Perception of a Successful Author
By Florence Osmund
People perceive success in many different ways. For some, it’s achieving something others said they couldn’t. For others, it’s finishing what they started out to do, selling lots of products, having revenue left over after expenses, creating value for other people, or being recognized in their field. And for some, it’s all about getting that tingly feeling after accomplishing what had previously been just a dream. To some degree, my perception of a successful author envelopes all of the above. What I talk about in this article are things that usually precede and hopefully lead up to getting that tingly feeling.
Before I talk about success, I’d be remiss if I didn’t convey two important underlying aspects of writing books that I believe every indie author should realize.
· Being a successful author means running a business.
· If your goal is to sell a lot of books, you will likely spend as much time promoting and marketing them as you do writing them. (Unless, of course, you’re a celebrity or have an interesting tale to tell about a celebrity. And if that’s the case, you need not read any further.)
Now that I have that out of the way, allow me to share with you my perception of what it takes to become a successful author. I write novels, so my thoughts are geared toward writing fiction, but much of what I have to say can be easily transferred to non-fiction.
Create a Good Product
All the marketing in the world will not sell a poorly written book. (Okay, I know there are exceptions—and I won’t name any names—but for the sake of this article, let’s assume you’re not one of them.) For most authors, it pays to know the basic rules for crafting a good quality novel. It pays to understand narrative arc, POV, active vs passive voice, and the ‘show, don’t tell’ concept. It pays to know what it means to include too much backstory and to write a character-driven vs plot-driven book. While there are many books on the subject, one of my favorites is Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French. http://amzn.to/2bVIeMC
Consider hiring an editor—a professionally trained one, someone other than your next-door neighbor who took a grammar class at the local junior college and got an ‘A.’ My books go through three levels of editing: content editing, line editing, and copy editing. It’s expensive, but I find that it pays off in the long run, and it has helped me to become a better writer. At the very least, I recommend investing in a professional proofreader to avoid any glaring errors.
Build an Author Platform
Let me start with a definition.
“An author platform is a plan of action that conveys your expertise and credibility to others in an effort to build a successful writing career.”
Platform is your visibility so that others know who you are and how to find you and your books. You can start building one well before your first book is published, and because it’s a gradual, evolving process, it’s something you’ll continue to do for the rest of your days as an author.
The definition of an author platform is fairly vague for a reason—one size does not fit all. The specific elements of your platform will depend on your genre, target audience, strengths, and personal goals. An effective platform will affirm your uniqueness—what sets you apart from your competitors.
A strong author platform will result in improved or increased:
- Meaningful contacts
- Influence over others
- Target audience
- Fan base
It’s not possible to include in this article all the potential ways in which to build a platform. However, some of the more common practices are:
· Creating your own website/blog
· Strong social media presence
· Newsletter distribution
· Speaking/writing engagements
· Trade organization involvement
· Media appearances
· Maintaining a good track record for your books.
Here is a great article by Joel Friedlander on building an author platform. http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/author-platform-what-are-you-waiting-for/
Create a Marketing Plan
It helps to have a marketing plan in place before you publish, even if it's a simple plan that evolves over time. At a minimum, consider the following.
· Basic goals. How many hours per day are you committed to write? How many books do you plan to write per year? What is your projected gross and net annual income?
· Target audience. Identifying your target audience before you start writing will enable you to write specifically for them instead of a larger vague audience. What age are your potential readers? What is their gender? Are they likely to be from a specific geographic location? Do they have special interests? Are they expecting a casual read or something more in-depth?
· The competition. Checking out other authors who write in your genre can be beneficial. Read their reviews to see what others are saying about their books. Familiarize yourself with books that receive the kind of reviews that you would like to receive. See where their books are priced. Check out their Amazon author page and website/blog. Look at authors with the highest sales rankings and learn from them.
· A budget. Budgets assist in achieving financial goals and prioritizing spending. When preparing one, consider the cost of educational/reference materials, dues/subscriptions, office supplies, postage, editing, proofreading, cover design, formatting, printing, distribution, and advertising/promotion.
