Renee Writes

Posts in category Marketing/Promotion

Indie Authors Taking the Industry by Storm!

I just read an article, Maverick women writers are upending the book industry and selling millions in the process, that validated a lot of my feelings about where the publishing industry is headed, especially in regards to self-publishing. In fact, I was just speaking with my husband this morning about a lot of these things before I read the article. So it came at a really good time.

The first issue has to do with claims that it’s better to be traditionally published because they have more experience and know what readers want. Of course, I’ve never believed this, but I didn’t have evidence to back me up. The only evidence I’ve ever had was my own experiences and the experiences of other indie authors I know.

The subject of the article is a romance author, H.M. Ward, who suspected if she took her stories (which featured a “nice guy”) to a publisher, she’d be told, “Nice guys are boring”. I mean, I’m not a huge romance fan, but I do like to read them on occasion (especially if they’re fantasy, sci-fi or paranormal romances). And if you’ve ever read a romance, most of the time the male is the “bad boy” type who treats the female harshly to begin with (or maybe even all through the story). At the very least they have to appear “manly” or gruff. You know…a man’s man. Bottom line, you never see the nice guy in those stories.

If I had to wager a guess it’s because publishers have decided all women like the “bad boy” image, and it’s just a cliche that has stuck. Kudos to Ward for having the courage to step outside the box and publish her books to see how they’d be received. And well, it worked to her advantage.

Although we don’t really know for sure if her stories would have been accepted by the publisher, just from my own knowledge I’d pretty much guess she’s have landed in a slush pile somewhere. On her own, her books have become best sellers and she’s sold millions of copies of her books world wide since.

What have I decided to take from this?

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that they (or their industry leaders) know what readers want. The only way anyone could know what readers want is by asking them, and I have never seen any evidence that the publishing industry leaders have ever bothered polling the public to find out what they like.

If you have a story idea, and you’re not sure how it will be received, you have two choices. Visit forums and groups in your genre and poll the readers yourself to find out what the interest level is for that kind of story, or just write the book and see how it does. See for yourself what kind of feedback you get from it.

Another issue that I discussed with my husband was all about covers. Your book cover can make or break your book. So I’m constantly doing research and finding out what most attracts a reader to a cover. One thing I have learned is that the publishers don’t always know what readers want in this area either. Maybe they did at one time, but people change over time, and it seems the big publishers do not want to change with them.

In the article, they mention that the traditional smutty covers used in romance are actually not what the readers want. The covers are being toned down quite a bit by many indie authors and those books are getting a lot more attention than the smutty ones. So it’s very much the same with covers… don’t assume someone else knows what readers want simply because they claim to have more experience in the industry.

Something I know a lot of indie authors are doing now, and it seems to be working, is they are asking for a fans feedback on their covers before the book is even released. They will have at least four different concepts done and they will set up a poll to ask their readers which concept they like best. The one that gets the most votes becomes the cover for that book.

Not only does this find out what images the readers are most attracted to, but it helps your readers feel as though they are part of the process.

That’s another big difference between indie and traditionally published authors, as pointed out in the article. Traditionally published authors (for the most part…it’s not the same for all) are removed from their readership. They are essentially untouchable as far as the reader is concerned. Indie authors build a community around their readers. They interact with them on a daily basis and allow their readers to be part of their writing process instead of having to just wait around for that next book.

Maybe this is why indie authors are taking the industry by storm. Our readers want to feel like they’re part of our success.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the article. It’s got a lot of great information. Although it’s centered around the romance genre, the information is valuable to all self-published authors.

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Author Newsletter Poll Results

Back in February, authors Joshua Robertson, Allison D. Reid and I combined our regular author newsletters into one newsletter called Weekly Fantasy Fix. We take turns each week, putting together our individual issues packed with our updates, articles, giveaways, writing tips and more. Although, so far our response has been really good and we’ve seen consistent growth, we want to make it better.

