Friday, January 25, 2013

Indie eBook Marketing: When You Get to the Fork in the Road, You Must Take It.

So you just created your first book and you’re done with the editing. You have someone lined up to help you with the formatting and to help you upload the ebook to the online retailers.

You’re an indie author and you’re going to self-publish. The ebook will be available for anyone in the world to buy. Look out Patterson and Hocking. Your Romance novel is in a hot genre. It won’t be long until you’re helping find someone to play your lead character in Hollywood. It’s the author’s dream.

One of the first things you realize is that you’re not alone. There are hundreds of authors in your same position with that ‘must read love story’ and they are all fighting for the reader’s attention.

The next thing you realize, you didn’t start marketing soon enough and there is no one to hold your hand while you do it. You will find out quickly that trying to sell your novel is a full time job. 


The first big decision: Do you go the social media route or do you hit the pavement?

Do you try to build a large social network or do you rely on the online retailers, word of mouth and a website to do the selling for you?

There are a lot of questions and the answers aren’t easy to come by. 

The Paper Route

If you are from the old school and you’re trying to adjust to online marketing, going Indie presents some problems. Your sales will rely directly on your marketing approach and you find out quickly it is going to be a long journey.

There are a dwindling number of book stores and there are no publishers helping you will drive. The covers and the blurbs are up to you or someone you engage to write them.
Your book may get great reviews but your challenge is to get someone to read them and then buy your book.

There is no shelf space limit to worry about. In fact, the problem is just the opposite. The shelf space is limitless and so is the number of authors, all trying to find a way to attract readers to their book.    

The Need for Speed - Online Marketing

You are how competing in the online world and the Internet Super Highway speeds up the whole process. Readers can buy your book 24/7, if they can find it.

This approach is what I call the Conventional Online Method. You self-publish your book and post it at an online retailer’s site. In turn, they provide the reader/prospective buyer with information, so they can make a buying decision. That may include reviews, star-ratings, book descriptions, your author profile and a bestseller tag, if you’re lucky.

This is, in itself, a passive approach to marketing. You need to use more of the Internet to make your presence felt and to sell your books.

There are many things you can do at this point to draw attention to yourself, as an author.

You can create an author’s blogs and have an Internet site with contact information. You can conduct giveaways and promotions or participate in book tours. You can provide your readers with free content and samples of your work.

There are a lot of things you can do online to promote your book.

The web is a vast arena for the Indie author. If you look hard enough you will find book trailers (live movie trailers), videos, pictures and other promotional material marketing books.

So you are all set up. Now how do you get readers to look at your book and buy it? 

Now the Fork - Enter Social Media

The questions that really stand out if I go down this road are:

How do I target my genre and the readers in my genre?
How do I jump start my marketing activity?
How do I engage readers and get them to take a look at my book?
Should I make that turn in the road and get in the fast lane?
Should I get involved in social media? I mean really involved.

When I am talking about social media, I am talking about Twitter and Facebook. They are the most popular communication methods with the most activity and the biggest audience.

What will you find if you go down that road?

1. When you take this fork in the road, you will really have to shift your direction.
2. You will need to develop friendships and relationship with readers and other writers.
3. You will also find out real quick that you need more time in the day to work your social media crowd and write and do all the other things that will get in your way.
4. You will find interaction with others is the key to developing an audience.
5. You will find that this is not a smooth road.
6. You will find crazy drivers and lots of traffic.
7. You will find if you’re use to writing your thoughts in an email, 140 characters are not enough to get your message across.
8. You will find once you start building your following that Twitter has a barricade of 2001 followers plus 10%  and that can be a problem.
9. You will find you need to keep working the system.

So do I go all in and take the turn to the left, down the fast lane or do I go the conventional route? 

How do I get in the fast lane and step on the gas?

With the ‘how do I’ part of this, I turned to two veterans of the social media trip.

M.R. Mathias

Author M.R. Mathias @DahgMahn ( is an award-winning self-published Fantasy Writer. At the last count, he had over 88,000 followers on Twitter. He is a true student of the social media game.
His words of advice are:
1, Use social media to get the word out there.
2. Push followers but not too hard.
3. You must keep working it.
4. Be patient. It is a slow building process.

