You guys know I consume a lot of content. Not as much fiction as I should be for a romance author, but I live and breathe non-fiction, especially anything having to do with market trends and industry (both indie and trad) news. I have a fascination with learning, not only to pass things on to you, but because you don’t know what you don’t know, and I like knowing it all. Or trying to. Picking through the weeds is difficult and time consuming, and even today because I have to work, I’m missing out on Clubhouse rooms (and you all know how much I agonize over that).
Anyway, so on one of my off days, I was listening to a Clubhouse room and after an hour of extolling the virtues of TikTok, she says, “But you don’t have to do any of this if you don’t want to.” I would imagine some of us felt relief, because sure, you DON’T have to be on TikTok to sell books. It’s a relatively new platform and it’s not like books didn’t sell before it’s invention. But. After an hour of hearing how wonderful and fun it was, being told that it was voluntary punched me in the gut. After listening to testimonies about how worthwhile it was, how people did manage to sell books on there, her comment didn’t sound true. It sure as hell sounded like we needed to be on TikTok.
It made me think about what we can use in the business and what we really don’t need. These opinions are coming from a place where I wish I would have done some of these things and where I have tried some and think they have merit, where I found some tractions with sales, and what I know I’m missing out on because I didn’t do them. Your mileage, as always, may vary.
You don’t have to . . . be on social media . . . if you don’t want to. You really don’t have to be on social media if you don’t want to. Twitter is a time suck of negativity, IG is going down in flames as TikTok runs miles ahead. No one likes Facebook. But if you don’t like social media, what does an author have left to sell books? You need something. Anyone who pushes Publish and walks away knows you need something or no one will know where your book is. Probably the hardest lesson I learned in the past five years of publishing is that without a newsletter, without a reader group on on Facebook, if someone wanted to be a real fan of my books, I didn’t give them a chance to be. There is no where for them to meet up or chat with me. Sure, I’m on social media, but I’m not active and anyone who finds my author page will see my last post was from almost a year ago. Why would they hit the like button? It’s not like they would get anything out of it. So if you don’t like Facebook, you still need someplace for your fans to meet up. I get it. As a newbie author, maybe you’re thinking you won’t ever have fans, at least not for a long time. This could be true, but you don’t need to make it any harder for them than it has to be, either. If you don’t want to be on social media, you need to replace it with something. I didn’t have a social media presence or a newsletter and after a reader read my book, there was no way for them to connect with me, or me to connect with them to let them know of sales and/or new releases.
You don’t have to . . . start a newsletter . . . if you don’t want to. For years I didn’t start a newsletter. I didn’t want to take the time to learn. The thought of cranking out a book to offer as a reader magnet didn’t bother me (yes it does), but there is so much that goes into a newsletter, and it still makes my head spin. It’s easy to say, “Start a newsletter,” but it’s the behind the scenes that makes me bitter. Learning the platform, learning BookFunnel (because it’s the best way to distribute any bonus material and gather email signups), or StoryOrigin, seemed like a giant waste of time to me when all I wanted was to write books. If you have an active reader group on Facebook, you might be able to get away without a newsletter, though you’re planting seeds in someone else’s garden and everyone says not to do that. You could blog for readers, and Anne R. Allen even has a book about that very thing: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors. It may be a bit outdated, but her content advice should still be relevant. The only problem with directing a reader to your website is that you lose the control to connect with them. They choose to visit your website or read your blog. If you can snag their email, you can contact them whenever you want. True, they still have to open the email, but they voluntarily signed up, so that makes it more likely they will at least peek at what you have to say. Do you need to start a newsletter? Nope. But as an author who has been writing and publishing–steadily, I might add–with no readership after all this time, it’s my biggest regret.
You don’t have to . . . learn an ad platform . . . if you don’t want to. Like the other two things on the list so far, you don’t have to learn an ad platform, but you do have to have something to replace it, be that a newsletter or using promos such as Freebooksy, BargainBooksy, Ereader News Today, Fussy Librarian, etc. If you want to get the word out about your book, and you don’t want to be on social media, start a newsletter, or learn an ad platform, that doesn’t leave you a lot of marketing choices. Because I haven’t had a newsletter and I’m not active on social media, learning an ad platform and using the promo method are the two things I’ve used to find readers. Not a lot of readers, but more than if I hadn’t used anything at all.
