Here at IU, we often hear from indie writers who have finally, happily published their first book. They’re extremely proud of their effort, as well they should be, but now want to know how to promote that book. How do they let the world know the book is there? How do they get sales?
Ah, therein lies the rub.
Promotion is a never-ending challenge, played out on shifting sand. Promotional avenues — newsletters, sales sites, etc. — change monthly, even weekly. It’s hard to know who to trust, how much to pay, and how often to advertise. (Here’s a list of book promo sites and sites for new releases on IU.) It’s the kind of thing that can take up all your time and energy, simply because it’s such a monumental job.
Want to find an easier way?
Write more books.
I can hear you now. What? How is that going to… ? Okay, granted, it’s not going to help you promote your book right this second. But if you call yourself a writer, if you’ve found that this experience of setting your dreams and ideas down on paper is as satisfying and defining a thing as you’ve ever accomplished in your life, then write more books. If you’ve found you’re a one-book writer, then by all means concentrate on the promotion ideas in the links above.
Okay, those of you who are still with me, I’m going to ask you to take the long view. The very long view. Here’s what I found.
I’ve been writing all my life. My first books were published in the 1980s. For years, I might put out a book or two a year, or maybe none at all in some years. It was pretty hit or miss. However, the number of titles was mounting slowly.
I was never a fan of series. Wasn’t terribly interested in reading them, certainly did not want to write them. I didn’t want to get boxed in to writing the same story over and over (or so I thought).
Suddenly one day, doing some very mundane thing, I got an idea for a book. It involved a female ex-cop working with a male Navajo medium, solving murder cases by talking with ghosts. I think it was the contrast of the characters that really caught my interest and got the creative juices flowing. I had no sooner gotten about halfway through the book when I already had an idea for a second book: a second adventure. This pattern repeated itself over and over. Halfway through Book 2, I was already formulating the plot for Book 3. Granted, the books were short, most around 40,000 words, but the ideas just kept coming, and I kept writing. In 2017, I published seven of these books. It wasn’t unusual for me to have just released one book, have another one out to beta readers while I was typing up a third (I write in longhand), and be working on a fourth, all at the same time. I remembered the old axiom, “The more you write, the more you write.” It was certainly true for me.
I did minimal promotion for the books. Sure, every time I released a new one, I put them all on sale for 99 cents and I blasted that out on my website, my blog, my newsletter, and my social media outlets. I basically did the same stuff I’ve been doing for years. Here or there I might try something new: an AMS ad, a new promo site… but that was rare. Mostly I was too busy writing to even worry about the promotion.
Then a funny thing happened. I check my KDP dashboard periodically, maybe a couple of times a week. It’s not usually terribly exciting. But suddenly I started seeing my numbers on the rise, both sales and pages read. The series books were catching on. Then I noticed something else — the books in my back list were appearing on my sales dashboard, as well. Books that hadn’t sold in months — years — were suddenly showing up. At one time, late in 2017, I checked my dashboard and found that every single one of my books — all 22 of them at the time — had sold at least one copy. Every single book I’d published. Woot!
Think about it. Have you ever discovered an author that suddenly grabbed your imagination, your heart, and took you on a journey like no one else? Have you ever discovered an author that spoke directly to you, and you wondered where the heck they’d been all your life? What’s the first thing you do when you finish that first book?
Look to see what else they’ve written.
Exactly. If you find someone whose stories speak to you, whose style dovetails with your own way of thinking, your own way of imaging the world, you want more. What else have they written? Where else can they take you? And as you’re looking them up, you’re just hoping and praying that they’ve written a lot of books for you to explore. If they have… jackpot!
Based on this serendipitous and lovely discovery, here are my recommendations for promoting your book(s):
Write quality books.
Write lots of them.
Write a series.
When you see the first flicker of flame on your KDP dashboard, go ahead and celebrate that, revel in it, but — don’t stop writing.
Write more books.
18 thoughts on “Want to Sell More Books? WRITE More Books!”
I’m still early in my writing career but I can’t agree more with the philosophy of keep writing, keep publishing, and the sales will come.
