Guest Post: Author RENÉE MILLER on marketing for indies

Smoldering fire

Here be a guest post by my dear friend and now freshly baked indie author of asskicking, villainlicious thrillers — Renée Miller. She’s known for her bluntness, her intimidating work ethic and her knack for psychopaths.

Give her a warm welcome!

 

Renee MillerRenée Miller is a freelance writer living in Tweed, Ontario. Small town life is busy, but she’s managed to sandwich a book or two between the demands of housewifery and hiding from the neighbors. Her debut novel In The Bones is now finally ripe for your picking.

@ReneeMJ

Marketing is a bitch. Anyone who has ever had to promote or sell anything knows this. It’s not just a bitch; it’s stupid hard and rarely shows results right away. I don’t like waiting for anything. Writing a novel is an exercise in both ecstasy and agony for me. In addition to my impatience, I have this thing about meeting new people. I hate it. Inside this crunchy exterior is a very shy person. The very thought of putting myself out there and asking folks to do something for me (as in reading my book) makes me physically ill. But I chose this path, so I suck it up and out I go into the world as Cyberspace’s newest Indie author.

My marketing plan when I decided to publish IN THE BONES was to simply talk about the book and give lots of copies away to whoever would take one. Yeah, I suck at marketing. I thought I might convince a couple of bloggers to join me in a virtual tour. Problem is, reviews are hard to come by if you’re not paying for them, and if you pay for them, they’re rarely honest. I don’t want to lie to my readers. I hate spending money. Asking for reviews gets sketchy results too, because a lot of reviewers simply don’t reply to your request. It’s kind of like querying.

But then, a friend (who is also a kickass author) introduced me to a little book she’d written called the Self-Publisher’s Punch List and shit got real from there. I realized I had no clue what I was doing. The author of this book also held an event on Facebook, where authors discussed marketing and more. It was then that I decided I was going about this all wrong. If you want to be perceived as professional, you must behave in such a way. That means you tackle the task of getting readers seriously.

I don’t have all of the answers to what makes a book sell, but I’ve learned that every good marketing plan contains a few key elements.

Giveaways are crucial. I know many Indie authors are warned about the evils of publishing and then giving the book away for nothing. Pricing your book so low it’s practically free is not the same as strategically giving it away. While I think the 99 cent or free model we see on Amazon and Smashwords devalues the hard work authors put into a single book, giveaways are a different animal.

The key is to give the book away to the right readers. This means you don’t put it up so the world gets it for nothing, you give it to readers who will post a review, and so that potential readers will say, “Hey that sounds pretty good. I might just spend my hard-earned cash on it.” Goodreads is an excellent platform for Indie authors, and their giveaway “service” is a fantastic tool. Launch parties are also a great way to give away a few books while also introducing yourself to new readers. You don’t even have to change out of your jammies to host one. I hosted a virtual launch party on Facebook and while it wasn’t a huge event, it was fruitful. Plus, I met some new readers that current readers brought along for the fun. More importantly, I got reviews. We do love our reviews.

Since I mentioned pricing, I should add that the price you slap on that book is also important. You have to find the price that says “Hey, this is worth something,” while not saying, “I’m out for all the money I can get.” I haven’t figured out the magic price range for paperback and eBooks, but I’ve noticed that if authors place value on their work, they seem to sell books just as they would if they practically gave it away. The difference? You aren’t perceived as begging for readers, and you’re gaining readers who aren’t just looking for a cheap read. They might actually stick around for the next book. I priced IN THE BONES according to other books in the genre. I tried to put it midway between the best sellers and the average Indie. Has it worked? Well it’s selling, but a definitive result has yet to reveal itself.

Finally, Indie authors should consider paying for a professional marketing something-or-other to help with increasing visibility. Seriously. Blog tours are not expensive and the rewards are many. You gain visibility, as many offer options like guest posts, interviews and promos on a wide range of blogs. You also gain reviews. Many bloggers review on their blog, and later post reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. We need this exposure. Yes, you must give away copies for this, but hey, the reviews (if you’re careful which service you choose) are fair and honest. I chose a basic package, which provided me with a pretty decent tour full of reviews, promotional spots, interviews, and most importantly, visibility.

Self-publishing is much more difficult than I expected, but I can see why many authors are choosing this path.

For me it’s not about the control. It’s not about besting those bastard traditional publishers. I want a publisher. I’d prefer to have someone in my corner. Self-publishing, for me, is a way of proving I belong in this industry, not just to the publishers, but to myself. I didn’t venture into this easily. I fought the very idea every step of the way (as Veronica can verify). But I’m glad I took the leap. This industry is changing. Newbs aren’t going to get the opportunities we used to. Self-publishing lets us take the lead and show what we’re made of, but you have to do it right.

Think long and hard before publishing your book. Make sure it’s edited (preferably by a professional) and have your marketing plan in place BEFORE that book is ready to sell.

 


 

If you want to find out how this is working out for her, you can spy on Renée’s blog tour — here there be [expand title=”times & places.”]

