Are you an indie author promoting your books?

This post is for you by a fellow indie author though I suspect other indies running their own businesses might face the same issues we do!

I’m NOT writing this because I’m the most successful indie author and can lead you to greatness (for a low price, of course). I’m writing this because I’ve been an Admin in several Facebook groups where authors try to promote their works. As an Admin, I’ve had authors rant and curse me. I’ve had authors accuse me of discriminating against them because they are indie. I’ve had authors report other authors’ posts in our group when their posts were declined.

Currently, I actively run only one reader group and we strongly regulate author self-promo. We have Announcement threads that allow self-promo and we have free author and PA posting each weekend. The rules are listed in a pinned Announcement. However, author self-promo posts are the only posts I’ve ever declined and it happens several times a week in our group of 1k. In my previous group of 10k, it happened several times a day.

I’m an indie author so I do understand fishing with dynamite.

Maybe you’re a new author and have read the advice that you should already have readers groups, newsletters, and a street team BEFORE you published your first book. This may mean you are scrambling to catch up AFTER releasing your first book. You may also have a limited (or nonexistent) budget and are trying to do everything on your own. Perhaps you’ve taken free classes on Amazon advertising or Goodreads and are trying to follow multiple winning strategies. There’s the joke that authors must be marketing their current book, writing/ editing the next one, and planning/ researching more. It’s one of those ‘it’s funny because it’s true’ type of jokes sadly. I’m an indie author and I’ve been through all of this and I’m still in the midst of the struggle.

There’s too much to be done so you fish with dynamite.

You join as many groups as you can and have a list of relevant hashtags. Then you start tossing that dynamite. After toiling tirelessly to create your teasers, sale links, and blurbs, you send those posts to every group you’re in. As each has thousands of members, it’s bound to get you a reader willing to download your free or discounted book.

There’s simply no time to read the individual groups’ rules or tailor your promo to them. You’re using dynamite – you post your links and run away as there’s so much more to do.

This strategy could work for you as anything is possible.

However, do you know what you normally get when you toss that dynamite into the lake? You get a lot of dead fish.

Your book sales and rank may climb in fits and bursts, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gained readers. Most readers (myself included) have hundreds of books they will never read. Dead fish.

What we need and want as readers is a ‘catch and release’ strategy. Yes, I’m committed to the fishing analogy so just go with it!

We want readers to keep coming back for more from us. We want them to share our social media posts, leave reviews, buy the next book (and the next one and the next one), and become our reader friends.

How then do we fish in this new way?

Definitely join those reader groups but participate as a reader too. Hopefully, you are writing in a genre you enjoy reading so you have things to say and ways to bond with fellow readers. It is obviously harder to stay active in hundreds of groups so you will have to narrow your field.

Again, my experience as an Admin helps here. After joining a group, have you ever checked the reactions/ comments on posts? Do you know how many people react to your posts or anyone else’s in the groups? As an Admin, I see three times the interactions on my reader posts (quizzes, polls, games, etc) than authors see when they drop their links and go.

Has this netted me sales? See the first paragraph. I have a day job that pays the bills, not my book sales.

However, I’m also in this for the long haul. If you’ve ever fished, you know it’s a slow process. It’s often more about the company, scenery, and experience than it is about the number of fish you hook.

What does this mean for your writing career? Are you stressed trying to run around and toss that dynamite? Are you enjoying it or is it a lot of thankless work? Do you feel like you’re just paying your dues and biding your time until success knocks at your door?

I actually enjoy interacting with my FB group and the other groups for readers. It’s not a chore or an annoyance. It’s fun and doesn’t even feel like marketing work.

As an indie author, you have probably heard about branding as well as the 70/30 rule. With the sheer number of books available, the experts encourage us to have an author brand. I always use Kristen Painter as an example here. I love her books and follow her on social media. She posts about her cats and cooking a lot. These are themes in her books too so she’s right on point. She’s relatable, fun, and engaging and her interactions keep her name fresh in my mind. She has a brand and only 30% of her posts (or less) are the direct self-promo ‘buy my book’ posts. I keep returning for more from her.

It goes further than that though. She’s familiar to her readers so I notice her name in ads (Facebook and Amazon). Part of targeting your fishing for readers is getting them to remember your name. Maybe they’ll see your engaging Facebook posts in their reader groups and then recognize your name when your Amazon ad pops up.

We are fishing for those readers who might enjoy our works and keep coming back for more. Catch and release!

Again, I’ll emphasize that my only claim to ‘expertise’ lies in the posting trends I’ve seen in FB groups over the last two years. I’ve created a personal marketing strategy that I continue to tweak to suit my preferences, personality, and goals. This strategy may not be what you want to do.

That’s okay – I simply wanted to share another possibility to fishing with dynamite.

Not sure what you need to do now?

Take a moment to check your FB messages spam folder and see if your posts are even reaching the readers you seek. It’s possible you are being declined or even blocked in groups for not following the rules. I know few authors follow through when we have messaged them with an explanation of our rules.

BTW, while name recognition is great for readers, you don’t want fellow authors to recognize your name from their group Admin duties. Many of us are Admins in multiple groups and FB does show me if a member has been blocked in other groups I manage. Again, you don’t want me to recognize your name in this capacity.

Still not sure? Check on yourself. Are you enjoying this part of writing? Are you stressed, frustrated, and/ or unhappy?

Maybe it’s time for a new strategy.

Maybe you should put away the dynamite and try to catch and release potential readers. Those readers hold a great deal of power for us out in the wild – they can blog, post, and share to reach new readers we don’t have access to right now. Let ‘em run wild out there!

Catch and release!

So, fellow authors, do you have a marketing strategy? Want to offer advice and discuss? You can comment here or contact me as I’m always looking for authors to guest post here. There are certainly many types of fish and many ways to attract them so I’m always open to learning more.

Until next time, happy reading, writing, and marketing, my friends!

-RSJ

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