This is a guest post by Karen Bell.
When my publisher closed last December, I was shaking in my shoes. I knew that I would probably have to take over as publisher if I wanted my book to remain “out there.” I tried to find another publisher to take over, but it had taken me ten years to find this one—yes that’s right ten years. Sales were kind of meager, so even though reviews were quite good, I couldn’t get anyone interested. Luckily, I was given the files, the cover art, and the contact at Lightning Source. With trepidation, I proceeded and low and behold, my book remained for sale at all online outlets. I had done it. Writer—check. Indie-publisher—check. Done.
Yes, I had mastered the mechanics, now what? How do I get the word out? My publisher had introduced me to the concept of a virtual book tour and she had set one up with TLC. It didn’t set the world on fire but it was something. But ya know, that was about it for her marketing strategy. She did pay for a review at a US Book Reviews, but the review was written so generally it was like the reviewer just read the blurb. I complained to her that she didn’t get her money’s worth, but I guess she had other issues to think about.
After I became my own publisher, I realized just how little she had done. I was an active marketing participant right from the start with my publisher. I had a website, a blog, a FB page, a trailer of sorts, a Twitter account but that wasn’t enough. A sale here, a sale there. Not anything to retire to the South of France.
So I have spent many hours searching the web, following indie writers on Twitter. Trying to learn the ropes. There are avenues for advertising that won’t break the bank. But even at that they are hard to turn into significant sales. I did a FB ad and picked up over 300 fans and no real sales. I did a Goodreads ad and picked up 92 people who have added my book. On closer inspection, these people had thousands of books to read. By the time they get to mine, I’ll be long dead. I gave away my book on Librarything in exchange for a review. Seventy people requested it. I thought—now we’re cookin’. Fifty of the 70 downloaded and so far only eight reviews. I am emailing these people again to ask for a review. Not a small task. I follow a guy on Twitter who said an ad Kindle New Daily would create big sales. I paid a hefty amount and got about two sales. I found a free site to create your own press release and did that. Have no idea what that does, but it is something my publisher should have done.
So now, I have a few ads running and I’m trying to be smart and not spend too much. It’s the reviews I’m mostly after now. And I am getting great ones. Four and five stars. I also am trying to get a review at Publisher’s Weekly. They have a program for indie authors, and I paid for it—probably too much. Kirkus charges $400 and I’m not ready to do it…but never say never.
If you Google indie authors there are a slew of sites now that will review your book for free, or have you do a guest blog, or interview—like this tour. Indie Lounge, Indie News, Indie Bookspot—to name a few. And I’m sure the number of these outlets are growing with the explosion of indie publishing. But does anyone actually drop by these sites and read anything?
They say the first thing you must have is a good book. But you know in this crazy world, what you really need is a story that appeals to the young people who are into zombies or sex-starved housewives. My friends suggest that maybe I should write erotica—jump on the bandwagon.
“Not while my mother is alive,” I tell them.
But she’s 94, sooooooooo.
You can find my debut novel, Walking with Elephants, at all online outlets: