by Emily Craven

It’s been announced with fog-horns this year that 2012 was the year of the self-published author. There’s no doubt that indies have made huge leaps, just as there is no doubt that e-book stores are now being flooded with books by every person who thinks they can write because they can send a witty phone text. Your book may be a gem, but with such massive volumes of books it makes it hard for authors starting out, or releasing their latest book, to wade through the tar pit of words to public notice.

“Top tip” blogs have become a hot topic in 2013, and they all offer great sensible advice, play with pricing, get your book professionally edited and a professional cover done, make yourself known on social media, get book reviews etc etc. I could repeat most of them in my sleep I’ve read the same list so many times. The strange thing is these are the same steps a traditionally published book goes through to gain recognition. Most indie’s are dealing solely with e-books, so why aren’t we making use of various strategies and technologies that play to the e-book strengths, rather then books in general? Having studied e-books and digital media for several years I found that there are plenty of awesome things indie authors can do that will give them an edge over the traditionally published authors, but they don’t ever seem to hear about. So here are my top 5 self-publishing tips you don’t normally hear:

Tip 1: Improve your book’s search rankings with targeted Keywords

Making your novel easily found on the internet is more crucial than media attention – it is even more crucial than distribution. Find out how many searches are being done per month on your topic, or on a book similar to yours, in Google using the Google Keyword Tool. Type in your genre, book themes, similar authors into the tool and it even suggests other similar keywords that people type in which you may not have thought of. These tags should be present in your synopsis, your website, your blog and your social media. If you have a blog use them frequently in blog posts, it’s the best way to make sure Google ranks you for those keywords.

Make sure you use your name, or the name of your series to brand all these different places so readers start to build up a brand recognition for you.

Tip 2: Use the Power of YouTube

In this digital age we have the power to interact with readers personally, so why should we settle for the out-dated way of doing things?

YouTube videos rank very highly on Google (favouritism much?) and because Google owns YouTube it applies a little bit of parental bias to the site. Google is also biased to websites and blogs that have a lot of YouTube videos on them. Several indie authors do little two minute segments every week on topics that appeal to their audience, e.g. fast-talking teens, or short video tutorials that fit in with a how-to-book, or interviews with authors in the genre they write in.

So get creative! You can produce your own video trailers for your novel, or even make your book an interactive experience by record yourself reading snippets from your book and linking them in your book using tip three.

Tip 3: Use QR codes to add videos, audios and web content to your story

A QR code – for those perched uncomfortably between the land of the land-line and the land of the smart phone – is a 2D barcode, generally square in shape that can be read by barcode apps (on desktops and smart phones). You would have seen them on posters, beer/wine/softdrink bottles, ads in the Tube/Subway and even as part of the odd business card. QR codes are free to generate and you can direct them to ANYWHERE on the web. Consider the types of content a QR code could take a reader to: sample chapters, videos, audios, Facebook ‘like’ pages and the list goes on.

I use QR codes in my non-fiction mainly to lead my readers to unlisted videos on YouTube where I welcome people to the story, and post private step-by-step video tutorials. But imagine taking this to another level and having a QR code lead to a video of you reading out that particular scene, or a video where you have filmed people acting out the scene, or hold a competition where the best video submitted by a reader gets linked permanently to a QR code within your book. Do you write travel novels or Memoir? Describe the scene not only with your words but a video of the area.

Remember, video or audio is still the best way to gain the trust of your readers.

Tip 4: Allow the story to leave the page

Is there a way you can allow your readers to interact with the story? If the story is modern, why not set up social media accounts for your characters? Or even set up several to allow the characters accounts to interact with each other, such as I did with my novel “The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain”. The whole novel is written as though you are reading off Facebook, so the next logical step was to create Facebook Pages for each of the main characters. Not only do my characters share videos and photographs with people who like their page (something you couldn’t do with an e-book because it would make the file size too big) they also respond to readers who post.

Even if your book is set in a time without technology, or in another world, you can still set up competitions for your readers. For example one author I spoke to, Joel N Clark, was planning to run a competition for his young readers where they would write a 400 word piece on what they think happened to a minor (but important) character between the 3rd and last chapters. The winner then gets their imagining added to the next book in the series.

Experiment, have fun, and make your book different and news-worthy.

Tip 5: Collaborate with Other Authors

I like to think of this as writers helping writers. Open any trade paperback and I will guarantee you there is an advertisement for another book from that publisher in the back. So what is stopping fellow indie authors who are in the same genre from banding together? Once a reader has read all your books they need another author to feed their reading appetite. If you know an indie author whose novel you have read and would recommend, you can collaborate and borrow each other’s readers/traffic. Put their synopsis and a mini version of their cover in the back of your novel and have them do the same for you. Then every reader who finishes your novel, full to the brim with praise for your prose, sees the ad to the book. Because they liked your book so much and it is in the same genre as yours, they take your recommendation to purchase the other novel. It is a win-win situation for both authors.

You can go one step further and even get a commission for the referral, if you know how…


Emily-Craven-200x300Emily’s non-fiction book ‘E-Book Revolution: The Ultimate Guide To E-Book Success’ is now available as an e-book through Kobo or a multimedia package at http://emilycraven.bkclb.co. Emily Craven is an author of non-fiction, fantasy and YA fiction. She blogs and presents for If:Book Australia, Meanland and the Australian Society of Authors on the future of digital publishing, e-book marketing, author platforms and the reader/author connection.

She also has her own blog at http://ebookrevolution.blogspot.com. In 2011-2012 she undertook a 12 month writing mentorship with fantasy author Isobelle Carmody, for her YA fantasy novel, Priori-The Power Within.

If you enjoy her tongue in cheek style you may also enjoy her comedy novels set in Facebook, ‘The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire’ and ‘Jake’s Page’ available from Kobo.

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