A sweet blog reader was kind enough to say she’s been following us for some time now, and likes our writing and content, and also the way we promote our books. She asked about how we publish, and also how we promote, so here, I hope, is an answer to that question. I’m including links to other blog posts I’ve written about publishing where they apply.
We have been writing for over 30 years, but publishing about 4. So our publishing experience is not vast. But we do everything ourselves at this point, from writing, to editing, to formatting and cover design and actual uploading to publishing sites. Here’s a post on the mechanics of preparing and publishing an ebook. Part Two: Make It Clean, Get It Out
We use Amazon and Smashwords for the ebooks and Createspace for the print books. So far we only have a few print books but we will be doing more soon. Our philosophy of publishing is to make our works available as inexpensively as possible and that’s why we started with ebooks. Here’s a post I wrote on our philosophy of e-publishing. The Hows (And Whys) of E-Books
I was an editor for a publishing company and feel confident about my self-editing at this point. Here’s a blog post I wrote about things to look for when editing. Righting Sew Reel Ayes Reed Passed Yore Tie Till We also have worked as videographers and have graphic design experience, so I make our covers. The program I use for that is Photo Impact from Corel. Here’s a post on book covers Part 2 1/2: Cover It Beautifully .That has been a journey, and you can see how my skills have progressed at our Findley Family Video Facebook page, under the photos section, where our stages of cover design are stored.
I also have illustrated versions of some of our books. Here is a blog post I wrote about a site where all the images are offered free by the photographer, and about our latest cover redesign. Dressing up for the Holidays: Free Images to Help You Make Ebook Covers
We write and format our books in Microsoft Word, following the Smashwords Style Guide for ebooks, which is free on their site and on Amazon. Other writers have suggested using writing and book design programs but we are keeping it simple for now. Here’s another post on ebook creation and publishing. Part Three: Your Book, Where It Should Go, How It Will Look
Now for the hard part — Promoting. I have a Goodreads and a Library Thing account. I have two Twitter accounts, a Google + account, and between us we have 3 facebook pages and two personal pages, plus I have a Pinterest account. I spend a fair bit of time networking with other authors on facebook. I try to share and tweet and promote their works as much as I can. I belong to several author groups on facebook and we exchange advice and promotions. We also have this blog, which has all our books linked to Amazon and Smashwords.
The blog posts get tweeted automatically when we publish, and most of our blog followers have come from Twitter. Some also come from facebook. Some come from search engines. I always include tags when I post a blog, subjects the blog is about, and we get a lot of blog hits on our Bible-related posts. One of the things people have said they like about us and our blog is that it’s not always about writing. Sometimes we post guest blogs and book reviews and talk about our books, but that’s not the focus of the blog. But the books are linked there for people to see and click on if they wish. We also have short descriptions of all our books at the end of most titles, and a link to our blog so readers can connect with us and check out our other titles. Here’s a post about being a blogging writer. Stuff Blogging Writers Need to Know: Part One
We have tried paid advertising or free trials of advertising that would be paid, several different online sites, and honestly, the results have been pretty much zero sales or responses. I participate in author groups where we all post tweets and retweet each other, and, as difficult as it is to be consistent and keep doing that daily, that seems to be very effective. I’m going to treat myself to a paid version of a tweet scheduling program very soon, because right now I do it all manually and it’s driving me crazy. Here’s a post about Twitter. Curiouser and Curiouser … An Author’s Adventures in Twitterland
One thing that has helped us get some notice is offering samplers of our full-length books for 99 cents. Some of our 99 cent books are complete short stories or novellas and some are three-chapter excerpts. We have also tried pricing a couple of full-length books at 99 cents, and even tried Amazon’s KDP select program for one book. The results for Select were pretty disappointing, though we did get some notice and a few reviews. Smashwords has a distribution network to iTunes, Sony, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and others, and we are beginning to see regular sales there.
We have a wide variety of genres — Issues non-fiction, Homeschool Curriculum, Historical Adventures and Romances, and Science Fiction. We have something for most ages and tastes. We are not bestselling authors by any definition I can figure out, but our sales have grown a bit almost every month. It’s interesting to note that people are buying from all the kinds of books we have.
So my conclusions about marketing, so far in our journey, anyway, are as follows:
Having a good, clear, relatively simple, striking, easy-to-read and understand cover is a good thing. Having a link in the books is a good thing. Tweeting is a very good thing. Having a blog is a good thing, but probably not one that’s just about writing. Pinterest is something I’m still thinking about. It seems to have good points, such as the ability to display your books with prices and links to Amazon all in one place. If you can join some groups with readers in them, this may be a very good thing. But I see a lot of lookers on Pinterest, not a lot of buyers. Many people are there to ooh and ahh and get lost in pretty pictures, not to click a sales link and go read an ebook. Here’s a post about my pinterest experience. Pinterest Is My New Interest
I didn’t say much about Goodreads, but finding readers there and talking to them about other people’s books makes them think you are a nice person. Talking to them about your own books is not always a good idea, but they will check out that nice person’s books and blog sometimes. Having your books available in as many places a possible (not just on Amazon) is a good thing. Smashwords also deserves praise for upgrading their response time and technical support recently.
Pricing some books at 99 cents is a good thing. Having multiple titles and a variety of kinds of books seems to be a good thing. I have been told repeatedly that having a series is a good thing, so I’m trying that next.
Let me close this by saying that the mainstream, traditionally minded publishers and many traditionally-published authors are not there to help those who want to be indie authors. They consider you the competition. Many of them are getting on the bandwagon of independent publishing, or say they are. Some want you to pay them for advice and claim to be able to help you succeed. But the key to successful indie publishing, once you have made your book as good as you can, is marketing. And few, if any, of these people want to help you market. There’s a lot of talk about “platform” nowadays. That means having an audience who will buy your books. And these people know you have to have one, but they won’t help you get one. Odds are they won’t even take you on as a client or pay any attention to you unless you are already successful at doing your own marketing. And if you keep at it, finding things that work to get yourself known, you will be successful without their “help”.