Monday 25 June 2018

Indie spotlight: An indie author’s guide to marketing, part II – selling

Indie spotlight focusses on self-published authors and self-publishing. Here, in the second of a two-part series on marketing, Alexa Kang, a Boston-based, Chinese-American author of World War Two historical fiction, published through her own house, Lakewood Press, gives advice on selling. This follows her post on branding, which appeared last Friday.

Alexa recently brought out Shanghai Story, which is set in 1936 Shanghai. It is the first book of a projected trilogy set to chronicle the events in China leading up to World War Two, as well as the experience of Jewish refugees in Shanghai.

So, over to Alexa…

Now that you have a well-written and well-packaged book ready to sell, where do you begin?

The first thing I recommend is build a mailing list to which you can send your author’s newsletters. A mailing list is a necessary tool to stay in touch with your fans and to reach potential readers. To learn how to set one up, check out this advice from indie author C.M. Estopare. I prefer Mailerlite as my newsletter service provider, as they have a 24/7 online tech support.

In my last post, I talked about the author’s first book being the tool to introduce yourself to the market. One way to build your mailing list is to offer a free book to readers who sign up for your mailing list. Instafreebie and Bookfunnel are eBook delivery channels where you can join multi-authors eBook giveaways in your genre, with options for readers to subscribe to your list. In lieu of your first book, you can also offer a short story, a novella, or a preview to your book. Be sure to include a mailing list sign-up link on your website and in the backmatter of all your books which you offer for sale.

Keep in mind that a mailing list is something you need to cultivate. Think about how to introduce your work to your subscribers, and how to provide interesting newsletter content as well as information about your book sales and releases. To give you some examples, here’s a welcome email I send to new subscribers, and a recent newsletter I sent to my readers.

When you begin, it helps to have a core group of readers, no matter how small. Consider sharing the chapters of your first book with readers as you write so you can gain a following before you publish. If you write sci-fi or fantasy, try posting your work on relevant fanfic forums for fans of these genres. Do not go to your friends and families, but find where your tribe hangs out. If the fans like your work, they will be your staunchest supporters when you publish your book, and they can be your earliest reviewers.

Currently, there are three schools of marketing indie authors can follow. None are exclusive to the others. You can try one or a combination of them to see what works.

1. Rapid-Release. For indie authors, you will not likely gain a lasting readership or recoup your cost if you publish only one book. If you publish multiple books in the same series, you’re more likely to succeed. The goal of rapid-release is to have at least three books in the same series ready for publication. The author launches book one free or at 99c, and puts book two in pre-order to be released one month later at regular retail price. The method is repeated to release book three thirty days after book two is published. During this time, the author will heavily promote book one to drive sales. Assuming book one is good, the author will recoup cost and gain royalties from sales of subsequent books. Selling a series attracts readers eager to buy the next book. Authors who subscribe to this method often work on a release schedule, and generally do not let too many months lapse before releasing their next book.

2. The Ad Masters. Visibility is the biggest challenge for all indie authors. Paid advertisement can help, so be sure to set aside an advertising budget. Author Mark Dawson offers two great courses for beginning authors: Ads for Authors, and Self-Publishing 101. His lessons on Facebook ads are especially helpful. Another venue of advertisement is the Amazon Ad Services (AMS). Author Brian Meeks offers a course on AMS ads, and his book Mastering Amazon Ads is the best resource around. Beyond these intensive ad campaigns, you can also market your books with book promoters like the ones listed here. Find the ones that best meet your costs and genres.

3. Write-to-Market (WTM). The WTM method was popularized by author and Youtube influencer Chris Fox. It is especially suited for authors who wish to become full-time writers. To WTM, the author identifies books or genres that are currently most popular with readers, and writes books with high market demand. K-lytics, a data service provider for authors, is the go-to resource for genre trends. The author then uses certain techniques to trigger Amazon’s algorithm to recommend the book to Amazon book customers.

Whichever method you use, you should always have a marketing plan when releasing your books. If you’re launching your first book with no fan base, focus on advertisements to gain readers and build your mailing list. As your readership grows, devise a plan for your next book release with a schedule of events to build buzz and announce those events in your newsletters and social media. Events can include cover reveals, book giveaways, sneak peak of your opening chapter, and discounts of an earlier book in the same series. If possible, share artwork, fanart, and book trailers (but only if they are well-done.) Be a guest on a podcast or an author interview online. Be creative with what you can do. Each of these events alone may not induce sales, but they all help to build excitement for your readers to buy.

Finally, never forget to network with other authors in your genre. They are often your best resource for the latest market trends and friends to collaborate with for cross promotions.

The indie-book market is a super-fast moving place. Sales tactics change constantly. I hope my advice and tips are helpful, but they are not the only path to success. They may be outdated by next year. To stay ahead, check out some additional resources below.

The Sell More Books Show 
Author Mark Dawson's The Self-Publishing Formula podcast
Author Mark Dawson’s SPF Facebook Group
Author Brian Meek’s AMS Ad Group
Authors of Asian Novels Facebook Group