So with that in mind, last month (June 2016) I put together a little poll to see what subscribers of authors newsletters were looking for as far as content, and also what entices them to subscribe. So far we’ve had 45 people respond, but we are looking for more. Here are the results so far, but I’ll keep updating them as I get more responses.

newsletter-results-december-2016

 

The first question I asked is what entices the reader to subscribe to the author’s newsletter to begin with. If you can’t get people to sign up to your newsletter, then it’s all kinda pointless. (Just so you know, respondents were able to pick more than one answer.)

So far 86.7% of the people who took the poll say they are most likely to sign up if they’ve already read the author’s work. This reinforces my belief that giving away the first book in your series (or a book if you don’t have a series) is a good idea. Most people are not willing to risk their money on a new author, and you need them to sign up to your newsletter to sell more books.

55.6% have said they will sign up if the author is offering a freebie. So if you have your first book free and offer the second free to new subscribers, you’ve now increased your chances of getting a new signup (this is of course assuming they liked your first book and actually want to read the second). It’s really important to note that you shouldn’t offer a book that is already free to download. If they can already get it free, they’re not going to bother signing up for your newsletter. I’ve even known some authors to write a short story or novella that fits with their current series, but isn’t essential to the series, and make that a subscriber only deal.

Only about 28.9% of the people have said they would subscribe based on referrals from family and friends, but still… it’s always a good idea to get your readers to tell their family and friends about your work.

There were various things added to the others category:

  • Reading the author’s newsletter (1)
  • Updates on interesting blog posts (1)
  • They provide valuable content (2)
  • How to’s and tips (1)
  • Visuals and a great blurb (1)
  • Sales/Discounts (1)
  • Depends on the genre (2)
  • Free sample chapters (1)
  • General interest (1)

newsletter-results-december-2016-2

 

The next question had to do with the content. I asked what they enjoyed reading in an author’s newsletter. (Again, they were able to choose more than one answer.)

80% said they want to hear about what the author is working on right now.

66.7% want to hear personal stories about the author, and new release announcements.

56.6% want to read articles about the author’s genre.

55.6% want subscriber only discounts and giveaways.

51.1% want to see writing, editing and marketing tips for authors.

48.9% want to see spotlights on other authors in their genre.

44.4% want to have access to subscriber only short stories and flash fiction.

40% want to see genre related artwork and fan art

Only 3 people have added to the other category so far:

  • Sneaks peeks of their work.
  • Spotlights on other authors their author loves.
  • Only author related material.

I think focusing on the top three or four things would be the best idea, and then maybe casually mentioning some of the others so that everyone is happy. We cover all these areas in Weekly Fantasy Fix. It’s a newsletter written for both writers and readers (especially since most writers are readers… or at least they should be), so if you want to check it out, you can sign up at the end of this post. We also give away 3 free books to our new subscribers, so it’s definitely worth the look.

Also, we’re looking for more responses to get a better overall view of what people are looking for (and we’re hoping this information will help other authors too). If you can help spread the word and share the poll form with your family and friends who love to read, that would be great!

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

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How I Use Twitter to Get More Downloads!

6359453691210392131222221661_TwitterLately I’ve been trying to figure out how to best promote myself through social media. I know it’s not the best place to “advertise”, but I also know a lot of other authors find a lot of success through that medium. The only problem is finding information about what really works is sometimes next to impossible, so I’ve mainly been experimenting.

Of course, social media should always be, first and foremost, a place to connect with others. To get to know them and allow them to get to know you both as an author and a person. I’m not a very social person, but I’m definitely a lot more social online than I am in person. And I have to say it’s a lot easier to connect with hundreds of people online more regularly than it is in person, and you get to meet people from all over the globe, which would normally be impossible without spending a lot of money on travel.

Aside from that, my main goal has been to get people downloading my free book, Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6). After reading that, if they enjoyed it, they can also get Part 2 by signing up to my newsletter, Weekly Fantasy Fix. Then I can use my newsletter to promote my other books.

Twitter has been my best resource for this method. I use StatusBrew to keep up with my activity and schedule my tweets. It allows me to set up a welcome message that goes out to all my new followers, thanking them and inviting them to download my free book. Since I started doing this, my downloads have more than tripled. It’s even resulted in a few unsolicited reviews on Amazon. So I know I’m headed in the right direction.

Have you tried something on Twitter that has been working for you? Tell me about it!

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