This week, I’ve been knocking around some indie resource sites. Trad authors, take note – if you ever want to know how to market yourself and your book, go talk to the indies. They know so much about how Amazon works, where to get reviews, about blog tours and hops, mailing lists and loads of other goodies. The work they put into marketing their books – with no publisher support, remember – and building their brand is jaw-dropping. I have huge respect for them.
So, of course, me being me and wanting to do well at this writing lark, I should have immediately ran off and explored All The Things. But I didn’t.
Partly this is to do with the law of diminishing returns. I’ve tried multiple book sites that list my book on offer (speaking of which, Inish Carraig is 99p next week… just saying…) and, frankly, the returns are rarely much more than I spent on the promo, especially once I calculate the time to set it all up. Next week, I have an ad on Book Barbarian (who I find always bring me in more sales than the cost of the ad) and that’s it. Sure, I could go and place some more, and I’d get more sales and better ranking but that would fall off quickly. It’s not worth the additional effort for me.
Ditto, review chasing. I know, I know, I know, I need reviews. I know some authors who are very good at getting reviews. They ask people directly for them, they are happy to contact those who’ve liked the book and suggest a review. Others are great at finding bloggers who review books.
For me, reviews mean most when they’re genuine and not sought. When someone liked my books enough to want to leave them. I know this is naïve, I know it goes against Marketing 101, but I’d rather have ten really honest reviews, than 10 that came in because I chased them. I think it shows in the review, when someone wrote it just because they wanted to and not because they thought they had to.
Last week, the first ARC reader of Waters and the Wild, the wonderful Annie Rose, fed back to me that they’d loved the book and were planning to tell everyone they knew that they loved the book and recommend it. That, to me, is worth ten Amazon reviews. Ditto this week when I had a surprise review go up in a well-respected journal. I like that it happened outside the Amazon sales-obsession bubble, that it wasn’t written to bring me up to the magic-50 review number, but because the reviewer found the book to have merit. That means more than any amount of drummed-up-to-bring-sales reviews could (and carries much more influence).
This publishing world never stops. I could rejoin a marketing site and pay some money to them and it could be just as wasted as the first time I did. I could book a sales-outlet a day next week and sell a hundred extra books for one week only. I could join more forums and spend less time on the ones I like, and have greater reach but less impact (and considerably more stress).
There is, honestly, no end to what I could do to be better at marketing, to get more margin, to receive more reviews. But I don't think I want to do it all.
So, what now? If I don’t want to do the things that successful indie authors do am I dooming myself to failure?
I don’t think so – because I’m not sure all the widgets and knowledge equal success. Certainly, not all of the authors using them seem to be breaking through – just like in every corner of the publishing world, some don’t. I don’t think they guarantee success any more than a dream-trad-publishing contract does. I do think they guarantee stress for me and that I’d be constantly measuring myself against expectations and others’ sales.
Just as in my consultancy work I can decide what works for me, how much to market and where and why, so I need to do in writing. Within that choice, there is a balance – and it’s up to me to find that balance. I think, in exploring the indie world, I’ve found my line in the sand. I’ve realised where I don’t want to waste my writing time (because, make no mistake, writing marketing time is stolen from my writing time), and where I am happy to (this blog!) and it’s liberating to do so.
Because, in deciding, I haven’t failed. Instead, I’ve chosen.