by Doug Lewars
There are four things involved with producing your masterpiece. You need to write, edit, research and market it. I’m including plot development within research. If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you have the research and writing under control, the editing more or less under control and the marketing … well maybe not so much. You realize it has to be done but you also realize it might be more pleasurable to poke yourself in the eye with a sharp stick. The real question you need to ask is how much are you prepared to give of yourself in order to obtain commercial success.
I recently encountered an individual who has one book published. He generated roughly four times as much income from that book in one month as I’ve received from publishing twelve books over a four year period. Is his book substantially better than mine? Beats me, I haven’t seen it; nevertheless, I don’t think it can be that much better. So what did he do that I’m not doing?
First, he publishes on Amazon. I publish on Smashwords. I realize that publishing on Amazon would increase readership but Amazon likes their authors to jump through hoops and I’ve reached a stage in life where I’m not much interested in that sort of thing. However, I have to concede that it is a remarkably good platform. In addition to e-books they have a print-on-demand service so that clients can request, and receive, a printed version. That’s quite attractive although I expect it drives up the price considerably.
Next, he produces a weekly or monthly podcast. I don’t remember which. The thing to realize is that by doing this he generates followers and they, in turn, buy his book. To the best of my knowledge, the podcasts are free and act as a marketing tool – a fairly effective one based on his sales.
Lastly he has a Patreon account and I believe it is this more than anything else that drives revenue for him. Patreon is a double-edged sword. It works. There is no question about it. On the other hand, you have to be prepared to relate constantly with your readers. Since they’re paying you a monthly stipend of some amount you need to reciprocate by keeping them in the loop – what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, bits of research you’ve dug up, plot points you’re considering, snippets from your work in progress, what colour underwear you’re wearing – well maybe you don’t have to go quite that far, but you get the idea. For someone like myself who is pretty much a recluse, the thought of being so public fills me with horror. I wouldn’t go so far as to completely rule it out, but I’m certainly not champing at the bit to get started.
Whatever the case, these are the things he does and they’re a heck of a lot more effective than anything I’m doing. So, if you want commercial success, you need to get out there and social media is the way to do that.
Unfortunately there is a trade-off. One moderately successful author I follow publishes about seven micro-blog entries per day. I usually post one and that often takes fifteen minutes or more, so seven would take more time that I’m prepared to commit. Granted she’s pretty good at posting simple things such as how many words she wrote in a day along with the last sentence she produced, but the point is, by posting many times she’s bound to come up near the top of followers’ dashboards and be noticed. Being noticed is half the battle. If you consider just the top social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and maybe Reddit, and if you spend 15 minutes on each, that’s an hour from your day. It’s quite possible you don’t have an hour to invest; nevertheless, you need to be noticed if you want commercial success.
So what seems reasonable?
- Join a writers’ group on Facebook and post. You’ll encounter interesting people if nothing else. Periodically remind your friends that you have great books in which they might be interested. Remember, shameless self-promotion sells. Keep it in moderation though or readers will just skip over your posts.
- Join a writers’ group on LinkedIn. Authors there tend to be a little more established and you can obtain some good ideas from them.
- Blog somewhere. You don’t have to blog much but you do need to do so regularly. I use Tumblr but had I been thinking when I started I’d have probably gone with WordPress.
- Review on Goodreads and periodically note how you might have done something differently.
- Put a chapter or two on Wattpad. Just don’t put too much. I haven’t done this yet but it’s on my to-do list.
- Read something small out loud and put it on YouTube. Alternatively you can use YouTube as a form of podcasting. If you’re good at video, trailers for your books will help.
- And if you are really serious about financial success then get onto Patreon or Liberapay. I think there’s a new one coming out soon but I don’t have the name yet.
- Use some of the writing hashtags on Twitter.
None of these will guarantee success and some may result in frustration but, unfortunately, even those of us who write fantasy can’t use magic to drive sales. It’s marketing, marketing and more marketing.
Guest post contributed by Doug Lewars. Doug is not necessarily over the hill but he’s certainly approaching the summit. He enjoys writing, reading, fishing and sweets of all sorts. He has published ten books on Smashwords.com.