So, in my last post I told you I’d recently returned from a weekend of watching my 11 year old (not) play baseball due to lots of rain and lightning and, even, hail. (Of course, they DID eventually play (and win!) but until then…
While waiting for the actual baseball playing to start (I swear, EVERY time we drove to the diamonds for a game, storm clouds rolled in and we had to head back to the hotel), I began mentally drafting this blog post for you. Since my brain is always on writing and publishing, it wasn’t a stretch to be combining those loves with thoughts of baseball…
1-KNOW THE GAME
Whether you’re playing ball or publishing, you need to know how to “play”. Now, there are strict, unchanging rules in baseball, and this is NOT so in publishing. This is one of the major reasons TO publish independently. YOU get to be in charge and make your own rules. You can do it YOUR way. This said, it’s important to note that if you choose NOT to follow the guidelines and advice of those gurus who’ve gone before you, your success will not be guaranteed. Of course, even if you DO follow every step amazing indie authors such as Susan K. Quinn, Derek Murphy, Joanna Penn, etc. suggest, you STILL might not find success (but it’ll be more likely). This goes along with:
- KNOW YOUR GENRE.
- KNOW YOUR COVER. Does it fit in with other books in its genre and categories? You want it to look the part, so readers see it and know immediately whether it’s a genre they read. The title, the cover, the blurb all let readers know what to expect… so then you need to be certain to deliver on those “promises”.
- KNOW YOUR CATEGORIES (AND USE KEYWORDS AND SEARCH TERMS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE).
- KNOW YOUR COMPETITION (WHAT ARE THEY DOING THAT WORKS?) Think cover, blurb, keywords, ads, pricing, newsletters, promotions, how to use Facebook and groups, twitter and other social media, etc. Do you have a free book to funnel readers into your series? (Do you HAVE a series?) Do you have a free or 99 cent 1st book in your series to provide potential readers with a sample of your work? Are you published wide or Amazon-only and in Kindle Unlimited? Etc. etc. etc.
2-STAY POSITIVE AND BE A TEAM PLAYER
Now, I know I said know your “competition” but, really, you’re not competing with other authors and their books. When readers finish a book, they’ll grab another and another and another. The other authors and books out there are your friends. Most are on your side and want to help you find success, just like you can help them find more success. Authors SHARE readers and cheer each other on and offer suggestions, advice, tips, etc. Be one of those authors. Join author Facebook groups. Newsletter swaps. BookFunnel and Instafreebie and Newsletter group promotions. You’ll gain readers and so will other authors.
Talk to your readers (via your blog, twitter, Facebook, etc.) about the books in your genre you love, about the covers you love, about the style of writing you love, and about what you’re reading or plan to read. Share knowledge of free and discounted books (that aren’t yours) with readers. This will benefit other authors, yes, BUT it will also help readers to find you, to get to know you and your preferences, and to want to read your books along with the ones you’re suggesting.
If things aren’t going your way (you’re not meeting your publishing goals as quickly as you expected) don’t complain about it. Share with other authors (in private authorly places) to learn how to fix it. Then, try something new. Expect each tweak to work. Cheer others and yourself on.
3-BE ON YOUR TOES
Once you decide to publish, you can’t just sit back and watch the sales roll in. You have to move, be ready, expect the ball at all times. (Er, not that last one.) You need to work before, during and after you decide to publish. If you want to be successful, you can’t just plop a book up on retailer sites and expect it to do well.
- START GAINING READERS RIGHT AWAY (Even before you publish.) Start a website, blog, twitter account, author Facebook page, Instagram, Tumblr etc. BLOG often and about relevant subjects that match your genre and potential readers. Blog about yourself so that readers can get to know you. (Just how personal you get is up to your comfort level and discretion. You can brand yourself. Love cheese? Sports? Running? Travel? Use that and talk about it often.) Visit other blogs, comment, get your name out there. Start a newsletter. (Even before you publish.) Again, tell readers about you, your genre, your books, and what you will share with them (short stories, excerpts, giveaways, etc). The number one advice I see gurus share with newbie indie authors is to reach out and get lots of readers on your newsletter list. Then they’ll know what you’re doing and when. You can reach out to your subscribers to gain a street team and ARC group as well (for reviews on launch days).
