Showing posts with label #selfpub. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #selfpub. Show all posts

Guest Post: My Introduction To The World Of Self-Publishing by Mark Danenhauer

Today we have something a bit different: a guest post from talented author Mark Danenhauer who talks about his self-publishing journey so far. If you would like to share a post/article about your own experiences with self-publishing, please contact the administrator via the about page. Without further ado, here's Mark's article.

My Introduction To The World Of Self-Publishing 

by Mark Danenhauer

About four months ago I self published my first book, Jake’s Nature Guide: Rocky Mountains. The feeling of accomplishment that came from publishing and holding the actual book in my hand was fantastic. After the launch the excitement passed and was replaced by another feeling – being lost. I just wasn’t entirely sure what to do next in terms of marketing my book.

To make sense of why I felt so lost, I want to first step back and explain what I did up to the launch of my book. Between the time I finished writing my book and the launch I researched marketing strategies for self-publishing books. One of the key books that I used was Michael Hyatt’s Platform. I also subscribed to various blogs, including Jane Friedman’s, Writer’s Digest, and My Word Publishing.

All of those different sources began pointing me in different directions and for a long time I felt completely overwhelmed because there were so many things that all authors that wish to be successful absolutely had to do. According to all of the info I was learning I needed to write a blog, create an author website, get active on social media such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Additionally, I needed to get busy on Twitter and Instagram. There were also lots of different strategies for helping to build my platform and my expertise such as writing guest posts on other blogs, writing articles on different sites such as eZine and Medium or answering questions on sites such as Quora.

For a little while I attempted to do little bit of everything, but I quickly realized that was impossible. I could not do everything. I am only one person with a finite amount of time. Eventually,

I came up with my own plan by picking and choosing those items that I enjoy doing and felt would help me meet my overall goal of selling my book. I ended up creating a blog under the same name of my book, Jake’s Nature Blog. The blog has become my primary focus area and I have been working on writing posts and growing the traffic on it for some time now. I also am somewhat active on Facebook, and Pinterest, but not Twitter or Instagram.

My thinking at the time was to focus my efforts on the blog and that would somehow lead to sales of my book. Since I was so new to this all I didn’t have a clear idea of how that would happen. I just imagined that as the traffic to my blog grew I would be able to easily convert that to book sales.

I worked on the blog a little bit every day, slowly learning the nuts of bolts of blogging, improving my SEO rankings and generating a bit more traffic. The blog was an incredible learning curve, both learning how to write content and the behind the scenes aspects such as self-hosting, and all of the different plug ins that are available. When I look back on those early posts I realize how little I knew at the time. Even though those early posts weren’t perfect, they still were a necessary part of my learning process.

Then came the much-anticipated launch of my book. In addition to promoting the launch via social media and my blog, I held a book signing in three different independent bookstores around the Rockies (Tattered Cover, The Kings English, and The Country Bookshelf). Those events were successful and I sold a bunch of books.

After I returned home and the post-launch hype from the book release began to fade, I realized that I just didn’t have a good plan to move forward. My initial plan that the blog would encourage massive sales of my book just wasn’t happening. I didn’t have a bestseller and I needed to figure out how to keep marketing my book and my writing.

During that period I joined several different self-publishing writers groups on Goodreads, and Facebook, listened to podcasts, and read more blogs and books about self-publishing (such as William Cook’s Secrets of Best Selling Self Published Authors).

That next two to three month period became a valuable time for me as I learned a lot and came to the realization that I am not just trying to sell my book. I reframed my mindset to think of myself as not just an author and began to think of my writing as a business with me as the business owner.

I am still coming around to this new way of viewing my work and figuring out the best strategy to move forward. This involves creating a new marketing plan, and a business plan that will focus on selling my paper back book, creating and selling eBooks, writing another non fiction book, and monetizing my blog and generating more traffic to it.

Some days I feel completely overwhelmed and lost because there is just so much information out in the world related to self-publishing and marketing a book. I have unfortunately spent too many days just drifting aimlessly reading stuff on self-publishing and hearing other people’s success stories.

Every time I came across a new approach it would cause me to feel like I need to incorporate it into my own plan, but that is just not feasible. I don’t have all the time in the world to work on my business. In fact, I mainly work from the time my kids leave the house to school until they return home. That gives me about 6 hours to work on my writing business and any other meetings, errands that come up during a day, not to mention trying to get some exercise.

It has taken me several months to finally feel comfortable with the direction I am heading and I have a plan to move forward. It seems like the business around creating and selling an eBook is easier and less expensive than producing an expensive paper book that needs to be stored somewhere.

I finally have my marketing plan and overall business strategy to help me move forward and begin making money as a self published author. My new focus is still on the blog, but I am going to use it to sell my book and eBooks.

When ever I have a day that I feel unmotivated or unsure what to do next I like to listen to the Side Hustle Nation podcasts, which have lots of stories of what other people have done to make a success of their writing or other endeavors. Those stories always help to inspire me to work harder and realize that I can become a successful self-published author. 


About the author – Mark Danenhauer is a blogger, father, and nature lover that recently published his first book, Jake’s Nature Guide: Rocky Mountains. He loves getting outside to explore with his family and tries to do his writing when the kids are in school or before the house wakes up. You can catch up with Mark and learn all kinds of fun nature facts on his blog – Jake’s Nature Blog or on Facebook.

