Guest Post: Ants on Everest by James Fox
Ants on Everest: Why Indie Authors need to show each other the ways to top sales.
Hi I’m James Fox. I’m the indie author of Dust Pan Girl.
At the time I’m writing this my book has been in the Top 100 Crime Thrillers on Amazon for over two weeks.
Wow what a jerk(or wanker) to write a blog post bragging about that. I’m not bragging. I’m writing to tell you guys what I did to see a small measure of success. It’s bitter and cold on the mountain, and it helps to listen to people that are also climbing it. Truth be told that’s all I did. Nothing I’m going to tell you is revolutionary. I don’t have a secret passcode that drives up my sales ranking. Although that’d be a lot easier than all the effort that goes into trying to sell a book. So let’s start at the end.
You’ve finished your novel and decided to self publish it. Good for you. Most people languish for years sending out query letters. The fact that my book is set in 2011 and published in 2013 might give you a hint at how long I tried. Don’t feel bad if you are self publishing after trying the traditional route. Borders is long boarded up. Barnes and Noble is rumored to start closing stores in the next year. The traditional publishing houses are getting more and more risk adverse. Unless you are a celebrity or an established author it is tough trying to get published. Don’t worry you are in good company.
First things first. Stop. Stop going so fast. Publishing a book is a slow process. Sometimes it is glacially slow. You have to be prepared for it. You have spent a couple hundred hours writing your book. You don’t want to waste all that effort. Hire an editor or copywriter. Don’t trust them to do their job. Check it before you pay them in full. Next you need to get someone to format your book. You can do it yourself. You can get a friend to do it. You can hire someone to do it. Cover art is the same thing, but it is more crucial. Keep in mind that your book needs to look good on the shelf and more likely a website. Most online book vendors will show your cover image as small as possible. So keep that in mind when you design your cover. Large lettering helps, and again this isn’t my advice. This is what I read on some other blog.
Ok now you have a properly designed and well edited book. At least you hope so. Someone who’ll read it will point out a typo. It happens. People like going through Stephen King’s old paperbacks and listing typos for fun. I saw one in a book today that was written by a professional journalist. Do your best in editing and move on. The next step is to select where you will sell your book. You can be broad and sell it too indie bookstores, libraries, smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Google (although I’ve never heard of anyone doing so), or you can sell it on Amazon where 85% of books are now sold. *That statistic like everything in this post is regurgitated from other blogs.*
I decided to go the KDP select route. It’s the program where you make your book exclusive for 90 days to Amazon. In return you get the wonderful opportunity to sell your book for free. I know it seems like a stupid idea. It works. Well it kind of works, but not nearly as good as it once did from what I hear. In the old days of 2010 all you had to do was run a KDP free promotion and wait for sales to roll in. Not anymore. Know you need to do a lot more work. First of all, in any marketing plan you need to start as early as possible. Book launch? Start talking about it as soon as you have a hard release date. Reduced price or free promotion? You need to start talking about it a few weeks ahead of time. Start with a little research. You can find all sorts of websites hosts, bloggers, Facebookies, and Twitterific people to help get the word out for free. Use them. Say thank you if they help you. That brings me to my next piece of advice. Build a team.
You can spend all the money you want on marketing, but if you are disorganized you are wasting your money. You need to build a team for whatever you are doing. Take an inventory of the skills you have, and those people that are willing to help you out. The operative word is willing. My own brother is a professional videographer, and I still can’t get him to film a book trailer for me. Next come up with the best strategy you can arrange. For example you are going to use your friends on Twitter and Facebook to start blasting about your free book promotion all at once. You’ve been mentioned on 5 of the 20 websites or blogs you tried to contact. You may have even gone so far as to pay for some free book marketing. (Avoid Fiverr I tried it plenty of times with mostly poor results). Why do you need to do a free promotion? Well especially on Amazon it starts to help you. Don’t ask me to explain the sales ranking math. It does help you in another important way. Once someone purchases your book for free it get listed along with that same person’s similar purchases. People on Amazon start to see your book at the bottom of their screens under the heading: Customers who bought this also bought. That helps.
After your big promotion you need an equal or greater promotion. This is the single most important advice I was given and followed. Marketing is like lighting a candle on the side of a windy mountain. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always happen. The last thing you want to do is let that light burn out after a few days of good sales. Plan for a follow up with a slightly different strategy. This is the best spot to use paid advertising if you are going to do it at all.
Now if you do start to get some good sales, tell people. You’re not bragging. You are marketing. There is a bias people have for doing what everyone else is doing, or reading. Past that point you need to do some reviews of your fellow indie writers and write some blogs. Don’t forget to tell people what you’ve learned works or doesn’t work anymore. We are all in this together. A bunch of ants climbing Everest. Good luck to you, and drop me a line sometime.
You can find James Fox on Twitter (since he has an allergy to Facebook) his handle is @JamesFoxWriter
He is currently writing a sequel to Dust Pan Girl, but takes time to review other indie’s books.