Goodreads Blog

Indie Authors Share Their Secrets to Creating Successful Self-Publishing Careers

Posted by Cynthia on October 3, 2016
The self-publishing landscape has changed. Ask any indie author who has been at it for a while, and they’ll likely agree that what used to drive discovery in self-publishing isn’t what works now, and there are no guarantees that what works now will continue to work in the future. “The moment you think that a particular activity is the “best” one, it gets stale and something else catches on,” says David Estes, author of the popular YA series The Dwellers Saga and Slip.

The problem with discovery might be due to the dramatic increase in self-published titles, giving readers more choice but making it more competitive for authors to stand out. According to a recent Bowker report, the number of ISBNs from self-published books grew by 375% between 2010 and 2015. There were 727,125 ISBNs assigned to self-published titles in 2015 alone. If anything, this likely under-represents the number of indie books, as many popular self-publishing platforms don’t require an ISBN to release a book.

Self-publishing is an attractive option to the approximately 81% of Americans who want to publish a book some day, and more self-published authors are making a living today than traditionally published authors, according to Hugh Howey, bestselling author of Wool, citing an Author Earnings report.

But don’t think that simply hitting ‘publish’ is all it takes. “I would upload my book to the KDP platform, fill everything out, and hit publish. Then the program would think and think, and then—nothing. No book live,” remembers Shannon Mayer, author of Raising Innocence. “I spent three days trying to figure out why it wouldn’t work before I stumbled on the reason: I hadn’t put in who the author was!”

Technical difficulties aside, self-published authors realize too late that publishing a book is a lot of work. In celebration of Indie Author Day on October 8th, we asked three bestselling indie authors how they turned their passion into a career, and for their advice on approaching self-publishing successfully.

The Secret of the Self-Published Writer: It Takes a Village


While writing is a solitary endeavor, self-publishing isn’t—or shouldn’t be—if you want your career to take off. Chanda Hahn, who worked as bookseller and children’s librarian before writing her bestselling Unfortunate Fairytale series, knows what areas she needs to outsource to professionals, like copy and line editing, and what can be done in-house. “My brother-in-law does my covers, and I’ll find the models and get a cover shoot done for the book. I found one model in a Panera Bread while I was eating lunch!”

As a former accountant, Estes realized that he needed to approach his self-publishing career like a business. “My goal is to publish a finished product that is as high-quality as possible at the lowest cost. I try to save money where I can, but I do not do so at the sake of quality.” Authors simply cannot go at it alone, and being realistic about where your strengths and weaknesses are will help you identify where you need help. “I have zero skills with graphic design, so I outsource the cover design to a trusted friend who happens to be a graphic designer,” says Estes.

And yet, because of the nature of the beast, every responsibility ultimately lays with the self-published author. “Every choice I make for my books and my stories from plot, editing, cover art, marketing… it’s all on my shoulders,” says Mayer, who has written more than 30 books. This level of involvement is what initially appeals to indie authors, but the scope of what needs to be done (and done well) can be overwhelming for someone who tries to do it all alone.

Thinking About Marketing First


Writing, editing, designing, pricing…the last thing indie authors usually think about when they finally hit ‘publish’ is marketing the book. But readers can’t buy a book they’ve never heard of. While there are many outlets and opportunities for authors to promote their books, Goodreads remains the largest site for readers, with more than 50 million members.

“I joined Goodreads as a reader, not an author,” says Estes, which anyone can see by checking out his robust bookshelves. Estes found several groups in his favorite genres where he could chat about books, TV, movies, and the like. “A few of the group members realized I was an author and decided to try my books simply because they were curious.” He began participating in formal group “Read to Review” programs, where he would offer free copies of his books in exchange for reviews. “That’s where I first started growing the seeds that would become my fan base, eventually expanding into my official Goodreads fan group.”

David Estes Fans and YA Book Lovers Unite! has more than 3,000 members, but the group is not just about him. He and his two moderators ensure there’s something for everyone, whether that’s playing Book Bingo or conducting interviews with other authors like Marissa Meyer, Hugh Howey, and Jennifer Nielsen. Estes estimates that he spends about 10 hours hanging out in the group, and about 15 hours on Goodreads overall per week.


