Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Modern Marketing For The Indy Writer Part III

Part One: Evaluate, Strategize, Execute, Re-Evaluate
Part Two: Sales Targets & Solid Foundations
Part Three: The Marketplace, Your Product & You
Part Four: Branding - Why Your Book Cover Matters
Part Five: Top Five Marketing Dos & Don'ts

Part III: The Marketplace, Your Product & You

If you've been following this series then you know that in Part One I asked you to take a long, hard and painfully honest look at your book and your marketing efforts. More than that, I wanted you to directly compare your work to other best-selling indy authors, gauging your efforts vs theirs. 

In Part Two I asked you to come up with a realistic and well-researched sales target, along with a set timeframe to achieve it.

These tasks were designed to help you build a solid foundation for your marketing platform. Those were my short term goals. My longterm goal for this series remains the same: I want you to know (and I mean, really, really believe!) that you can and should be selling more books.

Today, I'm going to tell you how. Today I'm going to do my damnedest to change your mindset.

You vs The World? Nope. You vs You.

80,000 books were released for Amazon Kindle this month, and there are now nearly three million eBooks available in the Kindle store. I'm not telling you this to depress you. I'm telling you because I want you to forget all about those books. They don't matter.

The only thing that matters today is you. You and your book.

Why? Because 98% of those other books are simply terrible and most of them will never sell. They look awful, they sound like nonsense and they're formatted like crap (ugh! so easy to fix!). And worst of all, they read like crap, with go-nowhere plots and completely forgettable characters.

These books are garbage, and, guess what? Readers are fed up with them clogging the marketplace. I'm fed up with them!

Amazon readers are suffering from crappy-book-fatigue syndrome. It's up to us to provide the cure.

In marketing terms, this is what we call an opportunity.

This is our way in. Why? Because our book isn't going to be any of those things. Our book is going to be written, rewritten, and rewritten some more, not to mention, subjected to brutal and thorough criticism from qualified readers who are going to tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. It's going to be professionally edited and formatted, and it's going to feature a brilliant, exciting and completely original, professionally-designed cover by an artist who's already designing best-selling book covers. And when we do publish our book it's going to be aggressively priced to move!

In marketing terms, this is what's called 'removing barriers to entry.' This is our strategy, and that's why we're going to actively slam aside each and every barrier we can.

The best news of all is that our book doesn't even need to stand out from the crowd, at least not that much, because that 'crowd' is filled with books that are so bloody awful all our book has to do is stand a little to the side.

In the case of Amazon, 'niche marketing' can be as simple as us taking those extra steps, walking that extra mile, and doing all those little things that most indy-writers never do.

But we will. We're going tackle it all. And if there's something that needs doing that we don't know how to do then we're going to bloody well learn it. We're not going to make excuses.

This is what will set us apart.

Paradigm Shift

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that there's been a massive shift in the publishing business these past twenty years. Amazon has turned the business on its ear, and indy-eBooks are outselling trad-books in almost every genre-fiction category. Just check out the top hundred list for scifi and you'll see it's dominated by indy authors—just like you and me!

As a result, traditional publishing houses are struggling to stay afloat, and for good reason. Publishing was never supposed to be free-market capitalism. But it is now. The big trads have completely lost control of the marketplace, and now their big-budget books are being crushed by a flood of low-priced indies.

This isn't news. We know this (or we should). But what does this paradigm shift mean for the independent writer?



That's right, nothing. While the trads might be struggling, we've always been struggling. That's why for you and me this shift doesn't change a damn thing. The barriers to our success are exactly the same today as they were twenty years ago. We were struggling to get noticed then, and we're struggling to get noticed now.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago, the only way to sell books, and I mean in meaningful numbers, was to go through a traditional publishing house. But when 98% of all manuscripts submitted are being rejected, finding a publisher can seem like a monumental task. 

We thought that self-publishing was the answer, but we were wrong. Why? Because the same obstacles that kept us from getting noticed by a publisher are the very same obstacles (with a few new extra ones thrown in) that are stopping us from finding readers today.

What we didn't appreciate then, and what's still true today, is that each and every manuscript that gets rejected by a publisher (ours included) is being rejected for exactly the same reason: they're not ready. They aren't finished.

These manuscripts are drafts. They are incomplete—not ready for publication.

Talk to any professional reader or editor and they'll tell you the same story. They're not rejecting us because they want to. Quite the opposite. They're desperate to find the next greatest thing. Their job depends on it. And the reason for their rejections is not a simple case of good novels vs. bad. Most novels submitted (and most novels self-published today) are simply not ready. They need work. They need rewriting—and they need a good editor. And today, they absolutely need proper packaging.

The Savvy Writer

The savvy writer will recognize this. She knows that massive pile of submissions isn't the obstacle to her success at all. It's not the other books preventing her from finding readers, it's her own. She knows that editors (and readers!) are as desperate to find a good book to read as she is to be found!