#selfpub, selfpublishing, successful self-publishing, Mark Danenhauer, Jake's Nature Book, Jake's Nature Blog, #amwriting, Indie, Indie Author, Jane Friedman, Michael Hyatt, Writer’s Digest, selfpublishing successfully

Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #13 – Michael J Sullivan

Another fascinating interview is in store for you today and this time we have best-selling fantasy author, Michael J Sullivan in the hot-seat. A very interesting and generous writer who has taken the time to answer my questions about self-publishing and achieving success in today's tough publishing market-place. As usual, please make sure to check out Michael's links and books at the bottom of the interview and also take advantage of the subscription offer. His Amazon biography describes him as thus (abridged):

After finding a manual typewriter in the basement of a friend's house, Michael J. Sullivan inserted a blank piece of paper and typed: It was a dark and stormy night. He was just eight years old and mimicking the greatest (or only) writer he knew at the time...Snoopy. That spark ignited a flame and the desire to fill blank pages would become a life-long obsession. As an adult, Michael spent more than ten years developing his craft by studying authors such as Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck. During that time, he wrote thirteen novels but found no traction in publishing. He did the only sane thing he could think of (since insanity is repeating the same act but expecting a different result), he quit and vowed never to write creatively again.

Michael stayed away from writing for a decade and returned to the keyboard in his forties...but with one condition: he wouldn't seek publication. Instead, he wrote a series of books that had been building in his head over his hiatus. His first reading love was fantasy, and his hope was to help foster a love of reading in his then thirteen-year-old daughter, who struggled due to severe dyslexia. After reading the third book of this series, his wife insisted the novels needed to "get out there." When Michael refused to jump back onto the query-go-round, she took over the publication tasks and has run "the business side" of his writing ever since.

Michael is one of the few authors who has successfully published through all three routes: small press, self, and big five. Some key accomplishments of his career include:

* Named to io9's Most Successful Self-Published Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors
* Sold more than half a million English copies
* Been translated into twelve foreign languages
* Spent more than a year on Amazon's Bestselling Fantasy Author's list
* His Death of Dulgath Kickstarter is the third-highest funded fiction project of all time.
* Had his books named to more than 100 "best of" or "most anticipated" lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes and Noble,, and

Today, Michael continues to fill blank pages with nine released novels, six awaiting publication, and a new series in the developmental stages. 

 Here he is, folks. The inimitable, Michael J Sullivan:

Do you think that your life experience has gone someway towards making you a successful author in your chosen genre?

Yes, in many ways all that has occurred during my life has been a contributing factor to my success. It’s taken me decades to find my voice and polish my story-telling style, but more importantly the skills related to marketing, design, and promotion also took years to perfect. My “day job” before I became a full-time novelist was running my advertising agency. Doing that gave me experience in layout, design, and marketing.

You are what is commonly referred to as a ‘hybrid author.’ Can you please explain whether you agree with this and whether or not this was a conscious decision on your part?

Yes, a hybrid is the best description for how I approach publishing. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s an author who utilizes both self-publishing and traditional. It would help to explain a bit about my publishing history.

·      2008 – Book #1 of The Riyria Revelations was published by a small press

·      2009  -  2010  Book #1 - #5 of The Riyria Revelations were self-published

·      2011 – 201 2: Book #1 - #6 of The Riyria Revelations re-released by big-five

·      2013 – Book #1 & #2 – of The Riyria Chronicles released by big-five

·      2014 – Hollow World – released by self (ebook) and small press (print book)

·      2015 – Book #3 of The Riyria Chronicles self-published

·      2016 – Book #1 of The First Empire released by big-five

·      2017 -  Book #2 of the First Empire released by big-five and at least one book self-published.

As you can see, I have utilized small presses, the big-five traditional publishers, and self-publishing over the course of the last eight years. It is definitely a conscious decision, as I think it diversifies my offerings and provides for the greatest amount of flexibility. For each project, I determine what I think would be the best for my career and evaluate potential income, and then I decide which route to take.

A common trait I have noticed, amongst the work of some of the biggest and best-selling authors who self-publish, is that they are ‘World Creators.’ You are no exception – your books are set in fantastical and futuristic worlds that envelope your readers. The fact that many of the top self-published authors create and write within these worlds leads me to believe that this way of writing lends itself strongly, to solid story strands that translate nicely into both extended series and devout fans and to a certain appeasement of the Amazon gods in terms of the promotion of those series. Do you write an origin story with a future series in mind or is it more of an organic process because of the way you build such a strong setting/world in the first book?

To date, I’ve written series mostly, but I do so in a very unusual way. I write all the books before publishing any of them.  For instance my first series, The Riyria Revelations was a six-novel story arc, and I finished writing the last book before the first one was published. I just finished a new series, The First Empire (5 books). Even though the first book, The Age of Myth, won’t be released until June 2016, I’ve finished all five books this April.

I do have one book, Hollow World, which is a standalone novel. That being said, I left some room to revisit that world and characters if the readership wanted more. It would appear that they do, so I’ll probably be writing a second story in that universe starting next year.

How important are books written within a series to your success as a best-selling author?