Many self-published authors spend most of their marketing efforts on social media because they spend more time than money on it. “Once I’m [online], hours pass and I have no recollection of where they went!” Hahn credits Goodreads with helping her connect readers with her books. Her newest book, Lost Girl, will be the first one for which she’ll share advance reading copies for early reviews. “I’ve always been lucky enough to have very dedicated fans that want to share their love of the book by posting reviews.”

Does she read her reviews? “Never. I may see my book and see that it has a number of reviews, and I’ll be, “Five thousand reviews…that’s awesome.” I don’t want to know how many are five stars or one stars…that’s not what’s important. What is important is that I wrote a book that made the readers feel something and respond, whether that is negative or positive.”

UnEnchanted is the first book in the five part Unfortunate Fairy Tale series, and the author has received more than 32,000 overall ratings to date. The unconventional fairy tales incorporate fantasy and adventure, and appeal to a teenage audience looking for a twist on their favorite stories from childhood. “A few weeks after I published, I started to get quite a few emails from agents. I knew I was doing something right and then the paychecks started to come in.”

Mayer offers a free ebooks to anyone who signs up for her mailing list on her website, which accomplishes two things at once: building a dedicated list of interested readers, and putting her book out there to get ratings and reviews. Estes agrees: “The more readers that download your book, the more reviews you’ll get. Whenever my books are on sale or I have a new book coming out, I have a large group of readers I can immediately contact.”

Parlaying Self-Publishing into Viable Career


Self-published authors need to realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s usually not the first book that will be your greatest hit. Nor the second one. “I’ve seen authors spend two years promoting one book and never write book two,” says Hahn. “When I first published, I released three books in six months. Then I was releasing two a year.”

“Some [indie authors] will hit it big with one book and think they’ve “made it.” I know I used to think that way,” says Estes. “The momentum from The Moon Dwellers has lasted for a long time, but I know it will eventually run out, which is why I’m always publishing new material and trying to shift my readers’ focus to my new books, so I can generate new income streams that will keep my career going for years to come.”

All three authors have been fortunate and savvy enough to be able to support themselves and their families through self-publishing, but they still sees the value in a traditional publishing deal because it allows them to reach a new set of readers. “I went in with an attitude that I would succeed at writing no matter how long it took,” says Mayer, who recently signed a deal with 47North, an Amazon publishing imprint.

Hahn is willing to entertain the idea of traditional publishing if the right publisher came along, but she’s happy with the support she’s received from Amazon Createspace, and grateful to Trident Media Group for their help with foreign rights deals. Estes and his agent are currently pitching his new high fantasy series to publishers, which he’s excited about. “People are still reading! The gap has vanished between indie and traditionally published authors. We are finally on a level playing field, and hard work and good writing will always yield success in the end.”

5 Tips from Self-Published Authors


Get as many reviews as possible. “Without reviews, you have no chance at selling books. When you first publish a book, particularly a standalone novel or the first book in a series, your sole focus should be getting reviews, rather than selling books.” —David Estes

Choose your team wisely. “[Hire people] who already have an understanding of the industry. While you as the author can work with them to teach them the various areas of where you need help, its great if there is already a basic understanding of what needs to be done.” –Shannon Mayer

Share your work. “The biggest challenge is finding what works and how to get your book in front of readers. Fans love giveaways and Goodreads makes it easy to do paperback giveaways.” —Chanda Hahn (Note: eBook giveaways for self-published authors are coming soon! Read about our beta program here.)

Make your book available. “Some authors even choose to make their book perma-free, which allows the broadest number of readers to give it a try and possibly leave a review. If you do decide to offer your book for free, don’t forget to spend a little of your marketing budget to help you spread the word about your book.” —David Estes

Let your writing breathe. “When writing a new book it takes a few chapters to find your voice and rhythm and I have a tumultuous relationship with my manuscript. Most days I write easily and other days I need chocolate motivation and coffee to get words on paper.” —Chanda Hahn

Next: Goodreads Now Offers Ad Targeting Based on 20,000 Authors & 500 Genre Options

You might also like: The Successful Marketing Behind the Debut Novel "Lilac Girls”

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings.