You don’t have to . . . write in a series . . . if you don’t want to. From the minute I started writing and publishing, all I heard was write in a series. There’s a lot of wisdom to this. Read-through (KU page reads and sales of individual books) is great if your first book is strong and you don’t take too long between releases. You have more marketing choices if you write in a series (like box sets and offering the first book for free to get readers hooked), and ad spend isn’t so bad if you pay for a little higher click because essentially you’re not only advertising one book, but many books (as many books is in your series, obviously). So what’s the problem? Writing is hard. Publishing is hard (so much to learn!) and costly. If your book one isn’t strong enough and readers drop off, every book you write after book one is a waste of time. Instead of figuring out how to do covers for one book at a time, all of a sudden you’re thinking about series branding and formatting. If you’re a new author, that’s intimidating. Not to mention if you don’t have friends to lend a hand with beta reading, editing a series can be very costly. I never advise anyone to publish without at least one more set of eyes besides yours on the book (I don’t care who that is). Writing standalones has always been more enticing to me, and I can write them quickly. They’re more manageable, and publishing one book is a lot faster because I have this weird thing with writing an entire series before publishing it. (Which has come in handy this time around as I did find a small little something from book 2 to book 3 that affects book 5 that I can fix now.) What can you do if you like to write standalones too? 1) Use your back matter. Advertise another standalone in the back. Use a buy-link, add the cover. Some ad copy. 2) Don’t let too much time go by between releases, or don’t market heavily until you have a backlist. If readers love you (and you want them to, right?) they will read all that you have. If that’s only one book, they might love it, but then they have nowhere else to go. (And this is especially true if you don’t have a newsletter or a group they can join to hook up with you while you write the next book.) But this also brings me to….
You don’t have to . . . write in one (sub)genre . . . if you don’t want to. You don’t, but it will make things easier if you do. For a few books, anyway. Or if you really want to, it can be wise to separate genres by pen name, but it will slow your productivity, depending on how fast you can write. I decided to use a pen name for my billionaire romance though I think they could have fit in with my contemporary romance okay. I like the idea of starting over, of having one specific subgenre under one name. Of course you can write whatever you want under one name, but marketing might be a little harder and the chance of finding readers who will read it all are slim. What can you do if you want to genre hop? The best advice I’ve heard is to try to not stray too far. Contemporary romance is all-encompassing, and I thought I could write whatever I wanted. It wasn’t true. If I ever get tired of writing billionaire, I could probably get away with writing Mafia, as they have similar tones. Not that I have plans for that as I have never even read a Mafia romance. Admittedly I don’t know much about other genres like Fantasy. An author could maybe get away with mixing RomCom and Women’s Fiction, especially if the WF has humorous elements in it. Domestic Thrillers could pair well with Mystery or Thriller. It will help your cause if they have similar elements and similar covers, so the books your Amazon author page look cohesive.
I could probably do a lot more of these; there are plenty of “rules” in the indie publishing space. The fact is, you can do whatever you want, but that leads to the indisputable fact that you may not achieve the results you want as quickly as you want them. I’ve been publishing for five years. I don’t have the audience I want because I didn’t give them a way to hook up with me, or a space for them to hang out with each other. No readers means no sales. What kills me is I did it my way for a long time, when I was more than willing to do what I needed to do it right the first time. I just didn’t know what that was. It wasn’t TikTok, and while I’m curious about the platform, I’m still wondering just how worth it it is. The whole idea of anything is to do what you enjoy so you can keep up the consistency of that thing. I don’t like my FB author page. I don’t like Instagram. I don’t want to learn how to use TikTok when I can put that time to use and write bonus material, a reader magnet, learn BookFunnel, network with others, and read more in my genre (and while doing that, join a billionaire readers’ group to help me stay on top of the hottest trends).
It’s all where you want to spend your time, how fast you want to put books out, and what you enjoy doing. You don’t have to do anything. You’re an adult. What do you want to do, and will it move your book business forward? That’s a question only you can answer.
What am I loving this week?
Alext Newton of K-Lytics did a comprehensive romance report for the fall of 2021. Being that I love keeping up with the industry, I bought it for $37. You can find out more about it and purchase it for yourself by clicking here. It’s not an affiliate link. I love Alex and the work his team does, but we aren’t affiliated. 😛
Another thing I loved is the interview James Blatch did with romance author Melanie Harlow on the Self Publishing Formula Podcast. She had some great advice, and I really related to what she had to say. I love it. You can listen to it here.
That’s it for me today! Have a wonderful week everyone!
Until next time!