Well here we are again! It’s always such a pleasure. You might remember me from such bjournal posts as Ben’s Advice To Marty (or: So You’re About To Put Out Your First Book). Now I’m here to talk at you again, in the hope that one of you Marties out there gains something (anything) from my disorganised babbling.
THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE ADVICE
Last time we talked, Marty, you were about to leap aboard the self-publication train. It’s a crowded vehicle, but we’re all going in the same direction. Also, there aren’t any tracks, because it’s not a train, it’s some kind of magical flying thing and actually there’s not just one, there are hundreds, and they’re not all going in the same direction, they’re buzzing off every which way. Which one is yours? Where are you supposed to be standing? Do you even have a ticket?
CONFUSED? WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF INDIE AUTHORSHIP
There’s a lot of information out there, a lot of advice, good, bad and mediocre, for beginners in this race (note: it’s not a race). It can be confusing, the freedom can be daunting, you might very well find yourself frozen when faced with the myriad possibilities before you. What to do first? What to focus on? Where do I go, what do I say?
First of all, take a deep breath and relax. This is not as difficult as it looks, and it does get easier. I’m coming up on my fifth month as a self-published indie author, and things are starting to get comfortable. They’ll get comfortable for you too, so try not to stress out about things too much. Have fun with this! It’s a fantastic journey and you’ve already taken that difficult first step. Your book is out there for the whole wide world to see!
OH MY GOD MY BOOK IS OUT THERE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE
Or, to be accurate, it’s out there for the whole world to ignore. Why should they care about your book? How will they even find out about it? What if they don’t like it?
It doesn’t matter if they don’t like it, that’s not what you should be worrying about. Every review you get is going to help sales, no matter how bad it is. There’s evidence that suggests a one-star review can increase sales more than a five-star review, as much as criticism hurts. But neither one-star reviews nor five-star reviews are your concern right now, because it’s not reviews you should be worrying about, it’s not even whether or not your book’s any good, because that stage has passed. You’ve already worked your hardest to make the best book you can, you’ve written and edited and proofed and agonised over details, that part’s over. What comes next?
And who’s going to do this promotion? Well, unless you’re rich and you’ve hired a publicist, it’s you. Which means:
Does anybody like this? Does anybody actually enjoy promoting their own work? Well, yes, actually. For one, you.
YOUR CONFUSING CONJECTURE HAS INTRIGUED ME; TELL ME MORE
For a start, let me say this: I hate self-promotion. Hate it hate it hate it. Hate doing it, hate seeing it. It’s rubbish. It’s a rubbishy pile of rubbish and it’s horrible. So let’s throw away the term ‘self-promotion’ and all associated baggage and start with something new, something fresh, something I’m going to call:
Wait, that’s terrible. Let me try again:
… third time’s the charm:
SPREADING THE WORD
There we go. You’re not promoting, you’re not selling, you’re sharing joy, you’re baiting niffles, you’re spreading the word about something you love, and this can be fun. But how?
IT’S UP TO YOU
This isn’t something I can answer for you, because I don’t know your strengths and I don’t know what you enjoy. “Enjoy?” you potentially splutter, potentially spraying toast crumbs and tea all over yourself. “What’s there to enjoy about self-promotion?”
Well, for a start, we’re not CALLING it that, remember? And there’s actually a lot to enjoy about nifflebaiting, if you can just find it. What do you like doing? Do you like talking to people? Then that’s what you should do! What’s your book about, is there a particular group of people who might be interested in it? Say you’ve written a book about zombies–
“I’VE WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT ZOMBIES.”
Ahahaha, yes. There are lots and lots and lots of people out there who love zombies and who want to read books about them. Go find them, go talk to them, if you enjoy zombies enough to have written a whole book about them I’m sure you have a lot to say. Just don’t go in yelling “I WROTE A BOOK WITH ZOMBIES IN IT!” because honestly, nobody likes that.
I SEE A FLAW IN THIS APPROACH
Yes, yes, you spotted it straight away, you’re very clever. If you never even mention that you’ve written a book then nobody will know, nobody’s going to think “By jove this person is interesting and charming, I wonder if by chance they’ve written a book, I must find out if they have!”. So you’re going to have to let it slip sometime that you’re an author and your book is available to buy. How you do this is up to you. For me, I usually say something like “By the way, I wrote this book, go and have a look if you like, now let’s talk about something more interesting”. Finding what works best for you is an important part of nifflebaiting.