Comments Showing 1-50 of 83 (83 new)


message 1: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shannon Leave a question for the authors and get it answered today! Join David Estes at 4 p.m. EST/1 p.m. PST and Chanda Hahn at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST in the comments section of this post for a lively and informative discussion.


message 2: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Davenport Thanks to Chanda and David for these thoughts.
David, what percentage of your total marketing time is you 15 hours on Goodreads?
And approximately how many hours per week do you spend on the totality of your profession: writing, publishing, marketing, promotion? And keeping up with the constant rapid changes in the industry.
I hope these questions are not too personal. I find the biggest challenge is finding time to get it all done, and how to apportion that time.
Thanks,
Stephen


message 3: by David (new)

David Estes Stephen wrote: "Thanks to Chanda and David for these thoughts.
David, what percentage of your total marketing time is you 15 hours on Goodreads?
And approximately how many hours per week do you spend on the total..."


My pleasure, Stephen! I don't really spend any of the hours on Goodreads "marketing" per se. Mostly I just connect with other readers, chatting about books, TV, movies, etc. I also spend a fair bit of time managing my group (setting up new programs, managing existing programs, etc). To me, the benefits I get as an author are more organic in nature. However, usually once a month or so I send out a message to my 3,000+ member fan group with information about my books (discounts, new releases, giveaways, etc.), so that is really where the marketing comes in. But I prefer the soft touch marketing approach to Goodreads, rather than spamming a bunch of groups with information on my books/promotions.

I spend 50-60 hours a week on the totality of my career. Typically that's 30 hours a week of writing/editing, and 20-30 hours a week of everything else required to run my business. These numbers vary from month to month, and I do sometimes take days off, taking advantage of the flexibility of being my own boss, but overall I usually work at least 6 days a week. For now, that is what it takes!

However, do not fear if this is more time than you have! When I first started writing/publishing, I was working a fulltime job. So I was only writing about 10-12 hours a week, and spending maybe an hour or two on the rest of my business. Eventually I had more success in terms of sales, and that led to me quitting my day job and being able to spend more time on all aspects of my career :)

Thanks for stopping by and I hope this helps!


message 4: by Robert (new)

Robert Hobkirk The only way to get enough reviews in the numbers that generate sales is to buy them, which would make you a fraud.


message 5: by Tom (new)

Tom Haikin So far I have self-published 13 books but haven't found an audience. My brain fogs over when discussions regarding website creation and maintenance arise.

I sort of fell into writing in the detective genre and currently have 6 books in the Todd Dugan series, but unless I find readers, they just make good gifts.

I can handle baby steps. so please point me to a way to let the right audience know that I'm out here.


message 6: by David (new)

David Estes Robert wrote: "The only way to get enough reviews in the numbers that generate sales is to buy them, which would make you a fraud."

I have to completely disagree, Robert, I know numerous authors who have managed to generate a significant number of reviews through discount promos, many of them through BookBub. If you have a good enough book and get it in the hands of enough readers (through blood, sweat and tears!), good things will happen.


message 7: by David (new)

David Estes Tom wrote: "So far I have self-published 13 books but haven't found an audience. My brain fogs over when discussions regarding website creation and maintenance arise.

I sort of fell into writing in the detec..."


Hi Tom, congrats on your prolific writing and publishing! The focus at this point should be reviews, rather than sales. There are a ton of good ways to get reviews, but I've found discounting my books to FREE and promoting the free days on multiple websites works really well. I've also found Goodreads groups that have formal Read to Review programs are another awesome way to get reviews. Once you have enough reviews, you have a shot to land something bigger, like a BookBub Featured Deal, which will give you access to thousands (or more likely tens of thousands) of readers. Good luck!


message 8: by Steve (new)

Steve Coleman A very important source for self-publishers is Mark Levine's "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing," now in its sixth edition. It comes as close to being a bible on the subject as anything I have found.


message 9: by David (new)

David Estes I'm here for the next hour taking live questions and providing answers! Ask away!


message 10: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Owens Which would you say is better? Pricing the book higher so when you make a sale it's more royalties or lower which is a smaller royalty but sometimes gives you more sales.


message 11: by David (new)

David Estes Sasha wrote: "Which would you say is better? Pricing the book higher so when you make a sale it's more royalties or lower which is a smaller royalty but sometimes gives you more sales."

Great question, one that many authors (myself included) struggle with. For me, it depends on what stage you are at in your career. When I first started out and only had two series published, I priced as low as possible, generally $0.99 or perma-free. My goal was getting reviews and gaining as many new readers as possible. Now, however, I have to make some money to support my family, so I generally price the first book in a series at $2.99, with the sequels at $4.99. Boxed sets I price between $6.99 and $9.99. However, even pricing slightly higher, I have room to give my books/series a boost by doing temporary discounts at FREE or $0.99, which I do often.