I think series are very important to my success. First, it is common in fantasy and science fiction to create epic tales that require several full-length novels to tell. But more importantly, it’s hard to make a living with just one book. Three seems to be the magic number as far as the number required to start obtaining a substantial readership. When they are all in the same series, it’s easy to get someone to go from one to the next (assuming the first one has entertained and/or touched them).  Otherwise, you have to find a new audience with each standalone book, and that is a lot more work.

Once you have decided that self-publishing might be your route, what financial and artistic considerations should you keep in mind before you begin?

I’m a firm believer that if you go the self-published route, you MUST produce a work that is every bit as good as anything coming from New York. That means an attractive, professional cover and flawless editing. A self-published book has to be twice as good to get half the credit. A typo or two in a traditionally published book is looked upon as a “minor mistake.” The same typos in a self-published book are held up as proof that self-published authors need better editing.  Going self doesn’t mean “taking the easy way.” It means just the opposite. So if you can’t produce a book with exceptional quality – I say don’t bother.  All that being said, you also have to keep in mind budgetary considerations. It doesn’t make sense to spend $2,000 releasing a book that will only net $500.  So you have to spend your money wisely.  If you shop around you can budget around $800 and get good results for both cover and editing. To me, that’s probably the lowest amount you should expect.

What kind of marketing did you do to establish your author brand and what do you think is the most successful marketing for self-published authors? Is there any one thing that you have determined has helped you sell more books – i.e. could you outline your path to establishing your brand and your most successful sales method/s?

It’s impossible to sum up years of marketing experience in a paragraph. But I can point out some resources that should help. One of the areas that I’ve found the best results from is Goodreads. It’s a site dedicated to books and is a perfect environment to find readers. There’s a lot to do there:groups to join, giveaways to run, talking to people who have read and reviewed your books. It can be somewhat overwhelming. I suggest people check out an article I wrote in the Feb 2015 edition of Writer’s Digest as a good place to start. I also have some online guides on the right-hand side of reddit’s write2publish sub (

You have some fantastic book covers. How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader and how big a part do you think it has played in your success to date? 

Nothing will hold back a good book more than a bad cover. If someone can tell a book is self-published by looking at it, then you’ve put yourself at a significant disadvantage. Remember what I said about producing a book using the same standards of traditional publishers. That means that the cover of your self-published book has to stand toe-to-toe with anything that comes out from New York. With a bad cover, you have to work so much harder to convince people that what is inside the covers is worth their time. A good cover clears that obstacle and puts the focus on the writing not its package.

Do you think it is important for self-published authors to identify and write in a niche market that they may have an interest in, in order to establish themselves as a leader in that genre and sell more books?

I don’t know that I’m expert on selling books across a broad spectrum. All I can speak to is what has worked for me. First and foremost I think you have to write what you love. Otherwise, the lack of passion will show in your work. For instance, erotica has always done well in self-publishing, and if I cared only about money, I might consider writing for that audience. But I’d fail in that genre as (a) I don’t know the market well and (b) they aren’t the stories I want to tell. The people who do well in that market do so because they are passionate about those stories. There are going to be writers whose books are going to be “too niche” or “too broad” and they will probably struggle, and may never be commercial successes. It’s just a fact of life. If that describes you, then you need to find your rewards by the journey rather than the destination, and there is nothing wrong with that.

What avenues of self-promotion did you find to be most effective and affordable? What’s the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ advertising you have employed?

Without question, a Goodreads Giveaway is the best “bang-for-your-buck.” For the cost of printing and shipping a book you can get hundreds, or even thousands of people to know it exists.  I just concluded a giveaway for my new novel, The Death of Dulgath which had 4,186 people interested.  The one before that (The Age of Myth (previously called Rhune) had 9,243 people sign up.  Now, a new author can’t expect that kind of result. But even when I was an unknown author, I was pulling in 500 – 800 readers. That’s quite a bit, especially considering that I could message each one afterward and offer them a free short story. Doing that was very successful in getting people into my series.

In your opinion, is traditional publishing on the way out? Do you think that traditional publishing can continue to keep up with the rise of self-publishing?

No, I don’t think traditional publishing is on the way out, but I do think self is now just as viable as traditional. It depends on what your goals are and what capabilities you have. If, for instance, you can’t put out a high-quality self-published book, then I think you should go traditional. Yes, you’ll lose a big cut of the profits, but the book will be professionally produced, and you have to start with that or you have nothing.  As for traditional “keeping up” with self-publishing…the answer is they can’t...but they don’t need to.  Let me explain. “Keeping up” implies they can match the output of self – and that’s just not possible. There are only so many books they can curate in any given year, and it will always be a very small fraction of the self-published books released. Traditional publishing’s business model is much different than self. It has always had a limited bandwidth, and that works for their model. The bigger concern to traditional publishing isn’t an influx of self-published titles. If anything, that helps them out.  The danger is a decrease in readership as people turn to other forms of leisure…video games, television, movies, etc.

Would you ever consider signing all your books to a traditional publishing house or will you always manage some of your titles yourself through self-publishing?

I would like to have more self-published titles then I currently do. There were times in my career that I was 100% self, and that provides a great deal of freedom and a lot fewer hassles. When I sold my first self-published works to the big-five, my intension was to self-publish all future books. So far, that hasn’t happened. The first offer I got on my second series had me heading for self-publishing, but then an offer came in that made traditional a better choice.  For my third series, I also intended to take that self, but again another offer came along that I just couldn’t pass up.  Still, my most recent work is going out the self-published route and I do have several new projects I plan on self-publishing. Whether they will or not will depend on many factors including how my career is progressing and which route I think will make the most amount of sense.  But no, I don’t suspect I’ll ever be 100% traditional.

