If you’re new to the process, take a deep breath. Believe me, many writers publish a first book without a clear understanding of the tasks undertaken to reach visibility. I was among them. A traditional deal didn’t materialize, my critique partners suggested I publish Treasure Me independently, and I was off to the races.
If you’ve done your homework (and I hope you have) the bulk of your time pre-publication was spent learning to tell a story in a compelling fashion and familiarizing yourself with reader expectations for the genre in which you write. And it goes without saying great cover art is a must.
Now you’ve set your story on the world stage. Here are a few tips:
Forget Free. If you have nothing else to sell, what’s the point? Free books on Amazon or other sites rarely offer a quick avenue to reviews. Too many books are now given away, and eReaders are chock full. Sadly, many readers equate freebies with low quality unless you’ve built a backlist with impressive review scores.
One Reader Then Another. Here’s the exception to the rule, above. Every writing career begins with a small group of avid fans. I know a New York Times bestselling author with a mailing list of thousands and 800 core fans. The minute she sends out a mailer announcing a new release, she’s assured hundreds of immediate downloads or paperback purchases. Needless to say, her core readership (not to mention her mailing list in total) continues to grow.
How to begin building a fan base? Join a book club in your area and, in person, offer your book for free in trade for an honest review. Contact other regional clubs, and make the same offer. On Goodreads, take the time to become friends with a handful of readers in your genre, send direct message, and ask if they’ll review.
A freebie on Amazon may result in thousands of downloads then radio silence. Cultivating 50 true relationships may result in 48 reviews—and readers interested in joining your mailing list for news on future releases and promotions. Trust me, it is that simple.
If you’d like pointers on a serious review push, read Reviews Sell Books.
Write Fast—And Well. Have you begun work on your second novel? Please do. Bibliophiles don’t wish to fall in love with a single work. They want to discover a new author with a healthy backlist they can spend months savoring. As you pick up fans for your debut, dazzle them with sneak peeks of book two on your blog or through email.
One, Two, Three—Begin! Once you’ve published your third novel, the real fun begins. If your books are page-turners, offering your debut at a steep discount (or free) will spur sales of your newer releases. Periodically I offer backlist titles for 99-cents, and enjoy weeks of additional purchases rippling through my other works. This is how working novelists pay the bills.
By the way, take care not to discount a new release too quickly. Consider waiting a minimum of four months. If your core readers purchased at full-price, how will they feel if the work is on discount a few weeks after publication? Cheated, no doubt—and when you publish the following book, they might refrain from buying. You will have taught them to hold out for a lower price.
Use Free Creatively. You’ll find oodles of blog posts on the necessity of free books but, frankly, I don’t agree with the strategy. A well-written and beautifully plotted novel takes months of work. Why give it away? Write a short story and offer it free. Or write several. Connect with other authors in your genre and publish an anthology free or at a discount. I continue to gain new fans whenever readers stumble across Her Books Presents: Book Club Picks, Cooking With Our Characters and Lost Love Letters: An Indie Chicks Anthology.
Photo © Dreamstime