The Tweak That Changed Everything

Marketing & Promotion, Self Publishing

I can’t even remember how I stumbled across Nick Stephenson’s blog or newsletter but I’m so glad I did. The author of a successful thriller series, he’s recently been promoting a series of videos and workshop opportunities for other authors looking to increase their sales. I signed up for his newsletter on a whim, my curiosity piqued by all of the comments and feedback left by authors who’d already been helped by his advice. The first three videos were free so I had nothing to lose and after implementing the advice from just the first two videos alone, I’ve already experienced some amazing results.

In just one month I’ve gone from selling a couple of books a day (if I was lucky) to selling 10-40 books a day. And as far as free downloads go, I’ve gone from twenty or so copies a day to 300-800! My books are actually reaching readers and every day my audience is growing exponentially. I know some people might scoff at my results. Maybe it took them one book to achieve what I’m just now experiencing after publishing six novels, but as an indie author and as an artist, I know how detrimental comparison is. All that matters is my journey and I couldn’t be happier with the road I’m on and the results I’ve achieved.

When I first started self-publishing I knew absolutely nothing about the online retailers where my books were being sold. I was familiar with Amazon only because I was a frequent customer there but I’d never taken the time to understand how their search engine worked, especially when it came to keywords. But after watching Stephenson’s videos I’ve come to realize that keywords are KEY to an indie author’s success. Each online retailer is a little different in how they utilize keywords and allow customers to search but since Amazon is where I make 90% of my sales I decided to devote most of my time to making changes there.

Before making big changes to all of my books listed on Amazon I decided to experiment with just my paranormal series. Since it’s genre fiction I figured it would be easier to apply specific categories and keywords, not to mention the fact that those changes could be applied to all three books. It took me a few hours of digging up comparable titles, checking their rankings, and evaluating the competitiveness among each keyword–meaning how many books were categorized by that term (all these steps are explained more in-depth in Stephenson’s training)–but the changes I made were significant.

Prior to watching Stephenson’s videos I was using keywords that were way too specific. I thought narrowing down the keywords would place my book among less competitive search results, meaning it would be closer to the top of the list and much more visible. In fact, this was the very thing making my books invisible. For example, I might have used keywords such as “nightmares” or “dreams”. These mean nothing to Amazon customers. Think about the way you search for things on google or Amazon or any other search engine. Most people would search using broader terms first, especially if they’re just browsing. So instead of using keywords like “nightmares” or “dreams” I replaced them with keywords that were more genre specific like “paranormal romance for teens” or “free paranormal romance.”

Stephenson goes much more in-depth in his training videos and I highly recommend checking them out. I’ll be moving on to video three soon and if his suggested changes continue to provide me with stellar results I’m definitely going to consider paying for his other training as well. I’ve benefited so much from his generosity already so I encourage anyone who’s interested to please check out his videos for yourself or his Leopold Blake thriller series. Indies helping indies is a beautiful thing so if you’ve come across any life changing advice or resources please feel free to share in the comments below!

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To Be Read

Self Publishing

The debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing has experienced a huge resurgence lately, pitting friend against friend, colleague against colleague, and reader against reader. It’s madness out there right now and while it’s easy to get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong the real issue that should be being debated right now isn’t a technical one or even a theological one but a personal one.

There are pros and cons for both self-publishing and going the traditional route and by now we all know exactly what they are. They’ve been discussed to death in forums and on blogs, even on this one, and at this point there is enough information out there for anyone considering publishing to make a thoughtful and educated decision. And yet we still judge each other for the choices we make or don’t make and we still feel the need to compile even more facts and stats in an effort to prove each other wrong. We still don’t treat each other as equals.

But like I said, the real issue here isn’t whether or not to choose self-publishing or traditional publishing. No, the question we should all be asking ourselves as writers and as artists is what’s more important to us: To be published or to be read?

More and more traditionally published authors are choosing to self-publish their next projects. One such author is Natalie Whipple who even went as far as to write an open apology to indie authors for the assumptions she made about who they are and what they really do after experiencing the hard work it takes to self-publish first-hand. And why? Why is someone who’s had great success being traditionally published looking to go indie? Because she’s writing something unique, something different, and because despite the fact that it might not have appealed to her traditional publisher she still believes that this story should be read.

That’s her main objective, the objective we should all have when it comes to writing. We don’t write to take up memory on our laptop or to take up drawer space in our dresser. We write to be read and it’s the same objective of someone like indie author Colleen Hoover, who’s another hybrid author, but one who saw more potential in going with a traditional publisher after reaching her initial success than continuing it alone. And why would she trade some of that independence for the partnership of traditional publishing? Because with her book in print and sitting on the shelves of book stores all around the world she opens herself up to a whole new audience. She can be read by people who may never have discovered her otherwise.

And that’s the point. Not money or fame or being able to list your agent on your Twitter account or having a huge publishing house stamped on the copyright page of your book or even being able to say that you’re totally self-made. The point of all of this, the point of telling stories at all is readers and reaching as many of them as humanly possible. So that’s what we should be thinking about when we’re trying to choose the path that’s right for us. Not how superior it is from the path that someone else has chosen but how well it fulfills this one artistic obligation to share our thoughts and our words and our art with the world. Because as long as the path you’ve chosen can ultimately fulfill that obligation then you can be certain that you’ve made the right choice.