Here is part two of British author Linda Gillard’s insightful and inspirational interview on her experiences in the world of self-publishing.
Me: Since you don’t do the social media thing, how have you built your readership? This is obviously a key issue for self-published authors with zero or miniscule marketing budgets.
Linda: I’ve built up my readership over many years. I was first traditionally published in 2005 and I’ve published six novels in that time. I’m not an overnight success. I had a modest but enthusiastic following for my first three traditionally published novels. Those readers gave me a lot of good reviews. Two of those novels were short-listed for various awards and won one. When I went indie, I already had a following and a good writing CV (apart from being dropped by my publisher for “disappointing sales”.)
After I was dropped, I set up my Facebook author page, waited for my agent to find me a new publisher and carried on writing novels. I was preparing for a miracle. I offered to write guest blogs for whoever would have me, so that I could promote my backlist and keep myself visible. When, after 2 years, my agent still hadn’t found a publisher for my mixed-genre novels, I decided to go indie.
There was a sort of impromptu launch party on FB. (Nowadays authors orchestrate these things.) Enough people clicked on the same day to send HOUSE OF SILENCE to #2 in the Movers and Shakers chart and that book has never really looked back. But I broke all the rules. I didn’t blog. I didn’t Tweet. It wasn’t genre fiction. It wasn’t the first in a trilogy. I didn’t ever make it free. But I sold 10,000 downloads in less than four months and Amazon UK selected it for their Top Ten Best of 2011 in the Indie Author category.
I don’t know why it sold. It had a good, professional cover. The blurb was appealing and ticked lots of boxes because it was a mixed-genre book. But who knows why a reader clicks? I keep my prices low (£1.99/$2.99) which encourages new readers to try me. If you check out my Amazon reviews, especially in the UK you’ll see readers try one book, like it, then download several others. (This is why it’s important to have several books out there – you want to capitalise on that impulsive moment when a reader decides they’ve found a new favourite author and have to have the complete works.)
But the main thing I do to build up my readership is keep writing good books that are hard to put down. That brings readers back for more. They also tell their friends & family. That’s what you want – “superfans” who’ll do the promotion for you. Readers hate relentless self-promotion. It’s selfish and boring. But they assume interesting books must be written by interesting people, so instead of promoting my books, I cultivate relationships with readers – in forums, on Facebook, in blog comments. I regard readers as friends I haven’t met yet.
I can’t explain how I write books readers want to read because I don’t know. I just write for myself and always have. I like complexity, moral grey areas, believable characters, lots of dialogue, humour, an interesting and unusual angle (eg a blind heroine, a hero suffering from PTSD, incestuous adult twins). My books don’t belong to any particular genre. I’ve written a three-generation saga, a paranormal, a love story with a 47-year old bipolar heroine. But variety hasn’t been a problem for me as an indie because I market myself, not a genre and I market myself as a writer of intelligent page-turners.
The final part of my interview with Linda will appear either tomorrow or Friday.