Indie Marketing

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So I’ve been planning and working on this whole indie publishing thing for quite a while, figuring things out, understanding processes, finding tools, working out Amazon and its particular tools and procedures, and so on. At this point, I feel like I’ve got a fair grip on the production side of things. Not that I know nearly enough, but I think I might be on the upslope of the Dunning Kruger bowl.

Believe it or not, however, the production piece is the easy piece. Fundamentally, the step from finished manuscript to e-book and even paperback, in current days, is primarily technical skills. And technical skills that, honestly, aren’t incredibly complicated anymore. That was probably not the case even five or six years ago. But, in that respect, the barrier to entry is actually lower than ever. The tools and experience out there are such that you can teach yourself those technical skills, no matter how tech phobic you might be. Patience and practice. Yes, I’m deliberately leaving out cover design. That’s as much art as tech to that, and finding the right combination of imagery, font, and layout is not necessarily easy; I don’t claim to be good at it, but I do like what I’ve produced so far.

And you thought the hard part was writing the book, but that gets easier the more practice you get, too. Not that it’s ever necessarily easy, and not that it isn’t a massive pain in the ass sometimes, but that’s the piece of things you became a writer for, right?

No, the hard part is the marketing. More importantly, it’s the marketing on a super tight budget. Or, depending on what kind of other commitments you have in life, the marketing on no budget.

There are a tremendous number of theories on marketing for independent authors and artists (and there is actually a crazy amount of talent that there). My research, because that’s the way you have to look at it, research, seems to indicate that there is no one right answer, surprise. You have to find the combination of things that works for you and put your name in front of the people who want to see your work.

For me, I don’t really have much of a budget. I’m actually loath to spend any money that doesn’t somehow contribute to the well-being of my family or its future. My immediate plan involves mostly social media. With, once I’ve had a tiny bit of success with that, adding in some contests and giveaways, and building some engagement tools.

Most of us treat social media like a time sink, something to do when we have nothing to do. It’s also a way keep up on what’s going on in our friends’ lives, engage in political debate, confirm our existing biases, and even discover new things that we might not have run across before.

I’ve got Facebook going, trying not to put too much of my writing and publishing stuff in front of my friends on my personal stream and getting most of it to my author page. I’ve you do things too much on your personal page, I think it seems like you want all of your friends to come and buy your stuff. And that’s not what I want. I do want my friends to know that I have stuff, maybe buy it if they like the look of it. If you’re reading this and we know each other, whether it’s virtually or in real life, and you don’t normally read science fiction or fantasy, honestly, spend your money on stuff you will actually enjoy. Don’t buy something just to support me, buy it because you want to read it. That said, I have plans for several projects over the next couple of years that are not, either strictly speaking or even necessarily at all, science fiction or fantasy. Check back once in a while. If you happen to know someone who reads science fiction and fantasy, who am I to tell you not to start a conversation with, “Hey, I have this friend who writes and publishes…”

At any rate, I think Facebook is sort of my primary tool at the moment. Twitter is in the repertoire as well, but it’s so easy to get lost in Twitter anymore, and if you don’t have a zillion followers to begin with, you’re pretty much not going to make enough noise to get in front of an audience. Still, it’s there, and it may be useful as a place for an audience to find you. I used to love Twitter, once upon a time, and I still feel like it could be a place for good interaction, I just don’t see anymore these days.

Instagram, not that I’m super heavy user of it, and by no means a social media influencer, has mainly been for pictures of me or my pets, sometimes together. My most common hashtag is #lifewithOllie, my “small” St. Bernard, who’s still a giant dog as far as most people are concerned. In between those pet pics, I’m throwing out cover reveal or update every so often. The dog pics get more likes, but the cover reveal works pretty well too, reaching at least the same number of people, and it’s not all the same people I would reach on Facebook or Twitter, so that’s a thing. Whether or not it makes a difference is an excellent question.

Good Reads. I used to really enjoy writing book reviews, but that sort of trailed off a year or so ago so that I didn’t really do one for any of the books I read in 2018, but I am still kind of interested in the reviews other people write about books I’m reading. I certainly need to figure out Good Reads more, because that’s where readers go. But it also seems feel like its set up so that you only market to your friends. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing on that platform, except that I feel like a large number of my friends on Good Reads are my friends so they can market to me.

But, it’s a good place to get reviews, right? That’s where readers go. It is the same reason to keep an updated Amazon author page, but I’m not sure I’d call either of those platforms social media.

And then there’s my website, but why would you go to my website unless you already want to see what I’m doing or are familiar with my work in some fashion. Still, I try to keep it current, up-to-date, and with the freshened with at least a couple of blog posts each week.

Honestly, the most important part of my marketing strategy right now is to maintain a steady stream of production, releasing new material regularly, and making sure what is currently my relatively small audience is aware of it.

There is more to come, but it has to build. All the marketing in the world won’t help you if you haven’t got any actual content. So I have not yet tried to solicit any book reviews. I have not yet run any contests. I have not yet done any giveaways. I will, just not yet. Like I said, the most important thing for me right now is to produce a fairly steady stream of content.

Keep your eyes open, because I have a detailed plan for everything I’m going to release this year, a rough plan for everything I’m going to release next year, and a very rough plan for the year after that. There’s also a five-year plan and a ten-year plan, but those mostly involve numerical targets, even though I’m pretty sure that if I covered all the novel ideas I currently have and would like to write, I would be good until about my 60th birthday.

I really should sit down and do some analysis on getting the most productivity out of my free writing time.

Be well, everyone.

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Lance
Lance Schonberg is an eclectic genre fiction author with more than two dozen stories published or on the way. 2019 is the year he dives into independent publishing, starting with "Thorvald's Wyrd", "Skip To My Luu", and "Turn the World Around". And he needs a more exciting short bio.

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