A little warning about my perspective on promoting: it’s unconventional, focused on long term results, and operates under the impression that people starting out don’t have the money to sink into buying expensive ad space. My philosophy: I don’t want to sell as many books as I can; I want to be financially stable for the rest of my life. To do this, I focused on building a strong, solid foundation based on the two common factors almost every financially stable author shares: multiple titles and an extensive, rabid fan base.
The biggest hurdle for most people to overcome is to stop viewing their book sale numbers as being the benchmark for success, especially when you’re just starting out. Long term success in most industries is reliant upon four pillars: quality products, relationships, infrastructure, and brand loyalty. Writing is no different.
I’ve outlined the first three steps of building a promotion empire. They aren’t easy, and they’re not free. For Step One, you’ll see some sales but not many. By the middle-to-end of Step Two, you should see things start to take off. At Step Three is when you want to up the ante and do what few other writers do: use the foundation you’ve created online to pull people to you.
Step one: The Foundation
1. There are two things that determine long term success for authors: multiple titles and an extensive rabid fan base. When you have these, you’ll have sustainable sales. How you get there is dependent on your resources, writing, goals, business prowess, and personal preferences.
2. Make a long term plan. I have a two stage marketing plan. Stage one: give everything away for free for a year to build a backlist of titles and a fan base. Stage two: monetize. Simple, straight-forward, and insanely effective. Develop a plan you can execute and include milestones, timelines, and honest evaluations of your ability to meet your goals. Don’t be afraid to adapt.
3. Manage first impressions. If you’re going to spend money, spend it on editing and a cover. Editing doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive; check out Elance.com or find a fanatic English major. For covers, I use Indie Designz, and you can find artists with flexible terms on Deviant Art. Do your research and don’t be afraid to bargain. Remember: you need a quality product to compete with all the other traditional and indie publishers.
4. You need a website. If it’s a free Blogspot site or you buy your own domain, you must have somewhere where readers can find out more about you and your books. My advice: if you can, buy a domain and go for the cheapest hosting option from HostGator. WordPress has thousands of free templates you can personalize and more importantly – thousands of add-ons you can install to personalize and optimize your site.
5. You need the following online accounts at least: Facebook author’s page, Twitter account, Amazon author’s page, Smashwords/other author’s page, Goodreads, Shelfari, Kindle Boards, Nookboards. Spend the time to get to know these sites and their communities.
5. Build relationships. Despite technology, the word-of-mouth, grass roots movement is what will make or break you. When starting out, focus on meaningful exchanges with your readers and contribute to/support the efforts of your fellow authors. Even if you haven’t released a book yet, you can sell YOU. After all, you’re the brand. A tip: do this with Twitter, too. Don’t just spam people – get to know a few key people in your field (whether book bloggers or fellow authors), and build a relationship at some level. This step takes time, but it pays off for you.
6. GO WHERE THE READERS ARE. It sounds intuitive, but I see more indies make this mistake than anything else. Join Goodreads and Shelfari. Respond to readers on Amazon forums (but don’t pitch your books – Amazon will can you for this!) Invite readers to post comments on your website/blog. You can post a line in every profile (including your Amazon author’s page) saying you welcome feedback on your website. And when someone posts, respond quickly. Visit the blogs of readers and reviewer and leave comments, including links to your website/blog. Participate in a blog challenge and visit others also participating.
7. Join online author support groups. Not the ones where all people do is try to get other indies to buy their books, but author groups where you can discuss technical questions about writing, posting your work on different sites, etc. Examples include Kindle Boards, Indie Writers Unite! on Facebook, self-published groups on Goodreads … there are hundreds. Do a little research, watch how the members interact, and choose 2-3 to join. You want a group with a positive, responsive community of writers.
About Lizzy Ford:
Lizzy Ford is a prolific author of young adult fantasy and paranormal (sweet) romance, to include the bestselling Rhyn Trilogy and the War of Gods/Damian series. Lizzy lives in the southwestern part of the US with her husband, Matt, two dogs, and a really fat cat. When she’s not writing or talking to her readers, she’s plotting to take over the world, though currently her world domination plans are stymied by a laptop with several missing keys. Lizzy’s current goal in life is to stop working for The Man and start working for The Readers.
The Lizzy Ford team consists of Matt, her IT guru; Christine LePorte, freelance book editor; Dafeenah, cover artist; and Toni, Spanish translator. In 2011, Lizzy will be releasing ten novels and will launch an affiliate program pilot in Fall 2011.