What is the key(s) to being a successful indie author?
Let me start out by saying that I don’t have the exact answer yet…but I’ve done a ton of research, and I’m trying something now.
May 2019 will be my first month selling over $1000 of books. Small potatoes, but I’m on the right track, and I want to share what I did in a little blog series over the next five weeks. I’ve been publishing for three years and am a research junkie, so I have a lot to share with you. I’ll cover the following topics:
- Writing to Market
- Cover, Blurbs & Content
- Rapid Releasing
- Launch Strategies
- Lessons Learned
This week’s topic: Writing to Market
The first key to being a successful author is writing an awesome book people WANT to read!
Let me repeat that. The first key is writing an awesome book people WANT to read!
That’s the hardest part.
Even if the book is awesome, but if it’s on a topic nobody cares about, you’ll sink.
Even with a ton of advertising, your book will be a money pit unless the book is something people can’t wait to open.
What a simple concept, but I learned it the hard way after spending a ton of money on advertising, hoping I’d find the right audience or write the best hook for an ad. I thought my books would magically take off, but I had written about concepts that didn’t resonate with readers.
Nobody cared about human clones. Angels turned people off because they expected some preachy religious book, and they expected a pregnant fairy godmother story to be inappropriate. Lesson learned…over and over again.
Since I first published in 2016, I hoped to stumble upon some magical key that would make advertising successful, but after writing 17+ books, I discovered a few cold, hard facts.
Books that sell without advertising, will sell well with advertising.
Books that don’t sell, don’t sell.
There are other factors that make a book sell or not sell. You must have a good cover that matches the other books in your genre. Your book must fit in the sea of millions of books, yet stand out some. You must also have a catchy title and a fantastic blurb that sells your book. Publishing more books helps sell previous books.
But even with the above, if your book doesn’t fit reader’s expectations, that’s the end.
So, how do you write a book that’ll sell without selling out?
I still haven’t figured it out, but I’m getting closer.
Let’s do a case study on my newest project…
Here’s a walk-through of my process for my newest release, Dragons are a Girl’s Best Friend (The Quarter Witch Chronicles Trilogy).
I just published this book last Thursday (on 5/23/19 which isless than a week ago) and the series has two more books releasing in the next month. We’ll follow along on how this project is doing throughout this blog serial. I’m still not sure if it’ll sink or swim, but as of right now, 5 days into the launch, I’ve sold 350 books at 99 cents and have about 50 pre-orders on books 2 & 3 at $2.99. It’s really too early to tell because I’m in an early phase of my launch plan. More on that will come in upcoming weeks.
Here was my first step in (hopefully) creating a series that sells…at least a series that sells better than my previous ones.
First, I needed to discover what types of books were selling. Back in October, I spent hours upon hours searching the Amazon Best Seller List for full-price, indie-published books that are in the top 100 for multiple weeks. I stuck to the genres I write (fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal cozy mystery & chick lit) and figured out what the books all had in common.
What are people buying?
What are the trends?
I looked at the ones that are selling and see if the author had a huge fan base (usually determined by them having many books published) or if they “broke through” with only a few (or no) previous books published. These break-through authors are the key.
I start to scratch down ideas and find trends.
For my Quarter Witch Chronicles series, my notes were the following:
- New adult romance
I looked at the type of books I had been writing. I was trying to write sweet paranormal romances…guess what? I couldn’t find any of these books in the top 100 lists! No wonder I struggled to sell a story.
Sweet romances is not the norm in the fantasy/paranormal adult literature reader group. In the paranormal romance category, I needed steam/heat to succeed, and now, reverse harem is big. Neither of which I had any desire to write. My writing was targeting the wrong demographics. Basically, I was writing Young Adult books with Adult characters. I thought it wouldn’t matter, since most YA readers are adults, but it does hinder my sales. For the Quarter Witch Chronicles, I decided to target the New Adult age group. It gives me a little more freedom with language/romance, yet I can keep the stories on the sweet side.
Next, I polled my readers in November through my newsletter to see what they wanted. I bounced different characters, genres, and even title ideas off them.
They voted for what I had already discovered while doing my research: A witch story with dragons.
And they loved the title, “Dragons are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
Yeah, the title is a bit long, but it’s enticing. I learned this trick with my book, The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives that sometimes, the title sells the book, no matter the rest of the marketing package. I wish I would have spent more time creating clever, catchy titles for my Angels of Sojourn series.
So now, I had an idea of a book that people wanted to read. This process took me weeks and was very frustrating. I meticulously sorted through the haystack to find the needle.
And here is what the entire series looks like:
We’ll see if it works. I already know I made some mistakes, but am trudging forward…
Follow along to part 2 of this series (Cover, Blurbs, and Content) posted next week. (Link HERE.)
Until then, thanks for reading!