A while back I joined an author group on Facebook. I’ve blogged about them before, and they are great for motivation, tips, tricks, the list goes on. They also hold a huge author/marketing conference in November and even though I haven’t been able to attend in person, I watch the videos on YouTube. It’s really interesting to hear about how some of the indies making a living wage writing speak about their journeys.
This isn’t without its pitfalls. Listening to several different speakers tell you how they made it, as you can imagine, well, you’ll get several different results.
I have noticed though, how there are some mixed messages, even among the speakers on some of the same panels.
It’s proof that there is no magic bullet, and what works for someone might not work for you. As I watch more of the videos from the conference, I’ll let you in on some more of the things I find, but for now we’ll start with a couple that popped into my head this morning while I was in the shower mulling over part of a romance panel I watched last night.
These are my thoughts on public YouTube videos. The group very generously puts them out so authors who can’t attend can still benefit from the speakers and panels. I love this, and I am in no way saying derogatory things about this group, nor am I sharing information that isn’t available to everyone who is willing take the time to watch them.
1. Enroll your books into KU, but take advantage of Prolific Words (AKA Instafreebie) and Bookfunnel to build your email list and take advantage of genre promos.
l hope new authors understand that your book can’t be available anywhere else if its enrolled in KU. KDP’s terms of service is a bit hazy . . . you are allowed to give your book away for free for review purposes, and you are allowed to have up to 10% of your book available in other places. If you want to ride the edge of KDP’s TOS, good luck to you. I prefer not, and when I used BookSprout for reviews, I pulled my books out of there before I enrolled in KU.
How do you get around this? Make your book available on those sites before you publish and then take them down when you’re ready to publish, or use those sites before you enroll in Select. (You can publish with KDP and not be in Select.) If you have the time, and I prefer this method, write something that is only available to newsletter subscribers. If you’re taking advantage of a genre promo on Bookfunnel or Story Origin (I have done neither), it’s better to have a book that’s wide or not in KU so you don’t have to worry about it.
As far as the KU opinion goes, Alex Newton of K-lytics did a lovely talk about who is making the money (out of any author: traditionally published, small press, indie, and other), and it’s indies in KU. Alex is funny, and you’ll enjoy his presentation. You can watch his talk here:
2. You don’t need money to advertise/launch a book, but it’s really best if you have some money.
One romance author said her books depend on Facebook ads. Another said if she’s not advertising, her sales die. But I don’t think it’s fair when an author making money tells you that you don’t need to invest in ads and that investing time on free social media works just as well. They say starting small on ads works, too, and I will spend five dollars here, five dollars there. But do I have steady sales? No. What you need to keep in mind is a lot of these authors have been writing and publishing for years. Five dollars a day here and there probably did work for them five years ago, but that’s not true today. To have a good launch, you HAVE TO be able to throw some money at your book. To have steady sales, you have to be able to invest a little. Hopefully your book is solid (good cover, good blurb, good writing on the inside) and you always make more than what you spend.
3. You shouldn’t be wasting your time on social media instead of writing, but you should really be on social media.
This one kind of drove me nuts because what some of those authors did on that romance panel made me want to puke. I saw hours and hours of writing time go up in smoke as one author said you should start your own reader group, and join other reader groups (in your genre) to get your name out there. Mostly it was all Facebook-centered, and that goes against almost everything I have ever heard about depending on another platform for your real estate. Drive everything to your website is what I’ve been told time and time again, but a couple romance authors swore up and down that they would not be where they are today had they not joined and started reader groups.
So what should you be doing? What did they agree on?
1. Start a newsletter. While there was some disagreement on the best way to gather email addresses (some said to do the promos like Bookfunnel, StoryOrigin, and other means that require giving away a piece of writing in exchange for an address) others said that they do paid promotions on Facebook to gather email addresses, and another mentioned adding an opportunity for your readers to have access to secret content to the back of a book that they’ll only receive if they sign up for your newsletter. An alternate ending would be an example. Or an epilogue. No matter which way you decide to start your list, that is top thing they all agreed on.
2. Network. So far there have been quite a few authors who said their careers wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t networked. They made friends “higher up” in the publishing totem pole, and it paid off for them. That’s not to say you’re networking to use people. People can spot false friends and you’ll be outed fairly quickly. But networking and getting to know other authors in your genre could pay off in the end with newsletters swaps, being asked to participate in a collection/anthology/promo, etc.
3. Fulfill reader expectations. They couldn’t emphasize this enough in one of the romance panels I watched. You need to make your readers happy, or it’s all for nothing. Read in your genre and understand what your peers are offering their readers. If you decide to break a trope, do it in a way that won’t piss off your readers. The moderator of that panel used the example of a billionaire romance taking place in a small town. She said she was disappointed because the premise behind billionaire romance is that it takes place in a big city. He’s usually the head of a giant corporation. If you go against this trope and place a billionaire in small town (for example, maybe he’s on the run or in the witness protection program) perhaps it’s not a billionaire romance you’re writing but a romantic suspense. Give your readers what they expect out of the genres and sub-genres they enjoy. It’s why they picked up your book. Because your marketing/title/cover/blurb told them that’s what it is. Your insides have to match your outsides.
4. Keep in mind your competition. This is a still from Alex’s talk, and if it doesn’t give you nightmares, nothing will. You HAVE TO FIND A WAY to push to the top. And if that means learning an ad platform, learn it. If that means starting a reader group, start it. If that means starting a newsletter, start it. I think some writers/authors live in a bubble, and they don’t realize just HOW MANY books are out there.
At some point Craig Martelle said there is close to 50 videos on YouTube you can watch from the conference last month. It will take a while to get through the ones that interest me. Follow my blog and I will keep you updated as I parse through them!
I hope you had a wonderful holiday, and enjoy this last month of 2019!