His book is a must read for new Indie authors: The First Ten Steps - To Take AFTER You Publish Your New eBook.

Claude Bouchard

Another veteran of social media is prolific Twitter host Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 ( At the last count, Claude had over 300,000 followers.

He is a Canadian, Best-Selling Author who has chosen to use social media big time. He shares his theory with us on going all in with social media.

“It is simple logic…the more followers I have the more people would learn about my thrillers.”

 When asked if he could measure the impact of social media on his sales, he said,
“The honest and correct answer is, ‘I don’t have a clue.’ I do have people occasionally telling me they just bought one of my books but most don’t comment.”

He outlines his process of building a following on Twitter on his blog: How I Really Got a 1/4 Million Followers

Is it Worth Taking the Social Media Highway?

What are the benefits by using the social media highway? Here is what some awarding-winning authors had to say about the benefits they got from social media.
(Note: Author’s name links are to their personal profiles with a Q/A session and their book list.) 

Benefit: Connection

Joanna Penn @thecreativepenn
“I find social media brilliant for connecting with people, mainly my writing peers and people in the industry.
Here’s my breakdown of how social media can help sell books: Sell Books with Social Media.”

Benefit: Discovery

John Needham - @jakeneedham
“I get 20 or 30 communications from readers through it every day. Happily, not a small number of those communications are from readers who tell me they are happy to have just discovered my books through something that somebody said on Twitter.

Facebook is a completely different story for me. It's been absolutely useless as a communication tool. I hear from virtually no one on Facebook.”

Stacy Eaton - @StacySEaton
“I do … try to stay in touch with fans. I communicate with them when I can on Twitter and get on Facebook ... I like to work with other authors and help them by doing interviews and posting them on my blog …”

Benefit or NOT: Effective

Amy Metz - @goosepimpleisms
“I try to like, and share, and post something on Facebook, as well as tweet something on Twitter, every day, but I’m not sure how effective it is.”

Benefit or NOT: Avoid Overkill

Cheryl Bradshaw - @cherylbradshaw
“Social media is my primary focus. I use it to promote, but only when I have a new book out or if I am running an incentive, like a freebie.

The main importance for me is using it to connect with my fans and fellow authors. Many authors don’t understand why Twitter doesn’t work for them—and it’s because they are going about it all wrong. They use it to promote their books 24/7. It’s overkill.”

Benefit: Sales equals Followers

Katherine Logan - @KathyLLogan
“I’ve discovered that sales are directly related to the number of followers. As one goes up, so does the other. Most of my marketing efforts are Twitter related. I’ve made some incredible friends.”

Benefit: Spread the Word

Monica Mathis-Stowe - @MMathisStowe
“Social Networking is an excellent marketing tool. I use Facebook and Twitter … to help spread the word about my novel.”

Benefit: Foreign Authors

Maree Ward-Russell - @mibbymw
“Social media is all of my marketing plan. Living in New Zealand has its geographical limitations – especially when your target market is on the opposite side of the world. Twitter and Facebook have become vital for me to reach the masses, without them I would be lost.
You must be prepared to engage with your followers. A reciprocal relationship is the key.”

Anne Allen - @AnneAllen21
Anne is a UK author. She says, “You need a prominent profile before a book is published. I now know that having a writer’s blog is paramount.
I think I’ll just have to keep trying to raise my profile through blog features, book reviews etc.”

Benefit: Small Press Experience

R.P. Dahlke - @rpdahlke - @allmysteryenews
“I love hearing from my readers. When I was with a small press, no one could contact me directly. It seemed so silly. Now I have Facebook and Twitter and I've made wonderful new friends, as well as a whole new world of readers for my books.”

The Red Flag Review

Rebecca’s comment raised a red flag. Where their groups actually trying to stop authors and readers from communicating via social media? I needed to check this out so I did a quick review. I am sure there are other groups that do not follow this pattern but here is the review anyway.

I decided to check out a small press and see what was going on. I choice a popular small press with over 100 authors in their fold. I was looking for Twitter and Author blog/site activity.

Wow. I wasn’t ready for the results. I stopped after the first 20 authors. I found that 2 authors had Twitter accounts and 4 had their own Internet sites. Apparently everything was being handled by the small press. I realized this was not a big sample, so I had to go the extra mile. 

