In the world of indie publishing, there is a metric ton of advice out there for authors on everything from crafting a professional manuscript to “gaming” the algorithms of Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and on into the sunset. Much of it is good. That’s the great thing about indie authors–they tend to offer a hand down to those climbing the proverbial ladder once they’ve seen a measure of their own success. Check out the nonfiction section of Amazon and you’ll probably see a lot of titles about marketing ebooks, or how to leverage this site or that to push your titles to the next level. It can be very confusing, especially considering that there are lots of people out there who offer the “tried and true system to push YOUR books to the next level!”
I’ve read a lot of it. But me being me, I’ve never been able to keep a long list of tactical tricks in my brain for marketing purposes. Keeping up with the changes in Amazon’s business models, or the way that Facebook pushes your author page to people, has never been my strong suit. I’ve never been a PR wizard, or an SEO specialist. I’ve never worked at any internet firms or anything like that. I’ve been a mechanic, a musician, an artist, a soldier, a writer–but never anything PR-related. I abhor social media on general principle, and don’t spend enough time on any website to get a deep understanding of the way they work. Maybe I’m kind of a dinosaur.
I can barely manage my website. Yes, it’s that bad.
When I first published back in 2011, I adopted every trick I could find. I was new to the scene, and had no idea what I was doing. I got easily bogged down in minutiae, and taken in by the advice of this writer, or that. Some good, mostly bad. My first book (with no comments on the horrible quality) did alright, but fell eventually into the mists of internet obscurity.
When I decided to revamp my writing career, I didn’t count on having any great amount of success. I decided that instead of listening to the endless parade of advice from authors who were offering it, I would instead adopt a few simple principles, and take a page from the books of some of the great generals in history–Strategy is by far more important than tactics. A tactic is a short-term thing designed to get you through the moment. A strategy is a plan of action for the long haul, and I made mine simple.
Concentrate on writing good books, get good-looking covers, and worry about the bullshit later.
I thought about the way that I look for a new book when I want something to read. I don’t listen to Facebook or Amazon, don’t click on ads, don’t participate in giveaways or contests (though I know some people do). What I do is probably what most of you do–I ask my friends. I read descriptions, I read reviews from other readers. I figured that for my own work, the best thing to do would be to try and write a good book. If it was good enough, people would want to read it and recommend it. It’s true that this is a more slow-burn type of strategy than landing an ad somewhere, and it might not net me a million downloads in a few days, but the people who did discover it would probably enjoy it more than if it had been shoved in their face by a pop-up on some random website.
I decided that I didn’t need to be the next George R.R. Martin, I just needed to write something that a few people really enjoyed. I wanted to be accessible as much as possible, and treat people like people instead of assets to push a product, or ticks on some line graph. What I wanted was a small group of fans with whom I can talk, joke around, and have a good rapport. I just don’t have it in me to be anything but generally irreverent, snarky, and completely unprofessional. I’m just a guy with tattoos. I could never be some untouchable, suit-draped elitist who looks down on others as a waste of his time. It’s just not me, and never could be me. When I think of authors doing book signing events, or live book readings, etc, what I would much rather do is just go out to a pub and have a beer with people.
I never counted on having much exposure, or a legion of fans. I figured a few people would like what I was doing, but it was probably going to be a niche crowd from the get-go. Since I changed my business model, so to speak, I’ve not purchased any ads, done any podcasts, promoted posts on Facebook, or joined Twitter hashtags. The closest thing I’ve done is Fantasy Writer of the Day on Reddit, but that’s totally free on my part, a niche crowd in itself, and it’s an AMA-style interaction between me and subscribers to the subreddit rather than an ad campaign. Which, by the way, I will be doing again on July 24th. Look for me there on that day if you want to ask questions, or just hang out and bullshit with me.
Somehow, along the way, the books have picked up some steam on their own. I say it’s down to you guys–the readers. You’ve read, recommended, shared, or whatever it is that you’ve done, and slowly but surely something pretty awesome has happened.
When I logged in to check my numbers this morning, I saw this. I was floored. There’s a lot of jostling that happens in the Amazon bestseller rankings, and they change from one minute to the next. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that all three of my books have slowly clawed their way into the top ten. For the last six months or so, Child of the Flames and The Knife in the Dark have stuck there consistently, and since The Old Man of the Temple‘s release, it’s been right there beside them, and featured in Amazon’s “Hot New Releases.”
So thanks. Thanks to all of you who have shared, recommended, talked about them with your friends, or left me reviews. Thanks to those of you who haven’t, but have purchased and read them all the same. The past two years I’ve worked hard on them, especially this past year, and it’s wild to see them climbing to where they are now. I can’t even describe the feeling, and it’s all down to you guys. I should be studying for my finals next week right now, but I’m cracking a Guinness Nitro for all of you out there who are riding this train with me. All I did was write them. You guys did this, and I fucking love you for it.
Much Love and Respect to you all.