As I start to look into the benefits of indie or self-publishing, some of the techniques exampled by Mike Wells sit as excellent techniques for how to build that initial following.
Note – this post is also published at HunterEmkay.com.
In my post at HunterEmkay.com “Book Recommendation : Lust, Money & Murder” I shared my discovery of the writing of novelist Mike Wells. Not only did I discover a new thriller writer to me, but I learnt a lot from Mike by simply visiting his website, The Green Water Blog.
As an author nowadays, the publishing world is full of promises and changes, much of which can be confusing for any new author – it is to me. I still am sitting on the fence a little myself, towards trying to tread the path of finding an agent and publisher for my first novel when ready, or entering the indie author route.
All over the net, there are constant reminders that many indie authors are making a lot of sales via the ebook route, but –
I know it’s not as easy as that.
Take a look at Amazon, as the biggest seller of ebooks, and you can see the vast quantities of books now becoming available. All competing in a huge market. Trying to find my own readers in all of that – there’s the kicker.
Mike Wells seems to have found several ways to do that.
But I’ll start at the beginning. How he found me.
1. Twitter & Free Books
I found Mike Wells as an author via a couple of ways on Twitter.
I currently am adding many new writers to follow on my own personal Twitter account, and via them, others pop up. A @MikeWellsAuthor tweet came through on my friend’s streams, at the same time he had used a #thriller hashtag to pop up on my radar – I search for tweets to do with thrillers also (never mind the constant interruptions via Michael Jackson. RIP).
When I read Mike’s profile it said this –
I was already going to follow him anyway, as another thriller writer, but hey – free book!
Mike’s auto-message back gave me the direct link to the first book in his series, Lust, Money & Murder.
I don’t normally like auto-messages back – and have a particular dislike for when authors use it to promote all their fiction back to me. Several times on following an author I’ve got messages like this –
Thanks for following me. Here’s all my fiction to read http://buymybooksandIdon’tcareaboutyourowntweetsmyself.com (don’t click that)
Most of those authors then go on to spam me with tweets about their books every day, and provide no personal tweets. That’s what I’m reading people for – tweets are meant to be personal, meant to let me get to know you a little, meant to recommend things to me.
My Takeaway – Don’t spam your books. Use social networking to personalise yourself to possible readers. Give away a book to new followers. There’s a fine line between promoting your own work via social media, and being a real person with other subjects to talk about.
2. Free Books!
Mike Wells directs new followers to a website page, giving his Twitter fan’s multiple download options for his books in ebook form. He not only allows his free books to be downloaded in PDF, epub (for Nook and iBooks), Kindle and mobi formats, but in several older e-reader formats also. Plus text or rtf formats.
Not only that, but his entire main website is setup to allow for mobile reading. Each blog post can be converted to be read on a kindle via readibility apps.
Mike doesn’t just provide this one book (via Twitter or it’s own website) to build up a new readership. On his main website you will find that currently the first in a paranormal thriller series, Wild Child, can be downloaded for free also.
My Takeaway – Provide Free Books (Samples, Full books) to entice readers to purchase the rest of a series, or to sample your work.
3. Promoting With Free
Many authors making progress onto the Nook, iBooks and Kindle ebooks marketplace understand the value of providing samples of their work, or even giving away portions of it.
This is a lesson that I’ve been reluctant to accept myself for some time – mainly because when I got my own e-reader and apps, I immediately went to those places and downloaded several sample and free ebooks with great appetite, only to find that I had taken possession of a lot of – for me – complete rubbish. These were books with huge flaws in style, plotting, spelling errors, grammar errors, and rather than working as enticing samples to make me go out and buy their stuff, the authors put me off completely.
Nor did I really want to have to give away my books, after spending months and months writing them.
But the days of hoping to make it through editors’ slushpiles and expecting hefty contracts are long gone now. And even if I did manage to locate that fantastic agent, publisher and contract – new authors on the bookshelves of those few bookshops we have left find it difficult to make sales anyway.
Nowadays, the field is changing again. Although we see reports of more and more authors making large sales via these ebook outlets, and there are more and more free ebooks to be had – there are also suggestions that most of those authors won’t last longer than 2 years, and then be replaced by another author who won’t last 2 years. (via Genreality).
To succeed as an indie author predominantly writing ebooks, it’s a lot of hard work. The internet and several writing craft books are now providing copious information and services for indie or self-publishing authors.
My Takeaway – Indie Publishing or Self-Publishing is not just loading up an ebook onto the web. That’s called an upload. There’s no point just doing that without promoting (marketing) – continuously – your books.