- PROMOTE YOUR BOOK Join Facebook groups to share you book with. Do a Goodreads giveaway. Do blog tours, cover reveals, give out advanced reader copies to gain reviews on release day. Start a review team. Start a street team, ask others to share your book on social media and in person. KNOW WHERE YOUR READERS HANG OUT. Teens love Instagram. Get on it if young adult readers are your target audience.
4-DRIVE THE BALL
You have to really go for your goals. First, what ARE your goals? Set some. Write a mission statement. What do you hope to accomplish as an author? How many books do you want to sell? How many readers do you want to gain? Or, do you want to win awards? Then you also have to be prepared to spend money to enter your book into contests. Set your goals, set a deadline, assess, reassess, and make plans to get there. Initially, you may have to “sacrifice” in order to get the desired effects (the end goal). Success won’t come free. (In baseball, players need to eat right, go to practices, work out, hit buckets and buckets of balls. This will all take time. Lots of time outside of playing games.) Publishing will take money. It’s an investment.
- SHARE AND BE WILLING TO GIVE YOUR BOOK AWAY You’re a new author. Other authors and readers have no idea who you are or what your writing is like. Publish a lot of books (preferably in the same series or genre) so that you can give the first book (or companion short stories or novellas) away. Give readers a taste of your writing. If they like it, they’ll come back for more. Give your book away on Goodreads (This is one way to get people to follow you there or to put your book on their Want-To-Read shelf.) Put your book for free on Instafreebie or Book Funnel (as long as it’s not available in Kindle Unlimited) to give readers a taste of who you are AND to gain newsletter subscribers (readers give their email and agree to be on your list in exchange for the free book). If they like it, they’ll come back for more from you and they’ll know about future releases because you’ll let them know about them in your newsletter. Free books on e-book retailers also help readers find you and get a taste of you. Readers are not as likely to take a chance on a newbie/unknown author by dishing out cash on a book they may not care for.
5-BE FIERCE. BE FEARLESS.
Believe in yourself. Have confidence. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll (eventually) find readers who will love it too. Give publishing your 200+% effort, don’t waiver for a second. Give yourself time to build a backlist and to learn what to, and what not to do. Some of my favorite indie authors (transparent authors who share everything they do and try and fail at and succeed at) have made mistakes. Then they try something new. Or tweak their plan. Baseball is mental. A player who doubts his/herself will waiver and will miss the ball or strike out. KNOW that you can catch the ball and hit a home run. EXPECT IT FROM YOURSELF. Then, wait for it… wait for it! DON’T GIVE UP.
- KNOW YOUR OPTIONS I should say, LEARN your options. You’re going to learn as you go. Know a lot ahead of time, plan, don’t be impulsive with putting your first book out there. You’ll probably flounder, but that doesn’t meant to wait until you know EVERYTHING, because you maybe never will. Publishing changes like everything else in life. Have your feet under you before you begin, but then be prepared to be flexible and follow the writers and authors you trust to share your questions and your answers too. To pre-order or to not-pre-order? To Kindle Unlimited or to go wide? To perma-free or 99 cent or offer sales? Pronoun or D2D or Smashwords? Hire an editor? Which one? Cover? Formatting? Amazon and Facebook ads? Book tours? Cover reveals? Should you or shouldn’t you? What should you spend money on? What shouldn’t you?
However you decide to play the game, step up to the plate, get in position, picture where you want the ball to go, keep your eye on it, and then, without hesitation, swing. There’s no guarantee where the ball will land, but know this, even the BEST baseball players have struck out once or twice. You’ll find success. It’s just a matter of work and time.