Top Indie Author Survey

I needed to check the big guys. You know the top Indie Authors as defined by online retailers.

The questions I had to survey were:
How are the very top authors marketing their books?
Are they using social media for their marketing or the conventional method?
Which fork in the road did they take?

The TOP author was driving in the HOV lane at a very high speed. He had in excess of 220k followers on Twitter and he had the 3 top places on the retailer’s best seller list. I think in his case, it’s the quality of the car he is driving rather than being in the correct lane on this one.

What about the rest of the authors? There were 58 more authors to research. My results were all downhill from my star Indie driver. Here is a quick summary of what I found.

Of the 59 Indie Authors, 9 DID NOT have a Twitter account (15%) and 6 DID NOT have an Author’s site or blog (10%).

After analyzing the author’s followers, my conclusion was that 40% of the authors did not use social media to market their books. They had taken the conventional online fork in the road and were letting other online vehicles sell their books.  (Note: The average number of followers was 3000.) 

So what does all this mean?

Here are the takeaways I got:

1. You need to keep working it to get anything out of social media if you’re going to take that route.
2. Social media will help you develop relationships with readers and other authors.
3. The results will be hard to measure.
4. It will be very time consuming to do it big time.

My personal question is: If I chose Twitter and Facebook to market by books, how do I target my genre (Mystery) and the readers in that genre?
What is your takeaway? Which direction will you take? 

Side note:

At the end of the day, Yogi Berra, the famous Yankee baseball player, had the best advice: When you get to the fork in the road, take it. (This quote is classified as a Yogi-isms and makes perfect sense in our Indie marketing effort.) 

Follow me:

Or EMAIL at:
Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight
Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels:
Or newly released

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Indie Author: You Need a Helping Hand to Succeed.

No matter what anyone tells says, you need help to succeed in book publishing today, especially if you’re an Indie author. There is just too much to do to even have modest success.

The good old days. You know, the days when the book industry was controlled by a small group of publishers and an even smaller group of successful authors. To get into the group, you had to write what the publishers wanted you to write in the correct genre; a book that the publisher could forecast a profit and stay within budget.

At least at the start, they took care of everything. That included marketing, creation and distribution, returns, pricing, editing, cover design, reviews and advances. You know: an all of the above approach.

You did have to write good material, make appearances and sign some books but the good reviews were always going to be there. They were the author’s support group along with the agents. When you got to the second tier of authors, the marketing shifted more and more to the author but the rest of the support was still there.

Then along came the ebook and the online world. Self-publishing became easier and the royalties increased. You were selling books where you never had exposure before.

Along with this came a problem. The publisher’s support was gone so the online community started scurrying for a solution. Authors needed help and support of all kinds to bring their book to market.

You see, the Indie Author is now responsible for everything. Enter the online support groups, stage right.

Support groups are not new. There are many traditional author organizations. For example,

Novelists, Inc. is a national group who helps authors.

Patricia McLinn @PatriciaMcLinn, NINC Past-President, said in a recent post:

Now, NINC is my primary support group. One of NINC’s many strengths is the collegial attitude among the members. From this one group several others have grown where we share information on writing, marketing and the publishing process.”

All of the Traditional organizations have established local and area chapters to get closer to their members to support them.

Online Support Groups

Online support groups are Internet based. They are support groups with no borders. They have the ability to support authors wherever in the world they lived. Some of them have become as large in membership, as the older, traditional organizations.

There are many groups online now. Some are here for the long run. Others will come and go because Indie authors are requiring more and more from them.

Why should you join a group of strangers?

That question leads into this one. What kinds of support are you going to need and how can an online support group help out?

All online support groups are friendship bound. They rely on the Internet communications between members. Authors can get all the hand holding they need. The groups supply lots of education and training opportunities and they give authors a direction in adapting to the online environment. If you are looking for connections, sympathy, criticism or a helping hand, you are in the right place.

Most groups have, as one of their goals, helping authors market their books. Self-promotion of your book can be quite difficult if you have no help. You can get a host of marketing aide from these online sources. From just displaying your book for sale to book tours and giveaways to expensive sales plans to reviews, you will be able to find help. Some charge a fee, some don’t.

Online groups do offer writing courses, critiques with feedback, almost all online. If you seek it out, you will be able to get help somewhere.