Have you ever used free book promotions? Do you think they are a worth-while marketing tool for self-published authors? If so/not – why?

There was a three-week period back in 2010 when I put my second novel to free. In general, I’m not a fan of free novels as it is a large potential loss for the author.  What I do believe strongly in is free short stories. I have two shorts free on Audible (The Jester and Professional Integrity). And I have some free shorts in ebook (including the Riyria Sampler, which has four little shorts in it).  But I say all that with regards to my writing. For some authors, the free first book is essential for their careers, and it works well for them. Each author is going to be slightly different. The best advice I can give is to be self-aware about your audience and what you need to do to lower the barrier for them to try your stuff. At the beginning of your career, free books may be a needed incentive, but as your readership grows, you should be able to go without it.

Do you feel there’s a good sense of community within the self-publishing industry?

Absolutely. I find the self-published authors are extremely open and share a great deal, something I’ve not seen much of with traditional authors. In particular, the Writer’s CafĂ© of Kindle boards ( is especially helpful.

Many self-published authors (and many traditional authors) have a strong support network, the most important member usually being a spouse or partner who provides financial stability in the early stages of the author’s career. Your wife has been instrumental in handling the publishing tasks and runs the ‘business side’ of your career which gives you the freedom to write. Do you think this is an essential aspect of successful writers’ careers and do you think you would have the success you have enjoyed to date without such support?

There is no doubt that I couldn’t have been successful without Robin’s support.  Does every author have that? Sadly, no. Can you be successful without it? Yes, but it will be harder. I find the “business side” overhead to be about the same in self and traditional…the tasks are different, but the time away from writing is about the same. So, it’s not like there is more burden with self than traditional on that front. I’m fortunate as I don’t have to concern myself with agents, publishers, publicists, etc. Robin handles all that. It puts me in an exceptional position for writing. Bottom line. I wish every author had what I do, and no you can’t have Robin. She’s mine.

What would you say is the single biggest advantage of deciding to self-publish?

Control. I just spoke about the “overhead” being about the same between the traditional and self. A lot of that has to do with constant conversations Robin has with the publisher about things we would like to do but can’t.  Want to lower the price temporarily?  The publisher says no.  Want to distribute the books free of DRM? The publisher says no.  Would you like the book included in a Humble Bundle? Nope. Don’t like the cover created?  Too bad, you don’t have a say.  Would you like a different format (say hardcover or mass market paperback)? Again you don’t have any input into such things.  When you are with a traditional publisher, there is a lot of “hoping” they’ll do things you want them to do. Sometimes they do, but many times they do not.  And it can be extremely frustrating.

You have successfully used crowd-funding (Kickstarter) to drive some of your projects forward in the past. What are the main pros and cons for a self-published author in using such platforms to fund their projects?

The pros of Kickstarting is the sense of “community” that the backers generate. They feel a part of the creation process and are as proud as I am with the success of the book. They are enthusiastic, and it’s great seeing everyone pulling to meet that next stretch goal. They also provide early reviews and help with generating pre-release “buzz.”

The cons are that it won’t work for everyone. People who have no audience will find it difficult to fund. So, my suggestion is you shouldn’t Kickstart your first novel.  Once you get a few under your belt, and you have a following that’s when you should consider one.

You have many of your books available in audio format – do you think audio books are worth investing in for self-published authors? I.e. is it a revenue stream that pays dividends in your opinion?

Again, it’s hard for me to discuss generalities, as I’m only an expert with regards to my books and my career. For me, they surpassed my wildest expectations, but I’ve also been on the top of the bestsellers there and one thing about the top – is not everyone is going to get there. The best thing I can say is if you have a good strong ebook/print audience the chances of a good audio audience is good as well. But when you do it, do so with that same attention to professionalism I spoke of elsewhere. That means hiring a top-notch narrator and using a professional studio for recording and mastering. If you try to do it “on the cheap.” I don’t think it will be successful.

How important do you think social media and a strong active online presence is, to becoming a success as a self-published author?

It depends on how you define “social media” – if you define it as having a Facebook page and tweeting to “buy my book” I think that will tend to be counterproductive.  If you mean having tools that help you connect with your readership…well that’s a whole different story.  I think authors today are fortunate in that they have so many ways to CONNECT with readers. To me, such venues help to do that, and I think making connections is just as important to a self-published author as it is a traditionally published one. It comes down to what you do with those tools.

Are you in regular contact with other self-published authors and how important was any input you may have received early on in your career?  Do you have a mentor in terms of your self-publishing success – someone who may have inspired you to ‘give it a go’?

There are a few authors I’m in touch with regularly, some are self-published, some are traditional, and a very few do a bit of both.  All of my contacts came after I started publishing, so it didn’t help build the career…but now that I have a career it’s nice to chat, compare notes, and talk about what’s going on in the industry. As for mentorship, it has tended to be the other way around. I mentor a lot of people, but I was a bit of a trailblazer, so my work was pretty much on my own.

Do you think self-published authors need to become effective business people, by treating self-publishing as a business, in order to succeed and secure their financial independence?

