By Lacy Williams
If you’ve been an independent author for any length of time, you know the market has grown more competitive. I don’t see that changing any time soon. So how can your books stand out in such a crowded marketplace?
Be a smart indie. In this case, SMART is an acronym. One that one of my publishing mentors brainstormed with me in early 2017. Let’s explore each facet.
S is for Story
It’s no longer enough to craft a good story. Great isn’t even good enough. Your book must be excellent. Not only that, but consider how writing a series instead of a standalone book might change your marketing options. You’ll want to incorporate story hooks into your manuscript to drive readers from one book to the next to the next (these can be an unanswered story question, lovable secondary characters, or an unexpected surprise in the last chapter). And don’t skimp on editing. You need a strong editor (or two, or three) to help you put out the best product you can. Being an indie author can be freeing because you get to write the book in the way you want—but being an indie author also means you’re responsible for the finished product.
M is for Marketing/Platform
Building your publishing platform starts before your first book hits cyberspace. Must-do’s include: having a basic author website, optimizing your book’s visibility on retailer sites, and creating a basic newsletter (and putting the sign-up form everywhere you can think of!). Budget tactics include: author newsletter swaps, social media campaigns, and multi-author promotions. Advanced tactics include: creating a review team and sending ARCs to bloggers and influencers. Don’t let your marketing take over your writing time. Do plan some time into each month to market your books.
A is for Art
Your book cover is the first thing a reader sees and can be an instant turn-on or turn-off. Your cover should reveal your book’s genre, tone, and author brand. If you have a series, your covers should be branded so that readers can tell at a glance that the books belong together. Don’t be a DIY indie—an investment in having a professional design your book cover will pay dividends in book sales. Likewise, your product description (blurb) should be compelling, professional, and should invite the reader to take action (buy the book). Interior formatting is also important in providing a quality reading experience.
R is for Retailers
Each retailer offers different tools for publishing. You’ll want to make sure you complete every field that is applicable, including subtitle and series title. Some of Kobo Writing Life’s best features are the ability to link series, make a book free, schedule price promotions, and make your book available for pre-order.
T is for Tracking
You can’t move forward in your publishing career unless you know where you’ve been. There are sales tracking services available or you can create a basic daily spreadsheet. At a minimum, authors should review sales on a weekly and monthly basis to identify trends, judge the success of marketing promotions, and to help plan for future book releases and promotions.