Indie authors selling millions of books. Who could have predicted that a few years ago? I bet there are some people looking at ebook sales figures and thinking that these bestselling indie authors owe their success to a lucky roll of the dice. They were in the right place at the right time. Well, I don’t believe that for one minute.
Certainly some gained an advantage by jumping on the ebook bandwagon earlier. Then there are anecdotes that involve fortuitous timing, as in the case of Stephen Leather cashing in on the Christmas Kindle rush a couple of years ago. But when he recognized the opportunity he still had to work like crazy to promote his books to get them to the top of the Kindle Store bestseller list in time for Christmas day.
The reality is that almost every successful independent author has “made their own luck”. They have written book after book after book. After they have finished writing they have switched to marketing mode and worked some more. Their hard work has been rewarded and you should have no doubt that’s what it was… hard work.
So if they were not plain lucky, then what can you do as an author to improve your odds of independent publishing success? Here are eight things you should do.
1. Write. Write. Write.
If you want to be a writer then you have to write. There is no way around this. There is no shortcut. Most successful authors have a regular schedule or routine that involves writing for many hours every day. If you are not writing full-time then you’ll need to find whatever available hours you can. You must put in the hours if you want to have a successful business as an indie author.
There are countless opportunities for being distracted away from writing. But the writing is really what it’s all about. That’s what we do. So write. Write. Write.
2. Start Building Your Author Platform Now
Don’t wait to build up your audience after you have published your book. You must be building your author platform now. At the very least start an author blog and start posting. If you haven’t started already then start building your audience now.
If you write non-fiction books then start blogging about the topic of your upcoming book. If you write fiction then post about your genre, and discuss other books you are reading or authors you admire.
Start interacting online with the people who will be the audience for your book. Be sure to invite your site’s visitors to follow you on Twitter or Facebook, or to join a newsletter.
3. Hire Professionals When Necessary
There are at two tasks in particular which need to be performed to a professional standard and these are often overlooked by indie authors: editing your book and creating a cover. The majority of independent authors should be hiring professionals for these two tasks, and here is why:
- Good covers sell books. You need one.
- A lack of professional editing is a great way to invite negative reviews which might sink your book’s success before it even gets off the ground.
4. You Will Need Multiple Books
If you have any aspirations to actually live off your writing then you need to treat this like a business and you need more than one book. This only reinforces the first point above… you need to spend a considerable amount of your time writing.
What about those bestselling indie authors we keep reading about? Look closely and you’ll see that in almost every case they had either a backlist of novels ready to go when the ebook industry boomed (like JA Konrath), or they are prolific writers (like John Locke and Amanda Hocking) who have turned out multiple books in recent years.
If you write fiction then consider writing a series. One proven ebook marketing tactic with fiction is to give away free the first book in a series. This not only raises awareness of your brand but it also attracts new readers. If they like your first book then you can be certain a percentage will go on to buy the next books in the series.
5. Consider Publishing Other Forms and Formats
Don’t restrict your work to “only print” or “only ebooks”. Release your books in multiple formats: print, ebooks, audiobooks.
With e-publishing think outside the box. Remember you are free from many of the restrictions of print publishing. In addition to full-length ebooks consider publishing short stories, sample chapters, and even bundles of your books. Each of these is another opportunity for new readers to try you out.
6. Collaborate With Other Authors
Many writers are accustomed to working alone so it might be a new concept to work together with other authors. Collaborating with another author is very powerful because you will each benefit from the other author’s platform.
Buying a novel is not like buying a car. It’s not like choosing between the BMW or the Audi. If there is another good author in your genre then readers are probably going to try books by both of you.
It is different for nonfiction authors. Readers will often choose either one book or the other with nonfiction if the topic is very similar. If both authors have multiple books within the subject area then there may still be room to collaborate with non-competing books. Otherwise you should find a different author who has written on a related – but not directly competing – topic.
Here are a few of the simplest ways to collaborate:
- Swap “guest posts” on your blogs.
- Recommend the other author’s book to your readers and vice versa.
- Offer your readers an “ebook bundle” containing books from both authors. Remember with ebooks it is easy to combine multiple novels into a single file and sell it as a bundle.
7. Schedule Time for Marketing
Outside of writing your manuscript, marketing will take up the biggest chunk of your time. If you neglect marketing your book won’t sell.
As an independent publisher the responsibility for marketing falls on your shoulders. Be prepared for it. Plan your marketing well in advance, incorporating a range of activities such as engaging with your readers on Goodreads, other social media networks, in author interviews, with guest blogging and more.
Do you really want to be a successful indie author? It’s a lot more than crossing your fingers and rolling the dice. The activities above are not all about chance and luck. They are real activities that give you control over whether your writing career moves forwards or backwards.
What do you think? Is there something else you would include on this list? What do you think it takes to become a bestselling indie author.
I’d love to receive your comments below.