If only I’d known … What I didn’t know in 2011 when I released Treasure Me http://tinyurl.com/72mvu8m could amuse you for hours. Like so many novelists, I’d worked hard with one then another literary agent to sell my books to a New York house. But I didn’t easily fit the brand of “romance writer” or “women’s fiction author” and the compliments the books received from editors never led to a contract.
Even so, I did go on to publish successfully. You can too. A few basics to help you on your way:
Write a stellar debut Whether you write within a specific genre or mix genres to delightful effect, your first release must stand head and shoulders above the competition. As we approach 2013, independent publishing is reaching maturity. Many of the authors who jumped into the fray between 2009 and 2012 have built a readership, released many books and become experts at using social media. Yes, you can compete with them. But you need a standout book.
If you aren’t sure your debut is ready for the limelight, consider joining a national writer’s group like Romance Writers of America http://tinyurl.com/8bx5fzk or Mystery Writers of America http://tinyurl.com/9m9kbbr I’m not a romance writer per se but hold an RWA Associate Membership for non-romance writers because the group is invaluable. Critique groups, online workshops, conferences—if you’ve been working outside the established writing community, now is the time to join. Years ago I found my first editor, first agent and first critique group thanks to RWA.
Find Actively Publishing Authors on FaceBook Type WRITER’S GROUPS into the FB search window and you’ll discover hundreds of groups. Which should you join? That’s up to you. Lurk on several sites listening to the conversation and you’ll quickly find the right groups for learning the ropes of publishing, what’s new, and how to share promotional opportunities with other authors.
Publishing in Paperback? Welcome to GoodReads! In retrospect, I wish I’d learned how to use the site sooner. My first three releases are in both eBook and paperback, but months went by before I understood the value of active participation. http://tinyurl.com/7e2xgjq Create a GoodReads author page with a link to your blog so each post will appear on GoodReads. Run a giveaway of your debut, promote it, and friend each reader kind enough to enter. You’ll discover many of those readers will go on to purchase your book whether they win the giveaway or not. And before you ask: I’m sure LibraryThing and other sites built for readers are just as great. I’ve simply been too busy writing and promoting my books to become actively involved—yet.
Choose Social Media Sensibly Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest—a week doesn’t go by without a desperate writer sending private mail asking how it’s possible to be everywhere at once. It isn’t.
Contrary to every post you’ll read about how you must post here or tweet there, the truth is simpler. Authors successfully sell books through a variety of channels. For example, I rarely tout my books on FaceBook but use Twitter daily—not simply to increase reader awareness but to connect with other writers and post “How To” content on publishing. Prior to writing fiction I owned a PR firm. Once I got the hang of Twitter, I knew I’d found the right home for providing good content while connecting with readers and the publishing community at large.
In the last year since writing the post about garnering reviews from book blogs http://tinyurl.com/8xtolt3 I’ve learned a great deal more. Provide book blogs with original content whenever possible, which helps a site’s ranking. If a book reviewer is running a giveaway, offer to add your eBook or paperback. If a site sends out a request on FaceBook or Twitter for authors to post about the writing life or another topic, be the first volunteer. Without the dedication of review sites determined to bring independently published books to the reading public, few books would break out, let alone break even.
Don’t Forget Your Backyard I’ve only recently learned what is probably an obvious lesson: you can sell books in your own city as easily as on the Internet. Print bookmarks and hand them out whenever the opportunity presents itself. Join a local reader’s group. If there’s a professional writer’s group nearby, become a member. Check the library for a listing of regional book fairs—many will allow independent authors to attend for a minimal fee. Nothing builds sales like work-of-mouth, and your own backyard can be the launching pad for your career.