Monday, August 3, 2015

How to be an Indie Author 7: 44 Marketing Tactics

This is the seventh post in a series about self-publishing from ideation through sales. To check out other posts in this series, click here.

Last time I finished up publishing by going over the special considerations of print-on-demand. This time, I'm going to talk about selling books, specifically, techniques indie authors can use to market their books.

[insert noun here] sells books.
First let me start out by saying, I have no goddamn clue what I am doing. None. I devour EVERYTHING on marketing I can find. I subscribe to a variety of newsletters for just this purpose. I ask everyone I know for advice and suggestions. So far, it remains a mystery to me.

That said, I recently decided to make some major changes to my marketing efforts and while on that journey have had some failures and made other mistakes. And I have so much more to do. One thing, which comes up again and again in marketing articles and blogs I read is know your target audience. This will make everything else either worth it or a waste of time. This is not a simple thing. You should create basically a character - as if you were writing about them. You should know everything about this person. Where do they live? Where do they hang out? Who are their friends? Gender? Age? Education? Socio-economic status? Religion? Everything.

I have been, historically, terrible at connecting with the demographics who would be interested in my books (I think). As part of my new marketing efforts, I'm going to revisit these questions and re-evaluate my current efforts. It's okay. I know I've made mistakes in every aspect of the publishing process and I've made the most in marketing.  I also have a lot of things left to try (So many options for awesome!).

Now you're wondering, why would you read about marketing from someone who has no idea what they are doing and hasn't tried just as many things?


Because then you know what didn't work for me (or what I have yet to do - which is honestly a lot) and maybe you can do it better. When you go through this stuff, write to me, and tell me what worked for you. Seriously!

