(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)
Watch Out For Quicksand
First off, nearly every part of marketing is optional. You will need a cover and you have to format somehow, but beyond that, you certainly can just throw your book up on Kindle and walk away. Just as a traditionally published author can (in theory) let the publisher take their typo-ridden Word document off their hands and never lift a finger to promote it, leaving all that to the publisher (who may promote it, or they may just throw it up on Kindle, too). Whether you’re indie or trad-pub, with that strategy, you may not sell a lot of books; or you may sell a truckload. A lot of this is luck, and a good book will market itself, given half a chance.
Secondly, if you don’t keep writing, everything will grind to a halt. I’m not just talking your production schedule – that heinous beast that gnashes at you with teeth made of anxiety – but your spirits will lag if you’re not writing. You will hate the books you’ve just published. You will loathe the idea of opening Facebook. You will begin to feel like a Used Car Salesman hawking your books all the time. Don’t do this to yourself – keep writing, because it’s what you love, it’s what got you in this game in the first place, and at the very least, because you need new things to publish to feed those ravenous readers who discover one of your books then rip through and read everything you’ve ever written in five days. And want more.
Man, I love those people.
So, keep writing. Jealously guard the time you have set aside for it. Develop steely-eyed discipline when it comes to protecting your creative time. This section is all about staying afloat after you publish and keeping the fact that you’re actually a writer (not just a publisher) front and center.
Social media is social, entertaining, and immediate.
Using Social Media Well
Making connections is the obvious benefit of social media, but information sharing, to me, is even more compelling. Advances in society have always revolved around enhanced communication of information. The development of written language allowed us to communicate over long distances and time, the printing press sped it up, and now the internet has pushed it to light speed. I can’t even count the lessons I’ve learned, opportunities I’ve garnered, and rewarding friendships I’ve made, being a part of the connected world of social media.
This is why groups like the Indelibles, Kindle Boards, Writer’s Support 4U, WANA, YAlitchat, and dozens of others I could list are so valuable for writers: it’s like the writerly version of Home Depot (“You Got Problems? We Got Answers.”). This goes doubly true for a fast-changing field like indie publishing, where you can’t find answers on wikipedia, but your fellow in-the-trenches indie authors have them.
Choose to Go Deep
Early on, I decided that one, real, personal connection with a single person, however brief, was more important to me than a thousand drive-by, impersonal contacts. You can easily build a twitter following of 20,000 and have only ten people who care about what you tweet. Only the ten people count in terms of social media “reach,” but more importantly, those ten people are the ones who matter to me.
Steven Covey talks about your Circle of Influence (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and how attending to those people within your circle of influence, providing true value to them in whatever form you do that, is what grows the circle. Your books provide value to people. When you attend to those readers (i.e. say “thanks” when they leave a nice note on your FB wall), you grow your circle. Sharing my indie experiences provides value to people; that’s one reason I’m putting these posts into book form. Because I know there are individual people I care about who will benefit from it. Having it easy to share will probably result in growing my circle, but I’m not doing it for that reason. I’m doing it for the people already in my circle. If it grows beyond that… bonus.
Don’t Get The Causality Backwards
It’s easy to look at an author selling tons of books who has a massive FB following and think, Hey, if I just post a lot on FB, then I’ll sell tons of books too. The truth is they have a massive following because people love the books – not that they got a bunch of followers and then sold books to them. The books come first. They will sell if people are interested in buying them. If people love the books, they will seek you out on social media. If you’re engaging on social media, they will stick around. Your social media posts will give them something to share with their friends.
I’m on social media a lot, but I’ve learned to manage my social media time in three ways:
1) I have blocks of time when I’m “on” – answering emails, FBing, writing blog posts, retweeting, etc.
2) I have blocks of time when I’m “off” – any time I’m writing, I close all social media down. After about 40-50 minutes of straight writing, I need a break. I get up. I stretch. I take a walk around the house. But I’m very careful not to use social media as that break. Then I go back to writing.
3) I allow myself quick check-ins to social media on my phone when I’m traveling around, doing the Mom Thing. I even have a wireless keyboard I carry in my purse now for typing longer message responses faster. I put the phone away when I’m spending time with my boys (I don’t want social media cutting into my family time either), but there’s a lot of “dead” time that I can use to quickly check in without interrupting anything else.
My Social Media Usage
Just to give you an idea, here’s an example of my (average) daily social media usage:
Emails sent: 30
FB posts: 5
Tweets/RTs (no scheduled tweets): 15
Blog posts: 1 per day, every day (this is high because I’m blogging the book; normally this would be 1 or 2 posts a week; I don’t keep a regular schedule anymore because that’s not how blogging works now; people generally discover a blog post via twitter or FB)
Here’s what my past week of activity on FB looks like (37 posts, averaging 5 posts a day):
Random Fun Things and Commentary: 13
Blog postings reposted to FB: 6 (this is high because I’m blogging the book)
Stuff My Kids Say: 5
Business/Industry Stuff: 4
Talking About Writing or My Books, But Not Promo: 4
Serious Posts: 2
Straight Promo: 2
Promoting Other People: 1
This one surprised me: Other People Tagging Me In Posts: 10
That last one proves what I’ve said before: books sell on social networks, because other people talk about them, not you. The amount of me-promoting-my-books on FB is a relatively small part of my activity – other people tagging me in posts (usually about my books or something related) happens much more often. My interactions on FB are about working within my circle of influence – entertaining, providing value, and making connections (see How To Market Without Feeling Like A Slimeball).
That kind of social media interaction, limited in time by the strategies above, actually feeds my energy. It motivates me to write and boosts my creativity. Quicksand: avoided.