I’m at 5 books, plus a boxset, with 3 in a series and a 4th on its way, plus more to come over the next couple of years, and with each new release I’ve seen sales increase. The increase has been minimal, but I expect it to be cumulative, until a few more books down the line I’m going to be seeing some very nice sales.
Good for you, Alex. Yes, I do believe it’s accumulative and at some point (earlier than I did), you’ll reach critical mass and see a big jump. Congrats on all your releases; sounds like you’re zoned in for success.
Thanks, Melissa. I’ve been thinking this very thing but haven’t gotten too far with it. I’m about to release the third novel in my mystery series, I have the fourth started, and have two unrelated novels in the works as well. We’ll see how it goes…
Sounds like you’re on your way, Dale; good for you. Let us know how it goes, and good luck!
-grin- Congratulations, Melissa! And I agree wholeheartedly. That magical critical mass hasn’t happened for me yet, but your description of a reader’s perspective dovetails perfectly with how I read as well. I’ve always read that way, but the penny didn’t drop for a long time. Sadly, I’m a slow writer so I’ll just have to plod along and hope I don’t reach critical mass until I’ve got more of a back list for readers to find. :/
I know you’re working at it, so it’ll come. We never know when. Always a nice surprise when it happens, though.
This sounds like good news. I’m at 11 now, and doing 2 or 3 more this year. Any idea when the breakthrough will occur?
…What’s that? They have to be GOOD books?
Oh, well. Back to the old keyboard.
You know, Gordon, if I knew that, I’d be a millionaire. And yes, GOOD books!
I fully agree. My indie publishing company published two of my books in 2010 and 2011, then I went on hiatus because of school. I often wonder if I’d published a book a year since 2010, how different book sales would be. Luckily, I’m back in the game with a new novel Tangled. Hope to put a book out every year from now on!
Good for you, James. We can’t change the past, but we can keep on writing and publishing now. Good luck.
It’s hard advice to take, but absolutely true. Keep writing!
I know; we all want to be successful NOW. But really, how many overnight successes have we seen that actually took 10 years, 20 years or more? We hear about the breakthroughs, but not the hard work leading up to it. Yes–keep on writing!
Melissa, I’m reading Soul Walk now, your book 7, and I’m enjoying it. Thanks for writing it. Good point about writing more books, once a reader finds a series they enjoy they will keep reading. But like acflory, I’m a slow writer, so I’m always looking for ways to increase my turn over. You’ve mentioned before that you’re a panster but I do believe outlining helps to get things written quicker. So, I’ll be outlining more and hopefully turn out more finished stories rather than just writing.
Elisabeth, thanks so much; glad you’re enjoying the Walk series. I’m having fun with it. I’ve never been a particularly fast writer until I started this series, but once I started, it was like opening flood gates. If outlining helps you, absolutely go for it. I think we all have different tricks that help us unleash the creativity; I swear by handwriting instead of typing. Who knows what works? Keep hacking away at it, and we’ll hope to see more books by you in our promo posts.
This is terrible advice. people are wasting their lives and you are encouraging them. Writing more books is a pathetic strategy akin to spam. Creating more content is what web spamming is all about. Encouraging people to write even another book in the promise of a few more sales, is bad advice, better of working harder in the real world. I sell old books and books are essentially worthless. Ironically they have a very short shelflife
Bob, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, and obviously we disagree, but I don’t believe people are wasting their lives by writing. On the contrary, writing creatively uses parts of the brain that other processes don’t, and it gives people outlets for their imaginations. Readers find great comfort in books, or adventure, or knowledge, they might not have otherwise. To me, that’s a win-win situation, and the sales are secondary, although obviously desirable. I’m not encouraging people to write more books simply to sell more; I’m encouraging them to write quality books. Books they have a drive to write, books readers will enjoy. To many of us, this very definitely falls into the category of “the real world.” I’m surprised that you sell books and yet have such a low opinion of them. We here at IU find books to be infinitely valuable in many ways.
Comments are closed.