I recommend experimenting a little with pricing. Try pricing at $2.99 or higher and see if you get any worthwhile amount of sales after promoting your book. If not, try pricing lower and promoting again. Once you've built up a fan base and large number of reviews (at least 100 on Amazon, but 500+ is better), then you can raise the price and begin to make some money from your sales.


message 12: by Tom (new)

Tom King My books are all over the place - nonfiction, fiction, self-help. I know from other writers that nailing down a genre is important or you confuse your readers. The trouble is that I'm trying to stay alive at the same time I'm writing my great American novel. Right now I have three books I'm trying to finish between ghost-writing and trying to get the paperwork for social security completed so we can eat regularly and keep the lights on. One book is a business management book, one is a humor book and the other is a mainstream novel. My next project is already started and is a young adult/future fiction novel with another self-help waiting in the wings. One of the hazards of being ADD.

Should I put my name on all of them or go with a pseudonym to avoid confusion. Asimov got away with using his own name later in his career, but early on he used pseudonyms for his off-genre stuff.

Any suggestions.
Tom King (one of five Tom Kings on Amazon)


message 13: by Tobin (last edited Oct 10, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Tobin Loshento The topic is near and dear to my heart as both a micro press cofounder and as an author. I blog about it often, (http://booksstillmatter.net/being-an-... ). I notice the reference to Hugh Howey. I really like Hugh's work, but respectfully disagree with some of the way he phrases things (and he does work WITH major publishing houses, even if he retained some of the rights--this gives him a significant marketing boost).

In the referenced blog, I agree that it is hard to compare all self published authors with the 2% of the submitted books that get submitted to agents that get accepted. Yet, he does make the claim that more indie authors make a living than publisher authors. I would love to see the data on that, as nothing I have seen supports that. $200 million plus in sales spread across 1 million titles is what I see in my research. A statistical average on that is pretty grim. But, I would say that the top 2% are probably doing well, so maybe that is Howey's point, which is valid. The top 2% of indie titles is more than the the entire publisher universe.

I still think that the issue of discoverability is not solved. (http://booksstillmatter.net/paid-book...)

Regardless, I like that this is getting talked about. I continue to think places like Goodreads are important (although I worry that it is owned by Amazon, and full disclosure I used to work at Amazon).

One thing that is rarely referenced in the discussion between indie versus not are that most techniques for Indie are for SERIES, or MANY BOOKS. This makes books like To Kill A Mockingbird getting out there and noticed a lot less likely.


message 14: by David (new)

David Estes Tom wrote: "My books are all over the place - nonfiction, fiction, self-help. I know from other writers that nailing down a genre is important or you confuse your readers. The trouble is that I'm trying to sta..."

LOL! That is quite a broad range of genres for your books, but I like that. It's good to branch out and write about the subjects your passionate about. Generally, unless you're a bestseller, you'd usually want to use pen names for genres that are outside of your focus, that's what most of the writers I know do if they write in multiple genres. But remember, if you do that then you have to go through the effort to create a platform for each pen name until you are in a position to consolidate them under one name if you sell enough books. I generally stay in the SciFi/Fantasy realm, which allows me to use one name which happens to be my legal name. To each their own however!


message 15: by Betty (new)

Betty Mermelstein I publish strictly in ebooks because of costs, but being on a website to promote books may be the same for hard copy or ebook. I'm currently on Tumblr, Goodreads, and Linkedin. Do you think it's absolutely necessary to have your own website?
Betty Mermelstein
Author of various books for children and adults on Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu.


message 16: by Derek (last edited Oct 10, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

Derek Blount Hi, David. Congrats on your terrific success and thank you for taking the time to visit with writers of GR.

My first thriller, HOSTILE TAKEOVER, was released last fall and has done well from a sales standpoint with the most rewarding aspect being the number of immediate inquiries "when's the next one coming out?"

From a review standpoint, quality is great (91% Five Star reviews on Amazon) but quantity is lagging (fewer reviews than I'd expect given the number of books sold).

Hostile Takeover by Derek Blount Hostile Takeover

My next book--SECOND SON--is scheduled for release on Halloween. For the previous book, I never "pushed" for reviews. They came organically but I'd like to see more for the new book.

