In awesome timing with Terri’s blog tour, we have an interview. Terri, who has sold thousands of books as an indie author shares with us some of that journey.
Please describe the first months after you self published In Leah’s Wake.
When I published In Leah’s Wake in October 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d been making good progress on a psychological thriller, Nowhere to Run. I knew that the industry was changing and I’d need a platform if I hoped to sell the new book. Stupidly, too embarrassed to self-promote, I put the book on Amazon and left it at that. I mean really left it at that – not even my parents knew I had published the book!
I sold two books in October, four in November, and thirty-four in December. For a few months, as people bought books for their new Kindles, I sold a few copies a day. By March, with sales lagging, and I realized that, if I didn’t do something, the book would die. In early March, I began blogging and activated my Twitter account.
Unsure of what to do next, I scoured the Internet, looking for advice. After landing on the Novel Publicity site three or four times, I contacted Emlyn Chand, and signed up for a few basic services. For the next three months, Emlyn and I worked on building my social networking platform. She introduced me to Twitter, reorganized my blog, and created a media kit, book discussion guide, and video trailer. In mid-May, a blog tour sponsored by Novel Publicity officially launched the In Leah’s Wake marketing campaign.
What was the scariest part of promoting your book and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, the whole idea of promoting my book scared me. Self-promotion felt icky – to some extent, it still does. This probably sounds contradictory, considering that I wrote and published a book, but I don’t like calling attention to myself and I really hate bragging, telling people how great I am. For several months I tried the no promo approach – and no one bought my book. One day, I woke up and realized that if I didn’t promote, I might as well take the book off the market. (I realized I told you this yesterday).
Meeting and working Emlyn made all the difference. She’s so brilliant and creative. We’re a team and Em is a wonderful friend. She makes me feel supported, less alone, and her enthusiasm was and is contagious. That support and excitement helped me get over myself. Using contests as promotions works for me, because the focus isn’t only on me, me, me. We try to make our promotions fun. Social media is also a terrific promotional tool because it’s based entirely on building relationships. I enjoy that sort of interaction.
To date, I’ve done no book signings or any other in-person PR. My first signing is in Ann Arbor on November 6, so I’m nervous all over again.
What kinds of contests did you run? What were you judging? What were the prizes?
I’ve run several contests and giveaways. In one, visitors took my In Leah’s Wake character quiz. The quiz identified them as a character from In Leah’s Wake – Justine, Leah, Zoe, Will or Jerry Johnson (the police officer). Then I asked them to tell us who they were and why they were like that person. I asked a friend, Babs Hightower, to pick her ten favorite responses, then we set up a pole and invited visitors to vote for their favorite. All ten finalists won prizes.
For the Social Media Blitz, entrants could enter one of 8 different ways; most included sharing information about In Leah’s Wake across their social networks. I’m planning a similar contest for the holidays.
People telling friends about a book is the best possible promotion. Contests involve a lot of people, so they’re a terrific promotional vehicle. We try to make them fun and we offer great prizes, so I think, in that sense, they’re fun for contestants too.
If you had to chose one part of your promotion, what worked the best? How would you advice authors just starting out?
That’s a hard question to answer. I’ve always done so many things, often at once, that it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint one particular thing as “the” effort that really worked. If I had to choose, I’d say it was connecting with people – authors, primarily through Twitter and my blog, and readers, on sites like Goodreads and Twitter. I also did two blog tours with the Indie Book Collective in which each author gave away a free eBook. That was a wonderful opportunity because it gave me a chance to connect on a one-to-one basis with people. A Book Movement promotion with AuthorBuzz was similar. To enter a raffle, people sent a message to me about In Leah’s Wake. That gave me the opportunity, once again, to correspond directly with readers. Reaching out, making those connections, really does make a difference. It’s also wonderful for the author. We sit alone at our desk for so long; connecting with people is vital to our well-being, I feel.
I know that’s what sold me after you wrote a personalized thank you note for participating in your contests during your Novel Publicity whirlwind tour. Have you changed the price of In Leah’s Wake? If so, at which price point worked best for you?
Price is a sticky issue. I lowered the price from $2.99 to 99 cents in August. Sales were on the rise, so it’s hard to say if the price made any difference. There are certainly conflicting views on this. One camp feels that a 99 cent price point cheapens a book; the other says 99 cents makes it less of a risk for readers. My view is, for a new author, a price point of anywhere from 99 cents to $2.99 is reasonable. You can start at $2.99 and pulse to 99 cents for events. My UK book will go on the market at $2.74 (b/c it will be priced in pounds) and go up.
Did you try to find an agent before indie publishing? If so, what happened that caused you to publish the way you did?
No, I looked for an agent briefly and decided to go on to a new project. When I started making traction, I decided to indie publish ILW with the hope of selling a few thousand copies, thinking that might catch the attention of an agent. For 6 months I did no PR at all – I was too embarrassed to call attention to myself that way. Once I did, one thing led to another . . .
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Do you have any advice for authors trying to make it in the sea of self-publishing?
My best advice is really to believe in yourself. The industry is competitive and tough and sometimes it seems as though, no matter how hard you try, you’re just spinning your wheels. The truth is, it takes a while to build an audience. It would seem that it would happen gradually, but that’s really not the case. There is a statistics formula – Em would know what it is – that says things happen slowly, then there’s an avalanche. So you may sell only a few books for months and then suddenly sell thousands. In May, I sold 46 books, in June about 100, and more than 1000 in July. So have patience, plug away and continue to believe in yourself!