One of the things I love to listen to while doing stuff around the house (i.e. not writing) is The Author Hangout: Book Marketing Tips for Indie & Self-Published Authors podcast. Towards the end of his interviews, Shawn usually asks what three things his guests would do if they were starting out again.
It got me thinking about the three things I’d definitely do if I were to do it all over again.
- Write a series of at least three books and don’t publish until the third book is DONE. That way, you can release each book in 30 or 60-day intervals at the same time writing your next book. It’s less stress and the job’s already done, basically. All you have to do now is get them out the gate in 30, 60 and 90 days. If you happen to be writing a really wrong novel, like one that’s over 100k words, I’d definitely break it down into two or three books, again with each one releasing in 30 or 60 days.
- Start building your email list NOW. There are some amazing providers to start with like Mailerlite, which is free to use for up to 1000 subscribers. And unless you’re using Instafreebie which is an aweesome way to build subscribers by offering free content like a free first book (it could be that first of three books you just wrote in #1 or a short <10K word prequel), your subscriber list will be slow and more organic. Maybe people who find you on your blog and like what you write, whether it’s short stories or that free first book (that’s not free anywhere else but via your mailing list; it’s still for sale in all the outlets).
- Set aside a budget for marketing your book. So what if you wrote the best book ever? If you don’t tell anyone about it, or unless people start talking about it, no one will know. So you’ll need to have a budget on hand to start with advertising. It could be setting up a blog tour for a cover reveal before you release that first book and then a release blitz, or if you’re patient and willing to sit through countless Facebook how-to’s on making your Facebook ad, you could put a minimum of $5/day into advertising. You can also set up sale promotions (free or discounted price sales) and promote it through newsletter services. I’ll detail #3 below because the formatting for extra paragraphs under lists drives me batty.
I didn’t do FB ads for two years and when I started doing it in September/October last year, it was a total game changer for me. It meant that I had to budget my money because I had NO budget set aside for advertising, especially after I purchased my exclusive cover photo. It meant not buying that grande mocha latte at Starbucks if it meant I could apply that money to $5 of daily advertising instead.
What’s a reasonable budget? If you can spare it (remember, this is for long-term), set aside $1K – $2K to tide you over for 30 to 60 days while you’re helping your newly released book build up steam, get reviews, and also be more visible. At $5/day of advertising, I started seeing sales on a year-old release on all platforms (Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble) and it was definitely one of those “why didn’t I do this sooner?” moments, but it’s better to do it now than never.
If you don’t have $2K, then do it the way I did – no, not credit cards although I’ve seen authors do so much better with higher budgets, more than $50/day per ad. Being broke, I budgeted $35/week to ads and went one week at a time while I fine-tuned my ads to get the best click-through rate and cost as well as ROI (return on investment) that translated in sales… all while making sure I had the money on hand when Facebook billed and took the money automatically on the 29th of each month. Sometimes I paid every week so I wouldn’t be a nervous wreck towards the end of the month, especially considering Amazon’s 60-day net (I don’t get my royalties until 60 days after the sale). Don’t get me wrong: while FB ads worked for me right away, it may take some time for FB advertising to work for you and what works for me just might not work for you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t go into self-publishing without a budget, even if so many people say you can do it with zero investment. You may sell a few books to your friends and family, but you’ll need to sell more books to people you don’t know in order to keep at doing this (writing and publishing) for a long time.
What’s an alternative to FB ads? You can raise visibility for your book by holding sales promotions like free book downloads or 99 cent sales. To promote them, try newsletter services for your book promotions like BKnights (on Fiverr) which works for free books (free download days if you’re on KU), Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Daily (or ENT as they’re mostly known), Robin Reads, and more.
So those are the three things I’d do if I were to do this writing thing all over again. There are so many more things I’d do but for now, it’s a good start. What about you? What are the three things you’d do if you were to do this writing thing all over again?
When she’s not blogging about self-publishing, writing poetry or hanging out with her 7-year old little prince, Liz Durano writes women’s fiction and romance. Her latest novel, Everything She Ever Wanted, is available on Amazon and free to read on Kindle Unlimited.