If you had to make a "best-guess" estimate, what percentage of reviews (on your earlier works) originated from Goodreads? From promotional incentives (Bookbub/etc)? From other?

Thanks again for your time!
Derek
derekblount.com


message 17: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Blue This is so interesting and thank you for taking the time to share your personal experience. Lately I've been wondering if it's beneficial to keep our books in the Kindle Unlimited program or would it be wiser to hold out and hope the readers will buy after the sample chapters are read? It seems with the overwhelming supply of freebies, many sit on a device forever without being read and there's no pages read. If a reader purchased it, it would more likely be read, is my opinion.
What do you think?

Thank you!


message 18: by David (new)

David Estes Tobin wrote: "The topic is near and dear to my heart as both a micro press cofounder and as an author. I blog about it often, (http://booksstillmatter.net/being-an-......"

Thanks for your comments, Tobin! I agree that there isn't much accurate data available to make some of the comparisons between Indie and traditionally published authors that some authors are making. Personally, I am a fan of the hybrid publishing model (which, as you pointed out, is what Hugh Howey does). This allows an author (if they are fortunate enough to land a traditional publishing deal) to take advantage of the best of both worlds. My agent and I were lucky to land a lucrative audiobook deal with Podium Publishing for my 7-book Dwellers/Country Saga. Not only has this brought in a whole new raft of readers (listeners), but it has given the series the visibility to win a Society of Voice Arts award and get nominated for another. Not to mention the added royalties/income. None of that would've been possible without the help of my awesome audio publisher!

Long story short, I don't think any author should completely close themselves to any avenues of publication. Stay open minded and look for every opportunity to broaden your readership!


message 19: by David (new)

David Estes Betty wrote: "I publish strictly in ebooks because of costs, but being on a website to promote books may be the same for hard copy or ebook. I'm currently on Tumblr, Goodreads, and Linkedin. Do you think it's ab..."

Hi Betty, thanks for stopping by! Side note: with print on demand sites like Createspace available these days, there's no reason why you can't publish a paperback version of your book at a low cost. Although you might not sell that many copies (because they are usually priced higher than your ebooks), it's still valuable to be able to order copies at a wholesale price to sign for promotions and giveaways.

Onto your questions! Personally I think a website is important, because it adds a sense of professionalism to your platform, and gives you a first-stop location to entice readers. Additionally, I think having a newsletter mailing list is becoming more and more crucial. Personally, I use my website to draw readers to my mailing list. Here's an example: Head over to my website http://davidestesbooks.blogspot.com When you arrive, you will see my book displayed at the top, as well as my latest post, which sends readers to my newly released audiobook. After a few seconds, a pop up will grab your attention offering a FREE David Estes Starter Library, which is basically FOUR books for free, the first book in each of my four most popular series. To get the four free books you simply have to enter your email address and join my mailing list. I get a ton of new readers that way, plus a way of contacting those readers when I do promotions, giveaways, or release new books :)


message 20: by David (new)

David Estes Derek wrote: "Hi, David. Congrats on your terrific success and thank you for taking the time to visit with writers of GR.

My first thriller, HOSTILE TAKEOVER, was released last fall and has done well from a sal..."


Hi Derek, congrats on your early success and thanks for the question :)

Yeah, reviews are hard to get, particularly on Amazon, whereas they come much easier on a review-oriented site like Goodreads. I estimate that for every four books I sell, I get one review on Goodreads. It takes 20 or 30 sales to get one review on Amazon (on average, at least for me). Early on, I focused on Read to Review programs on Goodreads, which almost always guaranteed a bunch of new reviews in exchange for copies of my books. So 80 to 90% of my reviews were coming from Goodreads. Then, in the middle of my career, I started focusing on BookBub, and landed 15 Featured Deals in around 2 years. This led to A TON of new reviews, something that really paid off for the organic growth of sales. Now, however, I probably get an even mix of reviews from Bookbub promos versus Goodreads.

All that being said, if I were you I would continue to focus on generating reviews for the first book, as that will be most reader's door to the series. That's the book you want loading up on reviews so it hits Amazon's algorithms and bestseller lists. Reviews of sequels are much harder to get as well, but sales will come if readers enjoy the first book.


message 21: by David (new)

David Estes Teresa wrote: "This is so interesting and thank you for taking the time to share your personal experience. Lately I've been wondering if it's beneficial to keep our books in the Kindle Unlimited program or would ..."