March 18 — Reading Addiction Blog Tours
March 20 — The Book Faery Reviews
March 22 — Mallory Heart Reviews
March 23 — Andi’s Book Reviews
March 24 — Crazed Mind
March 25 — Mythical Books
March 26 — Gimme The Scoop Reviews
March 27 — My Cozie Corner
March 29 — Bean Counting Mommy
March 30 — Fictional Reality
March 31 — RABT Reviews

[/expand]

Or just give her snappy novel a try. I’ve even written a brief review (which is something I rarely do, since I don’t read stuff outside my self-educational sci-fi must-read-or-die-stupid list). And trust me, I’m not just being nice because she’s tall and scary. I’m not scared of her.

*scowls fiercely in the random direction of Canada*

And @ all the brave indies among you — what’s your experience with marketing been like? Any tips & tricks you can share that would make this trial by fire a bit less painful?

15 Replies to “Guest Post: Author RENÉE MILLER on marketing for indies”

    1. Peter:: It’s still debatable whether the blog tour will bring any results, but visibility is important. Instead of tweeting the shit out of people to get that visibility, thus annoying them, I opted to go with the blog tour service. There are a few that arrange tours based on genre, but sci-fi specifically, I have no idea. Now, I didn’t use these guys, because they’re out of my price range at the moment, but I know they’re a fantastic group of people that I’d recommend. http://www.novelpublicity.com/

      The service I chose arranges tours around genre as well, but you may not get stops specifically geared to sci-fi. I had to do some searching before I found this one, and I chose it because of the mixed genres they handle.

      Another option is to query review bloggers yourself, but as I said, that can get tedious because they either don’t reply (or you wait a really long time for said reply) or they can’t post the review to suit your tour timeline. If you start planning long enough in advance, it is possible to create your own blog tour, without paying a service. That takes some persistence and patience, though, and it helps if you know a few folks.

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    2. I have no clue about blog tours of any kind, to be honest, but I know that you get great visibility for yourself (and thus, for your work) if you participate in blog challenges, forum groups of either just readers or general genre enthusiasts, and if you practically glue a smartphone and its social media apps to your hand. 🙂

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  1. Self-publishing is something I’m still leery over, and the marketing aspect is one of the reasons for that. I barely have the energy to stick to my current level of blog/social networking, and can’t imagine gearing up for blog tours and what not without banging my head on the desk a few times.

    I absolutely agree with your approach to it though. Doing it like this instead of spamming your twitter stream up is the way to go. It’s seriously unreal how many self-published authors treat social networks like their personal billboard, never engaging anyone or socializing in any way. Nothing will make me less likely to buy your shit than you telling me to over and over again by tweeting the same link day-in and day-out. Why SHOULD I buy your book if you’re one among thousands who just expects me to because you shouted the link into my social space? And if all those people only followed you so that you’d follow them back (and vice versa), what makes you think they’re even paying attention to your tweets? I just want to shake these people by the shoulders and tell them they’re doing it wrong.

    Anyways, nice post, Renee. Good luck with the book!

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    1. To be honest, J.W., I’m still not sure about Indie publishing. I whine almost daily to Veronica, because it is such a big step and I really want to do it right, as in professionally. But I’ve been banging my head against the same wall for about 4 years, and decided to shake things up a bit. It might not work, but I had to ask myself “What if it does? What do I have to lose?” Nothing but my pride, really and I lose a bit of that with each query anyway.

      Marketing makes me crazy and not a little nauseous, but I really don’t think social media is the key to book sales. Yes, you must let them know you’ve got something to sell, but as a reader, I tend to gravitate toward authors who show me WHO they are, not WHAT they’re selling. I no longer see the constant tweets about books in my Twitter feed, so you’re absolutely right on that.

      As for the blog tour, I dragged myself into that kicking and screaming for the same reason you’re not keen on it. I barely have time to do my “daily” stuff as it is. But hiring a service made it easy. All I have to do is be “present” each day and thank the bloggers for participating. Even that’s pushing it. 😉

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    2. I hate social media spam. *shudders* As well as the social media guru cookie cutter advice put into practice without exercising a single neuron on the writer’s part. The result is excellent self-promotion. NOT.

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  2. I agree on the giveaway ideology. I won a book in a genre I ordinarily would not read and it was a great read – so good in fact that I have looked up other books by the author and will purchase them.

    The key here is that it was good. I have plenty of free stuff that gets maybe a few pages read and then tossed aside because it’s bad writing – very bad writing. As a reader I can tell you that you can giveaway bad writing but it’s not going to help you – it’s only going to stick in the mind of the reader and hurt you in the long run.

    Best of luck – back to the geek life

    Mark

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    1. Oh I definitely agree with that, Mark. It’s ALL in the quality.

      Renée has a good chance with that, her writing is very fun to read. But others definitely scare people away with their freebies. I’ve had some really nasty experiences with that too.

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    2. I’ve had my share of awful free reads too. When I’m offered something free for review, I always make it clear that I will pass on the review if I can’t read the entire book. There are few that I’ve actually reviewed as a result.

      I think In the Bones is worth the read, but I suspect I’m biased.

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