British author Linda Gillard has seen a lot of success as a self-published author, having become dissatisfied with being pigeonholed by the traditional publishing industry. Some of her travails were covered in this article on her that appeared earlier this month in The Guardian’s series on independent authors.
I interviewed Linda last week and her answers were so interesting and in-depth that I’ve decided to publish them in several posts over the rest of the week.
Me: You have stated that you make a healthy number of ebook sales even though you don’t participate in social media. Do you ever worry that you could be selling more books if you were tweeting, blogging and posting?
Linda: I used to, but I don’t any more. I’m yet to see any evidence that Tweets sell books in any significant numbers. I was recently featured in the Guardian newspaper as a successful indie author, but despite a massive readership and multitudinous tweets and shares, the article had no impact on my sales. Tweeting can raise your profile and increase your book’s visibility, but my concern now is acquiring new readers.
Indies have discovered book promotion can take all the time you’re prepared to give it, but launching a new novel is the best thing I can do to stimulate backlist sales and bring myself to the attention of book buyers. My readers don’t want a new blog post from me, they want a new book. I think however successful (or unsuccessful) you are, the best and most lucrative use of your time is always going to be writing the next book. Once I’d come to that conclusion, I stopped worrying about how much I participate in social media.
The exception for me is Facebook where I have a lively author page with 800 followers. I enjoy interacting with readers there and the feedback I get is useful and fun. I also have a website, but apart from that, I just write books. I try to produce one a year. Having found your readers, it’s important to keep them supplied with new books. They are your best marketing tool.
Me: Genre seems to be a problem for traditional publishers who often take a marketing-by-numbers approach (whether through laziness or incompetence) and attempt to slot every book into a neat genre. As a successfully self-published author who mixes genres, can you turn the tables and throw some advice back at the so-called pros?
Linda: What do publishers know? The Time Traveller’s Wife was rejected 40 times before an independent publisher took a risk. It went on to sell seven million copies. In the UK publishers market to retailers, not readers and that’s where they’ve gone wrong. They underestimate the intelligence of the average reader and that reader’s willingness to experiment.
Readers want a good story and characters they can get involved with. Apart from that, they’re open-minded. I see no evidence in book forums, on blogs or in reviews that readers want authors to produce the same kind of book all the time or even a book that sticks to a single genre, yet this is what editors tell any author who wants to mix or change genres. “Readers get confused”, we’re told.
I think this is just an excuse to disguise the fact that publishers don’t really know how to market books except as yet another “stunning debut novel” or “the next Jodie Picoult/Lee Child/E. L. James.” It’s not marketing, it’s cloning.
I know it’s hard to market “a rattling good yarn”, but this is what readers are looking for. Readers want to fall in love with authors. That’s what readers are looking for now when they buy indie books: stories cheap enough to risk trying a new author who might be “the one”.
Publishers would do better to promote the author, not their latest book, build up a following, encourage brand loyalty. Readers don’t want to be disappointed by novels that fail to live up to the hype. They want the next good book from a favourite, reliable author. But how do you make that sexy?…
No one knows how to market quality, but that’s what readers want.