Hi Teresa, this is a great question, one I've gone back and forth on before coming to a decision. For me, the KU program has been HUGE. It took me a while (because I'm stubborn) to accept it, particularly when the amount paid per page continued to decline. Now, however, the program largely favors longer books, so if you're a novelist (most of my books are 350-550 pages) you can do really well with KU. The other thing to keep in mind is that there's a limit to the number of KU books a member can have on their Kindle at one time, so there actually is an incentive for them to read them so they can get new ones. Also, they are paying for this program, so many will try to read as many books as possible in a month to get their money's worth. Personally, I've had very little success with wide distribution of my books outside of the KU program, whereas I've generated SIGNIFICANT page-reads and resulting sales from KU, particularly for my longer books/series. Hope this helps!


message 22: by David (new)

David Estes Thank you to everyone who stopped by, I appreciate all your questions and comments! Best of luck! Feel free to ask a few more questions here if you'd like, just put "David" at the beginning and I'll scan through them later today and answer as many as I can :) Time to go revise my latest series!


message 23: by Betty (last edited Oct 10, 2016 01:59PM) (new)

Betty Mermelstein David wrote: "Betty wrote: "I publish strictly in ebooks because of costs, but being on a website to promote books may be the same for hard copy or ebook. I'm currently on Tumblr, Goodreads, and Linkedin. Do you..."

Thanks! Great website and good idea with the email addresses.


message 24: by David (new)

David Estes Betty wrote: "David wrote: "Betty wrote: "I publish strictly in ebooks because of costs, but being on a website to promote books may be the same for hard copy or ebook. I'm currently on Tumblr, Goodreads, and Li..."

My pleasure, thank YOU!


message 25: by Chris (new)

Chris Patchell Great tips! I'm living on chocolate and coffee these days. Thanks for sharing.


message 26: by David (new)

David Estes Chris wrote: "Great tips! I'm living on chocolate and coffee these days. Thanks for sharing."

My pleasure! And I know those two food sources all too well ;)


message 27: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Owens David wrote: "Sasha wrote: "Which would you say is better? Pricing the book higher so when you make a sale it's more royalties or lower which is a smaller royalty but sometimes gives you more sales."

Great ques..."



Awesome response! I will do that!


message 28: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Hey Everyone!!! I'll be here for the next hour answering questions.


message 29: by C.L. (last edited Oct 10, 2016 04:09PM) (new)

C.L. Lynch Apologies in advance for a ramble - So, my question is about content - how do you know when your content is truly good? A lot of self-published authors ask about marketing, and I know how important that is (how can people love my book if no one knows about it?). But ultimately, I feel like I could market all day but if I write poorly, it will never take off.

While traditionally published authors get the pat on the head from a publisher/editor who says "yes, this is worth publishing", those of us who choose to forego that don't have a gatekeeper who can validate the quality of our writing.

My book is a strange, very niche kind of book so I didn't bother sending it to publishers. Not because I didn't think it was good, but because I didn't think they would want to take a chance on it. But that means that I have the voice in my mind that says, "what if you're a hack?"

My book is currently on Netgalley, and while the very few reviews I have recieved so far has been positive, I know negative reviews will come, too. The best books in the world still get bad reviews.

My question is - how many bad reviews will be too many? How do I know whether my book is good or not? If I think that it is good and enough people will like it, I'll spend money on marketing it. But I need to know when to cut my losses, accept that it sucks, pick up some more books on writing, and start again.


message 30: by Eric (new)

Eric Asher Hi Chanda! As I've heard you pitch in person, I have to ask. How do you come up with your elevator pitches? Those quick two or three sentence blurbs that basically summarize without spoiling? Your pitch for Underland was brilliant when I heard it at Penned Con this year. Thanks for taking the time to talk to everyone!


message 31: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn C.L. wrote: "Apologies in advance for a ramble - So, my question is about content - how do you know when your content is truly good? A lot of self-published authors ask about marketing, and I know how important..."