One of the major obstacles for Indie authors is creating the book itself. The proper formatting, cover design, compiling of the document, has a direct relationship to sales.

If you need a hand, the online support community will be there, a mouse click away.

So what can you gain from belonging to a support group?

Let’s check out what experienced authors are saying about support groups? As always, I go to my support group: the HBS Author’s Spotlight crew. They always bring their experience and knowledge to the party.

The following is a list of a few support groups and Spotlight Author comments about their experiences with the groups. (This list is not in any order and not anywhere near all the helpful groups.)

World Literary Café (WLC) + FOSTERING SUCCESS (FS)

This group was formed by Melissa Foster @Melissa_Foster. The World Literary Cafe is an online community that bridges the gap between readers and authors, with the mission of paying-it-forward in the literary field, promoting great literature, and bringing together the literary community. The WLC offers helpful promotions to authors, reviewers, bloggers, and editors by creating avenues to bring them together under one umbrella in an easily navigable venue.  

Also, they provide AUTHOR SERVICES including editing, cover design, formatting, publishing and marketing.

Here is a comment from the founder, Melissa Foster @Melissa_Foster.

“All of my endeavors are pay-it-forward driven. Readers, writers, bloggers, reviewers, and anyone interested in the literary field can join the World Literary Cafe (WLC).

Our goal is to unite the literary community, bring new-to-you authors to readers, and help author promote their work, while teaching them how to take control of their own success. 

The educational arm of WLC is Fostering Success.. At Fostering Success, we offer affordable, effective, easy to understand, courses for writers to learn everything from self-publishing and social media to branding, platform building, and book marketing.”

One of the prominent members, Author Stacy Eaton @StacySEaton had this to say:

“They are a great group! I love the WLC and Melissa is amazing. Those of us that work with the WLC do it because we love it. … we want to help others to succeed.

The biggest benefit that I get from the WLC is the network I have built and the friendships I have formed with so many authors and readers who visit and use the site on a daily basis. 

Other members including authors Rachelle Ayala @AyalaRachelle and Mohana Rajakumar @moha_doha echoed the same praise in their HBS Author’s Spotlight interviews.

I would say Synergy is the hallmark of this group.

The Independent Author Network (IAN)

Founded by William Potter, The Independent Author Network is a group of like-minded authors who are self-published or published by a small indie press. The group is open to authors who are active social networkers at sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. The group works together to support and promote each other online. 

One of our Spotlight Authors, Dani Amore @authordaniamore, talked about the IAN.

“Before I published my first book, I reached out to quite a few authors. I'm sure some of them don't even remember me. I like talking to other authors and I think as a community we're very supportive of each other.”

M. R. Mathias @DahgMahn, another Spotlight author, had this to say:

“When I was spending tons of time on twitter I interacted with these great folks day in and day out. I stay offline most of the time now, as I am writing Dragoneers Book Four - The Emerald Rider but the members of IAN have a great social networking advantage over other Indies.

IAN (#ian1 on twitter ) members retweet each other, "like," read, and review each other's books. They have a forum where readers can interact, and a few hundred blogs between them. If you are just starting then you should look into the IAN.”

Faydra D. Fields is the creator of the Independent Author Index. The IAI is designed to offer independent authors another avenue of exposure. It is also designed to be engaging and interactive.

Faydra said “Independent authors can definitely use all the exposure they can get since they’re usually responsible for their own marketing.”

Author Devin C. Hughes @DevinCHughes said recently in a Spotlight post about the IAI:

“Faydra Deon's group is awesome and I do occasionally look there for support or clarity around issues or challenges that I encounter since other writers can relate to my situation.

Long Island Romance Writers

Pamela Burford @PamelaBurford is the founder of Long Island Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. When she was asked what the main benefit she got from the group she said:

“Founding LIRW is one of the shining points of my writing career. That was 17 years ago, and that group has blossomed into a thriving writers’ community that offers mutual support, education, and networking opportunities. LIRW is my writing family, and I wouldn’t be the novelist I am without them.”

Indie Writers Unite
Cheryl Bradshaw @cherylbradshaw is the founder of Indie Writers Unite group on Facebook.

