I wrote most of this post 4 years ago. Not much has changed. I am still struggling to get the word out there on my books. And of course, I need help. I need your help.
I bug my close friends and family a lot to buy my work. Many of you who know me have been spared somewhat to this point. With three titles out for my sci-fi serial novella Gravity, one novel, one short story and another novel and at least one more short story coming in the next few months, I am really just on the cusp of beginning to build my hobby into a more legitimate career. I’ve asked for help, to have a link shared, to like my fan page, but sometimes I feel that the message gets washed away.
And I fear that many might not know exactly how to help, or they might be hesitating awaiting that next thing. Starting out as an independent writer leaves a lot of disadvantages, not least of which is a complete lack of a marketing team. Indies often have to go-it-alone.
It’s all about getting people to read what I write. And I know that there are people who would love to read my work. There is an audience out there. Us little indie writers often just need the help to wrangle them. Why wouldn’t you be interested in helping that out?
So how can you help? There are 6 essential ways: share, spread the word, review, download, read, and buy. Here is exactly what each means and how they each help.
This is strictly in reference to social networking. I am referring to broad posts, shares, etc. It’s that pesky share button Facebook, RT for Twitter, reblog in Tumblr, that you’ve already pressed (or ignored) for the umpteenth trendy cause or funny thing that passed through your feed.
So why not hit share to something that could have impact for someone you know? Sure it’s trivial in some regards. In contrast, an anti-bullying chain post seems so much more impactful than sharing a post about my website. Or that book I have for sale. Or my blog post that you enjoyed reading or think your friends might like.
But does your sharing the other post really do anything for those causes? It is arguable. At worst, it makes you feel better. Sharing a post from me about my writing really does something though apart from good feelings. It means more exposure. Exposure translates to possible readers. And it costs nothing more than a click.
It’s about getting people to see my work. The more who see, the more feedback I have a chance to get. And more importantly, the more people who see it might come to enjoy it.
And from there, more and more people might see it.
By all means, keep sharing those other posts so you don’t feel guilty about passing them up, but at least take the time to do the same to for that writer friend who’s been posting (ME! ME! ME!). Who knows, we might just reciprocate when you need it too.
Spread the Word
This is much more specific than sharing. Sharing is broad focused; this is narrow focused. I write sci-fi and thrillers. You know that your friends Harold and Jamie love sci-fi. And they are big readers. Sure, they see your news feed on Facebook, but you think that they might really like my book and it is chancy that they see that one post and pay enough attention to. Well… tell them about it… directly.
This is the old-fashioned way of doing things. Talking to people one-on-one. Social networking sites can still be involved, but it’s about directing it towards the right people.
This takes a little more effort than hitting share. It is that opportunity to be the one that introduces someone to something that they end up loving that will make it worth it. It is more personal, more direct, and more often has better results.
I know that I get a lot of what I enjoy from my friend cluing me in onto things I’ve been missing. Had I not had friends to tell me I’d never have found that I like Firefly (Steve), or Farscape (also Steve), or Harry Potter (my wife), or Dead Like Me (my brother), or How to Train Your Dragon (Brad), or the countless things my buddy Marcel has told me about. It is always great sharing passions with others and giving them more of something that they are passionate for as well. This is no different.
If they don’t like it though, then I never told you and this blog post never existed.
Number 3 on the list is increasingly involved. It also presumes that you’d have completed number 5 (read) before you can do this.
Write a review of the book(s). 5-star is awesome… if you genuinely feel that way, but a decent 3 or 4 star review will still go miles. Write a review on whatever outlet the books or stories are sold on. Reviews drive ratings, but they also can build confidence in someone else who is looking to buy, but is unsure. Reviews are so crucial that there are many people that buy and sell 5-star reviews.
That’s right: people can buy reviews. I don’t want to go that route. Self-respecting writers don’t want to go that route either.
Better reviews = more exposure. Amazon.com does some really nice marketing that incorporates ratings into search results. And they add search terms that can be then bunched with other styles and books that had similar reviews.
Above all, be honest too. Gushing 5-star reviews of a book for a friend or family member can back-fire too. Amazon has often yanked people and their books from the store when they found out said reader was buying false reviews. Be specific in there about the good and bad.
This next one is easy, cheap, and still helps tremendously. Does the writer you want to support have free material available? If the answer is “yes” then you need to download every last byte of it. The downloads lead to higher sales rankings (yes they are still there for free books as well. Free books help bridge sales for paid versions.
Downloading something will be seen by websites as a purchase. Purchases lead to higher rankings.
Even borrows count for those with Kindle Unlimited or Prime Memberships. Don’t use your monthly borrow on anything else? Consider getting one of my stories and paging through them. The download still helps the end result of helping gain exposure, even if it remains un-read.
But wait! There’s more!
This section is an add-in from the last time I wrote this. It is due to a change in the rankings and tracking systems. If you have a kindle, or kindle app on phone or tablet, when you download (or buy – see next section) a kindle ebook, it is tracked as a sale. But they also can track page-reads. And page reads have a pretty high weight on book and writer rankings.
Buying a print version can’t be tracked, but this isn’t about them.
In other words: sales are good; reads are better.
I left this one last because it is the touchier subject in my experience. Asking friends and family to look over a blog gets better (albeit negligible) responses than asking anyone to pull out money.
What I am asking for when I ask for people to buy my books is an investment in me and my work. I am not borrowing money. I am sellng a product for a profit.
Selling the book says that I feel that one should pay to read it. I put work into this and I want to get this out of you reading it.
The truest goal of the writer is always to gain more readers. A higher sales ranking does that. Like downloading, sales rankings can grow a readership by leaps and bounds. Amazon.com also has that wonderful “people who bought this also bought…” feature that is driven by sales.
The more people that have bought it also translates to “this must be good.”
Once the wallet is asked to be opened though, it is a tougher deal to broker. I understand. I don’t want to pay for something I cannot use or enjoy. I feel as though it is a waste. Even at $0.99, not being interested in the material or just not having a use or ability to use it can still deter one from buying.
But it is a HUGE help to the writer. If all of my friends on social networking were to just drop between $0.99 for one story to $9.94 for the full collection of my kindle ebooks in the next hour, my books would soar to near the top spot on amazon.com. $0.99… that is less than some candy. It is less than a cup of coffee.
Sure, there is that issue that the $0.99 price point is only for those with a kindle or a kindle app. Each book in print runs between $6 to $9. Not many of my friends have an ereader. To them, spending $0.99 to buy one of my books is a waste. To a degree, I cannot argue that.
But there are smart phones and tablets and computers which all have the ability for one to read an ebook. Inconvenient? Yes. There is that question though as to just how much you want to help. Spending $0.99 because you know it’ll help a lot and won’t really hurt your wallet isn’t such a bad thing. You’ll still have the product, though it may still be useless to you. It still sends the message of “I SUPPORT YOU AND WANT TO SEE YOU SUCCEED!”
In everything I said above, the biggest drive is to get readers. All of those methods lead directly to that cause. I want people who will enjoy my work as I have done for so many others.
As a burgeoning independent writer, now is the best time to do any and all of these actions. I only really have friends and family and those random strangers that stumble upon these reads. Spending $0.99 (or more), or sharing a link, or sharing a post, or telling a friend, or writing a review greatly increases the chances a stranger will stumble upon the book.
Eventually, if it is done enough, it’ll take care of itself along with the efforts I am making on the side. There are plenty of examples of this working already. But it still needs the kindling and a match to start the burn.
So here’s the questions: do you want to help? And how much time and money are you willing to spend? It doesn’t take much.
You could do it just to shut me up.
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