4. Promoting with Quantity and Quality
To succeed, you not only need some free ebooks to giveaway as promotions / samples / drawcards to your other work, but you have to have quite a few ebooks also. Genreality figures a stable of at least 6 books. We are talking about a lot of writing, and for a long time.
And because we are also in a huge – and growing – indie or self-publishing market, we also have to produce books of a certain quality.
I found for myself that the ease of producing an ebook and putting it up for sale meant that quite a few books have been published which possibly shouldn’t have been. Everyman and his dog can become a (self)published writer now – whether they should is another matter.
Mike Wells understands this. He provides several samples of his work, several free ebooks enticing me to purchase the rest of these series, and provides a quick pace and style meeting both his genres and their readers. In my review of one of his books, I did find a few spelling and grammatical errors – as I have done in every indie publication I’ve downloaded recently.
This world is so new that a growing service industry of indie editors, stylists, book designers, book converters, and even beta readers and critiquers is still catching up.
In fact, to provide a quality book now, it requires the help of multiple beta readers, critiques or the hiring of an editor / reader. But then any author may be faced with the battle between bringing out a high quality error-free read with bringing out several more ebooks. Just like many products out there, the self-publishing author needs to tread the line between quality and quantity towards success.
Take a look at Mike Wells websiteto see all the free services / samples and ebooks he does provide to find and build his readership.
My Takeaway – Write more than the one book to expect success. Compete in quality, as well as quantity. Build a beta reading group and hire editing eyes if serious about quality. Set deadlines and goals towards how many books to write over a year.
5. Genre Series Blogsite
Mike Wells has a separate website for the Lust, Money & Murder series. This website provides a few additional services for readers of the series – there’s a book trailer video, a character cast list, and a quiz.
The jury seems out on whether book trailers and the like are helpful or not. Certainly, a lot of authors put a lot into the cover design of their book, and the creation of a slide animation book trailer. I believe that spending time and money on a good book cover makes a lot of sense, as does looking for a service from a book designer who can provide convertions of my manuscript into many of the formats Mike Wells offers. However, I’m not as certain about book trailers.
From a series viewpoint, and despite a lot of advice nowadays suggesting that we brand our names and ourselves (not the books) on a website, I still remain with the thoughts that a big series can do better with an associated website all to itself. Or at least a separate main menu page area under our main websites. This provides additional content for the fanbase who have come searching for the series. Character listings are a good thing, I say.
Mike Wells, as author, also examplifies another area of advice in successful and long-term writerhood. He writes in several genres.
He has a series in adult thrillers, and several books and a series in the paranormal thriller genre, with movement into Young Adult also. With one Romance novel also.
Self-publishing authors have an incredible opportunity nowadays, to not be type-cast into writing for one genre only. Mike’s example shows me that although I am currently working in the thriller genre myself, I can also – in the future – move into writing my own fantasy or literary novels. And to have those accepted by possibly a different reader base, but with a flow over from those who like my writing from the thriller series.
I think of JK Rowling whenever I think of series like this. Her whole branding is based on Harry Potter, including her newer website. I sometimes wonder whether she might not have written something else later on, in a totally different genre, and whether this movement might force an adoption of a different pen-name.
My Takeaway – Providing a website with additional content for a fanbase is a good idea for a fiction series, provided that series website remains closely associated with the author platform website based on the author’s name brand (sharing newsletter signups, and content between them).
6. More Services
Mike Wells offers to sign ebooks via the Kindlegraph service – you will find the link on his website. As a creative writer tutor in the UK, he is also well-placed to offer posts on the crafting side of writing via his blog.
This last route is something that a lot of writers do on their website – including me, it seems. It’s natural to write about writing, but I remain mindful that I need to build a readership for my books outside of the world of writers. I need readers.
Mike also offers a newsletter – he calls it a book club, which offers 25% off the price of new books he may announce via this channel.
Pricing is a subject I’m not willing to get into on this post, but will say that I often am disheartened by how cheaply a lot of fiction is now being sold for, given the amount of work that goes into its creation. But providing a financial incentive exclusive to one device, such as a newsletter, provides another way to locate a loyal readership.
Final Takeaways –
The Indie Author business is competitive, and hard work if I want to succeed long-term. [Er-hem, just like the standard publishing route.]
Keeping abreast of the ever-changing Indie Author industry requires constant research and trials of different promotional offerings to build a reader base and successful writing career.