Yes, I do believe self-published authors have to concern themselves with both the “craft of writing” and the “business of publishing.” As I said above, you have to put out something with every bit of quality that “real” publishers do – so you need a bit of entrepreneurship in you. Those that prefer “working for the man” probably will never be a good fit for the type of maverick nature that good self-publishing requires.

Where to from here? Are you currently represented by an agent and are you working with any publishers on future projects?

I recently changed agents, and am currently represented by Joshua Bilmes’ JABberwocky Agency. Just prior to signing on with them, I sold four books to Del Rey. This includes the first three books of The First Empire series (Age of Myth will be released in June 2016), and one more yet to be determined book to be set in my fictional world of Elan.  That could be a fourth Royce and Hadrian Riyria book or one of about a half-dozen other books I already have planned out in that world.  Del Rey will be releasing my books yearly, so I’ll be writing (and probably self-publishing) other books as they do their releases. As I said, I have all five of the First Empire novels written, and I’ll have plenty more finished over the four years of that contract.  Currently, I’m in beta with my third Riyria Chronicle (The Death of Dulgath) which I plan on having out before the end of the year via self-publishing.

Can you offer any advice to fellow writers if you could go back in time and “do it all over?” What’s your top tip for other indie authors?

The only thing that I think I did wrong was when I gave up. I had spent about a decade writing and had thirteen completed novels. When I couldn’t find any traction in publishing, I quit.  I didn’t start writing again until a decade later, and I only did so with the belief that I wouldn’t be publishing. Ironically, it was those books that put me on the map. So I guess my best advice is to realize that the only way to ensure failure is to quit trying. If something doesn’t catch…write something else.  Keep working on improving your skills and keep telling stories, and that will significantly increase your chances of success.

Finally, thanks for sharing your thoughts on self-publishing. Where is the best place for readers to find your books?

Thanks for having me, and for asking such great questions. This is where people can connect with me.

Social media: Facebook • goodreads • wattpad

 A small selection of Michael's books (click image to purchase)





#books, #selfpub, Amazon Best-sellers, Indie, Interview, Michael J Sullivan, Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors, Riyria, Self-Publishing, William Cook, writing, Fantasy

Growth Hacking For Self-Published Authors - How to Boost Your Book Sales and Online Presence


By G.W. Cook 

‘Growth Hacking’ is an expansion method of marketing, in that the focus is primarily on growing a business or online platform to reap the best possible returns with the lowest possible cost involved. Of course, the more money one spends on effective marketing the higher the yield, but for the independent business owner, in this case the author, excellent results can be achieved on a comparison with more traditional marketing routes and techniques. A growth hacker typically analyses results and employs techniques that provide the greatest return on investment (ROI). They will also measure the performance of tried marketing methods in order to determine the most effective means by which to both sell and brand/market products. With Growth Hacking it is all about the way forward. Through trial and error, a good Growth Hacker will push a product or service to reach its maximum market-place potential.

So, how can an author use Growth Hacking techniques to increase their online presence and book sales? First you need to determine what you want to achieve with your efforts. As an author you need to realize that promotion and branding is a necessary part of the business (and yes, it is a ‘business’). Don’t kid yourself that all you need to do is write the books and your readers will find you. Even traditionally published authors (i.e. not self-published or independently published) need to ‘brand’ themselves in the marketing and presentation of their works to the world. With exception, most authors need to present themselves to the world in order to find their audience. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule but these cases are anomalies and definitely not the norm for new and lower-mid list authors.

The fundamental launch-pad for an author is their ‘author platform.’ Obviously, only an idiot would go to market before they have a product (book) to sell so this article will assume that you, the author, has a book or books that have been created to the best of your ability and now you want to shift some units! If you want to increase your presence and your sales, you need a platform to help you expand your market reach.


As a writer, Blogging is an integral part of any author platform. Personally speaking, something that started out as a hobby nearly ten years ago, has now grown into an essential marketing and communication tool. It is the means by which I communicate with my audience. New releases, book launches, promotions, sales, connecting with readers etc., should all be done via your main website and/or blog. Why? Why not just use social media to chat with readers and share things about your books? The answer is simple yet complex – social media is fine for touching base and sharing promotions and so forth but to actually engage your audience and move your sales forward you need to employ metrics of some sort. How do you judge via Facebook or Twitter (or any of the other social media platforms) how many people purchased your book? How do you find out how many people are actually connected because they are readers or fans of your work? 

Perhaps Facebook has the most tools for measuring page visits and advertising ROI, yet it doesn’t have the direct simplicity and ownership that your own website analytics possess (at this stage anyway). Managing an email list from your own website via one of the main email services like MailChimp or Aweber gives you much more control and flexibility, without the associated costs of having to pay a social media platform like FB to gather results and measure your campaigns. One of the most prevailing pieces of advice, in regards to what is absolutely essential for authors and anyone who is trying to sell something to the largest possible audience, is to build an email subscriber list. Subscribers are where you will find your most loyal fans - they have already indicated by subscribing that they are willing to receive promotional material. If you haven’t got a subscription method on your blog/website, get one NOW. All of the SSPAs (Successful Self-Published Authors) use mailing lists to promote their work and increase their sales and it is an essential way of staying in touch with your readers.

