Because the music industry collapsed a decade ago, indie musicians have had more time than authors to obsess over how to deal with it. As I started playing more and more conventions and meeting more and more authors I’ve noticed that there are some simple things that are a part of the indie musician strategy that still haven’t really caught on with indie authors.
1) Don’t sell your book, sell yourself- Yes, your super cool book is super cool, but so are you. You are the creator of this universe and have a lot going on. Even if you’re not outwardly gregarious or a natural improve comedian, the folks that are interested in your stories are, or could be, interested in you. You’re not there to sell one book. You’re there to sell everything you’ve done and everything you will do (not all at once) and the way to do that is to sell not the physical product, but to sell yourself.
2. Email list- And once you have convinced a reader that you are a real and remarkable individual, ask for their email address. No matter how prolific you are on social media, the email list is vital. How many bands planned their future around MySpace? Where are they now? This is your once or twice monthly direct contact with the readers who care about you the most. Having an email list is a sign that you are serious and someone giving you their email is a sign of trust. They are taking a chance on you, so earn it. Give subscribers a gift, like a short story. A few months later, give them another. Don’t give too much or it becomes spam.
3. Build your catalog- Writers write, right? So how can a super fan get everything? When a reader becomes a fan they start to want more of what you do. So, give it to them. Official releases, email list exclusives, limited time offers. I try to put out two “official albums” a year. If someone finds your newest book and loves it what else can they read? What else? What else? All those short stories you’ve been hoping someone somewhere will publish but deep down you know they probably won’t? Get them to the people who want them.
4. Pay what you can- Your #1 goal is not to make a bunch of money off of your first indie book. Your goal is to build a career and the way you do that is to get people to read your book. Because your book is awesome, the reader will love it, tell a friend, and pre-order the sequel. But only if they read it.
With all the options out there, how do you get people to take a chance on you? Try this the next time someone asks how much your book is.
“Well, if you buy it on my website it’s $15 but when I do an appearance/show/Con it’s pay what you can. Tell me what you think it’s worth.”
I’ve recently started doing this when I’m sitting at my convention author table and a few things started to happen. First, they stop and think, “This is new. This is cool. I have power.” For me, about 1-in-5 will pay less or make a deal like two books for $20. 1-in-5 will pay more or round-up like, here’s $20, keep the change. And the rest will pay the suggested amount. While I do make a little more money, I’m also getting more folks to take a chance. And they’re happy because you gave them a choice. You gave them an acceptable way to pay more or to give you a tip. You have given them a remarkable experience.