That's why she's going to do everything she can to supply her publisher with a body of work that's as near and ready for publication as she can possibly make it. She's going to work her butt off when it comes to developing her craft, and she's not going to sit back and hope a publisher might see 'promise' in her work. She wants them to see opportunity. She wants them to see a book that's good to go.

And…the savvy writer will make damned sure she only submits her work to the right publisher, as there is very little to be gained by submitting her zombie-vampire S&M novel to a publisher of literary maritime fiction.

"But, wait!" you say. "We're not looking for a publisher! We're self-publishing!"

Just because we can publish ourselves doesn't mean we don't need to worry about rejection letters anymore. This is where the real paradigm shift has happened. Twenty years ago it was the publishers who were sending out rejections. Today it's the readers of Amazon. Today, they're the ones slogging through the very same pile of submissions that editors used to slog through.

This is the new reality, and this is why it's so important we take each and every extra step that we can.

This is Marketing

I can't stress this enough.

More than anything else, good marketing is about removing barriers to sales. And that's what you'll be doing when you take the time (and make the investment), in making your novel as professional as it can be.

As of today you are not a 'self-publisher.' Gawd, I hate that term! You are an independent publisher, and you're going to be every bit as professional as any of the big publishing houses.

This is why your novel is going to stand out from the crowd. 

Remember readers, just like editors, are searching for your book. They want to find your book. Especially on Amazon. They're weary, and they're fatigued. But our book is going to welcome them with open arms.

Our our packaging, our presentation, everything we do, is going to let them know they've arrived.

If All This Is Obvious Then how come everyone's not doing it?

Most people who publish do it for fun, out of curiosity, or out of hope. They want to see if their book finds a market. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Minimal effort, minimal investment (in time and money) = minimal risk. For many of us, this is exactly the path we should be taking. Remember, it's all about the goals you set for yourself in Part Two. Let your goals dictate the pace of your work. The higher you set the bar, the harder you're going to have to dig in.

But if you've been there and done that, if you're not happy with the results you're getting, then you must consider taking the next step.

Yes, it's work. It's lots of lots of work. And money. It's headaches and heartaches, too. In my own case, as a first time novelist, there were many, many (many!) rewrites, and I went through six different editors before I finally found the one I knew I needed, and my cover cost me $1500. I've tried the 'bargain' route before and it simply doesn't work. But I also knew this was an absolutely necessary part of the process.

And, yes, it paid off. I can't tell you how many kind emails I've received from readers who thanked me for putting so much work into editing and formatting. I even got more letters from people who admitted they bought my book because of the cover art. Those letters said it all.

They let me know that all that work was worth it.

HOMEWORK: Eliminating barriers to sales.

  • First, take a deep breath. I really mean it when I say that you shouldn't be intimidated by the fact that there's millions of books out there. They don't matter. Focus on your work. Focus on your book.
  • Ask yourself, is my novel a draft, or is it really, really finished? Has it truly been put through the critical wringer?
  • Is my novel properly formatted? Have I checked and double-checked its formatting on multiple devices? Do all the viewing options function properly (single page vs. facing page, for example)?
  • Has my novel been professionally edited by an experienced editor?
  • Is my book cover generic and royalty free, or one of a kind?
  • Does my book title tell a story?
  • Is my book blurb exciting enough?

Next Week: Branding - Why Your Book Cover Matters

Next week we're going to get into the real nitty gritty. Next week we're going to thoroughly examine your presence on Amazon. This means your book page, your book blurb, your cover, your bio and links to your web-pages and twitter feeds—everything that's going to make people sit up and take notice.

Until then, cheers, and thanks for reading.


  1. Cary THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for saying this!! Last night I wasn't able to get past the first three pages of an indie romantic suspense I thankfully picked up for free. Why? It was a draft. And a bad draft at that. I know just enough about the subject matter to know the author did not do her research. She just slapped it together and put it out there. Which is sad, because I had hopes based on the cover and title.

    I don't even send a manuscript to my crit partner until I've made the first edit on it. Except for the rare times she's able to read with me as I go. She then shreds it for me, and doesn't hold back. Her, combined with the editor I found, make my perfect combination.

    1. Rachel, it's great hearing you have such a brutal crit-partner. It's essential. And I always find working with a real editor to be a mind-blowing experience. It always makes my head explode.

    2. We're a match made in critique heaven. She's also a few steps ahead of me on the journey and has been published by a small press. She had an awesome editor and shared with me what she learned. I also have a lot of traditionally published friends, a couple who are bestsellers in their genre, and they're always willing to answer my questions about stuff.

  2. You've put lots of time and energy into these posts, Cary, and it shows! (Not that I would expect anything less from you.) You're very generous to share your experience with the world. (Again, not that I would expect anything less.) :)

    1. Thanks, Heidi. I'm always worried when I write these posts that all I'm going to accomplish is bending people's noses out of shape (which is never my intention).


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