends, as well as a whole new world of readers for my books.”
The Red Flag Review
Rebecca’s comment raised a red flag. Where their groups actually trying to stop authors and readers from communicating via social media? I needed to check this out so I did a quick review. I am sure there are other groups that do not follow this pattern but here is the review anyway.
I decided to check out a small press and see what was going on. I choice a popular small press with over 100 authors in their fold. I was looking for Twitter and Author blog/site activity.
Wow. I wasn’t ready for the results. I stopped after the first 20 authors. I found that 2 authors had Twitter accounts and 4 had their own Internet sites. Apparently everything was being handled by the small press. I realized this was not a big sample, so I had to go the extra mile.
Top Indie Author Survey
I needed to check the big guys. You know the top Indie Authors as defined by online retailers.
The questions I had to survey were:
1. How are the very top authors marketing their books?
2. Are they using social media for their marketing or the conventional method?
3. Which fork in the road did they take?
The TOP author was driving in the HOV lane at a very high speed. He had in excess of 220k followers on Twitter and he had the 3 top places on the retailer’s best seller list. I think in his case, it’s the quality of the car he is driving rather than being in the correct lane on this one.
What about the rest of the authors? There were 58 more authors to research. My results were all downhill from my star Indie driver. Here is a quick summary of what I found.
Of the 59 Indie Authors, 9 DID NOT have a Twitter accounts (15%) and 6 DID NOT have an Author’s site or blog (10%).
After analyzing the author’s followers, my conclusion was that 40% of the authors did not use social media to market their books. They had taken the conventional online fork in the road and were letting other online vehicles sell their books. (Note: The average number of followers was 3000.)
So what does all this mean?
Here are the takeaways I got:
1. You need to keep working it to get anything out of social media if you’re going to take that route.
2. Social media will help you develop relationships with readers and other authors.
3. The results will be hard to measure.
4. It will be very time consuming to do it big time.
My personal question is: If I chose Twitter and Facebook to market by books, how do I target my genre (Mystery) and the readers in that genre?
What is your takeaway? Which direction will you take?
At the end of the day, Yogi Berra, the famous Yankee baseball player, had the best advice: When you get to the fork in the road, take it. (This quote is classified as a Yogi-isms and makes perfect sense in our Indie marketing effort.)