by Tracy Cooper-Posey
Here’s a question for you: Why did you get into indie publishing?
There’s thousands of answers and none of them are wrong. I guarantee that one of the reasons you like indie publishing, now you’ve got a taste for it, is the high degree of control you have over your life, your career and your income.
Yep. Me, too.
In February 2015, I had many books in Kindle Unlimited. Nearly half of my titles were exclusive to Amazon. I had just watched my Kindle Page Reads plummet because of the algorithm shift while Amazon announced the per-page-read payout would drop again.
I got out of traditional publishing because of the impotence traditional contracts impart. Imagine having a reader congratulate you on the release of your book…and that’s the first you knew the book had been released.
Yes, that happened to me.
Now here I was again, stuck with shifting terms and obscure algorithms, unable to influence the bottom line, except to cross my fingers and spit.
I pulled every book out of KU that day.
Where I was
This is my Kobo sales sheet summary for February 2015:
Not pretty, huh?
In February 2015, I was still working a day job – a soul-sucking 9-5 labour that kept me almost permanently frustrated and angry…particularly on Monday mornings.
Steps I took to go as wide as humanly possible
1. Go big, fat, and wide.
I uploaded my books to every distributor possible. Traditional publishing can teach us something about this—their biggest draw, the card they wave at authors, is their massive distribution system.
When you go wide, go W I D E. Build a table that lists all the retailers that aggregate services like Draft2Digital and Smashwords distribute to, and make sure you aren’t doubling up. Even retailers like Kobo distribute to other services (Overdrive, for example). List them all, pick which distributor will put your books where, and go direct wherever you can.
This last point is important. You can’t keep control if you’re letting Smashwords, for example, decide when they’re going to send your book to a retailer, and what your blurb and cover look like when they get there.
You might think the little trickle of revenue you get from a subscription service in Germany isn’t worth the bother, but it absolutely is. Those trickles add up, and I’m living proof of that.
Going direct also gives you perks like in-house promotion. Which brings me to:
2. Advertise and promote like a maniac
This one is critical. You’ve just swapped an old set of readers for a completely new set of readers who haven’t heard of you before. It takes time—lots of time!—to establish yourself on new platforms. Advertising and promotion help speed up that process.
Kobo, for example, has an in-house promotion system that is cheap, easy to use, and effective…as long as you stick with it and systematically and relentlessly promote. It’s a long term process. One day you’ll open your latest spreadsheet and your jaw with drop. Trust me on this.
You can advertise on Facebook, which is great for reaching Nook readers or Kobo readers, or readers in Belgium who like dragon-shifter romances.
The great thing is, because you have the control, you can keep tweaking and testing and building your advertising budget each month as your revenue rises…which it will.
As the title suggests, I went crazy on advertising and promotion and I’m still testing and changing things up even now.
3. Create and focus on an email newsletter.
I’ve had a reader newsletter forever. It was a teeny thing I ignored once the monthly chore of emailing was done.
In March 2015, I rolled up my sleeves and got serious about building my community, readers I could talk to whenever I needed. I found a good email service provider, built drip campaigns and promotions, arranged newsletter swaps, tried Instafreebie for a while…anything that would help build my list.
This is also an essential step. KU readers are unreachable, because Amazon doesn’t share. When you go wide, you can reach your readers as and when you need to. Make sure you have a way to do that.
4. Write Another Book
This isn’t specific to going wide, but it works very well for widely-distributed authors. The next book you release is the best promotion you can do—especially if you’re writing in series.
5. Be Patient
This is not a short term strategy. It can take a full year to establish yourself on all distribution channels and retailers and see results from your advertising and marketing.
And the end result…
I went 100% wide in March 2015.
This is my Kobo statement summary for December 2016:
I didn’t pick the biggest statement, or one with a jumbo-sized bottom line. This was a typical statement for the year. It doesn’t look massive, but here’s the thing: When you’re wide, that figure gets repeated across every retailer and distributor you’re with.
Multiply that bottom figure by five or six other retailers and now the figure starts looking interesting.
You don’t have to be a best seller, or a household name. You don’t have to ad stack and break into the top 100 with your book launch. You can quietly write each day, promote and advertise, and make a little bit of money everywhere.
And if you don’t like the bottom line, you can absolutely shift it upwards. Spend a few months advertising, focusing on that retailer and watch.
Plus: My Amazon revenue increased. Substantially. All the advertising and promotion I had been doing for other retailers had a pleasant halo effect. Because I was getting 70% per sale instead of less than a quarter of a cent per page read, the cumulative effect magnified.
How effective was going wide?
On December 18, 2015, I quit my day job.
Two years later, I’m still writing full-time.
I love my day job.
Tracy Cooper-Posey is a #1 Best Selling Author. She has published over 90 novels since 1999, been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She turned to indie publishing in 2011. Her indie titles have been nominated four times for Book Of The Year and she won the award in 2012, and a SFR Galaxy Award in 2016. She has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian Canadian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Author site. Productive Indie Fiction Writer site.