When I started writing my first novel a few years ago, I was determined to publish the traditional way. But I didn’t know anything about anything. I only knew how to write and what was relevant in my own genre. I started a blog and interviewed several famous authors, asking what advice they would give to an aspiring writer. One of the authors I interviewed had indie published with huge success, and after twisting my arm a bit, she convinced me to indie publish my first novel. I literally read every post on J.A. Konrath’s blog (A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing) to get me up to speed and then took the plunge. And I’ve never looked back.
When you’re first getting your feet wet, the best thing you can do for yourself is this: be the sponge. Soak up every bit of knowledge and information you can from successful indie authors who have gone before you. You need to understand what you’re getting yourself into and decide whether you have the time to be so much more than a writer, because you’ll have to be your own publicist too. Here are a few things that worked for me:
Indie Writers Unite
I didn’t know many authors in the beginning so I created the Facebook group Indie Writers Unite. I wanted a place where authors could get together to exchange ideas, questions, and information with each other while getting to know one another in the process. This has been the best thing I’ve done for myself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Some of the friends I’ve made on there have become like family to me.
My suggestion is to seek out groups like this, join, and get involved. Get to know your fellow authors. Believe me when I say, it IS who you know in the book business, and having great author friends to hold your hand when you’re just getting started could mean the difference between a book that’s ranked 200,000 or 2,000. Knowledge is power.
Blog, Tweet, Hang Out and Hustle with your Friends
I have two blogs, one for readers, one for writers. I keep them separate because my readers aren’t really interested in all my tips for writers, and they aren’t coming to my blog for posts like that either.
I started the writer blog first. While I was writing my first novel, I spent a lot of time learning about writing. I read everything I could get my hands on, attended seminars, paid attention to what other writers were doing that worked for them. I wanted to share all the information I’d learned, and a blog was a great way to do it.
I suggest starting a blog if you haven’t already, but you need to also figure out ways to drive traffic to it, or no one will see your posts. Interviewing successful authors helped me because once the post went live, the author tweeted about it and shared it, and this attracted attention to my blog as well as new followers. Don’t be afraid to ask a best-selling author to do a guest spot on your site. Most times, they are grateful you asked and won’t turn you down.
Once you get your blog going, get creative with it. I recently started a monthly contest called “Chapter One” where I look over fifty first chapters, choose the one I feel is the best, and then I interview the winner and tweet about them. I also offer an Amazon gift card to the winner. It’s one way I can give back. And I love it. Making new author friends is one of the best things you can do for yourself when it comes to promotion.
I started my reader blog after getting a bunch of emails from impatient fans anxious to get their hands on my next book. I really loved their enthusiasm for my writing and their interest in getting to know me better, so I created a blog where I could write about random things that happen in my life. It’s fun and keeps them connected to me while they are waiting for my next book to come out.
I’ve had so many authors ask me this: What’s the best thing you’ve ever done to promote yourself? In the internet world, it would be Twitter. I have a few rules I follow with Twitter. One is not to spend all my time pimping my books and instead to interact with my followers. I make exceptions to this rule only when I have a promotion going, like a free or discounted book, and let me tell you, Twitter really gets the word out. But you need followers in order to do that.
I follow most people back who follow me and do my best to respond to anyone who tweets me directly or RT’s one of my tweets. I had a promotion going the other day and tweeted it several times. Over the course of the promotion, it was retweeted about 100 times, and I tried to personally thank all the people who took the time to RT my tweet. Why is this important? Because it shows you care. When someone does something to help you out, they deserve to be recognized for their efforts in a personal way. Think about it. I tweeted to all my followers, who retweeted to all their followers, and so on and so forth. It definitely makes a difference in getting your name and your brand out there until you become someone like Stephen King who only needs to write ;).
I’m a multitasker who likes to have several irons in the fire at the same time. I try to keep an ear latched to the writing world so I know things like when an excellent website is opening for promotions, or when a blog tour is starting that I want to participate in. Speaking of blog tours, I usually run two every year on Indie Writers Unite. Blog tours are excellent ways to introduce new readers to who you are. I have sent signed books to winners who have gone on to give me five-star reviews because they liked my books. For me, right now, they’re worth it.
Being a writer takes time. Newbies are often overwhelmed when they realize how much work it really takes to keep your books moving, but you need to ask yourself what your goals are as a writer. You probably started writing because of your passion for words. Don’t you want to share that passion with the rest of the world? I imagine you do. With the right tools, a good book, and a lot of dedication, you can achieve great success as an indie writer. Best of luck to you all!