Thank you for stopping in. Your interest in my writing means the world. If you have not read my work, please visit my BOOKS page for more details. If you have read SOULED OUT, FRAYED, or TIN MOON, please leave a review online and be sure to tell a friend. Your voice matters more than anything. Word-of-mouth and reviews are the most important ways for authors to be discovered by new readers.

Thank you for taking time to stop in and learn more about me. You are wonderful!

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Indie Author Life: Promotion

This post is for all you fellow indie authors, as well as for writers thinking about self-publishing. We've gotta stick together.

We invest so much time writing our manuscripts. But our excitement at writing 'The End' is short lived once we realize THAT was the easiest part. What?!?

This becomes your writing life for the next few months:
-Purchasing an ISBN for e-book and another one for paperback 
-Formatting for e-book
-Formatting for paperback
-Making/purchasing a book cover
-Purchasing a bar code (optional)
-Choosing which online publishers to use
-Uploading both formats to chosen publishers
-Reviewing final proofs of e-book and paperback formats
-Pressing 'Publish'
-And other miscellany that I don't want to overload you with

Wait! Add PROMOTION to that list, too.

Remember to find bloggers and book reviewers to offer honest reviews, preferably BEFORE the release of your book to build hype. This will prove to be one of the hardest jobs you have. Almost anyone will accept a free book, but like us, all of these people have lives. They have intentions to read and review your book, but they also have families and jobs and hobbies (so don't hound them). When you do get a review, however -good or bad- it feels pretty damned great. Congratulations!

Don't get scared at the idea of tackling the above list. You will actually enjoy some, if not all, of these tasks because you are a crazy writer because you are in control of your work every step of the way. BEWARE, however, the many options awaiting you as an indie. Options that nickle and dime the crap out of you. People will ask for money every time you turn around. Seriously. I even ran across a brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop bookshop near me that wanted ME to pay THEM to stock my books. And then give them a percentage of my sales (this part is normal, minus the other $ asked for). And if I am available for an in store meet-and-great with customers? I can also pay the owner for the honor. More $. More $. More $. For them.

No, no, no. 

Spend wisely.

It is just as important to have a plan for your money as it is to have a promotional plan in place. The bulk of your money may need to be spent on essentials before doling it out to different promotional tactics. First, outline items in your list that you absolutely need to hire someone else to do. Mine always include editing, formatting, and book covers. These things matter greatly. Your book needs to look professional, read with as few grammatical errors as possible, and download correctly onto a number of platforms. This is where the bulk of my money goes.

Paperback formatting can be as little as $60 or $70 for a novel, e-books as little as $30, depending on word count. Remember, e-book and paperback formatting are different, so you have two costs to account for. And I spend anywhere from $150-$250 on an original book cover. There are many premade covers available for as little as $45, maybe less. But remember, the artwork used on them are not original, so you run the risk of having the same or very similar cover as other books. Editing may be the most expensive. Years ago, I paid $600 for a well established editor for my NA paranormal book, Souled Out. However, now I have found others who are just as thorough with more competitive rates.

So you must have an idea (based on your wants and your budget) if you plan to have your book available in both e-book and paperback form, if you want an original cover vs. a premade cover, and how much you are able to spend on editing.

What do you have left in your budget after these costs? That is what you have to spend on promotion.

You can cut corners when it comes to promotional tools, however, depending on your plan. There are many to choose from. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to see what works for your individual needs and what doesn't. 

A few examples of online promotions that cost money:

-Purchasing ads on blogs or websites, such as Facebook and Goodreads. ($-$$)
-Spending money on a Goodreads giveaway.  ($$)
-Hiring a company to promote your book for you. ($$-$$$)
-Adding your title to a review website, like Netgalley. ($-$$)

A lot of book promotion companies can cost upwards of $700-$1500 (sometimes more). I personally would not pay for these services unless you absolutely do not have the time to self promote, and they have a solid track record. There are some really good ones out there, but there are also some bad ones. Choose carefully.

A few examples of FREE online promotions:

-Hosting giveaways through blog hops.
-Guest posting on someone else's book blog. (*Contact me if you want to guest post or share your book/excerpt on my blog. I will be restarting free indie book promotions again this fall.*)
-Word of mouth. (The best but HARDEST promotional tool.)
-Connecting with authors and readers online/in person in groups or chats.
-Using social media to your advantage, such as Twitter, FB, Pinterest, and Instagram.
-Free Amazon e-book giveaways through KDP Select.

There are so many ways to promote yourself and your book. If you are an author with "tried-and-trues", please share them in the comments. I know I am forgetting to name so many things, but I honestly shy away from most paid advertisement.

Below are a few things that I have tried:

-Ads on Goodreads. I spent roughly $45 in total a year and a half ago for three ads (one ad for each title). I set the ad price low for each click, meaning that my ads will not show up thousands of times a day, but they do show up 20-30 times a day, and I spend less than thirty-five cents on each ad clicked on. Have they worked? I have no idea. You could very well spend money on ads and not know if they have helped with sales. That is part of the leap when you pay for ads.

-While IngramSpark is a publishing platform, you do have to pay to use it (unlike Createspace, Smashwords, or Amazon's KDP). My historical fiction book, Tin Moon, has been enrolled with IngramSpark for over a year. I paid $50 to upload this one title. I believe it would cost (at the time I have written this) $50 for each uploaded title, and then another $50 or $25 each year to renew it. You also must pay $25 each time you need to update a file. (Always check with the company in question. Prices can always change.) While my only gripe is that you must go through Ingram's customer service to remove a title or cancel your account, I cannot say that spending this extra money on IngramSpark rather than a free platform furthered my exposure. I am in the midst of canceling with Ingram (According to their customer service, it will take six months). Maybe I will have more use for them in the future. For now, I will stick with Createspace and KDP.

I'm sure there have been random nickle and dime things in the past that I am not remembering right now. If I do, I will be sure to add them.

I have been a real slacker the last few years when it comes to self-promotion. But I have recently been honing in on a handful of things that work for me, as an author that is not on social media very much. This sucks. If you are great at social media, you will undoubtedly build a steady following and have a great relationship with your readers. I would love to be this author, but it is not my strong point. So I find other niches. If you are like me, you will, too.

If I can impart some wisdom, I guess it would be to pace yourself, research, educate yourself on your options, and think before you leap. And talk to other authors and writers. Choose authors that have a successful brand or platform and see how they are promoting themselves. Research their media and how they interact with their readers.

I am not the most organized author, but I am a happy one. I love the process of writing, of publishing, and being part of a wonderful community of writers and readers, sharing stories, laughter, and tears.

This post is only meant to offer insight into my personal author path. And if I can help anyone along the way, that's awesome, because so many of you have helped me.

Thank you!