So, the ball is definitely rolling now. The sales are coming in more regularly, author interviews are scheduled very soon (watch this space), and reviews are also starting to arrive. How am I delivering my product to a widening audience on a daily basis, and how am I forging my way to eventually being a full-time writer?
Well, let me begin by making something clear – I am a writer. I must dirty my hands with the marketing and promotional aspects of the business, because it is just that – a business. As a self-published author, you need to get your hands dirty in this side of things. But it can be fun when you do it right and start clocking up sales. Trust me.
I’d like to share with my fellow friends and authors how I am starting to see some results. It’s not probably anything you haven’t already heard, seen or are doing. You’ve probably read what I will write a hundred times before.
So, anyway, back to my ‘product’. It seems harsh to call The Hunter Inside a product. It is a novel that I poured blood, sweat and tears into. Well, maybe not my own blood, but you get the picture. There’s certainly plenty of blood flowing through the pages!
I didn’t write a supernatural thriller, or a suspense one. I didn’t write a psychological horror novel, or a crime novel about a serial killer stalking victims. Nope. I wrote all of those things and crammed them into one crossover novel. The reviews have all been very positive on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Only one of them was less than 5 stars so far, and that was 4 stars. I’m grateful for the positive reaction, and love to hear people’s thoughts on my writing and what my characters and plotlines invoke in them.
It’s all well and good learning the craft of writing and honing your skills, developing characters and a plot and carrying it all the way through to those two, sigh-of-relief-inducing words, ‘The End’. But reaching an audience is the thing that is more difficult for indie authors. We have to figure out how to market a self-published novel to reach the widest possible audience.
I’ll talk about the five-step routine that everyone does, but whether you can get it to work for you is another matter. I don’t think there’s any substitute for hard work. I will tell you The Hunter Inside, and my second novel, From the Sky, WILL be bestselling novels one day. I’ll tell you that without an ounce of arrogance, because I know my product is good enough. I know I have the ability to write a damn good story and the ethic to work hard enough to make sure it reaches as many people who want to read it as there are out there. Let me tell you, that is a lot. If you read the sample you will see the mass market appeal a novel like The Hunter Inside has. Traditionally published titles that are on shelves in bookshops with the type of storyline The Hunter Inside has make bestseller lists. It’s a fact. But they do it with physical copies of books on bookshelves for people to feel and flick through. Covers or marketing have the ability to sell books sometimes more than the quality of the books themselves.
That’s one thing us indies do have in common with physical bookshops. Our cover can sell books. That’s number two in my plan. If you have a good cover then you have done the second thing right. Obviously, the first thing, which I really ought to mention, is getting your ‘product’ right. If you don’t have the product you won’t get the good reviews and they won’t sell you books. But get your product right, and get a really intriguing cover, and it will help people to get interested in your work when they see it. Even the thumbnail of my cover stands out. You can see the shadow looming over Sandy Myers and her twin sons as they venture into an old abandoned warehouse and towards a danger that is there, looming over them. It works (Joel Friedlander even said so in the e-Book Cover Design Awards for May 2012), and I bet it’s sold me a few copies. How much did it cost? That would be telling. Ok, I’ll tell you. It cost me £100 GBP. But it was a friend of a friend, and I’m sure it would have cost me a lot more to have a professional graphic designer design that cover (from my brief) if it hadn’t have been (needless to say he is a professional graphic designer for a living – let me know if you want to prospect him to do your cover). But it’s money worth spending, because your cover is what your potential audience sees before they read description. The cover gets them interested enough to read the blurb, and the blurb hopefully gets them interested enough to read the sample, which in turn leads them to buy and read the novel. And the novel is hopefully enjoyable enough that they write a review. A good one. Test me. You like my cover? It intrigues you? Click on it. It’s in the top-right corner of this page. Go on, you know you want to. Read the blurb. Then read the sample to the end. Buy it, read it, and I’m sure you’ll like it enough to review it positively. Even better, I’m currently giving you a free copy of my second novel when you like and review my first. That one is called From the Sky, and it’s the sci-fi event of the 21st century – the new Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The first 10,000 words is here on my blog as a sample, so have a read. Or read it at the end of The Hunter Inside when you see the free offer info. It’s in there too!
See what I did there? I engaged with you, my audience. I encouraged you by making you an offer that you can’t resist. You’ll get the free copy of From the Sky before it’s even released, if you want it. If you do, that means you’ll have both of my novels for a bargain price of £1.91 (or equivalent if you’re not in the UK). Seriously, what do you have to lose?
