Strange as this may sound, I found it hard to start this post because I feel like I am still an ignorant Freshman in the game. Not “new” in terms of writing, but new in the business of Amazon and selling books on an online store. I am going to ramble, the post is over 1,000 words and I don’t even think I got anywhere in it, but maybe there’s some nugget of wisdom in here to help someone along, so forgive me… this is a freestyle (cue the beatbox).
If it helps, I do plan to follow up this mess with a post on what sites, methods, and strategies I have tried that have worked or failed.
Anstractor was my first book, and it sold pretty well for an ignorant author playing at self publishing. My latest release was the omnibus for Knights and Demons, and in eight days it has outperformed all of my former book releases. It’s doing well because I’m learning and adapting, and that is what this book length post is going to be about.
The first thing I told myself when I decided to start selling the stories that I wrote was that entitlement will never be a part of my vocabulary.
I see plenty of new writers that visit message boards where successful sellers hang and post threads asking for an easy mode to millions. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my long years of business, it’s that easy mode is usually an old man or woman cutting their padawan a check or handing them a dynasty. For the rest of the great horde, there is no easy mode. Success becomes a complex formula of hard work, scholarship, relationship building, and lady luck. I know, nobody that comes into something looking to get rich quick, likes to hear this, but this is my reality.
I’ve always written, since as far back as I can remember, but for years the money that I made from writing came by way of articles on my Men’s Magazine blog. Let me tell you something, to monetize a blog online is about as hardcore as it gets in terms of grinding. For three years I maintained five articles a week, guest posts on bigger sites, and playing editor to contributors. I had to study how to get visitors in, how to retain them, and how to ride the viral waves.
It took me about five years before I got to the point where my little magazine more than paid for it’s Virtual Dedicated Server, but I succeeded and it made me feel like hard work does pay off.
When I decided to start writing fiction, I saw many similarities in terms of gaining an audience, staying true to your content, and growing your readership. Like blogging we end up reading four times as much as we write, and part of that reading is really studying. Learning more about the craft, becoming a better writer, observing the trends, finding ways to get your stories in front of people that want them.
I invest in professional covers and editing, but I do have a day job that allows me the privilege of making sure my product looks right. The businessman in me sees each book as an investment, so I lean on marketing to see some sort of return.
So first and foremost I invest in ads, and I adjust those ads daily, to figure out who is really interested in my books. I take into account my genre, my protagonist, the type of story that it is, and who generally reads that sort of thing. My SEO background gives me an edge in this because I am used to data, so a little investment goes a long way. Finding and building personas for “my reader” helps me to figure out what sites are worth my while to advertise on.
When I first started I did what most writers do and blast the shotgun, spreading my book to any and all takers, while staying in the dark on who was looking for my type of book. Now I take note of everything, I look at who is interested, and I build up a persona that represents those individuals. When I wrote Anstractor–which is a space opera about an orphaned kid who becomes a badass space spy with woman issues–I assumed the audience would be men like me. I wasn’t totally wrong, but through ads, I found out that women over the age of 50 loved Rafian’s adventures a little bit more. Assumptions would have never landed on that, but a couple dollars in advertising did.
I’ve worked in SEO for a good number of years professionally, and I can compare a lot of it to writing independently. In SEO and fiction, you are constantly writing, and when you aren’t actively fixing or creating content, you better be studying. Amazon and Google are both two massive corporations that we rely on to cut our checks, and they both continue to change up their algorithms and engines to benefit the customer.
As a seller (or SEO) this has forced me to be like water. I have to continue to adapt, or be left high and dry, applying yesterday’s strategies to today’s battle. I read forums, pages, and private groups daily to share and pull information and this has allowed me to make very positive moves in terms of sales and avoiding mistakes.
The sites that I recommend (in this exact order) are as follows:
- KBoards – Writer’s Cafe – Smart rich people post here
- Writer’s Discussion Board – Friendly people with lots to share
- Goodreads – Lots of helpful groups and fellowship opportunities
As entrepreneurs we love to embrace new blood to the tribe. Believe it or not, most of us get excited when we see a new member to the club. I saw this when I started a web business, and I see it with startups that I am a part of. Something about “having your own” just makes you want to sing it to the mountains, and independent authors are entrepreneurs. This is why it is invaluable to read and join in on discussions online, but read a lot before you ask questions, and don’t go trolling for a magical formula.
So, I’ve written using the words “I”, and “me” a whole lot, but I want you to take away from this the fact that you’re going to have to get your elbows and knees dirty if you want to sell books. One of the best pieces of advice that fixed my marketing was the words “have a plan”. Sure, you can write a great book, get the stars to align properly and then catch a wave of buys that never comes down, but how many people are that lucky?
Sometimes timing is all it takes to be an Amazon sweetheart, but very little of that formula is up to you. So stay positive and never assume that we readers owe you a buy. Treat people like people, even when they seem like mere numbers on your “bought” list, and be grateful for every single one of those buys. Keep on growing, and make sure that you have a marketing plan, this way, even if you don’t sell much, you can get a better picture of what needs tweaking, and what you can improve on.