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How They Do It: Preview Of Success Tips From Indie Author Fringe Speakers

How They Do It: Preview of Success Tips from Indie Author Fringe Speakers


Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn

If you're seeking success in self-publishing, book marketing and being an author-entrepreneur, tune in to IndieRecon next week, for a great online conference available wherever you are in the world. There will be some fantastic speakers including a panel of indie all-stars doing a live Q&A on Friday 17 April. Joanna Penn provides a sneak preview of the calibre of advice on offer with their top tips to whet your appetite for what’s coming …

On success in self-publishing

MARK DAWSON: You need more than one book to be successful. Each new book increases discoverability, and gives new readers somewhere to go.

STEENA HOLMES: Never being afraid to fail and try something new. Instead of following the crowd of what everyone else is doing, look at your market, at your readers and figure out what you can do differently.

CJ LYONS: Don’t think of it as “self” publishing. You are CEO of your own Global Media Empire…it takes a team, you can’t do it alone

MARK MCGUINNESS: Don't skimp the paperback! Print is more important for non-fiction than fiction. Your print edition is your calling card – a chance to make a great first impression on potential customers, influencers and collaborators, as well as other readers when they see it on their friends' coffee table.

CreateSpace and Lighting Source are excellent tools for creating professional quality books – but if you just just upload your Word doc, the result will look amateurish and undermine your brand. So hire a book designer who really understands typography, who will make your book's inside look as great as the outside.

RACHEL ABBOTT:  As a self-published author you need to define what success looks like to you, because it’s only when you know what you are seeking to achieve that you’re able to plan for it. Consider your priority list – which number means the most to you: readers, chart position, five star reviews, money in the bank?

Of course, you would like all four of those, but as a self-published author you are going to need a strategy for achieving your version of success, and it will differ according to your priority list. Maximum readers could mean giving your book away for free; chart success could mean offering a 99p/c price; five star reviews could mean investing in some serious editorial input and a blog tour.

Only when you have defined what success looks like can you decide how to prioritise how you spend your time, and very possibly your money.


On success in book marketing

CJ LYONS: Here’s the magic formula: Write a great book, give your readers time to fall in love and tell their friends, repeat. Most authors will do two out of three, but you need all three to achieve success.

STEENA HOLMES: Stop trying to sell books and instead focus on your readers.

MARK MCGUINNESS: It's hard to beat a mailing list when it comes to launching a book. For non-fiction titles, an educational autoresponder series is a great way to grow your list while helping readers, earning their trust and giving them a great deal on your next title. My version of this is a free 26-week creative career course, The Creative Pathfinder

MARK DAWSON: Facebook ads are very powerful if used correctly. I’ve used them to blow up my mailing list and sell with a very high Return On Investment – but they need to be treated carefully. I’ve set up a free mini training in Facebook ads here if you want to learn more.

RACHEL ABBOTT: The very first thing you need to achieve is AWARENESS of your books. They say that the average punter for any product or service has to see that product seven times before it becomes familiar to them. People need to be falling over images of your cover wherever they turn, and you need to devise a strategy for that.

Once they are aware, you need to make sure that you capture their INTEREST – you need to convince them to click through to somewhere they can acquire your book, whether free or not. What can you tweet about, or say on a forum, or post on Facebook that’s going to make them sufficiently interested to find out more?

When you’ve got them to a place where they can buy or download your book, how are you going to create that DESIRE to click that BUY button? How good is your blurb? Is it persuasive enough? Do you have good reviews from genuine readers and reviewers?

This tip follows a classic marketing technique – AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action)– but it’s very valid in terms of selling books. In terms of ACTION, make it easy for people to buy your book. Never write ‘you can find my book on Amazon’ – always, without fail, provide a link so that people don’t have to do any work for themselves.

On success in running a business as an author entrepreneur

CJ LYONS: Know yourself, know your audience, know your goals. This boils down to having vision, passion, and commitment. Find a way to personalize this so that it is more than just business. For me, I use as my mantra a question that makes every decision easier: will this make my readers jump with joy and want to tell their friends about my books?

STEENA HOLMES: Surround yourself with a team of people who have strengths to overcome your weaknesses

MARK DAWSON: A lesson I’m trying to take on board is that I can’t do it all myself. I’m lucky in that I enjoy the business and the writing, but there are times when I do too much. Don’t be afraid to delegate.

MARK MCGUINNESS: Most fiction authors treat their books as their main source of income, but as a non-fiction author your book also complements other products or services you provide. So you need to be really clear about your business model: do you want books to be your main (or sole) source of income? Or are your books designed to generate leads for other products or services?

This decision affects everything else you do.

If you are just selling books, you'll need to write a lot of them! So it's critical to write fast and publish often, maybe in a shorter format than the traditional book. With a phenomenal productivity rate and over 20 books in his back catalogue, Steve Scott is an excellent exemplar of this approach.

But if your books are designed to position you as a go-to authority and attract customers for your other products and services, you don't need so many books – and you need to take extra care that each book is the very best you can produce. This is the approach I take, where my books complement my coaching practice.

RACHEL ABBOTT: If you have never run a business, you need to seek advice. You may be paying VAT unnecessarily, or the sales of your books may be subject to withholding taxes in various countries that, with some help, you could reclaim. A little advice could save you a lot of money. Remember that you are primarily a writer – and unless you have business experience you could very easily get bogged down in the minutiae of daily, weekly or monthly business management tasks, so if you can afford it, pay for some help.

Remember that as a business, readers are your customers. Look after them – show them you care – find a way of tying them to you, so that when your next book is out and they have all but forgotten you, you have a way of reminding them. Encourage them to follow you on social media, or develop a means of capturing (with their permission) their email address. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%. The probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20% (marketing metrics).

IndieReCon logoYou can find the full list of top indie authors and many more experts who will be speaking at IndieRecon on this list:

Don't miss out on all the great advice to be had there free, online, wherever you are in the world – sign up here to take part:



A sneak peek of #selfpub #toptips available via @IndieReCon this week Click To Tweet

Author: Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn is a bestselling author, professional speaker and entrepreneur voted as one of The Guardian Top 100 Creative Professionals 2013. Joanna writes thrillers, crime and horror as J F Penn, and practical non-fiction as Joanna Penn including the #1 bestseller, "How To Market A Book". Joanna’s site, has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs For Writers three years running and offers articles, audio and video on writing and creative entrepreneurship. Connect with Joanna on Titter at @thecreativepenn.


This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Lots of great points here. I wholeheartedly agree that ‘self’ publishing doesn’t mean doing everything your self. We’re entrepreneurs, as well as writers, and have to learn to identify the areas where we need help by hiring out. This conference promises to be really good. Thanks!

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