Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Discoverability: Four Ways to Win Readers When Self-Publishing


Please welcome Susan Kaye Quinn!
"Discoverability" = the ability to have readers discover your work, fall in love, write glowing reviews, and send chocolate-covered kisses to your bank account in the form of royalty deposits. The ways to reach readers are forever shifting. In our connected world, readers today are discovering books at the speed of electrons. This connectivity, plus direct distribution to readers, is what makes a career in indie publishing possible.

What's the right way to find your readers? Any way that works.

Four keys to making it work:

Make Great Art (Hat Tip to Neil Gaiman) A fantastic book/blurb/cover makes marketing possible. An unprofessional cover, stumbling blurb, or a story that doesn't satisfy won't sell, no matter how much time or money you spend. It all starts with a great product. There are always exceptions, but in general, well-selling books are giving readers something for their money.

Give (Some Of) It Away Publishers have forever been using free samples to entice readers to discover a new author. Virtually every well-selling indie author I know has used free as part of their marketing strategy to get a large sample of their work in reader's hands to whet their appetite. But they're smart about it: they set the first book in a series free and don't give away their only book. I'm a fan of permafree over Select, but both have their uses. Other strategies: giveaways on Goodreads (print) or LibraryThing (ebook); ARC giveaways for your loyal fanbase; free short stories for newsletter subscribers.

Get It Reviewed Reviews count in the Amazon algorithms that can help sell your book 24/7 while you're working on the next one. If you have a fanbase, free ARCs to loyal fans in exchange for reviews is a great way to get a book started. Review copies for book bloggers, or bloggers in your readership niche (say steampunk or historical), can generate great quality reviews. A Netgalley membership (especially as part of a co-op) has reviewers self-selecting for interest in your book.  

Advertise It Be very wary of paid advertising. Only a few services generate enough sales to pay for the ad, and they're always changing. Bookbub is the gold standard. Their prices are high but I've yet to hear of an author who didn't make back their money (and move a lot of copies in the process). Carefully vet any other paid advertising against the Bookbub model of tailored email lists and transparent subscriber rates. Other ways: Goodreads giveaways; blog tours; cross-promoting with other authors in reader-focused events (like my recent Steampunk with Heart week). The key here: always fish in new ponds, not just in your own backyard.  

THE KEY: Always be thinking outside the box, trying new things, and writing your next book. Most of all, be patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes time for word of mouth to spread and fanbases to grow.


Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction, and has been indie publishing since 2011. She writes speculative fiction for all ages, from middle grade fantasy to adult future-noir, and her foray into non-fiction includes her Indie Author Survival Guide, a guide for the heart as much as the head. Her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and you can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she's up to.
Indie Author Survival Guide
Kindle | Nook | Print
This book is for every author who's thinking about indie publishing, or has already taken the leap, and wonders why no one told them about the sharks, the life-sucking social media quicksand, or the best way to avoid sales-checking, yellow-spotted fever. Check out Susan's free webinars on 10 Ways to Survive Indie Publishing and Facing Your Fears.

31 comments:

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Susan,
Informative post. I've dabbled a few times in advertising that didn't pay. It's wise to do some research before laying down cash.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great advice. The try something new is my promotional motto for this year.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great advice! I've been so leery of paid advertisements. Everyone hypes up Book Bub but it's so expensive.

L.G. Smith said...

Good stuff. And, yes, probably the best thing anyone can do is come to the market with a good quality product to sell.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

JL - I'm currently in the middle of evaluating some ad sites (again - because effectiveness is constantly changing). I'm willing to try things, to see if they can deliver, but if they don't - they get struck from the list. And I tell other people. Similarly, I ask around and participate in groups where we share what the lastest ad was that worked. The info is usually out there, but you have to look for it.

Susan - Good luck! Sounds like a great approach!

Nicole - Everyone pales at the BookBub price tag, but to me it's a classic case of not really understanding return on investment. Yes, you have to invest in the Bookbub ad - but I know of very few places that can almost guarantee to pay back that investment within a few days. Granted, you have to pay the ad in advance (less than 30 days) and the money from the sale boost won't come in for 60 days. So, technically, you have to float the cash for 90 days. But I don't personally know of any author where the ad didn't pay it'self back (often times generating more income in addition to sales). It's really one of those things that, if you can get it, you should take it.

JennaQuentin said...

Great points. I appreciate indie authors who share and mentor like this!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

LG- I know saying "write a good book" is pretty cliche, but it's also true. And I think, in the flurry of marketing, it's easy to think there's some marketing "trick" that will sell a book, if we could just discover it. But the truth is you simply have to give people something they already want.

Jenna - Thanks so much!

Pat Hatt said...

