Life means change, and if you self-publish your ebooks, you know that the self-publishing marketplace has changed. With four million ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle Store, and thousands of new ebooks published every month, that was bound to happen.
Previously, you could focus on writing, and releasing new titles regularly, and see results. Not today. Moreover, just because a reader downloads your freebie, it doesn’t mean that she/ he will read it, much less buy anything from you.
Now what? Now… you’ll treat self-publishing like the business it is, and you’ll develop a marketing strategy. Today, marketing needs to be front and center of your self-publishing business. It’s no longer optional.
As I pointed out in Indie Author Marketing: 5 Essentials For Profits, you now need to wear two hats, that of author, and publisher:
You’re comfortable wearing your author hat. Toss that hat aside for a moment, and put on your publisher hat.
Hat on? OK.
A publisher’s goal is the same as that of any other business: turn a profit. No profit, no business. So, as a publisher, how do you turn a profit? You’ve got a book, or a bunch of books (a bunch is better)… your sole aim is to sell those suckers.
How to succeed at self-publishing your ebooks
Let’s start by defining “success”. According to Amazon, only 40 self-publishing authors have sold a million copies of their ebooks over the past five years. Selling a million copies is “making money” according to Amazon, and they would know. 🙂
Your definition of success for your own self-publishing venture may be to sell fewer copies than that, or more copies. Many authors make a comfortable living selling far fewer ebooks than 200,000 copies a year.
Whatever your own aspirations, self-publishing has changed, so let’s look at how you can get results in the new publishing climate.
1. Believe in yourself: take marketing seriously — you’re a PUBLISHER now
Start by believing in yourself, and investing in yourself.
Ms. Wild’s success wasn’t accidental, but grew out of a meticulously planned marketing campaign. Before the book was even released, she began buying online ads targeting erotic romance readers. Her husband took out 10 credit cards and a personal loan to pay for advertising. They borrowed $70,000 from Mr. Grishman, a former banker who is Ms. Wild’s brother-in-law.
The self-belief challenge is common for most writers. As a tribe, we don’t believe in ourselves. We’re prone to rescue fantasies: we want to be “discovered”. (Sigh.)
Think about ways in which you can market your ebooks. You may not have any money to spend. If you don’t, you’ll need to spend more time on free promotions. And then, once you’re making a little money, spend that money on paid promotions. Every little bit helps.
A word of warning: if you’re NOT making money on free promotions, don’t take a huge financial plunge. Be very sure that your ebooks deserve financial investment.
2. Keep writing — write what sells (do a little marketing and competitor research)
Let’s imagine for a moment that instead of self-publishing, you want to take the traditional route to publishing.
Here’s your process:
- Send query letters to agents;
- Send proposals (three chapters, an outline, AND a rationale for publishing your book to agents who respond positively;
- (After months pass) send the full manuscript to agents who responded positively;
Back up for a moment. Did you catch rationale? It’s vital. You need to tell your agent and publisher WHY they should publish your book. And no — they won’t come to any conclusions themselves. You need to make a (GOOD) case for publishing your book.
Making a case includes marketing research and competitor research. You need to show your agent/ publisher that the market needs your book, and that you offer something that competitors do not.
Today, you need to research the marketplace, and competing titles for your self-published titles. You can no longer afford to take the hobbyist (“I’ll write this because I want to write it”) approach. Recall: you’re a PUBLISHER… 🙂
Yes, you’ll still write the books you want to read… BUT you’ll also strive to write books that readers want to read too — and you’ll offer something that your competitors don’t.
3. Think “reach”: investigate ways you can reach more readers
No matter what you write, you have, potentially, millions of readers who want to read your book. If they knew it exists.
Traditionally-publishers authors would seem to have an edge here. Their books are in stores all over the planet. (Caveat: only if they’re bestselling authors, mid-list authors now self-publish, because publishers no longer want them.) These authors have reach, because of the deals publishers make with distributors.
Self-publishing authors don’t have that.
You need ways to make sure that news about your book gets in front of as many people as possible. Find ways to make that happen. It’s vital.
4. More reach — go “wide” on some of your titles, create print copies, audio files, and translations
Let’s assume that your marketing budget is miniscule.
How do you extend your reach?
Some methods to try…
a) Haul some of your ebooks out of KDP Select
If you publish exclusively with Amazon, as you must when you enroll a title in Select, you can’t publish elsewhere. Even though your sales may be tiny in the other ebook retailers, publish everywhere you can anyway — it extends your reach.
Tip: don’t haul out all your titles — keep some in Select, for Kindle Unlimited readers to read for free. If nothing else, you get more downloads.
b) Use Createspace or similar Print on Demand to create physical books
Some readers (by some accounts, 36%) are stuck on paper books. So, meet them there. Use Createspace and create physical books.
c) Use other “reach” options
Other options to reach more potential readers include creating audio files of your ebooks, creating translations, and creating copies which you sell on your own website.
Once you start thinking about ways to expand your reach, experiment. The more readers who know of your ebooks the more you will sell.
5. Write more, write harder: write more and better books (and keep expanding your reach)
Finally, write more ebooks.
That’s the classic way to expand your reach: the more ebooks you have for readers to buy — as long as readers hear about your ebooks — the more you will sell.
The marketplace is getting tougher, so toughen up
Every month, more and more ebooks are released. Be aware of that, and tackle the challenge. I know you’re equal to it.
You can self-publish, and get results — I believe in you. Now, start believing in yourself. 🙂