By Adam Croft
December 2015 seems like a lifetime ago to me now. At the beginning of that month I was earning somewhere in the region of $50 a day through my books. I was pretty happy; my books were earning money, were just about covering the bills and things were increasing — slowly but surely.
On the 5th of that month, I released Her Last Tomorrow, a book which I’d been working on for quite some time, but which had never seen the light of day because releasing it would go against all conventional wisdom I’d been taught by other self-publishers. Fast-forward just eight weeks from that date, and my income was $3,000 a day from my books alone.
Her Last Tomorrow became one of the biggest selling books of the year — worldwide. My mortgage is paid off and I’m now in talks with a number of film and TV agents who want to develop my books for the screen and my life has changed completely. All this inside a matter of weeks.
Rather than what’s often been quoted in the media recently, this sudden surge in sales and income was down to a number of things. Here’s what worked for me. It might just work for you, too.
Remember you’re running a business
Lots of people in the self-publishing world seem to struggle with this concept. The truth is simple: if you’re self-publishing, you’re running a business. If you don’t want to run a business, that’s fine — that’s what traditional publishers are for. You need to merge the creative and business sides of your brain and be able to separate them off at a moment’s notice. This means using professional cover designers and editors. If you don’t take your books seriously, no-one else will.
Have long-term and short-term goals
I’m always planning a number of things. Right now, I know what my next five books to be released will be. I’ve already written two and a half of them. I also know my marketing and PR plans for this week, this month and this year. I know where I want to be in a year’s time, five years’ time and ten years’ time.
All of the shorter-term goals are part of my long-term plan, and many of the things I’ll be doing today are part of the set-up for things I intend to happen months or years down the line.
Your mailing list is sacred
If you don’t have a mailing list yet, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re lacking the single biggest marketing tool in the self-publishing world. I don’t know a single successful author who doesn’t attribute the bulk of their success to their mailing list. You need to be able to keep in touch with your readers.
Trust me — once a reader has put your book down, they’ll forget about it. They probably don’t even know your name while they’re reading your book. Your name isn’t proudly displayed on their bedside table every night or sticking out of their bookshelf That’s one of the downsides of ebooks, and it’s one you need to mitigate. Make sure your readers know who you are, and keep in touch with them.
Nick Stephenson’s ‘Reader Magnets’ book is a fantastic resource for finding out more about this.
For years, my books were exclusive to Amazon. Last year, I made the decision to go wide and ensure that people using other digital platforms were also able to access my books. It’s tempting to assume that everyone uses Amazon, but the fact of the matter is that readers on smaller platforms can be incredibly loyal, and it’s a great way to find new readers.
Besides which, relying slavishly on one retailer for all your book income is never going to be a wise move. This is a similar principle to the mailing list, which ensures that you know who your readers are, not just the retailer. Think about the long game.
Write more books
It’s fair to say that with every book I release, sales of my back catalogue increase and sustain at a level higher than they were before. Every book you release increases your reach and visibility, and is the best way to show readers that you’re serious about this. After all, no-one wants to read a book, love it and then find out the author never wrote anything else.
My top tip for writers with only one book written is always to write another one, if not another two. You’ll be peeing into the wind as it is, trying to market your own books, but doing it with just one book behind you is career suicide.
I’d strongly recommend reading Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt’s Write, Publish, Repeat for more on this. It’s a book which changed my life and my career.
Think outside the box with marketing
I’d always eschewed different forms of paid advertising and marketing for my books. Other than the odd BargainBooksy promo, I just used to go for the organic ‘write more books’ method’. Then I discovered Facebook advertising.
Facebook adverts transformed my writing career and enabled me to bring together four or five different marketing strategies which now form the basis of my whole approach. If you’re interested in finding out more, I’d recommend Mark Dawson’s Facebook Ads for Authors course.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Look at general business principles and see what companies in other industries are doing innovatively. You need to stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
With more than half a million books sold to date, Adam Croft is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world. His Knight & Culverhouse crime thriller series has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide, with his Kempston Hardwick mystery books being adapted as audio plays starring some of the biggest names in British TV. Before writing full time, Adam had previously worked as an internet marketing consultant, delivery driver and professional actor. Adam has been featured on BBC Radio, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and a number of other news and media outlets.