Navigating the Indie Ocean: 10 Self-Publishing Lessons from 2011

Bella looking good in stockings this holiday season!

A look back at 2011 begins with good news: 1,050 new Twitter followers, nearly 900 Facebook fans, 41 reviews for Bella on Amazon, and a listing among “50 Great Writers You Should be Reading.”

The momentum was powerful enough to warrant going forward with Bootlicker, a prequel to Bella that will be out by spring 2012.

The year was a steady promotional push of panels, book clubs, tweeting, blogging, interviews, guest posting, and video production. That included precious minutes on a popular D.C. TV talk show, a week at a big New York trade show, and flags on:  Squidoo; Tumblr; Scribd; and Goodreads.

Staying submerged yielded these tips, which I hope will be useful to other Indies:

 1 – Don’t Call Us…

Mainstream papers aren’t interested in self-published authors until someone hits it big. Two posts on the subject resulted in more than a hundred comments.

2 – Good Grief – Get on Goodreads!

For Indies, Goodreads is Facebook with a rifle scope — 5.7 million members, and 10,000 more joining daily. Target folks who read, talk, review, and buy books.

3 – Keep it Simple

 Contests are great, but keep them simple or no one will play. Read this post to learn from my mistake.

4 – Lighten Up on the Self-Promotion

 If you want followers, provide advice folks can use. Tips on writing and marketing, for instance, help your cause more than, I’m awesome; buy my book.

 5 – Get Social

 Technology lets you connect directly with readers. Do it, and go for something a little creative. Many liked the Bella in stockings photo above.

6 – Don’t Overlook Tried and True Traditional PR

 Book clubs, signings, and readings build the strongest advocates for your work. Read more about a recipe that includes tee shirts as well as Twitter.

7 – Write a News Release that Makes News

 Tie your story to something that’s making headlines. Newsrooms like new angles on stories that everyone’s covering. And trim the self-promoting hype.

 8 – Toss in Some Transparency

 The wizard became famous when Dorothy pulled back the curtain. People like the stories behind the story. No one’s expecting perfection. Here’s one example.

9 – Preaching to the Choir Doesn’t Sell Books

Lots of online author sites exist where writers can turn to each other for advice and support. Collaboration is great, but limits your time in these havens. Your main job is to reach and sell your book to new audiences.

10 – It’s all Good

Quit looking at daily sales. Your writing has introduced you to new people and places. You’re getting some nice reviews, plus invitations to speak and write guest posts. You’ve got plenty of photos for a gallery, and more potent lightning can strike any time. So stay on it, but quit obsessing. And smile.

What did you learn in 2011, and what are your resolutions for the New Year?





4 Comments so far »

  1. Shawn said,

    Wrote on December 21, 2011 @ 5:57 pm

    I learned, “live” events are definitely my bread and butter when it comes to sales. Social media is good and useful; promotional online collaborations are HARD, stressful and time consuming.

    I will continue to pursue online forums and get the word out, but the more personal approaches are best for me. As for resolutions, I wish I knew how to get more radio or interview exposure. I’m bad at that.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    You’re right, it’s hard to find the proper mix, Shawn. Eye-to-eye is essential but seems inefficient sometimes compared to the reach of social media. On the other hand, I think you create a more powerful connection by meeting folks in person. The other wild card is deciding when it’s worth spending money to get exposure. A good publicist could probably get you on the radio, but what’s the return on your investment?


  2. Brant said,

    Wrote on December 23, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

    Excellent points. I am looking at indie publishing (as I am way too impatient for the traditional route) and these points all make sense to me. I’d never heard of Goodreads prior to now. Glad I stopped by.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks for coming by, Brant. The other posts on my blog detail how we’ve gotten this far. Might prove useful and you get ready to launch…


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