Something a friend said to me on the weekend has started the little grey cells whirring. We were talking about social media and specifically about generating an internet presence as an author. We got to talking about Google+, which, as with the general view of those who aren't on it, she doesn't think is going anywhere. I then said that I found G+ was growing daily and that I have a large circle of Writers I follow. She then pointed out, that if I was aiming for an internet presence, then wasn't that like speaking into an echo chamber. Well, it's not just writers I have in my circles, but that observation did make me sit back and think about the whole self-promotion thing for an Indie Author.
I am on many social networks,Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, GoodReads to name but a few, plus I have my own blog and, although I am on many of them to have fun, I am also on there as a professional writer, I want to publicise my work and ultimately get people to buy my books. Now, it's not to say that fellow writers don't buy books, I buy books, I read a lot, especially since I bought by Kindle, but writers are not my only market and yet, if I look at my circles, friends' lists, or whatever it's called on a particular medium, then they make up a good 50% of my social network. So, the question remains, how do I get my work out to a wider audience?
With this question, I'm not talking about the mechanisms of interest, i.e. competitions, give aways, blog posts, I'm talking about how to reach an audience to tell them about those mechanisms and that's a tricky business and is very hard work.
As an author at a small indie press, I can't afford a huge marketing department, nor can I do independent deals with big online retailers, so, the tools in my basket have to be more diverse, sometimes less direct and make full use the avenues open to me.
- Publish and Be Damned
Well, the first and most fundamental avenue is getting plenty of work out there in as many locations as will have it as possible. This includes both free and for profit novels, novellas and short stories. Our major locations at the moment are Amazon .com, .co.uk, .fr, .de, .es and .it, and Smashwords, but there are other sites that we're looking at too.
The principle here is as I see it is that the larger the body of (decent) work out there, the more likely someone is to:
- stumble over it by chance
- trust us as a publisher
The second point may sound a bit strange, but having been bitten by works in progress in the fanfic reading sphere, I trust someone much more if they can demonstrate to me that they can finish something, and if they are not a one-off fic writer. The downside: how to get yourself seen amongst all the other work being published on these popular forums. Well, that leads onto the next point.
- Working the Systems
Every site that is selling and/or featuring our work has different mechanism for helping people find what they are looking for and finding good stuff. Some are simpler than others. The most complex by far is Amazon, with its tags, like buttons, reviews, KDP Select and other behind the scenes tweaks. My sis, Tasha, has a whole post about this (told you it was complicated) :)! Others are much simpler, just key words and reviews, like GoodReads, Smashwords and others.
The principle: getting as many ticks in the system as possible will move the books up the rankings getting visibility in searches and hopefully therefore, sales.
The downside: the system on Amazon makes publishing as an author very easy, but is stacked against Indie Authors when it comes to making a mark. We're small fish in a very big pond with some other very big fish, including the pond itself. In other 'ponds' we’re just small fish!
- Pressing palms and kissing babies
This may sound cynical, it is, but being a writer means we need to make connections and one of the best ways to do that is to engage with our audience on social media. That doesn't mean just posting constant promos for our books, it means really joining in, being friendly, being interested. Now this can be difficult for us retiring, shy types, friending people, jumping into conversations, making comments on other people's posts. I know I found it difficult to start with, I was always more of a lurker/reader until I wanted to sell some books. As I mentioned earlier, large numbers of my social circles are writers, and that makes me feel more comfortable, we have common ground, but I also am making connections in other areas too, some because they share common interests with my books, like being fantasy addicts, but others on a pure whim, because I liked one of their posts :).
The principle: if people know you (and like you), they're more receptive when you do post about your new book, they might even buy it, and, even better, review it.
The downside: keeping track of all that social media. Atomising myself means I reach a lot more people in a lot more places, however, that means I have a dozen or so places to keep up with the Jonses. Thank god for things like Tweetdeck and plain old email subscription to updates. A word of warning here: auto-posters like TweetAdder are wonderful things, we use them in publicising the books, but nothing replaces that personal touch and no-one likes a robot.
- Getting Noticed in the Blogsphere
Nothing sells a few books like a good review on a popular blog. Also a good blog tour is another option. This is a new area for Tash and me. I've found it difficult in the past to find blogs and to follow them, but actually having my own blog on blogger has made me understand the mechanism and make this easier. I wish all blogs had email subscription though, it makes it easier for me to get updates.
Of course, following a blog doesn't get me onto the blog, but there's a certain amount of research I need to do before I'd submit (I like the blogs with plain and simple submission rules, I can cope with that), and also, some of the blogs are damn interesting anyway :). As well as submitting to bloggers, supporting other people's blogs, linking to their posts, helping them build their rep is not something I see as just altruism, even if they don't review my type of books, or don't host authors on blog tours, it's still someone who might spread the word, recommend us to a friend, just like any other social networks, albeit a more closed system than the likes of Facebook.
The principle: other people have done a lot of hard work making a reputation for themselves, getting followers, because they review books, it's a really good idea to have some interested in reviewing yours.
Well, that rambled on a bit more than I thought it would! Tash and I have been at this for a bit over a year now and we are building up followers and our list of books in multiple genres, but the road to getting books sold in quantity is a long one. Still, we're trying very hard not to talk into an echo chamber, or preach to the choir. Writers are also voracious readers, so they're not pure sopranos anyway, but we'll carry on struggling to reach our wider audience, begging our friends and followers to: review our books; tag us on Amazon; retweet our announcements; and any number of other mechanisms we can think of.
And finally, just a little thank you to everyone who is already giving us a helping hand, we love you :).