A lot of people have asked me this question over the past few months and in this blog post I will do my very best to provide some tips and tricks that worked for me. I am an Indie author with no previous experience in writing, publishing or marketing and I managed to get into the Amazon Top 100 (Kindle UK) within two weeks of my book being released. I then managed to stay there for three months, selling over 30,000 books in the process.
I’d like to point out however that there is no exact science and what works for one book is almost certainly not going to work for another.
1) Firstly and most importantly, your book needs to stand out
By this I mean both visually AND literally. In order to stand out, your book needs to be different; it needs to be offering the reader something that other books don’t. Whether that is a completely fresh take on an existing genre or subject or something different entirely, you need to find something that will hook the reader in. Once you have found your hook, make it clear to the reader, either in the title or the description. Don’t bury it down in line 7 or 8 in the description, PUT IT IN BOLD ON THE FIRST LINE, or better still, change the name of your book to encorporate the hook.
My book was initially titled, rather innocently “As They Slept”, but my editor pointed out that unless people actually clicked on the book itself, they would have no idea what it was. As They Slept sounds like a spooky murder mystery, not the humerous observations of the life of a commuter, so it was essential that the book title explained what it was. As They Slept was dropped in favour of As They Slept – The comical tales of a London commuter.
This could easily work for other books. You could have a thriller titled “When Morning Comes”, which sounds like a perfectly reasonable title, but why not change it to “When Morning Comes – The tale of a Soldier’s fight for survival”
Another really important tip is to ensure that your book cover looks professional. A lot of people will say that it is essential that you use bold colours to make it physically stand out, but if it is not professional looking first and foremost, then this can often result in it looking cheap and tacky and it will stand out for all the wrong reasons. The perfect solution is to go for something that is both bold AND professional looking, and while it may seem like I am stating the obvious, it is amazing to see how many book covers arrive on Amazon that fail at least one of these rules.
2) Hire an Editor
I can’t emphasise how important this is. If you are serious about writing and serious about making a career out of writing, then you need to hire an editor. In fact, scrap the word “hire”, just find someone to proof read your work; preferably someone that you are not related to or had sex with, as their opinions will be biased. I am aware that this might be difficult for people who live in small villages and in fact in some villages, it is likely that there may well be people falling into both categories, but never the less, it is vitally important that someone who is impartial looks at your work.
TOP TIP – Do you fancy paying peanuts for editing and book design, while also getting free marketing? – Read on…..
If you haven’t got a lot of money, do what I did and offer a small fee, with a promise of a percentage of royalties. I paid a small fee to my editor and agreed a set percentage of royalties which increased depending on the volume of sales. I did exactly the same with my book designer too.
THE ADVANTAGE OF DOING THIS IS THAT YOU PAY OUT VERY LITTLE AT THE START, BUT HAVE THE ADDED BONUS OF TWO ADDITIONAL PEOPLE HELPING TO MARKET YOUR BOOK!
3) Tell everyone about your book – I mean everyone – Yes, even him!
Every time you speak to someone, you have an opportunity to tell them about your book, whether that be in person, on the phone or in cyber land. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to tell someone about your new book. If the person knows you, they will likely be proud of you and keen to help, often promoting your work without you even asking them to. It’s a natural thing for someone to want to tell somebody else that they know an author. You’ve all heard of someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who used to play bass guitar for some random band from the sixties, so you need to harness the amazing power of these chinese whispers.
Tell strangers too. What’s the harm? In the words of Dr Pepper, what is the worst that can happen? In the lead up to my book release, I got 1,000 flyers printed and gave them to everyone on my train who owned a Kindle. I then went around as many of the coffee shops in London as I could get to. I targeted a specific chain (which I will do my best not to name) that had notice boards in each of their branches. I found that the staff in their green aprons were always happy to help, just as soon as they had taken my order and written my name on my cup.
Once you have exhausted all of your personal contacts, get onto the laptop and start networking. Create a Facebook Fan page and invite all of your friends (and ask them to invite their friends), set up a Twitter Page, a blog and send out a bunch of emails to anyone and everyone you can. An hour or so on Google will provide you with more than enough email addresses to be getting on with. Email anyone who you think may be interested and make sure you email (at the very least) your local press. You will be surprised just how many extra sales you can make from people who are local and who feel like they have a special “local” connection. Here is a link to an article written about my book.
4) Be flexible about pricing
When my book was released, I released it at £1.99. I considered that to be a very reasonable price. Within a week I had sold around 35 copies and I was sure I had exhausted all of my immediate contacts. I then set about marketing the book heavily (Using the tips above) and I decided that in order to try and convince new readers to give it a go, I should drop the price. Some authors would wince at this advice and think that this suggestion is pure madness, but wouldn’t you rather sell 50 copies at £0.77p than 0 copies at £1.99?
I found that by lowering the price after the first week, I was able to take advantage of the healthy rankings I had acheived from the 35 sales and then combined with the marketing push, helped drive more sales.
A week after I reduced my price, I had sold 600 copies. What happens then is a snowball effect. Suddenly, you start to enter the Amazon Movers and Shakers lists and if you are really lucky, you will get featured by Amazon. I was lucky enough to get featured on Amazon’s home page, right next to Bradley Wiggins on the day that he won Sports Personality of the year!
As soon as I had been featured by Amazon, my book shot to #1 in my two main categories (Humour and Biographies) and it carried on from there. I managed to stay in the top 100 for 3 months, outselling major authors and more importantly for me, established comics, over a busy Christmas period)
5) My book is in the Top 100 – What now?
Firstly well done. It is now vitally important that you engage with your fans. If you have got your marketing right, then your readers should be able to find you and contact you through your Facebook Page, your Twitter account or blog. It is vital that you engage with everyone that is kind enough to contact you, whether it be good or bad feedback. Readers who receive a personal response are far more likely to tell their friends and those who chose to leave you negative feedback will be far less likely to tell theirs!
As They Slept – (The comical tales of a London commuter) is FREE on August 17th and 18th