Thursday, November 17

What's Your Biggest Challenge as an Indie? Open Thread

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series


I often answer questions individually from authors on marketing tips, or for advice on delving into the indie world, what have you. And often the responses are tailored to their unique situation. It's also sometimes hard to answer because the questions are so broad and I don't know enough about that author and their situation to give an effective answer other than to read David Gaughran's Let's Get Digital as a starting point (or some other book on the indie world).

It can be scary delving into indie publishing for the first time because there are so many unknownables and moving parts and we can sometimes become paralyzed by this. Especially when we start to fear all of the things we might not know.

So, with that in mind, I thought I'd create an open thread for those considering the indie path, or new to it. Ask me questions, and I'll try my best to answer you. Or perhaps you'd like me to delve into a topic in a future post. If I don't know the answer, I'll try to steer you toward resources (or people) that could help.

So... ask away! What's your biggest challenge?

21 comments:

  1. My main problem is marketing (editing, cover design etc can be outsourced, but marketing, I feel should be done by the author). I have a newsletter. How on earth do I get people to sign up? What advertising works? Is the blog tour dead?
    How do I find my readers?
    (that's three questions, sorry!).

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    1. Hi Rhoda! Those are good questions. I've found marketing done by myself has been the most effective, and I agree that the newsletter is great for retaining readers. Make sure you have a notice in the back of your books (some authors also put a link in the front of their books) for your newsletter. I like to give those readers something for joining (in my case it's deleted scenes). I also have this in prominent spots on my website and my email sig. Outside of this, my biggest source of signups has been from Instafreebie. Here's a link for more on that: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/10/service-spotlight-instafreebie-as-lead.html

      Advertising is trickier to give blanket statements on, because it all depends on genre. I think the only universal "golden bullet" if such a beast even exists, is getting a Bookbub ad. I've had success with Facebook advertising, but it's incredibly hard and time consuming to dial in on what works there for your audience.

      I think most will say that the blog tour has very limited effect. I see it more as putting your name out there and seen than something I'll get direct sales from.

      As for readers, see these posts of mine as a starting point: http://blog.janicehardy.com/search/label/finding%20your%20audience

      Hope this helps!

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    1. We'd all love that answer :) Have you read Let's Get Visible by David Gaughran? It's the companion book to the one I mention in my post and covers some of the ground work there for mastery. In a nutshell, it's making sure you can make your spike more like a gradual curve on sales day (spread over days instead of one big spike)--this seems to help keep you up for longer instead of dropping you like a stone...

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  3. Visibility. My books/ads/newsletters/FB posts/etc are drowning in a sea of other books/ads/newsletters/FB posts/etc.

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    1. *waves at Kat* ugh, yes. And I think your challenge with this is greater than mine because you're in not only a much bigger pool (she writes contemporary romance) but also one that doesn't conveniently break down into more categories on Amazon, which makes it harder for readers to find you.

      I know how hard you work with this, so I'm not sure I'd be able to add anything as you're probably already doing it. (For the folks at home, I know Kat)

      I know you have some indie books--have you maximized your keywords on Amazon? That would be the only thing invisible to me that I wouldn't know if you're doing or not. Here's a thread on kboards if you haven't seen it before on how to get the most out of these: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,205816.msg2864568.html#msg2864568

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    2. I'll check that out, thanks! I don't frequent Kboards as much as I probably should. I'm still stuck in NY/Trad land in my mentality as I've just started indie publishing this year. Any little bit helps. :)

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  4. Hi Janice, thank you for letting us voice our Indie challenge! For me, it's the time consuming task of sending DMCA take-down notices. It's been really bad lately. Blasty and MUSO help, but it's just not enough. I took care of 224 sites last week and this morning there's 33 more. It's difficult to write, promo/market, fight pirates, and keep a positive attitude around my family and friends. What do you do, Janice? Any words of encouragement?

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    1. Hi Sheri! I don't even worry about it, to be honest. It's not worth the time and frustration (and money if you're paying a service). This is my own personal opinion, and other authors may feel differently, but I decided long ago that that wasn't a hill I was going to battle for...

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    2. This is Angela's thread, but I'll echo her comments. Just because a pirate site is up doesn't mean people are downloading from it. You'd drive yourself nuts trying to keep up (and many of them are just stealing each other's files, and no actual "customers" are downloading them). Energy is better spent elsewhere.

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  5. I write and publish both sweet contemporary and children's books (middle grade--ages 8-12). The hardest part for me is getting the children's books into the school libraries. Most of the librarians want to buy books which are recommended by the School Library Journal. Any suggestions?

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    1. This is a hard one for indies because so much of it is driven by forces such as you mention, which rely on traditionally published books. I'll see if I can find a MG indie author, but I know I've told others that children's and MG (and even YA) is a harder nut to Crack for indies. It's very print driven, etc

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    2. I'm an indie MG and YA author, and I've fostered a relationship with my local public school reading council by volunteering to help with their annual Young Author's Conference and Teen Writing Fair. I've been the keynote speaker for the TWF and always have a table there too. The teachers and school librarians who attend are excited to have authors come speak at their schools, and I've also been invited to attend the state school librarian conference. This is a great way to showcase your book(s) to librarians. It's still a challenge for indie authors, but working with the reading council is gratifying in and of itself. :-)

      ~Joyce Scarbrough

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  6. Patience! If I could slow down, before I hit publish, I'd make less mistakes.

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  7. Thank you, ladies. I feel better :)

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  8. Exposure is hardest. I echo the comments about finding your readers. It seems like so much tme goes to marketing strategies that the writing is falling to the back burner.

    Recently, I hired a virtual PA for a new release, and that liberated some time I could put back into writing, but even so, I still had to write the guest blog posts and check up on her progress, etc. I still had to do some stuff. I do recommend it though. Overall, it was a good decision.

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    1. I'm glad you found a good PA! I'd also argue that doing blog tours where you have to write original content might not be all that effective any more. I've stopped doing them and now only do blog posts for a release where they ask for cover, excerpt, and blurb. I don't see the ROI in the traditional blog tour any more.

      For finding your audience, have you checked out http://blog.janicehardy.com/search/label/finding%20your%20audience ?

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  9. Figuring out who my target audience is when I'm very unsure about whether my books actually fall into a genre or not.

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    1. My advice there is to read, read, read (if you're not already doing so) all the books on and around your genre to get a feel for what your genre actually is, but also what the reader expectations are. It also helps you see whether there are some worn-out ideas that you might think are fresh. You might already have done that, but just thought I'd suggest that. Some books can be harder to find a home for, which will make your job a little harder, but it can be done. There wasn't much of an audience for MG/YA wizard fantasy until HP made one :) It just means you have to hit your story out of the ball park, and make sure everything, I mean everything, from cover to blurb are top-notch and speak to the audience you want to garner. What helps books like these is the best marketing there is: word of mouth.

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  10. Hi Janice, writing from a UK perspective but I guess the issues are very similar. Getting sign-ups to my blog/website proving difficult (like Rhoda at start of thread but working on a freebie). Also getting my print books in stores - here WH Smith and Waterstones are the biggies. Any thoughts please?

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  11. Like others above, I find exposure the most difficult. I only send out newsletters when I have a new release and my list is pretty pathetic. I spend more time reading blogs on how to build your list than I want to. I wrote a blog for almost two years with no followers or comments, so I gave it up. I'd rather be writing and designing books (I'm also a graphic artist) than marketing. And I'm on a very limited budget, so I can't hire someone to do it for me.

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