BUT I DON’T LIKE TALKING TO PEOPLE
That’s fine too. Everyone is going to have aspects of nifflebaiting that they can’t stand. For example, I don’t like impersonal yelling into the void, such as posting links to my books on Twitter, so I just don’t do that. Fortunately, there are lots of options available.
COULD YOU BE A LITTLE MORE SPECIFIC
One thing that’s easy and relatively painless is listing your book on sites like Indie Book Lounge and Cheap Kindle Books. Starting a blog if you don’t have one is also a good idea, especially if you post about things related to your book(s). For example, if you write historical fiction then talking about the periods you’re interested in will attract people to your blog and from there to your books (you ARE putting links to your books on your blog, aren’t you?). Although I don’t use my Twitter account to promote my books directly, it’s linked to this bjournal so whenever I make a post, it shows up there. If people are interested then they can read the post and see the links to my books. I think of this as the ‘show, don’t tell’ method of nifflebaiting. If you don’t mind waiting in a long queue then submitting your book to review sites can be a good way to gain exposure, but most of the popular ones have waiting lists of months and months and months.
EYES ON THE PRIZE
One thing to keep in mind is your goal here. As I said earlier, somewhere up there, I’m in my fifth month and I’m starting to see some slow movement, a gradual increase in exposure and sales and reviews and so forth. I’m not selling a lot of books, but I’m up to around a sale a day, which is fantastic. I said from the start that six months would be my re-evaluation point, that I would consciously choose not to worry about lack of sales or whether or not I was doing something wrong until that point, and I think that’s good advice for anyone. Give it six months. Do what you can, but don’t expect anything to happen immediately. If you’ve got a book out there it’s still going to be out there in six months, in a year, in a decade, you don’t have to worry about print runs or anything like that, there’s a phenomenon called the ‘long tail’ which other people have written extensively about, but to sum it up: “Time is your friend.” The best thing you can do to achieve success in the future is to write and publish books NOW. The longer they’re out, the more you’ll sell, and the more exposure you’ll get.
YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING ABOUT A GOAL AND THEN DISTRACTED YOURSELF
Yes, I DID mention a goal. Here’s my belief, and others may disagree, but here we go anyway:
In your first year as an indie author, you shouldn’t care about money.
Now I’m not saying that money isn’t important, because it is. But making a career out of your writing is a long-term thing, and I don’t think it does any good to fixate on your earnings at this early stage. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be earning much–but every single sale is important. For a start, the more books you sell, the more ‘Also Bought’ lists your books are going to show up in, this is really important for later. It takes ages for them to actually show up, so don’t worry about it for now, just know that it’s going to get just a little easier later.
DID YOU ONCE HAVE A POINT?
I did, and here it is: although selling books on Amazon is important, it’s not as important as just getting your books out there. This should be your goal, in your first year, getting people to give you a chance. You need to fling your books to the furthest corners of the globe, to get as many people as possible reading them. One method of doing this that I’ve found useful is running LibraryThing giveaways. I’ve done four now and had a lot of fun with them–and because they allow e-books it costs you nothing. I just list my book, write a fun little giveaway blurb, and then a week later I send out a bunch of PDF and Mobi files. It’s simple, it’s fun, you get to directly engage with readers and you’re gaining exposure for your books. Honestly, what’s not to like?
I’M GETTING TENSE AGAIN
Relax! Just remember to relax. In my first two months I worked far too hard at
self-promotion nifflebaiting. My writing suffered, my health suffered, my happiness suffered. I was grouchy and unpleasant and quite frankly I have no idea if anything I did helped my sales at all. So don’t push yourself. Do a little nifflebaiting every day. Keep writing. Keep doing other things you enjoy, too. Don’t obsess over how many sales you’re making or whether or not you could be doing more to promote yourself (or bait niffles)–although with that said, you should be doing something, even if it’s just writing blog posts and tweeting about cups of tea.
SPEAKING OF TEA
It’s time for MY tea, so I’ll finish up here. Remember:
1) Figure out what aspects of self-promotion/nifflebaiting you enjoy and focus on them.
2) Don’t worry about money, just try to get as many people as possible to try your books (without being obnoxious about it).
3) Relax, keep writing, keep having fun.
Good luck, brave indie. I hope you sell a million books.