Write or Promote: The Inevitable Quandary of an Indie Author

Ever wondered how best to spend your time as a fiction writer; write the next book or market the one(s) already published? I know I fuss over this issue all the time. And how should we market? How much time should we spend? Well, join Linda Forshaw and I, as she shares her thoughts on the matter.


Guest Post by Linda Forshaw

Image from http://llbookreview.com/
Image from http://llbookreview.com/

Whether a writer has published several novels and have, to all intents and purposes, “gone mainstream” or they have just published their very first works, there’s one thing that pretty much all writers have in common and that’s a desire to be read. After all, it’s not much fun spending months (and sometimes even years) perfecting a book, only to have no-one except immediate family and devoted friends actually buy it.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch makes a good point when she advises that the best thing to do as an indie publisher is to take the “pack ‘em, stack ‘em, move ‘em along” approach (that’s paraphrased – be sure to read Kristine’s insightful post in full). On the other hand, there are plenty of folks out there who regularly extol the virtues of promotion as a means of getting your name known in the writing world. Me? I guess I sit on the fence on this point. I totally get where Kristine is coming from – in the world of indie publishing, you’re more likely to earn a living wage from several works as opposed to banking your retirement on just one (can you feel a series coming on?). That said, I’m also fully signed up to the importance of successful promotion.

The best course of action (in my humble opinion) is to do a bit of both. Keep writing, keep plugging away at your next book (setting targets of so many thousand words a day is always a good idea), but also devote some time to promotion on the side. As Forbes contributor Suw Charman-Anderson suggests -it’s unwise for authors to put all their eggs in one book-shaped basket. The main problem with promotion of course is that not every writer is a natural promoter. Like pretty much anything in life though, it’s a skill that can be learnt. So exactly how does the aspiring bestselling author get people to stand up and take notice of them? There’s tons of advice out there as to how you “must” have a Facebook fan page and how you “must” build a following on Twitter. It’s undoubtedly sage advice, but it’s already been covered in depth (and then some), so let’s look beyond social media to consider alternative methods of getting your book into the realms of recognition (you’re on your own with how to write your actual novel).

The absolute first thing you should consider doing is setting up an author blog. It’s important for writers to have a “home” on the internet; a place where readers (and potential readers) can go to find out more about you. As an added bonus, you have an unrestricted space in which you can likely recover when writers block halts progress on your latest novel. You can find out more about setting up an author blog on writing.ie. Incidentally I wrote that post, which leads me nicely to my second point.

Never miss an opportunity to promote yourself. You could spend countless hours building various author profiles on any number of writing sites. You could annoy the pants off your Facebook friends by posting a link to your newly published book on the hour (every hour). Or you could keep your eyes open for other opportunities (the think outside of the box variety). Better yet, you could actively seek them out. Do you know for sure that your local newspaper wouldn’t want to do a little feature on you? From little seeds grow mighty oaks (or something like that). Now is not the time to be shy.

You’ll also need to get some reviews. Okay, so on the surface that’s not exactly an alternative method of promotion. In most cases, it’s probably better described as a result of promotion as opposed to promotion itself. That is, unless, you give your book away for free. Wait, free? You didn’t ignore your better half and forgo trips to the movies with your kids for two years to give your book away for free. How about just for a little while? You could offer a free copy to 100 readers of your newly set up author blog – in return for an honest review. That should be enough to get you started. Despite the fact that you can pick up many digital books for less than the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, it seems that many potential readers are unwilling to risk their cash on a book with no reviews. After all, there’s a vanilla latte with their name on it somewhere. Show them your book is totally worth giving up just that one coffee by providing them with some real life customer reviews. Of course the success of this tactic largely depends on you getting decent reviews.

The main thing with promotion is to not let it take over your life. What’s the point in checking your sales statistics (or lack of them) every ten minutes when that time could be better spent writing your next bestseller? Be patient. These things take time – but probably not half as long as it would take to see results through the traditional publishing route. Go indie.

Author Bio

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. A frequent contributor to college ranking and review website DegreeJungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay

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    • says

      Oh me too Emma,

      Or organising them for book tour reps/authors/or guests. It’s unfortunate that we need an author platform on one hand, but on the other it gels us to other authors, the writing community and our readers – which is excellent. Swings and roundabouts. And then of course there are social networks and visiting blogs and commenting and forums and groups and promotion and blah blah. I’d love to get a team of publicists to do it all for me, but I’d miss the interaction.

  1. says

    That’s the one thing which scares me about going indie – the amount of time spent in self-promotion. I have an author blog – although not a website (yet) – and I’m on twitter and facebook… and it does take up a lot of my time, when I’d rather be writing. But, even if I go the traditional publishing way, would I end up doing the same thing?

    • says

      All I know is that every author needs a platform in this SN obsessed world and trads no longer do the work for the author. Perhaps the big-six do some promo and enable the world-wide distribution etc, but that’s not available to trads in general. *Sigh* – it has to be done, but finding the balance is crucial. I haven’t found it, or if I do, I lose it soon after 😀

  2. says

    With my second book I devoted a fair amount of time to signings (40 of them) and it led to a fair number of sales (1300, though not all from signings), but nothing much with regards to organic growth afterwards. Now, I’m more in the write, write, write, camp. I am hopeful that “stacking” as Ms. Rusch says will find readers who like to read more than one title by an author. I’ve also taken to devoting a portion of my time to writing serials and a portion to one off novels. It is a nice change of pace, jumping from characters who are like family, to a group of strangers and back.

    At the end of the day, I’ll keep writing, because I believe that success is a possibility as long as I keep moving forward.

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