Unlike the stodgy, old publishing world filled with rules and gatekeepers, authors today face a new, exciting marketplace with rules yet to be written, limited only be their own imaginations.
Not every indie author is successful, yet many are selling books, and some are making serious, life-changing income. Let's take a look at some of the traits and activities successful authors employ.
What are the characteristics of successful authors?
Authors with creative, out-of-the-box ideas on how to promote themselves do really well. Blogs and social media are two of the tools they use, but how they bring their work to the attention of the world makes a difference.
One thing is for sure—an author has to build a readership. Having a following before the book comes out is ideal, but what if you don't? One author paid for reviews and posted them strategically at sites where readers convene. (Note: the paid-for review has received much criticism lately, and the effectiveness of this strategy may be questionable at this time.) Another used a certain search term on Twitter to identify people who would be interested in his book. He then directed them to a blog post on his website, which wasn't about his book, but the idea behind his book. The author was John Locke, and he was the first indie author to sell one million books on Kindle. Read his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months; it's enlightening. Another author used reading groups, which she contacted one by one.
Bottom line, be creative and willing to make some mistakes. The most successful authors today are the ones with the most chutzpah (guts).
Which social networks work best for self-published authors?
They all work, it just depends on which ones you want to use. If you like Facebook, start there. Twitter is the favorite of many authors. Google+ or any of the others can work. Don't forget the literary networks such as Goodreads and Shelfari. Pinterest has become very popular, which is interesting because novels are not "visual," or so one might think. But 70 percent of the population are visual learners...meaning they like to receive their information via visual means. Your book cover, for a start, is visual, but perhaps you could also use images that represent your setting, historical period, foods, and clothing styles worn by the characters. Be inventive!
Remember, use your social networking activity to build relationships with people interested in what you do. Don't use social media solely as a bulletin board to broadcast your sales message.
Is off-line promotion still useful?
Of course. Good old word of mouth is still the most powerful tool. I don't recommend physical book tours, although it's nice to have your book at your local indie bookstore. Never do a booksigning...at least don't call it that because "book signings" don't draw a crowd. Give a talk on a topic related to your book, and more people will show up—and you will sell more books.
Marketing doodads such as bookmarks or postcards don't sell books. They're niceties to have, if you have extra money. Instead focus on putting your book in unusual places. One author I know whose novels are set against the backdrop of NASCAR sells her books at the race tracks. Put romance novels in flower shops or gift shops. Erotica in lingerie shops. You get the idea.
Connecting with readers' groups is very powerful. Clubs, meet ups, and other groups that fit with your genre or book's plot/setting are great places to find fans and start word of mouth going.
As with online marketing, be inventive in your approach. You are a powerful, creative being. Don't rely on the old stuff anymore. Let your light shine as only you can.
To Your Publishing Success!