Marketing & The Indie Author

By Jon F. Merz

I’m extraordinarily fortunate to do what I love for a living. After spending ten years in the traditional publishing world where I wrote lots of novels for many houses, I’ve pretty much made the conversion to only going indie. The money’s better, the control is yours, and the readership is there if you know how to find it. Best of all, if you keep control of your rights, the ebooks you write will earn money for you forever. And forever can be a mighty long time – even with the current copyright laws.

I get contacted by a lot of writers. Lately, I’ve seen a trend in the messages I receive. They generally read like this: “Hi Jon, I’ve written a novel and I’m thinking about bringing it out myself. Can you tell me every one of your secrets for selling as well as you do. And by the way, I’m too lazy to do any real research on you and see how many posts you’ve written on your blog about this very thing, so kindly write back to me and take more time out of your schedule to only help me when you could be writing more.” Actually, that last line isn’t in any of the messages, but it’s frankly how I feel when I get one of these things. The author is about to embark on a huge undertaking and yet they’ve done no research on how to sell their work or market it. Instead, it’s easier to drop me a line and hope I’ll respond.

Marketing and sales techniques are not something I think I’m particularly good at. So I make it a point to study the tactics of several people I respect who have their finger on the pulse of new ideas much more than I do. And they’re not authors, either, which I think makes them even more valuable. What I’ve managed to learn from them and apply to my own sales and marketing efforts is something any author should be doing: study what works and then experiment with it to see if it will work for you as well.

I read a blog post earlier today about scheduling and one of the commenters dismissed marketing as unworthy of her time. “A book will sell moderately on its own merit,” she stated proudly.

I think that’s a pretty stupid assertion to make. Whether or not an author likes marketing, they’d sure as hell better be willing to do some. The indie author movement is a great thing in many respects, but it also means a LOT more ebooks are out there clamoring for readers’ attentions. If you don’t have a brand or a platform or some other way to get your work noticed, then chances are your sales may not be as good as they could be.

A little over a year ago, some well-know schmoe wrote a book about how he’d managed to sell a million ebooks. I, like many others, immediately went and downloaded his book and read it – anxious for any tidbits he might have sprinkled throughout the pages. The book was a massive waste of time. In fact, it so infuriated me that he’d written something so clearly designed to only give him a boost and not help others, that I immediately wrote my own book and packed it full of hardcore advice on what I use to sell ebooks. The book has gotten some great reviews and I still hear from people thanking me for writing it, which is nice. Some folks don’t like the fact that I push a particular piece of software in the book for managing Twitter (and I am an affiliate of this software because it works so incredibly well) but that’s what I use every day to help increase my audience. You can still get the book for the Kindle or for the Nook.

So for those who are new to this or for those who are looking to increase their sales, here’s a quick list of marketing techniques I engage in every day.

1. Facebook Page: Get a Facebook Page! I don’t know how else to put this – your personal profile is not enough and it’s limited by Facebook. Your page is not. Need help building one? I wrote a two-part guide to doing it – HERE and HERE

2. Twitter: If you read my ebook HOW TO REALLY SELL EBOOKS, you know I recommend Tweetadder as the single best Twitter management software you can buy. I still recommend using it (use it wisely, however!) in my ebook and the techniques I use are in there.

3. Blog: Start blogging. You don’t have to do it every day, but it helps. Make sure you sign up for Authorship at Google and you’ll see your blog posts start to score better in search rankings.

4. Interact: Are there fans on your page asking questions or commenting? Interact with them. Same goes for Twitter. I astounds me when I see bestselling authors ignoring fans. It’s stupid and it hurts your bottom line.

5. Study: Find sales and marketing gurus and study what they do. Read business articles, tech articles, publishing industry articles and ferret out the things that can help you sell more.

6. Write: You might think this is at the wrong end of the list, but it’s here for a reason: to stress how important it is to make sure your sales & marketing systems are firing on all cylinders. Yes, you absolutely need to write as much as possible, but you also need to make sure you SELL what you’ve written so that writing new stuff makes sense in the first place.

Here’s what I DON’T do:

1. Hang on out Kindleboards. I used to. But it’s a massive time suck. And while there are some great people out there enjoying incredible success (which is awesome) there’s also a lot of what I affectionately call “groupthink.” And groupthink is dangerous. You need to chart your own course, not follow in the path of others.

2. Hang out on Goodreads: Pretty much the same reason as above.

3. Pay attention to reviews: the simple fact is some people will love your work and others will hate it. This is the price of admission to being a writer. If you bask in the glow of a good review, that means you also have to wallow in the stain of a bad one. The best course? Ignore reviews. Sure you can post about them when you get a 5-star (as I often do) but don’t place any real value on them. They’re valuable to readers who want to know what they’re getting into when they click buy, but for you as the author, try to ignore them.

I’ve written many other posts on promotion and publicity for indie authors. Use the keyword categories to the right of this page to search for posts. It’s always been my philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats. That’s why I write these posts – I want you to be successful, too! As I said at the start of this post, I’m very fortunate to do what I love for work and earn a very good living doing so. If you want to be a writer, the dream can be yours as well. But don’t look for shortcuts. Study and work hard!

GORUCK CHALLENGE UPDATE

Entering the 3rd week of Insanity for cardio endurance. Morning runs are being transitioned over to night runs. And I’m doing many, many push-ups with the weighted vest on to build muscle endurance for the event. Good livin’!

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