Slow, Steady Growth to Publishing Success

SONY DSCThere are numerous “make millions quick” promises all over the Internet. At one time, indie publishing itself was one of those promises. A few brave souls who were first to jump in had great experiences, talked about it, and before you know it … thousands of authors were following in their footsteps.

You rarely hear indie publishing in conjunction with “get rich quick” promises anymore. The truth is that, if you throw up a book on Amazon and sit back … nothing will happen!

Serious indie authors are now grasping the vital importance of marketing their books and building a following. But it’s easy to look at those early pioneers of self-publishing … and their thousands of sales and thousands of fans … and despair. How will you ever get up to speed?

Get Millions (of Followers) Quick

2015-03-25 Ducklings (2)Now, instead of promising that indie publishing will make you rich quick, some sources are touting various marketing methods to grow your following quick.

One is easy to see all over Twitter. The header photo shows a blue background and a display of options listing so many thousands of followers for so many dollars. (Go check the people who are following you right now. I’ll bet you can find one of those accounts in one minute. I dare ya.) Author Rayne Hall, in her book Twitter for Writers, does a nice job of explaining this scam:

Confession: in my first year on Twitter, I bought followers. If I remember correctly, the going rate at the time was $12 for 1000. To my disgust, these ‘followers’ were obvious fakes: Many had near-identical profile texts, others had no profile texts at all. The same spelling errors recurred in many of the profile texts. A large number had no avatar, while a hundred others showed the same woman in different poses.

(As a side note, if you’ve been following any of the above-described accounts, feel free to unfollow!)

One very controversial way to boost your sales is to publish via Kindle Select. In exchange for putting your book up exclusively on Amazon (i.e., you can’t publish that book on any other platform, like Barnes & Noble or Smashwords), Amazon will give your book extra love on the single largest online bookstore. Many authors report that their sales have taken off. But many more are wary. One tweak of Amazon’s algorithms, and your writing career could be toast. (Remember when Facebook decided you had to pay for your own followers to view your posts?) The wary authors are the ones publishing on all platforms, and politely declining Amazon’s tempting offer.

How to Choose Your Marketing Techniques

2015-03-25 Fish (2)The indie publishing revolution is still in its infancy, and often times advice conflicts. Not to mention, everything changes at break-neck speed on the Internet. What was de rigueur a year ago–or even last month–may be upturned tomorrow. (Hence why it’s so important for indie authors to keep up with their industry. Translated: Follow awesome blogs and podcasts!)

One piece of advice which has been true since the beginning of small business … and will be true forever … is that slow, steady growth is the best business model. 

I know from experience that building a following from scratch feels like swimming in a sea of plastic balls. (Remember those at McDonald’s?) And sometimes, “grow your following quick” schemes look awfully tempting. Not to mention, it’s so hard to sort out the schemes from the genuinely good advice. (Yes, it’s good advice to spend a few minutes every day following new people on Twitter. No, it’s not good advice to blindly find a list of people and hit “follow, follow, follow.” Tried that once. Ended up with hundreds of uninterested followers, inactive accounts, and fake accounts. Lesson learned? At least read the bios!)

As Joanna Penn reminds us many times, indie publishing is a business that can last you the rest of your life (plus seventy years). It’s better to take your time and grow a following of genuinely interested people who will stick with you for the rest of your publishing career.

That’s not to say you should ignore awesome techniques that will boost your book sales and mailing list sign-ups. BookBub ads, for instance, have proven success and its praises are sung by many authors.

My rule of thumb? If some technique looks like it’ll skyrocket your following … be smart, and be wary. Do the homework. Don’t believe a stand-alone source, but see what other authors are reporting about successes and drawbacks.

Most importantly, ask if the technique is ethical. (For instance, just because someone emails you in response to a blog post you wrote … that is NOT a green light to add that person to your mailing list!)

If the technique sits happily inside the ideal of slow, steady growth … if the technique is likely to gain you genuinely interested, life-long dedicated followers … you can be sure it’s a win.

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