My books were rejected by agents and publishers in the very beginning for years, and my first books weren't great...because I didn't have a team of great editors, or formatters or publishing houses behind me. It was a one man show. There were quite a few negative reviews, quite a few angry reviews, but there were enough shining lights, fan letters and good reviews to let me know that...maybe with a bit of spit and shine I've got something here.
My first book was .99 cents and the royalty on that isn't something grand, but it was more than I had made selling home parties, so I knew if I studied, worked on my craft that I could continue to get better. I mean, I couldn't get worse! Even I felt like a HACK! I was like this is just a spoof. There are days even I feel like I'm just pretending to be an author.

I don't think there is a # you can give on how many is too many, or I would have quit long ago.

When you have a very niche book you also have to look at the market for that book. (throwing out numbers---I hate math--- everything here is made up beyond this point) If your book is so unique that maybe only 5 percent of readers are even interested in that topic. And you are selling one percent of that. Be happy! You can only compare your success with the other niche authors and books. Apples to Apples (even then I hate comparing myself to other YA authors) My clean YA books will never sell like E.L. James because um...not my market.

Also work closely with other authors, use beta readers and join a writers group if you're unsure of your writing style and need input.


message 32: by Chanda (last edited Oct 10, 2016 04:51PM) (new)

Chanda Hahn Chanda wrote: "Eric wrote: "Hi Chanda! As I've heard you pitch in person, I have to ask. How do you come up with your elevator pitches? Those quick two or three sentence blurbs that basically summarize without sp..."

I worked as a librarian for a few years and I knew when describing a book to a teen, I'd have about ten seconds before their eyes would glaze over. So I worked on picking out the best keywords I could use to describe my books and grab them.

If I didn't use those keywords, than I would lose them.

Underland- Monsters, Kidnapped, Mythical Gods, Underground, Olympic Games, fight for freedom.

Lost Girl- Neverland Corporation, hidden island, experiments, escape, island goes up in flames, shadows.

Imagine your book as a ten- twenty second movie preview and what scenes stand out the most? What words would you need to describe what's happening?

I never start of by telling anyone what genre it is...ever. I don't say, It's young adult, it's Fantasy, it's romance...because sometimes even those words will make a reader tune out. Ex: Because if they hear, oh it's a epic fantasy book and I only read romance, than I've lost them as well. They'll judge the book by the genre. A great elevator pitch can sell them without even knowing the genre. Surprise them, make them excited and want to crossover into Steampunk even if they have no clue what it is!

Also I knew at Penned Teen Day that none of those kids had probably read our books before we got there or knew who we were, so it was important to sell the book, not myself.


message 33: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Sasha wrote: "Which would you say is better? Pricing the book higher so when you make a sale it's more royalties or lower which is a smaller royalty but sometimes gives you more sales."

When I first started off as an author, I needed the reviews. So I priced my books 99 cents and 1.99 until I had enough reviews to run any advertisements. Then I upped the price and would run sales when needed. I still keep a loss leader (first book free) in my five book series, but not the other series.


message 34: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Teresa wrote: "This is so interesting and thank you for taking the time to share your personal experience. Lately I've been wondering if it's beneficial to keep our books in the Kindle Unlimited program or would ..."

I'd have to defer to David's answer on this, because I don't do Kindle Unlimited. My market is younger teens, 10-15 year olds without kindle unlimited accounts. Also I think it depends on the genre. Romance and long series do really really well in the kindle unlimited program. I couldn't give exclusivity because of how well I sell on iBooks. (Teens=iphones) So there are some months, that I make more on iBooks than I do Amazon.


message 35: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Tom wrote: "So far I have self-published 13 books but haven't found an audience. My brain fogs over when discussions regarding website creation and maintenance arise.

I sort of fell into writing in the detec..."


Having a website and landing page is very important for your books and yourself as an author. I'd suggest if maintaining a website makes your brain fog over, create a FB Author page or series page for your Ted Dugan series. It's fairly simple once it's done to run ads at targeted groups of readers. You can target your FB ads for your detective series to readers who like other popular


message 36: by Gregor (new)

Gregor Reti Sex & Ego Death by Gregor Reti Hi Chandra - I wrote a provoking & entertaining self-awareness book: "Sex & Ego Death". Test readers loved it (no family or friends). I need to find help from budget friendly book marketers for the US market. Question: Are there any known marketers/promoters, who would work on a split basis: Small upfront / Revenue sharing later? Is there a Book Marketer's (Promoter's) forum or association I could post or contact? Thank you, gregor reti


message 37: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Tom wrote: "My books are all over the place - nonfiction, fiction, self-help. I know from other writers that nailing down a genre is important or you confuse your readers. The trouble is that I'm trying to sta..."