Many ad sites are useless, Bookbub is the only one I've used that actually worked

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Pat - that's very true, but I'm ever hopeful that new ad sites will follow the Bookbub model and create some alternative places to reach readers. One I recently had some success with is Free Kindle Books and Tips.

Michelle Wallace said...

Great post!
I like the "always fish in new ponds" advice which goes hand-in-hand with "thinking out of the box"...
Since I have decided on the self-publishing option, I gotta get my fishing gear ready...

Julie Musil said...

Susan, thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience.

Guys, her Indie Survival Guide is a MUST READ for indies. Seriously.

Chemist Ken said...

I'm so looking forward to the excitement of tackling all these aspects of marketing and discoverability when my book is finished. But that's probably because I have no clue how much time and effort they'll require. Thanks for the information.

Crystal Collier said...

Susan, you are as helpful as always. Thank you for your epicness. =)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Julie and Crystal - thank you - you guys are too kind.

Michelle - I firmly believe all indies should be outside the box more than in.

Ken - The excitement of marketing wears off after the first nervous breakdown or two. ;) Seriously, it's good that you're excited - that's the attitude you need to have to carry you through.

Lynda R Young said...

Great tips, Susan. I especially agree with making great art. It's so important and yet so many indie authors seem to forget this detail.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Lynda - I think *first time* indie authors get swamped in learning the business side and may lose focus on the art for a while. But they almost always come back to it - whether sales are great or abysmal, they eventually realize that the art is what it's all about for them. And always improving is the only way to move forward (in the art and the business).

Sher A. Hart said...

I came to find out if anybody else is having trouble with GFC's follow widget. It hasn't worked for two days. How cool to find you here, Susan! I'm trying to publish my mom's poem as a picture book, and I'm always happy to learn how to market. Even though it's a family book, it has potential. What kid wouldn't be interested in taking a bath--with the Loch Ness Monster? The best thing about the story is the art. We found a great illustrator, Vicky Bowes. I'm excited.

Empty Nest Insider said...

Self-publishing sounds like a great way to go. Thanks for all of your advice, Susan!

Julie

Terri Rochenski said...

Susan,

Great post! The best piece of advice I've gotten as an indie author is to keep writing. Rarely does that first novel hit it big - write the next & the next. The fan base will grow as well as sales on those older books.

I won't ever pay for advertising, for with cyberspace at my fingertips there are countless people to connect with.

Thanks so much for sharing (yesterday!).

Terri @ Scribbler's Sojourn

Elsie Amata said...

ah yes, my time will be arriving before I know when I have to really sit down and think about a book cover. I know what I want, I just don't know how to get it =)

Elsie
AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Sher A Hart - your project with your mom's book sounds delightful! I'm no help with PB's but I've connected a few PB writers before and they seem to help each other. Good luck! (PM if you need a contact!)

Julie - Thanks for stopping by!

Terri - I was very much a "I'll never pay for advertising" person in the beginning. But I forced myself to pay for a Pixel of Ink ad (back when you could still get one paid), and it made a substantial difference in getting my book to people who were outside my pond. Cyberspace DOES have countless people, but that also means it takes time to connect with them. I still do that (a lot) but there's always a balance of time and money - if you want to keep writing, judicious use of ads can get you "initial contacts" with people outside your fanbase with minimal time on your part. I generally spend my time on attending/connecting with people already in my fanbase, my money on reaching people outside my fanbase, and let my works convert the ones outside to the ones inside.

Elsie - I have a chapter in my book (and on my website) that talks all about cover design.

Elana Johnson said...

This is a great article! I love that last bit where Susan says this is a marathon, not a sprint. So true, and something that a lot of authors overlook or forget.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Elana - Hey, thanks for stopping by! It's easy to get caught up in all the publishing details, especially when you first plunge in. But (hopefully!) we all have long careers ahead of us! For me, at least, when I keep that in mind, I navigate the ups and downs a lot better.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

An interesting post that I enjoyed reading. Some good advice.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent tips, Susan. Thanks.

Stephen Tremp said...

Susan, your book is on my TBR List. I'll get to it by month's end. Good luck with everything!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thanks Stephen! I hope you find it helpful! :)

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post. I always listen to Gaiman! Have a terrific weekend.

Dean K Miller said...

Outside the box seems to be my best bet so far. I've "placed" several copies of my first book "for free" in over 6 countries and more than 15 states with a little creativity, some postal expenses and friends in great places. The opportunities are out there, some you need to scour about for. Not all will pay off, but when you see someone pick up your book (in a foreign country,) smile as they start to read it and then put it in their bag for later is kind of cool.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Dean - Readers definitely make the writer's world go round! :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Great tips, Susan!
Can't go wrong with a Neil Gaiman reference either :-)