Being an indie author can feel like a lonely cause sometimes. You spend most of your time in front of your computer typing away (when you’re not procrastinating on Facebook). And then, when it comes time to launch, you tweet the night away; hoping and praying that all your efforts will pay off. But what if there was a way you could harness the power of other authors and work together to launch your novel? That’s exactly what today’s interview Jana DeLeon did to help re-launch her book which lay dormant for years. The result? It hit the USA Today bestsellers list and went on to hit the New York Times bestsellers list as well; all with the help of her sisterhood of indie authors.
Could you do this too to launch or relaunch your book? I had to find out how she did it and here is what she said:
You resurrected your traditionally published book from the dead and it became an indie bestseller. Why not just let it rot? What motivated you to breathe new life in it?
When I first suspected my former publisher was circling the drain, I immediately told my agent to watch for any breach of contract and get my rights back. That was early 2010 and although indie publishing was not the huge business it is today, I already knew I was going to release the books myself as soon as I had the rights.
I wanted to self-publish because I didn’t believe that my traditional publisher had reached the limits of the audience that my books appeal to, and as I’m still selling thousands of them each month, I am certain I was right. Not only did self-publishing allow me to get my work into the hands of more readers, it pays so much more than traditional publishing that I was finally able to quit my full-time job at the end of last year and write full-time.
It’s said that you banded together with other authors to give the book its boost. What did you do specifically step-by-step to make it a USA Today bestseller?
The group I’m part of, The Indie Voice, was instrumental in gaining the momentum needed to make RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU a USA Today bestseller. All ten members of the group have established readership that trusts their opinions when they recommend books, and by cross-promoting, we all get ten times the social reach we would have otherwise.
To hit the bestseller list, I scheduled a Bookbub ad to run on a Monday. USA Today counts sales from Monday through Sunday, so it makes the most sense to schedule your ad for the first day of the counting period in order to get the most push for the week.
I released a newsletter to my subscribers Monday morning to announce the sale on Rumble.
I contacted Pixel of Ink, Daily Cheap Reads and ereader News Today and told them about the sale. Two of them picked it up and posted about it later in the week, which gave me additional push.
All members of The Indie Voice tweeted and posted on Facebook about the sale on Monday. Toward the end of the week and on the weekend, members posted again to remind readers that the sale would be ending soon. I tweeted and posted the sale on my own Facebook page and Twitter feed also.
The Indie Voice has managed to get a boxset of eight suspense/mystery novels by eight of the members to number seven on the New York Times bestseller list and we hit the USA Today bestseller list two weeks in a row. The strategy for this was the same as I used for Rumble except that Amazon gave us a pre-order button. So now, all ten members of our groups are NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors. We couldn’t be happier.
How did you choose these authors in particular to work with?
Actually, they chose me. Four of the authors, Denise Grover Swank, Debra Holland, Liliana Hart and Jane Graves met at the NINC conference in 2012. Because they were serious indie authors, they decided to form an author support group to help promote their indie work. Each of those four recommended other authors that they knew were serious about the business, produced quality work and already had an established readership, and The Indie Voice was born. We limited membership to ten because it seemed the most manageable number without spreading ourselves too thin.
Lots of authors would love to do what you did. What mistakes do you see many authors do?
The number one mistake I see indie authors making is failure to learn craft. Craft is the difference between a nice story and a professional product. Sure focusing on things like pacing and passive voice may seem irrelevant, but once applied to an entire novel, they make the difference between a reader loving a story and struggling to finish a book. A writer’s first book is almost never good enough to publish and even worse, many don’t have beta readers and don’t pay for professional editing. If writers don’t take their business seriously enough to invest time and money, why should readers pay for their slipshod product?
The second biggest mistake I see indie authors making is releasing one book then spending all their time marketing it. The first principal of marketing is that product sells product. And with books, series sells. Write a series. Release a book, post it on Facebook, and write another book. Stop paying for ads. Stop putting a first book for free when you have no other product to sell. Why spend time, money and effort to draw people to your digital store when you have nothing else to offer? Attention spans are shorter now than ever. Don’t make a huge effort to get noticed before you have more product to offer customers.
The third biggest mistake – and I’ve seen a lot of this lately – is indie authors selling to New York houses and making bad deals that have damaged some careers short-term and will do worse long-term. Successful indie writers are in the driver’s seat. If a publisher doesn’t offer you a deal that’s as good or better for you as it is for them, then give them a polite “no thanks” and walk away until they become realistic about what they need to offer.
What promotional efforts did you try that you would not do again?
I have tried everything at least once. I think indie authors should try everything because what works for one author will be a complete fail for another and vice versa. I have found that advertising with banners on websites yielded the lowest return of my investment. Something great would have to happen to change my mind and get me to do that again.
What books will you be launching/relaunching next?
I put up all of my backlist in 2010 as soon as I got rights back, so no more relaunching. But I started a new mystery series, the Miss Fortune series, and I’m bringing back my bestselling traditional series, the Ghost-in-Law series, with a new release June 2013.