These never stop being amazing.
For me, writing the book is the easy part. It’s the time that I’m lost in a fantasy world of my creation, getting to know these characters, riding their heartache and hopefully helping deliver them to triumph. God, that sounded so douchy that I have to keep it. Anyway, it’s just me and the story. And I love it enough to spend hours with my computer in my lap, utterly ignoring everything around me until I a. have no food in the house, b. am late for work, or c. smell so bad I can’t stand it anymore. Yes, this writing thing is super glamorous.
Publishing….that’s a little bit more of a challenge. No matter how you decide to do it, it’s not easy. I self-publish, so I can only talk about what my experience is with that. You might be thinking, Kristen, you do it all yourself, and you’ve done it a whole shitload of times now, why is this still hard? I should probably clarify one more thing: getting to publication isn’t hard anymore, either. As a self-pubber, I choose my team for editing, cover design, and promotion. I know what this looks like now, and the process doesn’t intimidate me anymore. In fact, I welcome it. These are the people who help bring my vision to life.
So back to the actual publishing thing. Once the book goes live, that’s when I lose control. I love control, you guys. Some people have gone as far as to call me a control freak. I won’t argue with that. Up to that point, I’ve had total control over the process. There’s absolutely no way to tell if a book is going to do well, bomb out, or if you just haven’t found the right audience for it yet. (pay attention to that one).
Publishing moves fast. I feel those traditional pubbed people narrowing their eyes at me and wondering if I put spoiled milk in my coffee. In the indie world where the author is the publisher, things zoom by at a speed sometimes I’m not even sure what just went by me. Readers are the gatekeepers, they speak loud and clear with their buying dollars what they want. Things are changing every day, and what worked on a new release even a few weeks ago might not be as effective now. Blog tours used to be a sure fire way to get visibilty, now there’s so many books and so many blogs, who can keep up with it all? Facebook advertising works if you know how to use it (I used to. But that’s changed, too.) Netgalley doesn’t work as well as it used to. Putting out a book and hoping for the best is a piss poor marketing strategy. While there are many bad ways to market, finding the right way to market your book to the readers who will love these characters as much as you do is exhausting.
What does work?
- Make it easy for people to purchase your book when they come looking for it. If they’re on your site, they want you. You have them. Don’t make them open up Amazon or Kobo and type your info in. Let them buy it in two clicks. I can’t tell you how many authors I’m friendly with that have unwittingly sent me on a wild goose chase looking for their books. Don’t send me to tumblr, don’t send me to pinterest. Send me straight to a retailer and I will quite possibly buy. More than two clicks and sorry, you’ve lost me.
- Collect information from your readers! Readers for the most part aren’t on Twitter. But most everyone has a facebook and and an email address. Make sure the people who got to the end of your book can find you. If they connect with you, they’ll know when your next book comes out or when you’re having a killer sale. These people asked you to tell them about these things. They want to know. Don’t be shy.
I’m only listing these two things, because they’re under your control. Your website and your mailing list will always belong to you. Social media and retailers can change their shizz up without notice. Don’t rely on them. Rely on what belongs to you. Keep the control.
So each release, I look what’s currently working, and plan accordingly. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes it bombs. The Fire Dancer was one of those times that everything came together.
What did I do?
- I ran a sale on The Night Songs Collection. Not only were those my first books, they had a rough start in the world. Like woah. I’ve righted the path,and they did okay after that. Even when I did that, no one knew who the hell I was. (They still don’t.) I hadn’t found the right audience for that series yet. Now that readers have checked out my other books and I had a way to reach them, this sale breathed much needed new life into the series. The Fire Dancer is a spin off of that series, so you don’t have to read the other books before you read The Fire Dancer, but if you do, you’ll be ready to hop into The Fire Dancer with guns blazing.
- When a reader finishes one of the books, I invite them to keep in touch with me, I give them the option to continue reading the series, and tell them about my other books. Nobody wants a book to end. They want more. For more on this, check out Courtney Milan’s Building a Sticky Readership. It changed my life.
- The Fire Dancer came out at a reduced price. I created a sense of urgency around getting it NOW.
- I let people know about the book and the sale. Yes, I asked them to buy the books! Scandalous, I know. I sent out my newsletter, I bought advertising, and asked other authors to share the info with their readers.
So what happened?
- The Fire Dancer hit #1 in vampire horror! FUCK YES!!!! It also hit top ten in LGBTQ Fantasy, and top twenty in New Adult Fantasy. This blew my feeble mind because at the time I was #1, #2 was Anne Rice and #3 was Stephen King. Kristen, Anne, and Stephen. Holy fucking shit. Further down that list was Laurell K. Hamilton. Even if it was just for a day, to outsell the people who defined a genre that has meant so much to me throughout my life brings me to tears typing this.
- I like numbers, because I can control them. I come from a retail background, and I put my micromanagement skills to USE. I track how much of each book I sell each month and how much money I make from it. I obviously want to see positive growth, but some months are bigger than others. If I have no new release and no promos, it’s going to be a quieter month. Numbers give me answers. My first goal was to hit 1000 books sold. Now, some people do that in week or a day, but I wasn’t one of them. I passed that. Then I wanted to sell 1000 books in a month. I did it! I think it’s important to talk about that. We hear about the people who are killing it and making millions, and the people who sell books only to their immediate families, but we don’t hear much about the ones who are down in the trenches, building their brand slowly but surely. No, I’m not supporting myself off of writing. Yet. Its frustrating to be in the middle, but we’re in good company. I promise you.
So what’s next?
I’m writing writing writing! I have 3 series that I rotate, and I keep telling myself I’m going to stop that and write an entire series before I move on to something else. I’m trying, really, I am. I’ve compared having books out to tending a garden. Sometimes things are beautiful, but you have to keep up with them if you expect to be fed. If you need me, I’ll be out in the garden.