With the release of my first novel, BloodRelated (written under pseudonym, William Cook), I began blogging seriously. It is as critical for indie authors to market their own books as it is for mainstream authors also. Most publishers offer limited marketing, especially social-media advertising and promotion, so authors need to learn how to market their books online or they’ll have a limited chance of success with their book sales. A blog can be networked with social media platforms very easily with automated widgets and sharing options that are built into most of the blogging platforms. I use WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr for my blogs. All are networked with each other and all are linked to my various social media (SM) platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc) so that every time I post a new article on my (main) blog/s, an automated post is fired out to all my SM networks. It is very important for me, as a writer and publicist, to be online and to respond quickly to my readers’ comments and to market trends that may impact book sales and site visits. The more available I am, the more interaction I have with my readers and potential readers, and the more book sales I generate.

With the help of YouTube tutorials and the various blogging platform forums, I taught myself to build my own blogs and sites. It has taken over ten years of constant refinement, honing, and experimentation to get to where I am currently, but it has been relatively straight-forward. As I have mentioned, help is readily available through most of these platforms via their forums and YouTube channels which offer easy-to-follow tutorials and trouble-shooting guides. My various blogs have different features, but all essentially have a uniformity that extends my platform reach as much as possible. I promote my websites and blogs with each other and have a couple of mirror-sites that replicate the content of particular blogs to effectively extend my reach and enhance SEO (Search Engine Optimization) via search engines etc.

When choosing your web address name or URL (Uniform Resource Locator), make it as directly relevant as possible to your author name or book. For an author it is a no-brainer really. The domain name should either direct traffic via your own name or the title of the book.  My author site is and this website is – fairly self-explanatory really.

I prefer a simple, slightly minimalist theme, although my main site is quite busy and houses a vast amount of information, pages and posts. I prefer widgets to plug-ins as I have found that some plug-ins interfere with my readers experience if they don’t have the same plug-ins and some can also create a portal for malware etc. Some plugins have caused sites to crash and have created compatibility issues with browsers and anti-virus/adware software. I do have specific and essential ones for social-media sharing but I try to keep them to a minimum to maximize my sites’ compatibility with viewers’ browsers and online capabilities. The main ones to have for a blog would be social media plugins, SEO plugins, cache plugins, related posts plugins, and ping optimizer plugins. If the right combination is used, your site visibility will be improved and also rankings via search engines. My rule of thumb is, if it’s not going to increase visitors to my site and maximize my site’s potential, don’t use it.

I use the CMSs (Content Management System) that are supplied with the various blog/website platforms I use. Most of them are fairly simple and have easy-to-use dashboards that make managing my site/blog content a breeze. I do most of the formatting for my posts/articles via Microsoft Office before uploading to the site. For downloads etc. I use Dropbox which allows links etc. My email newsletter is supplied by Mailchimp which easily integrates with most of the blogging and website platforms. All In all, fairly easy to use with regular tweaks. Like everything, the more practice and usage, the more proficient one becomes at utilizing these tools.

I make an effort to blog at least one-two times per month on each blog I manage. Usually, I will try to promote others in my network as well as my own things. A small blog post followed by a larger more information-heavy post (once a month at least) seems to work well and gives my subscribers/audience time to read each post without feeling like they are being ‘spammed.’ I do updates, edits, and comment moderation etc. most days, however, and probably average between 5-10 hours a week on maintaining my blogs and various sites.

Recently, I have done a series of interviews called Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors (check out the link at the bottom of this article to get a copy of the eBook for a special discounted price of $0.99), which has proved incredibly popular and has resulted in a big surge of site visits. I recently turned this series of interviews into a book of the same name and it has done incredibly well. Re-purposing content from your blog, especially high value content that has proved popular with your blog/website audience will translate nicely to a successful eBook if you do it properly. Remember, with your blog/site, the content and the promotion should all feed into one another, i.e. if you haven’t got good content, it doesn’t matter how much you promote the blog, you will not get the same amount of new subscribers and repeat visitors. Quality content = more subscribers/visitors. Make it fresh, stay on trend, and remember to write well and use quality visuals to compliment your posts. Think ahead, test and gear your posts towards re-purposing later on as downloads or eBooks.

If you have something to say and good things to share, blogging is the perfect platform to make your online presence felt. Most agents and publishers require their authors to have a visible online presence and blogging is one of the key ways to drive readers/customers to your website and books. As I suggested above: make it fresh, stay on trend, and remember to write well and use quality visuals to compliment your posts. Above all, have fun and interact with your blogging community/network as it grows. There are thousands of blogs and bloggers out there who love to connect with readers and other bloggers. Develop a network, interact, post quality content that other people will be interested in reading and before long you’ll have steady traffic if you make regular posts. The possibilities are endless and the advantages in promoting your work and developing content are obvious enough.

Blogging/Website tip:

Optimize the software you use online. Make sure that when you create a new post on your blog/website that it is optimized with the most effective social media software communicators. Integrate your social media platforms so that each time you post an automatic notification is blasted across your social media networks. Online software and apps like HootSuite will ensure that you get maximum exposure using this method.