If you are one of FIVE Tom Kings I would consider even adding a middle initial or going as T. King or T.(insert middle initial) King. The last thing you want is someone searching for your books and finding someone else. Or what if they read a bad review on a different Tom King and won't give yours a chance.

Also I know authors that have one website but have different pages that link to their pseudonyms and other series. While others create separate pages and websites for each.


message 38: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Gregor wrote: "Sex & Ego Death by Gregor RetiHi Chandra - I wrote a provoking & entertaining self-awareness book: "Sex & Ego Death". Test readers loved it (no family or friends). I need to find help from bu..."

Hi Gregor, I'm not sure about profit sharing for promotions in the U.S. Maybe David Estes might know more. But I'd suggest seeing if someone on Reedsy might fit the bill. Otherwise there are PR Companies based in the U.S.

https://reedsy.com

Red Coat PR
https://redcoatpr.com


message 39: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Well my hour is up, I'll check back later to see if there are any late questions.


message 40: by Gregor (new)

Gregor Reti David - Chanda: Thank you for your beautiful reply. Is there a database of such PR / Marketing / Strategy Consulting firms besides Reedsy? (...even though Reedsy's listing looks promosing :-)
Many thanks for your help!


message 41: by Kari (new)

Kari Trenten Thank you very much for taking the time to offer your advice on self publishing!


message 42: by Gregor (new)

Gregor Reti Thanks guys. Very cool of you :-)


message 43: by C.L. (new)

C.L. Lynch Thank you!


message 44: by David (new)

David Estes Gregor wrote: "David - Chanda: Thank you for your beautiful reply. Is there a database of such PR / Marketing / Strategy Consulting firms besides Reedsy? (...even though Reedsy's listing looks promosing :-)
Many ..."


Unfortunately I know even less about this question as I've done the vast majority of my marketing on my own with the help of a street team I created a few years ago.


message 45: by David (new)

David Estes By the way, AWESOME responses Chanda, I learned plenty from you too!


message 46: by Gregor (new)

Gregor Reti Wow David - you created your own street guerilla team. I used to do that for record companies. You know, back when records were sold for money, ha, ha... I can show you some rock'n'roll landmarks when you're in LA. Cheers & thanks, g.


message 47: by Derek (new)

Derek Power Probably after missing the boat because of timezones, but I will ask the question anyway. How are people able to get reviews from their sales? I have three fantasy detective novels out in my "Filthy Henry" series (https://www.goodreads.com/review/list...) and sales are doing well enough (at least I get enough to spend some "silly" money each month).

By sticking in a "sneak peek" of the next book I generally see sales spike shortly after the page count has dropped on the previous book (I only advertise book 1 on Kindle at the moment). However despite the sales I don't seem to get a match amount of reviews be it here or on Amazon itself.

Clearly people are willing to part with their hard earned money for some silly adventures, but the reviews aren't matching. Anybody have any ideas on how to maybe change that? Since a lot of the advice from the above article is "reviews are important in order to get sales" yet I seem to be getting the sales without the reviews.

An author's paradox?


message 48: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shannon Thanks David and Chanda to responding to questions yesterday! We can totally keep the conversation going, as this thread has some great content and resources on it. I'll also try to respond where and when I can!


message 49: by Chanda (new)

Chanda Hahn Derek wrote: "Probably after missing the boat because of timezones, but I will ask the question anyway. How are people able to get reviews from their sales? I have three fantasy detective novels out in my "Filth..."

Derek- I just ask the readers straight out. I keep a pretty active Author FB Social Media account, instagram etc. I do weekly giveaways and contests so that the fans see the posts and interact. Sometimes on a newer book, all I have to do is ask the readers, "If you've read my newest book, I'd love to read your review on Amazon, Nook or iBooks or post a link of your review here." I don't promise anything in return, but just simply asking the readers to leave a review works well. But to do that you have to have an active social media account of any kind. GoodReads, Twitter, FB, Instagram and interact with the readers.


message 50: by David (new)

David Estes Gregor wrote: "Wow David - you created your own street guerilla team. I used to do that for record companies. You know, back when records were sold for money, ha, ha... I can show you some rock'n'roll landmarks w..."

LOL! Sounds good! Yes, my Street Team have been AMAZING. Without them, I'm helpless!


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