Being an indie author can be fun and empowering. We have control of our own work, cover art, editorial decisions, marketing, and all the rest that comes with making the sausage. It can also be overwhelming, discouraging, and challenging to our self-image.
Those last couple of points are what I want to talk about today. It can be very discouraging when it comes to sales. We have to spend a lot of time marketing our book, promoting it, doing shows, and setting up signings. Some of these are better than others, but at some point you’re going to face a moment when you only sell one book at a show that last hours. You might talk to a hundred people, but only sell that one.
Something I tell myself, when this happens, is that books are like seeds. Entertainment, especially books, is one of the few markets where word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. How often do you see a book commercial on TV? I imagine most of you get your book recommendations from someone else, right? I know I don’t usually read book reviews until I’m already interested in the book. That’s not to say you should avoid that as a form of marketing, but recognize that getting regular people to read your book is the key to getting more people to read it.
In almost every other industry, people complain more than they compliment. Stores, restaurants, products, all get talked about on social media in the negative more often than not. People who like one of those things just keep paying for them. Books, though, people talk about if they’re good. They tell their friends and family, they post it on Facebook and Twitter, and they mention it in reading clubs.
The reason I call books seeds, is because they take time to grow. Who here buys a book and starts reading it immediately? A lot of us have to-read piles on a table somewhere that we keep adding to. If you’re like me you have a to-read bookcase nearly 6 feet tall and double stacked with books on nearly every shelf. Anyway, a lot of people will wait to read your book. Like a seed, it takes time, but it’s planted. Plant enough of those seeds, and they’ll all grow at different times, and if your book is good that seed will branch out into other purchases as word of mouth takes root.
You also have to water those seeds, post on social media, your author’s Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. Give the reader a reason to connect with you. Hand out buttons for following on one of those outlets (Rey Clark does that). Offer a monthly newsletter, or regular blog to subscribers. And very important here, don’t spam! Nothing is more annoying than a Twitter account following, and being followed by 100K people that does nothing but spam book covers. It looks like a bot, and probably is. Most of those 100K followers are probably bots too. The auto-DM on follow is also lame, don’t do that. If you look like a bot, people will unfollow right away, or at the very least, mute you.
Point is, don’t get discouraged. Hand out flyers describing your book to everyone you talk to. Hand out better flyers to people who actually seem interested. When you make that one sale, thank that person generously, they may just be the oak that sprouts a thousand branches. Most of all, be patient. Writing, and publishing, is a marathon. We are asking people to invest more time in our medium than almost any other entertainment outlet besides video games. Some of them will get right to it, and others may take awhile. And water those seeds, post on social media, connect with your readers, and keep yourself in their mind.