Social Media

Social media is a crucial and essential means of promotion for the self-published author. It is low-cost but does require considerable commitment, time and knowledge/understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Lately, personally speaking, LinkedIn is proving quite an effective way of promoting my blogs, as is Google+, Facebook (of course), Twitter and Pinterest. Quite often I’ll have a giveaway promotion in the form of a free book that I will market across all my social media networks. Most of these promotions involve a few hours preparation and a couple of hours marketing online (i.e. creating blog posts, email newsletters, Facebook/Twitter posts, guest blog posts, press releases etc.). The promotion consists of polished well-edited material with simple, easy-to-read content with a direct ‘call-to-action,’ usually accompanied by a visually appealing graphic to compliment the text. 

There are many options with advertising and targeted marketing through all of the social media sites – especially if you have plenty of money to spend. UK self-published author, MarkDawson, has been recently featured in Forbes magazine recounting how he spends upwards of $350 a day on Facebook advertising! While not all of us have this kind of budget to spend on marketing our books, Dawson’s example shows what can be achieved if you are prepared to back your product and play the game – he earns a high six-figure income (approx. $450,000 via Amazon according to the April 2015 Forbes article), so if you do the math: $350 X 365 (days in the year) = $127,750 advertising costs, a $322,250 profit doesn’t seem too shabby. Obviously, he will have organic sales that are produced by other means, e.g. Amazon rankings/profile, Kindle promotions, word-of-mouth, website sales funnels and other marketing avenues, that all contribute to his total revenue but my point is, one has to spend money in the publishing world, to make money. You can still make a small income without spending $350 a day, but if your work is of a high standard and matches what the big boys and girls in the self-publishing world are producing, there is no reason why you can’t achieve the same results if you play the game properly and be prepared to spend money in all the right places.


Income Streams

Aside from the sale of your products (books, training programs, etc.), it is possible to monetize your website, but it depends on what you’re selling (i.e. if you have a product) and/or if your content and site-visit numbers support offering advertising or affiliate sales. Because I have a number of books for sale at any given moment, I recently signed up to the Amazon Associates affiliate program (on my personal author website) which basically earns me a small slice of revenue each time someone clicks through on the supplied link and buys a product from the Amazon website. I have turned down offers to advertise other people’s/company’s products on my sites for two reasons, one – their product/s did not compliment my own and, two – I don’t want the followers of my blog to have to put up with scrolling through advertisements. However, subscription ads are essential to establish a subscriber base and an email mailing list and while they are similar in terms of their display and 'call-to-action' messages (i.e. similar to product/service advertisements), I feel that most online users are savvy enough to distinguish the two types of promotions or call-to-action/s. In other words, having minimal forms of advertising on your site allows the occasional (usually initial) intrusion of a subscription ad, without annoying your viewers as much.

Aside from repelling potential subscribers, I personally think it makes a website look tacky if it's over-done, especially if all you see are automated ads for dating sites etc. Nothing worse than reading an article and having it interrupted with pop-up ads and off-target promotions for Viagra or Russian Brides etc. But that’s just my opinion, I make money from my blog, but indirectly through the sale of the books that I promote within the various articles/posts and in static sidebar adverts that are clearly listed and don’t interfere with the reading of the articles/content. Perhaps I will look at advertising options later on if necessity dictates, especially via my niche-interest site (as opposed to my personal author site) and then only with static side-bar or banner ads. If service providers/advertisers approach me with specialty ads/promotions, that match up with my blog/site subscribers' needs and interests, and only if it is beneficial to my subscribers, would the right type of advert would be considered.

Many blogs I visit have advertising and it’s not long before it gets tiring and downright offensive if you have to navigate between posts with ads for dubious dating sites and ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ in-your-face pop-ups etc. At this early stage I have seen no significant return from being an affiliate with Amazon, but I know of others who have achieved good results. Once again, it comes down to testing whether or not it works for you. The good thing about this program is that it is free and is another way of establishing a passive income stream that just ticks along nicely.

Growth Hacking for Authors

To effectively ‘growth hack’ your promotional efforts as an author, collecting data needs to be done consistently and regularly for best results. Use a spreadsheet (Excel) for each of your books. Title the spreadsheet with your book title and use separate ‘pages’ for each campaign that you run. Monitor book sales from sales data provided by the online merchants (e.g. Amazon, Kobo, B&N, etc.) – record each month’s sales and note any trends that present themselves in alignment with your campaigns. E.g. did your sales go up after using a specific promotional tool/method (e.g. BookBub promo, email campaign, special offer, free book promotion etc.).
Your main goal should be in discovering what works best with your readers. What makes them want to buy your books? What price structure appeals the most (i.e. do you sell more $0.99 titles than other titles etc.)? Do your readers buy hard copies of your books, if so/not – why?

The more information you gather and analyze, regarding the spending and reading habits of your audience, the easier it will be to determine your best future marketing and promotion options. One of the best ways to get this information is to ask your readers directly. Create a survey or contact fans directly via your blog and social media sites. Create a special email/newsletter and contact your subscribers directly with your questions – combine a give-away for maximum results and make sure to thank your subscribers for participating.

