If you read our last post about the most read SELF-e books of 2016, Tony Bertauski’s name might look pretty familiar. That’s because he’s got three books on the list: two in the science fiction category and one in young adult. Considering the thousands of books that have been submitted to SELF-e, that’s no small feat. We decided to ask him for some advice he could share with indie authors in the SELF-e community and beyond about what it takes to build up readership. To learn Tony’s tricks of the trade, read his guest post below.
It’s all about marketing.
Well, it’s a bit more than that. There’s product. You have to have a novel that someone wants to read. But having that novel doesn’t mean anything if no one sees it. There are a thousand ways to make that happen. I’ve tried quite a few. Firstly, I’m lucky that I arrived on the scene when the indie movement was just a ripple. It’s grown tidal since then and I’ve learned from the best along the way.
Some indies are killing it, quitting day jobs, cashing six figures, sailing around the world. I’ve managed to carve a small slice of success, enough to pay some bills and have some fun on weekends. I’m not likely to quit my day job, so this hobby of spelunking my imagination has been a blast.
I’m a teacher first, writer second. Teaching keeps me mentally and emotionally fit. I’m mostly introverted. If you saw me at a party, you’d disagree, but I’ve learned to be social. When I have free time, I almost always choose to do something solitary. But social interaction is essential, so employment fills that niche and teaching does so nicely. If I wrote full time, I’d never get dressed. Not good for the long term.
So the indie life suites me spot on. If you’re an indie and want to compare notes, here’s where I’m at.
WHAT WORKS FOR ME?
I mean that as a reader. What do writers do that attracts me as a reader? First, it’s the material. Fiction is fickle. Everyone has a genre that grabs them, or a voice, or style. Whatever it is, don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t like your stuff. Rowling has a theme park and not everyone digs the muggle trope.
So I ask myself that question a lot. What would work for me as a reader? I take that approach as a teacher — what would work for me as a student? I teach from that perspective. That doesn’t mean everyone should teach like me. I don’t hit the target 100% of the time. Nobody does. Same goes for writing. I get emails from readers that become hardcore fans, but there are plenty that don’t get me or my writing. That’s the game, those are the rules.
I tried writing romance once because I wanted to take advantage of the marketing opportunities. Romance readers are voracious and indie romance writers are crushing it. I made it halfway through a romance novel. That’s 40,000 words. All I could think about was writing my next scifi story. I dropped the romance story that moment and never saw it again.
I don’t read romance, and I sure as hell can’t write it. I’ve got to love what I’m writing and love reading what I’m writing. And hope others come along.
It starts there.
It’s a tad controversial. Not every author likes the idea of giving away their work. I’m a fan, though. As a reader, I’ve found many writers by downloading a freebie and buying their subsequent novels. In particular, I like free novellas. They’re bite-sized stories that give me a taste.
I found the Writer’s Cafe and Mark Dawson’s Facebook Advertising for Authors workshop called Self Publishing Formula to be extremely helpful. Later, I joined Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10K Readers online workshop. Dawson’s and Stephenson’s were pricey, but worth it. I learned a lot.
Dawson’s workshop taught me the intrinsic value of a mailing list. Nowadays, a lot of services are focusing on acquiring subscribers. And for good reason. It’s a captive audience that you can directly communicate with. I recently launched Humbug: The Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge. The first week, I sold nearly 1,000 copies and racked up 80 Amazon reviews averaging 4.8 stars.
Recently, instaFreebie has been a huge avenue to gain subscribers. Readers have to subscribe to my mailing list to download a free book.
I take advantage of almost every opportunity. When SELF-e came along, a digital venue that features indie titles, I threw my books into the mix. Two of them were accepted and, as a result, I’ve gotten a few speaking engagements.
These events were small and may lead to bigger things. More importantly, they’re fun. It’s another facet to the experience of writing — that is, sharing it with readers in person. Since I teach for a living, talking to a group is what I like to do.
I learned in the last event that my books were the most downloaded. A nice little feather. More importantly, they could get some press in Library Journal, which could lead to more exposure. So I’ve got that going for me.
Not all ebook readers—Kindle, Nook or otherwise—are tech savvy. It’s likely most aren’t. Once they set up their ereader, it’s relatively easy to purchase books from Amazon or Kobo and start reading. But side-loading a freebie is a tad more complicated. One additional step can throw the masses into meltdown. So emailing someone an ebook or sending them to a link for downloading can be difficult.
Services such as Book Funnel take out the aggravation. An author account is very affordable. You can set up your books for readers to download and it tells them exactly how to do it. A lot of older generation readers, the bulk of book buyers, don’t have a handle on sideloading books. I use this for all my free novellas and occasional promos. Since I started using Book Funnel, I get almost no questions from readers.
This is an abbreviated copy. To see the entire blog post, go to http://bertauski.blogspot.com.
For more on Tony Bertauski’s writing: http://bertauski.com