I have made no secret about how difficult it is to make it as a writer. And as an indie author, it’s doubly hard, because you are not only writing, but also marketing your work, choosing covers, selecting editors, acting as salesperson, marketing pro, designer, etc.
But there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of success.
I’ll give you several basic ground rules I use. These are things I do to keep myself on track and selling well. If I was going to advise new or seasoned authors who are thinking about self-publishing, these would be engraved in stone.
The first thing is to set a publishing schedule for yourself over the next year. Plug in release dates, then write to meet your deadlines. You would be surprised at what a powerful tool that is. Looking at your calendar and realizing you only have 45 days before your next release can be a powerful catalyst – 45 days to complete your WIP, schedule book covers, allow time for editing, organize blog tours, target reviewers for advance copies, etc. If that doesn’t create a sense of urgency and get you motivated, I don’t know what will.
The concept of discipline, and working at writing like it’s a second job (or a first if you don’t have a job), with hard dates you have to hit, is crucial to maintaining productivity. Writing may be art, but producing and selling books is a business, and businesses have to be run in a business-like way, or they generally fail.
Another obvious rule I’m guilty of forgetting: do everything you can think of to get your name out there. That means spend time in chat rooms that your target reader demographic would frequent – not to place thinly veiled ads for your books, but rather to contribute. Perhaps you can tag your signature with a link to your website. Nothing more overt than that. People don’t want to interact with a salesman. They can smell duplicity a mile away. So join groups where you’re genuinely interested in the topic, and contribute content that’s worth reading. And always try to give more than you’re receiving. Being selfless with your expertise is never a bad thing. On twitter, try to get across a sense of what makes you interesting and unique – be you, not some sanitized caricature of you. Same with facebook.
If you don’t have a blog, start one. Your readers and target demographic will be a lot more receptive to you if you periodically share your thoughts with them. Contrary to some tomes that advise attempting to glom onto some celebrity in an effort to go viral, I would say just write about what interests you – really interests you. You can’t fake it. Enthusiasm is infectious, and I personally would rather buy a book from someone with unique insights, who seems enthusiastic and knowledgeable, than someone who seems boring. So don’t be boring.
On the marketing side, try different types of promotions. I’ve done cross promotions with other authors. I advertise, and when I do, I push the envelope in the type of advertising I do – I recently did a month on a site devoted to drunk driver arrests – just to see if it would get any traction (it didn’t, but the point is I tried, and continue to look at creative or unorthodox options). I do free book giveaways. I experiment with pricing. I do .99 books or free books for the first in a series.
I never, ever get complacent. You’re either shrinking or growing. Stasis is the beginning of decline.
Divide your writing day up with a set amount of time for writing – no internet, no kids, no distractions – and also allocate time for marketing. Make it disciplined and regular. It takes 30 days to create a habit. Figure out what your routine should be, something sustainable, then stick to it for a month. If you do that, the second month will be easier. And the third, even easier.
Finally, don’t wait for the muse to come to you. Go barging in, bravely, and force her to dance for you. Start writing, and something will come up. It always does.
Do these things, and you’ll be ahead of 99% of your fellow authors. And your odds of success will have just gotten better.
Now for gratuitous self-promotion. JET IV – Reckoning, was released on December 8. I’m taking a take a little break now. I was going to try to get Requiem for the Assassin done in time to release December 27, but I don’t think I’m going to make it, so it will be a mid-January release, with JET V targeted for a Feb. 20 or so release. But I have to say I love the new cover for JET IV, and I had to share it with you. When you look at the whole series, it’s pretty cool, I think. JET is selling like cipro during an anthrax scare, so I am grateful for that. If you haven’t given it a whirl, please do. It’s promo priced through year end at .99, so don’t be a cheapskate. Find out what all the buzz is about, and discover why I will have sold over 100,000 books by year end. JET is a good example of what I do, and I think if you try it, you’ll like it.
Check out Russell’s previous articles: It’s a Brave New Indie World