What I know. What I don’t.

OK, I am still in the learning curve when it comes to independent publishing. I have a marginal background in marketing, having worked professionally as a book and magazine editor. But no formal training, and this whole online experiment is all totally new to me. So for the most part, we’re making this thing up as we go along.

What’s fascinating–and frustrating–is that there is a lot of divergent and contradictory advice out there about selling your own books. But based on six months of reading and experimenting, here’s what I have learned about book marketing (that is, until someone tells me otherwise).

I put more credence on surveys than I do on subjective advice, so most of my counsel will be based on that source. I have heard lots of strategies that have been recommended for promoting yourself online, and I am sure some help more than others. But my time is very limited, so I have to cut to the chase. Here are the three places where you can invest the most time and money with the biggest return:

1. Professional cover art

2. Competent editing and proofreading

3. Reviews

Other stuff–such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and all the other social networks–can lead to results, but not directly. Because they are social networks, the operative word is “community.” That means that you have to develop relationship with followers, which takes time. And since writing is my second job behind being a college professor, time is not a commodity I have in abundance.

So I will focus on what I know, and what I know I can do well.

What don’t I know?

Pricing is frustrating for me. Price it too high and you scare people away who don’t know who you are. Price it too low, and you don’t get a proper return on your investment, and your product looks like it isn’t worth their time.

So here’s what I am going to do. I have priced my three ebooks, Tom Horn vs. The Warlords of Krupp, The Kiss of Night, and If Tomorrow Comes at $2.99. They were selling pretty good for a while, but sales have slowed. I tried bringing in a collection of my short stories and giving them away for free with the purpose of getting my name known. That’s been relatively successful–people are downloading the book–but hasn’t really resulted in any sales.

I believe that the problem is still that readers aren’t familiar with me. So during the month of June, I will sell all of my books for 99 cents. Let’s see if that makes a difference. I will also focus on reviews and see if I can get any attention that way.

My big project–The Champion series–will be coming out later this summer. I hope that I can drum up some attention in time for its launch.

This is a really weird blog–more like a journal entry than anything else. But I am being honest here. This is all stuff I need to learn.

I approached this endeavor with the understanding that even if I didn’t sell any books I would learn things I could share in the classroom. Well, that much is true.

Trouble is, there are no clear cut answers.

3 thoughts on “What I know. What I don’t.

  1. Do you seek the advice of other self-published writers that have succeeded? That would be my main source of knowledge. I’m about go launch in to self-publishing. I have a faith in my work, but I also seem to be really good at the social media aspect of things. We’ll see how it works out.

    1. I would say yes, but what I see happening is lots and lots of advice, some of it contrary to others. I continue to read others’ success stories, but the bottom line is just like everything else in writing: you have to see what works for you. At least, that’s my perspective.

      1. That is true – but seeing how successful people find success can help you map things out a bit better. I understand the whole “There is way too much advice” thing, since I am currently cutting back on my own data stream. However if you look at people like Michael A. Stackpole and others and see what they are doing, it does help. At least it helps me 🙂

        I actually sat on a few panels with Stackpole and others over the weekend. What I took away? Make a plane. Don’t expect to get rich off of self-publishing, at least not right off. Gain a loyal following that will buy your products. Keep a steady stream of content coming out, but don’t worry about how fast it is produced. (IE: stay consistent with your own abilities.)

        My ultimate goal is to be able to make a living off my own writing. We’ll see how long it takes me to get to that point.

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