When I was writing my first book, I had so many questions, and I was frustrated about the lack of groups I found over the internet. I knew some traditionally pubbed authors, but they didn’t know much about the self-publishing industry, so I thought maybe I could create a group where writers could come together and get the answers they need when they’re getting started. I cannot express how important the group is in my life. I’ve made lasting friendships, and I credit much of my success to the helping hands I received from my fellow authors when I was just starting out.”

Julia Crane @juliacrane2 answered the following question in a recent post?

What other kinds of support groups do you belong too?
“I’m in many author groups on Facebook (too many to mention). Indie Writers Unite was the first group I joined and I’ve made some wonderful friends there. I think it helps to get ideas from others, and see what is working and what’s not. I’m always looking for new marketing ideas.”

Speaking of synergy, this is a small group of outstanding women writers who are together for the long haul. They support each other in many ways: keeping a constant flow of twitter chatter, supporting each other’s books and marketing activities and doing group writing projects. They keep up a constant swirl of activity on the social network.

Cheryl Shireman @cherylshireman started the Indie Chicks.

I love the Indie Chicks. This is such an extraordinary group of writers. When I first came up with the idea of the Indie Chicks, I discarded the idea immediately. It seemed like such a huge idea - fraught with so many logistical problems. But the idea kept returning.

And, eventually, I could no longer ignore the idea. I came up with a list of my “dream team” of women writers and started contacting them. I asked them if they’d like to be part of a group of women writers who worked together to support and encourage one another, not only in writing but sometimes in life. Almost all of the women I contacted replied with a heart.

One of the authors from the Indie Chicks, Donna Fasano @DonnaFaz, had nothing but praise for the Indie Chicks.

“I am so lucky to a part this group of talented women. They offer support and a wealth of knowledge, and they're always willing to help in any way they can. I believe the book (Indie Chicks: 25 Independent Women 25 Personal Stories) is successful because we wrote our stories from the heart. When emotion is poured into a story, readers can't help but notice.”
Julia Crane @juliacrane2 commented on a recent writing project with Indie Chicks members.

“I’ve co-written with two separate authors Heather Adkins and Talia Jager. I was friends with both women before we decided to write together. I think we feed off each other when writing, and the process is a lot faster. It’s fun to brainstorm with someone that is also mentally in the head of the characters.”

Historial Fiction Groups

Sarah Woodbury @SarahWoodbury commented on her involvement with support groups in her main genre, Historical Fiction.

“I belong to several groups including, 
Pasttimes Books and Historical Fiction ebooks. In some ways, those groups are more a way for me to connect with other writers than a way to reach an audience. Word of mouth is still the best way to find people who like my books…

Kentucky Romance Writers

Katherine Logan @KathyLLogan, in a recent interview, talked about a writer’s group she belonged too.

“I’m a member of RWA, Kentucky Romance Writers, and Kentucky Independent Writers. To be a member of KYRW, you have to be a member of RWA. KIW is by invitation only, and you have to be a Kentucky author.”

Kentucky Indie Writers (KIW)
Diane Strong @DianeIStrong comment about support groups:

“I am a member of KIW (Kentucky Indie Writers), a small group of (mostly) independently published authors in Lexington, Kentucky and the surrounding area. They have been a huge support. I'm not sure what I would do without them. I feel very fortunate to have a group of friends I can go to with promotion, publishing, formatting, editing and life questions. They have taught me so much.”

Dawn Ireland @dawnireland said:

“My critique group is just about 20 years old now, and only one person in the group is from the original team. It is very gratifying to help new writers get on the right track. 

One of the hardest things to get across is that they should not be offended by criticism. It only makes your work better, and let's face it, if two or more people have the same comment, that's proof there's something wrong. Some people are shell-shocked when they receive their marked-up pages back and they're covered in red ink.”

Social Media and Retailers

Of course, you can use the common support group like Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Goodreads but it just not the same. Even Amazon provides some help. But when you go to list your book through one of their free book promotions and find out your book is on a list of 75,000 free books, you need more help than that.

So what is next? Do you belong to a support group that will help you get through the rough patches? I think you need help from followers and groups with common interests to yours. What groups do you belong to? Let’s build a list of support groups that have given you a helping hand.

Follow me:

Or EMAIL at:
Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight
Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels:
Or newly released