The truth is, we can never sell enough books, right? It would always be great to be able to sell another 1,000 books, or 100,000 more, or maybe even 250,000 more. Or even 100 more.
Indie writers regularly contact me wanting to know how they can maximize sales of their books. Some of them dream of the day when their writing can support them – a lofty goal.
If you look at the great success stories of today’s indie authors, they support their careers with writing nonfiction or teaching courses. Look at thriller author Joanna Penn as an example. She has sold almost 500,000 books around the world and in five different languages.
She’s also a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and was voted one of The Guardian UK Top 100 Creative Professionals in 2013. Also, she has a successful podcast, The Creative Penn.
My point is that to make a living on your writing is possible yet a difficult goal to attain.
Some think that social media in and of itself will sell all the books they want to sell. (Mistake.) Others think reading gigs or guest blogging opportunities will do it.
The hard truth is that there isn’t an easy answer. If there were one, I would share it here. Honestly.
And there isn’t a pill that will suddenly make you a capable marketer. The truth? It takes a lot of work to make it in the publishing business.
But, hey, please don’t let me discourage you. That isn’t the point of this post. What I’m trying to say — perhaps not so eloquently as I’d hoped — is that to sell books as an indie author you need a comprehensive plan.
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So You Want to Be an Indie Author?
Maybe being an indie author is one of the toughest jobs in today’s market, especially if you hope to make it a full-time career. (On the other hand, teaching sounds a lot harder but for the sake of this post, let’s say that being an indie author is the toughest.)
After you undergo the grueling process of writing a book and paying for editors and designers, your have to put on a new hat, that of marketer.
If anyone thinks that writing a book is tough – and a lot of people do – marketing a book is just as hard.
An 18-Point Checklist of Book Marketing Tips
Book marketing requires a multi-prong strategy that consists of the following:
- Purchase your ISBN numbers. Don’t buy them from Amazon or BookBaby. If you use the cheap ISBN numbers that publishing companies sell, they will be the publisher of your books. When you buy the numbers from Bowker, you are a publishing company and your company’s name will appear in the book.
- Hire a web designer to build an author website using a quality theme.
- Self-host your blog on your website. Don’t use Blogger or WordPress.com. (Note: WordPress.com is separate from WordPress.org, which I do recommend.) Commit to blogging at least once a week.
- Include on your website the options to sign up for your newsletter and your blog. Make sure that you capture the email addresses from both of these sign-up forms. Your best fans will subscribe to your blog and newsletter, and once you have their email addresses, you can communicate directly with them. Make sure that you offer something for free to entice signups.
- Define your audience. Before you can even begin to market your book, you need to clarify exactly who your readers are. If you say everyone, you’re marketing to no one because your audience is too widely defined. Let’s look at some examples. Michael Hyatt knows the age, sex and income level of his ideal audience. If you write nonfiction, Twitter and LinkedIn are musts for you. If you write romance novels, you’ll want to use Facebook and Pinterest. If you write young adult novels, I would suggest that you use Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. My point is what you write will determine your reader demographics. It’s best if you have your reader in mind as your write your book.
- Once you know where you’ll be spending your time online, regularly start posting. On Twitter, post a minimum of three to five tweets and retweets daily. Post at twice daily on your Facebook page, Google+ profile, and LinkedIn account. Use Pinterest several times a week.
- Make a commitment to your readers by allocating time every day to be social: Like, share and comment on their posts too. Always endeavor to share valuable content that your readers enjoy.
- Ask your designer to create a cover for you before you finish your book. I usually nail down a cover six months or longer before I release my books. And I let my readers and Facebook fans and friends select the best cover from a sampling of three. By doing this, you will build momentum for your book.
- Talk about your book in your social media posts. You could write, “I just finished my first draft of ________!” or “I’m sending my manuscript to the editor today!” This messaging will also help to build momentum.
- Join Goodreads, review books, add your blog posts, join a group, and organize several giveaways.
- Some authors sign up for the exclusive Kindle Select Program to offer their books for free. There are numerous blog posts about how doing this can boost sales. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t always work but it can. (I recently did a free promotion and was pleased with the results.) Know that you have options. What you can do instead is forego Kindle Select and schedule several days on a quarterly basis when you lower the price of your eBook to $.99 or $1.99. Then promote the sale price on social media, websites devoted to publicizing $.99-cent books, on your website and in your newsletter. In addition, apply to BookBub.
- Communicate with your newsletter subscribers on a monthly basis, always providing them with information they need and want to know.
- To entice readers to sign up for your newsletter, offer the first chapter of your book for free. Or, if you serialize your novels, offer the first book of your series for free. Include that offer on your website and in the initial pages of one of your books.
- Create a book trailer or hire someone to do this for you.
- Make sure you have your book available as an ebook, paperback, and audiobook. Over time, create box sets.
- Hold contests and announce your awards.
- Purchase Facebook advertising.
- Write another book. Yes, second books improve the sales of first books.
Most of all, be patient. Book marketing isn’t easy, but it’s always worth the effort. During those periods of burnout, you may want to hire a virtual assistant to carry the load for a while. Just don’t give up!
What is your favorite strategy for boosting book sales?
Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a contributing writer at TheBookDesigner.com and blogger and Social Media Expert for BookWorks, and blogger at Bowker’s Self-Published Author blog. She’s written several social media books including The Author’s Guide to Goodreads, and Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Sign up for my free email course.
Join Joel Friedlander and me on October 4 at 1 pm PDT for Conversations with Frances.
Joel is a master blogger in the publishing field. His blog consistently makes it onto Writer’s Digest’s top ten blog list and TheBookDesigner.com is considered one of the best in the industry. During this chat, he’ll share some of his secrets and clarify the differences between nonfiction and fiction blogging. I’m certain we will delve into other topics as well so be sure to join us for a rich and lively discussion October 4 at 11 am PDT. Register here. And learn more about Joel here.