So you have numbers 1 and 2 there. I also sneakily got number 3 in above. Engage. This is the one you’ve heard before. Engage with your audience. Facebook, Twitter, website, blog. I’ll come back to the last two in a minute or two. Facebook and Twitter are the two social networking platforms I’ll mention, because they’re the ones I use the most. I have a Facebook page for The Hunter Inside, because it’s cool, and it means my audience is widening all the time. From the original 35 ‘likes’, there are a few people talking about The Hunter Inside, and because they are talking about it, it’s showing up on people’s timeline. My weekly report said it was seen by around 6000 people in the last week alone on Facebook. That’s not millions, but who’s to say it won’t be 100,000 in a couple of weeks? Make sure you share things and update the timeline of your Facebook page. Don’t just have it sitting there doing nothing. Facebook is, I’m sure you’re aware, the best thing since sliced bread!! To Twitter. They should have called it ‘Enigma’, because it certainly is one! We’re authors, so we automatically follow other authors. But this doesn’t mean we sell books, because those other authors want us to buy their books. Maybe we can network by reviewing each other’s books, but if we’re honest then it’s not the best way of doing things. You want objective reviews, not ones that scratch your back in return for you doing the same. If you don’t get any constructive criticism how do you ever develop? No, what we need to do, in my experience, is engage. Before you published your first novel, you would have been happy to sell it one copy at a time to someone who was really interested and intrigued, wouldn’t you? So what’s changed? Sell it one copy at a time, if you have to. Don’t expect to check your sales figures every morning and see hundreds of thousands of sales overnight. You have to engage. Look for people who you know would be likely to read your work. Search tweets, people’s bio’s, fan Twitter things (like the Dean Koontz Fancorps). Connect with them, chat with them. Don’t just tweet, ‘buy my book’ with a link (well, do that occasionally, but not only that!). If someone gets to know you and likes you and are into the type of stuff you write, then they’ll read your work and give you an honest opinion, and they’ll remember you when you release your next novel. Even better, they’ll tell someone about it who they think will like it, and they might buy it and like it and tell two people. A couple of them might review it. The original people you engage with will take on the mantle and promote you on your behalf, for free!
There’s number 4 – reviews. Seek out reviews. Make offers like the one I have to tempt readers. Like I said, you WILL enjoy The Hunter Inside (people will comment after this article who have read it to tell you that you will!), and you’ll get to read what will be a massively talked about novel when it’s released – From the Sky. Check out lists like this one and email the right people for your genre. Follow their submission guidelines to the letter, and even suggest an author interview, guest piece, spotlight. It’s great content for their website or blog from someone who might one day be internationally famous. Besides that, these people don’t do this for money. Well, not the genuine ones. They do it for their passion of books, some for their passion of discovering great indie talent. They are the best people to seek out reviews from, because they’ll be objective (that’s where you having a great product for them comes in!). You’ll find plenty that will review it for you and tweet it for you to their networks for a fee. That’s great, if you have bucketloads of money to throw at what might prove (and does in a lot of cases) ineffective. Get honest, genuine reviews from people, and they will shine from your Amazon page like a beacon, guiding people to that ‘Buy it with one-click’ button! Make sure your author page on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk is as complete as it can be (you have to do it separately for each). Link your Twitter, Facebook, blog, website – give your readers somewhere to find you.
Which takes me onto my last point. Number 5. An extension of engaging, or ‘building an author platform’. Put time and effort into your blog and your website. You can build a blog/website easily using WordPress. That’s what this is – a WordPress blog. A distinction I am starting to make and think about is the difference between the people who like to read this type of post that I write, and those who seek out my website simply as readers of my fiction. If my readers only see articles about formatting for Kindle, or the rise of eBooks versus print books, or the Amazon lawsuit, then they might instantly be turned off. ‘Mr McGowan, author, we have come here to find out about your work. What is in the pipeline? Tell me about your characters. Give me more, more, more because I’m your fan. I’m your Constant Reader, so give me something juicy to read’. OK, so I have a fairly decent blog and site, but I’m starting to think about making a distinction between the articles and advice and motivational pieces I provide for writers, and having a dedicated place for my readers to visit. So I might even have a second website, just for my readers. I’m thinking about having a newsletter that will come out maybe once a month, maybe once a quarter. Those things are in the pipeline. So don’t despair readers. I’m also looking to develop my site so it is geared towards connecting with you – because I love you all and want to hear from you. I always promise to reply individually to your emails or comments, and if you tweet me @dmcgowanauthor I promise to reply and RT you if you would like me to!
For the writers, there are the 5 areas for you to consider. Do like I said and click the cover of The Hunter Inside at the top right of this page, read the blurb. If you like it, read the sample. If you like that, buy the book. It’s cheap! Even better, if you like it review it and earn yourself a free book next time out. But remember the most important things. Get the product right, and work hard. Don’t ever take your foot off the gas when you start to see results. I get up between 5.30am and 6am now to get a few hours writing in before work, and it means that I’ve written 28,000 words of From the Sky – 14,000 of them in just over the past week alone! So, the way I’m going, you won’t have to wait long for it! Engage your audience, and build a rapport, no, a relationship with them. They will be with you for many years to come, and they may well be reading your work when you’re no longer even around to write it!
Thank you and good luck. We can all be bestsellers. We just gotta work really hard to get there!