Please note, I am listing all these things because they DID work for some authors. They may work for you (especially if you're dialed into your target audience). You may have a better handle on things than I do or did. You may understand social media better, or have more evangelizing friends than I do, or have books in an easier to sell niche. Also, it should be stated that I am incredibly, notoriously, impatient. I may not have given enough time for things to work. Maybe I could have tweaked one thing and it would have been enough. I don't know. Regardless, in no particular order, here is the list of things you can do or places where you can go to market your book as an indie:
  1. Blog - not sure how many sales I've gotten through my blogs - I think they don't really reach the same demographics as my books. I'm not sure how I feel about way or another. I think this works best if you have a devout fanbase or write specifically for your demographic/brand.
  2. Tweet (has been a mixed bag for me). It's fun, and if done well, can generate interest, or at least buzz.
  3. Instagram (haven't done this) - this is a good place if you take a lot of pictures and are trying to reach female millennials.
  4. Tumblr (haven't done this) - some people have turned their tumblrs into book deals. Not sure exactly how this works, but tumblr has a book liaison person so, it happens regularly.
  5. Google + - I get a lot of profile views and infrequently get +1s for my blog posts, but I don't know how helpful it has been as far as sales.
  6. Facebook - I think this is more for people who are committed fans as opposed to recruiting new ones. Because of the way FB pushes page statuses v individual statuses, I've read it's better to go with FB ads, but that requires money, which I don't have to allocate to this right now. 
  7. Podcasting (haven't done this yet but want to, especially do a series from certain character perspectives)
  8. Build a quiz based on your books (just did this, not a lot of info yet). I think it's a fun idea, and it takes very little time. So, there you go.
  9. Word of mouth - i.e. get a few friends who LOVE YOU and LOVE YOUR WORK to sell FOR YOU. When I find a few myself, I'll let you know how it works out.
  10. Reviews - ONE OF THE SINGLE BEST WAYS TO SELL and also, one of the hardest things to get. I've heard PR reps say, give out 50 copies, get 10 reviews back. These you really need to track down - which has worked for me to get a few, but I don't have a lot of data yet on how this plays out.
  11. Write reviews for similar work - haven't done this because honestly, I'm not altogether sure how I would set it up. The plus here is people funneled to your blog or post who are primed for that type of content. The downside is, well, you need to have time to read books.
  12. Write guest posts and articles on related content - this is something I just started doing since May. I've been doing about a guest post every two weeks. I'm not sure how that will impact sales, but I'll let you know once I have more data.
  13. Have a game or app based on your book - haven't done this yet, but I want to. It sounds fun and could definitely create some income streams depending on how you package it.
  14. Blog tour - this is another one that tends not to lead to direct sales, but it does get the word out a bit more and opens you up to more guest posting opportunities. So it might not spike sales, but it tends to help in the long run...however I've never done it because most blogs in my niche do not like indie authors and or won't do ebooks. If you have paperback copies, they are more likely to review.
  15. Speaking tours - this is something I'm working on for THRIVE especially, so I can't give any feedback about how it pans out because I haven't started yet. That said, I expect this to be a good way to sell books and collect email addresses. Plus, you know, you get paid after six months to a year of paying dues.
  16. Newsletter - I've read this is a huge thing that you need to have, and I'm just starting now, so again, I can't say how this works. The plus to this is you can send out updates when you'll be in town or when books are on preorder making it more likely for people to purchase books.
  17. Vlogging - again, something I want to do, but haven't been able to because of time commitment. I think pretty faces and funny expressions go a long way to selling books.
  18. Amazon Author page - I just fixed this myself, so again, not sure how this will pan out. I think indie authors need to be on Amazon because it is such a major retailer. Whether you choose to be on KDP Select is another question (I'm not, but I'm adamant about having my work on multiple platforms). I think having this will make a big difference, but I need more data.
  19. Website - This is a recent addition because until May 2015, I didn't have the funds to make this happen. If you don't have a website, you should at least have a free blog. However, there are cheap WYSIWYG HTML hosting services, like Wix, so really, even if you're tech challenged, you can have a nice site. Again, I don't really have enough data on this to make a pronouncement one way or another, but I think it is a good thing to have a central location where readers can find you online.
  20. Ecourses - I am IN LOVE with this idea. I have no idea how it will impact my book sales, or anything, but I want to do this SO BAD it hurts. Especially for THRIVE and SIX DEGREES. Maybe even a writing workshop. There are a lot of platforms out there on how to do this, and honestly, I think there are so many options for format, there's no excuse not to do this *if it works with your content.*
  21. Streaming video - haven't done this, but I hear it's the next big thing. Periscope seems to be winning the platform war in this, but Meerkat is another option.
  22. Make art - seriously. Visual interpretations of your work, especially in sci-fi and fantasy are great sales tools. I think DeviantArt is probably the place to make this happen and or disseminate. It's something I want to do, but haven't had time.
  23. Bublish - haven't been able to do this because you need to fit certain criteria, but it seems to work for a lot of people.
  24. Wattpad - hasn't led to many sales for me, but I do have several first chapters up (of older editions). Some authors swear by this, however, so you may as well try it.
  25. Patreon - I want this work so bad, but I'm not sure how long it takes to get anything going. I think the biggest thing for this to work is to have some seeders to give you a little social capital. Also, I think being clear about branding is important for this to be successful.
  26. Serialization - I have a LOT of work in the works. *Sigh* So again, this is one thing I want to do, that has worked for a lot of authors, but I haven't tried it yet (maybe on Patreon?).
  27. Giveaways - I've done a lot of different giveaways at different times. It hasn't led to many sales or reviews thus far. In fact, I'm not sure what the point is of giveaways, unless it is the first book in a series of pageturners. Use at your discretion.
  28. Contests - this is different than giveaways. Contests might involve winners pitching you a story they want you to write or getting a main character named after them in the next book. I think this is a good idea, but I'm not sure how much of a fan base you need initially to make the buzz spread. This might be for people with a second or third book, or it could be for someone who has a good set of evangelist friends.
  29. Fan fiction - I've been told this is a REALLY good way to go. Pay homage to a series or a genre fav, and you're golden. I think this only works if you are actually a big fan and or you're trailblazing with the book in question (see: Wicked). Personally, I'm not sure I qualify in either of those categories....
  30. Book launches - this works if you have your book set on preorder like 12 months out, and you have a team of people who are committed to selling you. I didn't have either of those things, so it didn't really work out for me. Note: The biggest mystery to me is finding true believers and or evangelists. If you have that on lock down, MESSAGE ME IMMEDIATELY! We need to talk!
  31. Trailers - I've heard from multiple sources this is a waste of time and money....but...some people are determined to do it. I never have because of the former.
  32. Advertising - I've read this is essential. I've also read it is a waste of time and money. I have no idea who is right. Some people this works for, others it doesn't. If you have the resources to commit to this, go ahead and try it. Facebook retargeting ads are supposed to have a super high conversion rate. Do a test run and let me know how it goes.
  33. Free - give out some content for free. Some people swear by this, others are adamantly opposed. I haven't had very much luck when I've done this, so I can't say it was particularly worth it. I think the goal with free is to get reviews. If you don't get those, then....that sucks (unless it's the first book in a series, but that has been overdone).
  34. Author/influencer blurbs - I've read of people having some serious success with this. If you know a famous author in your genre, or have a connection or whatever, try and get a blurb for your book and PROMOTE THE HELL OUT OF THAT SHIT. Ahem. I haven't done this, but there are a couple of authors/influencers I would die to have quotes from.
  35. Get in a magazine - an essay, a short story, whatever.  I haven't been able to break into this yet, and it supposedly takes a lot of effort to convince the first magazine to take a risk on you (even if you follow all the advice columns). I have gotten a lot of kind rejections. That said, I think I'm closer now than before, mostly because of the guest posting I've been doing. I'm going to cross my fingers on this one and hopefully something hits me on the head.
  36. Send press kits - if you live in a place where media outlets might actually publish your press release, do this. Even if you're not sure they will, do this. I haven't had any luck with this so far, but it's worth a try.
  37. Hand sell - I've heard this works really well. If you have a stack of your paperbacks in your car, and have a good pitch or charisma out the butt, this will probably work for you (Shit, I really need to get a stack of my books in my car!).
  38. More books - I've read it's good to have an entire library of books available for readers. I have a ton of books published, and many more planned. I don't know how well this works if you don't have a few beloved fans in your arsenal.
  39. Coverart - if your books aren't selling, redo it. I just did this, and I'll let you know how it works out.
  40. Categories - if your books aren't selling, redo them. I just did this, so I'll let you know what happens.
  41. Jacket summaries - if your books aren't selling, redo them. I did this a little bit, but I think other things need to be at work for this to help sales along.
  42. 2nd Editions - if your books aren't selling, rewrite them. I just did this with KHLOE ALWELL and when I'm finished editing ANDREW, I'll do it for the entire ROLLINS PACK.
  43. Sell your soul - write a sellout book. I think there is something to this, but I still think you need other things in place for this to be successful. I'll let you know when I finally get BELOW THE BELT onto Amazon.
  44. Stop worrying about it and just write - I've read this works for some people. I'm personally unable to do this...though I've tried.

Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have any special techniques or strategies that worked for you. Also, when you try the above, TELL ME WHAT WORKED! I want all the juicy details!

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