Start Promoting Early
You don’t have to wait until your book is released to start promoting it. Here are some ways to get the word out while your book is still a work in progress.
· Invite your website/blog visitors to sign up for notification of your next book release. Use their e-mail addresses to create or add to your subscriber list.
· Include a synopsis of your book on your website/blog.
· Post storyline teasers on your website/blog and social media pages.
· Offer an advanced review copy (ARC) of your book in exchange for a review.
· Mention your current project in on-line interviews.
· Above all, have your elevator pitch ready to go. Word-of-mouth advertising still works.
Go for Exposure
If no one knows about your book, no one will buy it, and in this competitive market, your book needs all the exposure it can get. Here are some ways to spread the word about yourself and your books.
Think of your website/blog landing page as a storefront window, and its pages the display racks. Create a landing page that entices people to come inside and check out the merchandise. Make sure that on at least one of the racks are your book covers, descriptions, testimonials, and purchase options. And don’t forget to display your bio on one of the racks as well.
You can gain significant exposure with your Amazon author page. Include testimonials about your books, relevant honors/awards you’ve received, and interesting facts about yourself. But do leave out irrelevant information. For example, if you write romance novels, there is no need to mention your Master’s degree in Mathematics and the brilliant thesis you wrote on numerical methods for algebraic equations. Romance novel readers don’t care about that.
Social media reaches large audiences and is an excellent way to build awareness for you and your books. I like this article on social media for authors. http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/03/11-reasons-why-indie-authors-need-social-media-how-to-get-it-right/
Hundreds of book posting sites exist for you to showcase your books. There, you can usually include an image of your book cover and yourself; a synopsis of your book; and links to your website/blog, buying options, and social media pages. Here’s a link to a page on my website where I list several book posting sites. http://florenceosmund.com/bookpostingsites.html
Not only can you learn from other authors in on-line chat groups, but you can also gain exposure there, especially if you frequently contribute to discussions. I have found that active participation in these groups often leads to members visiting my website, which can potentially lead to gaining new subscribers who may in turn buy my books.
When you write a guest article for someone’s website/blog (hmm…like this one), you will often have the opportunity to include links to your website/blog, social media pages, and Amazon author page—another avenue for exposure.
Get the most from your book pitches by including excerpts from testimonials and your favorite reviews. Which one of these is better at piquing your interest?
Buy “Red Clover” by Florence Osmund http://amzn.to/1fNeXKs
“Without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read!” Buy Red Clover by Florence Osmund http://amzn.to/1fNeXKs “It left a smile on my face.”
(Shameless pitch alert! Oops, too late.)
There is still some dispute among authors about whether they should offer books for free in order to gain exposure. I didn’t do it for the longest time, thinking that it would devalue my work and reputation. But I do now, and here’s why.
It goes without saying that your Amazon author and sales rankings are driven by sales, but what you may not realize is that Amazon includes freebies in their equation for determining rankings. And rankings are important because they affect sales—the two drive each other. So that post-promotion time period, when your rankings are high, is a very lucrative sales period as well. And not only for the promoted book, but in cross-over sales for your other books too.
Here are results from one of my most successful free Kindle book promotions.
Book title: Boxed Set: The Coach House & Daughters
Free Kindle book promotion period: August 6-9, 2015
No. of sites on which the free book was promoted: 33
Investment: $290 (BookBub. All other promo sites were free.)
Number of free downloads during the four-day promotion period: 42,332
Highest sales rankings during the promotion: lit fic #1, historical fiction #1, all e-books #1
No. of sets sold at regular price during the 30 days following the promo: 365
Pages read (KENP) during the 30 days following the promo: 1,672,786
Amazon reviews during the 30 days following the promo: 70 reviews averaging 4.7 stars
That was a very good month for me. I share the results of this promotion and three others on this page of my website. http://florenceosmund.com/discountsfreebies.html
To achieve success in any industry, you have to produce a quality product, price it competitively, market it to the right people, and make it easy to purchase. Writing books is no different.
Please share your perception of what makes an author successful. I’d love to hear from you.