Indie Thoughts: How To Sell Loads of Books

From Russell Blake.

This does not represent the only way to do things, but it’s my way, and is the synthesis of everything I’ve learned over the last 23 months of self-publishing:

1) Pick one genre that’s popular and with which you are extremely familiar, and then write in that genre. Stick to it. Don’t hop around. It confuses your potential readers and muddies who you are in their minds, and will hurt your sales. If you want to write different genres, use a pseudonym, and if you like, let your readers know that moniker is you. But stick to one name, one genre, because you’re building your brand, and brand building is a function of clarity – clearly communicating what you do, and what your product is.

2) Write a series. Why? Because readers like series, and you want to give readers what they like. Or you won’t sell as much. You can try stand-alone – I have – but my series outsell my stand-alone books 4 to 1. Once you have at least three books in the series, make the first one free. Earn your income from the rest, but give readers a whole novel to decide whether they like you or not.

3) Write a lot. By that I mean try to write at least 3 novels a year. Don’t bother with short stories or novellas (40K or under) if you’re writing fiction – erotica, romance and non-fiction reportedly to do better with short form, but I don’t know from personal experience. Write 60-90K installments in your series, and release them AT MINIMUM every four months. Every three months would be better. Every two, better still. Momentum breeds success, and readers have short memories. The current market is a hungry animal, and you need to feed it, or risk being forgotten by the time your next one releases. Sorry. It’s the truth. And don’t start whining about how X famous author only puts out one book every Y years. If you’re Dan Brown and you sell tens of millions of novels each whack, then do whatever the hell you like. If you aren’t, listen up, or chock your strategy up to, “Become the next Dan Brown” and stop reading this drivel.

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5) Allocate time every day to write, and be disciplined. I suggest minimum one hour per day, or 1000 words. I actually ignore that and shoot for 5000-7000 a day when writing a novel, but that’s just my approach, and it’s not for everyone. My point is that you must be disciplined about your writing and develop that muscle. If you don’t make it a habit, you won’t write enough to put out one novel every four months, and you’ll already be way behind the curve.

6) Allocate time every day to market. I recommend a 75%/25% writing to marketing mix. So spend an hour writing every day, and fifteen-twenty minutes marketing (social media, blogging, interviews, message boards like this). Two hours writing, half hour to forty minutes marketing. And so on.

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13) Price competitively and intelligently. Look at your genre. Where are most books priced? Are you undervaluing/underpricing your work? Price to sell, but don’t go cheap, no matter what Locke or Hocking did years ago. Use low prices occasionally to move product, as promotional pricing. But price your product consistently with the rest of your peers. Over time, you can increase prices, if your product warrants it and your readership is willing to pay it. My advice here is don’t price too low, or too high.

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19) Have realistic goals. Look at what the average person does in their first year, and their second. That’s average. It ain’t pretty. If you want to be different than average in a good way, you need to do something better/different, and you need to make your own luck. Don’t get bummed because you haven’t been an overnight sensation. I sold $300 of novels in November, 2011, after six months of 15 hour days and seven releases. In December, 2011, I released five novels I’d been working on for months, to create a massive Xmas surge. I leaped to $1450. With a dozen books out. That’s not exactly a ton for the big Xmas season. But I continued writing as though my work was in hot demand. And I kept investing in my product, losing money, until it turned the corner and I started making decent money in Jan of 2012.

20) Book selling is a retail business, and retail businesses are promotions intense. You’re only going to be as good as your last, and next, promotion. Promotions are a necessary fact of life in retail. You have to generate noise – the product won’t do it by itself. There are millions of books out there. Yours are just more books. Figure out how to get some visibility. I won’t advise you on how – there are plenty of ‘experts’ that will charge you $5 for a book on what worked two years ago. Simply put, it’s constantly changing, so you need to experiment and push the envelope, share information with others and stay ahead of the curve. But if you aren’t promoting, you’re stalling. In business you’re either shrinking, or growing. If you aren’t promoting, chances are you aren’t growing.

There are 28 tips in all at “How to Sell Loads of Books.”

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