The key to gathering this useful information is in having an established database of people who you know are already interested in your work. In finding out what makes your current audience want to read your books, you can successfully anticipate what it is that will appeal to future readers of your work. Think smart. Ask questions. Use what you have and most of all, add value to your author platform with whatever you do. 
Know your product (i.e. your book) AND your target market. It’s no use trying to sell your horror book to romance readers or vice versa. Don’t waste time with generic advertising and expensive promotions if you don’t know that it will work. Think of your book as a product, even if it is the most amazing literary event this side of the Gutenberg Press! Without approaching your career as a business it will only ever be a hobby. You may find the rare exception to the rule – the breakaway success story that makes most authors green with envy. You know the one, where the author releases their creation into the big wide world and instantly lands a six-figure advance and international publishing and movie rights in one hit! Do a bit of digging and in most cases you’ll find that the ‘over-night sensation’ was actually the result of ten years of hard work and countless rejections before they hit the pay-load. Maybe, these ‘success stories’ would’ve achieved far greater and earlier success if they had approached the marketing and promotion of themselves and their books from a business perspective.

Align yourself with your market. Identify your top five competitors in that market place and monitor them closely. Sign up for their newsletters, analyze their book covers and titles, read their book descriptions and their promotional/marketing materials, follow their blogs and take notes on what posts receive the most engagement with their audience. Above all, listen to their advice and learn from their mistakes and successes.

Don’t be afraid to tweak your business model. Have you got the best possible cover for your books? Is your book description punching above its weight – does it make you want to buy your book? Adjust your pricing structure and measure the results. Edit and hone your work to its best potential. The list goes on, but essentially if you want to succeed as an author put your best foot forward on all occasions. Offer the reading public your best work at the best price and in the best way possible. Get rid of anything that doesn’t work – on your website, in your writing, your marketing and so on. If a reader gives you a bad but fair review, don’t ignore it. If your writing can be improved, do it. If your website doesn’t seem to appeal to people (monitor feedback, ask questions), change it so that it will. If your email/newsletter campaigns don’t work or annoy your subscribers, find out why and change what you’re doing so that next time you’ll win fans not lose them. You can’t please everyone but you can make sure that you offer the best possible experience for the most amount of people.

To convert subscribers into buyers and vice versa, you must be able to generate desire (in your product) and reduce barriers for them so they can easily entertain that desire (buy your book and come back for more). Identify all possible barriers to the purchasing of your book (pricing, cover, description, correct audience, ease of purchase, value added etc.) and find the sweet spot. Build that sweet spot and squeeze it for all its worth.
Desire minus barriers = sweet spot.

Think carefully and intelligently about where your product best fits. Know your product, market place and your intended market inside and out. Prioritize the most effective ways of promoting your product and brand. Budget your time and costs as you would any business. Test your ideas and products – analyze the results and move forward with the positive growth indicators. Track your successes and failures in order to repeat or avoid future issues. Learn from your mistakes – don’t repeat them. Identify the best methods for leveraging your business. Optimize your business model for future expansion and engagement. Make it easy for yourself and for your readers to get the best possible product you can offer – set your business model as a template and repeat your successes repeatedly for maximum growth.



Growth Hackers think often and think smart, they look for proven solutions and are not afraid to take advice and to seek out people and knowledge that will propel their dreams and goals, in an ascending forward trajectory. Growth Hackers expand their knowledge base and experience at every possible opportunity - they take notes, ask questions and learn from their successes and (perhaps, more importantly) from their mistakes. They make sure they know what it is that they want to achieve and the best possible ways by which they can achieve the desired result/s. They know how to prioritize their time and business processes, usually working to meticulously detailed business/marketing plans so they can effectively measure the success (or failure) of their various ventures and projects. By placing priorities on ways to achieve growth, the Growth Hacker ensures that their time and money is well spent and that if a prioritized method fails, they know that they have alternative methods in place (i.e. prioritized) that meet certain criteria that will hopefully provide a way forward where the other method has failed. 

Growth Hackers test various methods, they test the viability of all things that will add value to their business model - they test (writing, business etc.) software, marketing platforms, social media forums, email providers, audience responses/feedback and so on. Along with testing, they analyze results and statistics in order to determine best possible practice and to forecast business and/or goal-based outcomes. To create growth through the utilization of different methods of business expansion (e.g. marketing, development, investment etc.), it is essential that testing and analysis be employed so that results and best-practice knowledge can be gathered. Above all, an effective Growth Hacker will strive to learn all they can about their industry. Growth Hacker (self-published) authors learn all the processes involved in producing and publishing good quality books. They learn who all the players are in the market place - the publishers, competing authors (yes, whether we want to think about it or not, considering the competition is a huge and potentially helpful part of a self-published author's battle for rankings and sales), reviewers, book-sellers, influencers etc. Learning leads to knowledge and knowledge feeds back into effective well-informed uses of expansion/growth methods. The learning, testing, analyzing, prioritizing, knowing and thinking, all add up to optimize the smart Growth Hacker's chances of standing out in a highly competitive and saturated market place.
Optimization is the key to effective growth hacking - it is what drives businesses forward, what streamlines processes and action in the best possible way in order to achieve success. The successful self-published author has optimized the way they write, what they write, who they write for, how they market/promote their books and where and how they sell their books (price-points, bookseller platforms, book descriptions, keywords etc.). They determine what works best and why it works best. They use their experience (the really smart ones use the experience of others) and knowledge to push forward and to achieve desired goals - using the best possible methods and practices to achieve the best possible outcome by the most efficient use of time and finances. Growth Hackers see/know what works and will employ tried-and-true methods repeatedly until those methods no longer work effectively.
Want to know how indie best-sellers become best-sellers? 
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