Indies Supporting Indies

Support 2

There was a great blog article on CreateSpace today by Richard Ridley called “Supporting Indie Authors.” Richard has a great take on this; it’s worth a look.

Indie authors have two images to brand:

  1. Your own branding: author name, title, cover, author photo, series, characters.
  2. The image of indies: a more positive indie image helps all indie authors.

Supporting positive successes of other indie authors helps all indie authors through branding. Spreading news about negative issues hurts it. Blind support isn’t good: If you recommend books with serious problems, it has a negative impact. Focus on the positives and share the news about worthy successes, as this helps indies in general.

There are also two strong local impacts to consider:

  1. Similar titles often feed off one another. When one succeeds, similar books tend to sell better also, through Customers Also Bought lists, for example. However, when a foolish author does the opposite of supporting other indie authors, trashing a competitor’s work (which is against Amazon’s review guidelines), it tends to backfire by dragging down the potential help of similar books (and creates negative branding for authors). Customers don’t usually buy the one book they think is best, but over time buy many similar titles, and Amazon often advertises those similar titles to customers.
  2. Among the authors you interact with frequently, a success among one often helps the other authors in the group. People see the authors who frequently converse together. These authors often have much overlap in their followings.

Support comes in a wide variety of forms. I’m not just thinking about sales, reblogs, and blog reviews, but things like providing helpful feedback and suggestions, sharing knowledge and ideas, offering encouragement at a time of need, word-of-mouth referrals when you happen to interact with another author’s target audience, and posts and comments that foster a positive ambiance in the community.

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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A Different Kind of Book Marketing

New

Authors are trying to market their books. Yet this is only a fraction of the book marketing that occurs daily:

  • Many publishers, bookstores, and literary agents are trying to brand the notion that traditionally published books are much better. And why not? Many feel that it’s in their interest to reinforce this perception.
  • Many editors are striving to advertise common editing mistakes and the need to correct them. Indeed, editing is important. Exactly what is good enough?
  • Many cover designers wish to reinforce the importance of a good cover and to negate the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But will the benefits outweigh the costs?
  • Publicity consultants, e-book formatters, PR services, advertising agencies, professional review specialists, font licensers, contract attorneys… So many individuals and businesses have products to help you with your book. Which ones do you really need? You may need some, and it’s a tough call to make.

Do you see frequent remarks online pointing out problems with self-published books? That’s exactly what many businesses and individuals want. Some of the people pointing this out don’t have anything to gain by it; others believe that they do. The indies who point this out are shooting themselves in their feet; the overall perception of indie books does have an impact on sales.

Those in the traditional publishing industry, or who are closely tied to it, may also be shooting themselves in their feet when they blast indie books. For example, when they paint a picture of e-book formatting problems, it may deter sales of e-readers and e-books to some extent, affecting traditionally published e-book sales, too.

There are some indie books with formatting, editing, cover, or writing issues. The worst offenders aren’t selling much; they aren’t even discovered much in search results, since the bestsellers tend to be much easier to find. We know about them from customers who bought them by mistake and learned their lesson from not reading the blurb and checking the Look Inside (probably a more common occurrence with freebies), and it’s been reinforced by many people who, for whatever reason, like to point this out.

Nearly everyone in the book industry would benefit, whether they realize it or not, from painting a positive image of the best books, rather than focusing on negatives. Just knowing there are problems out there weighs on a reader’s mind. People like to shop for products where the experience seems positive. Indies, especially, should point out features of quality indie books. Marketing to help spread news of the best books helps everyone.

Just like authors need to market their books, editors need to market their services. The better way to go about this is to focus on the benefits of good editing, rather than describing the problems with poorly edited books. Here’s the difference: Painting a positive picture of books helps a little to stimulate book sales overall, whereas a negative picture deters book sales a little. The better books sell, the more demand there will be for editing and other services.

Similarly, cover designers should focus on the benefits of hiring a graphic artist, instead of pointing out the problems with lousy covers.

Authors shouldn’t just be marketing their own books, they should also paint a positive picture of books, e-books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, Lightning Source, Kindle, traditional publishing, self-publishing, editing, cover design, and all things books.

Create a positive world that will attract and please book lovers of all kinds. This will maximize sales and services all around.

There isn’t a true distinction between traditional and self-publishing. Many traditionally published authors also self-publish; it’s becoming increasingly popular. What? Are they awesome at the same time as they are lousy? That’s ridiculous!

What counts, ultimately, to any reader, is how positive the reading experience is. A traditionally published book that provides a reader with a not-so good experience isn’t better than an indie book that wows the reader. Perhaps traditionally published books, on average, tend to impress readers more often. (Maybe not. Many indie books might be read mostly by their target audience with great pleasure, while some traditionally published books might be read by many readers outside their target audience. A personal marketing experience and fewer sales might, just might, on average result in a better reading experience. The pleasure of meeting and interacting with a small-time author has its benefits.)

But that’s not the point. The point is for everyone to sell more books by focusing on providing the best possible reading experience, and not for everyone to sell fewer books by focusing on the negatives.

Books that provide better reading experiences are inherently going to sell more. Advertising the negatives isn’t really helping anyone; books with those negatives tend to deter their own sales, as soon as word spreads. Rather, giving attention to those negatives is just hurting everyone, including those at the top.

The book industry is changing. Many publishers, bookstores, and agents don’t like it. Many fear it.

What they need to do is adapt; not complain about it.

The book industry is becoming inclusive. It used to be exclusive.

Publishers might still be inclined to play the exclusivity card. The proper way to try this is to market the benefits of publishing traditionally, not by marketing the negatives of self-publishing. Again, a positive experience for buyers helps everyone overall. This actually affects big businesses much more than it affects the small guys. If everyone loses 5% as a result of painting a negative picture, this hardly impacts the indie author at all, but 5% is huge for a big business.

There are benefits to publishing traditionally. Each author and book is unique. Some will benefit by publishing traditionally, others won’t.

Publishers could adapt toward inclusivity (and to be fair, some are moving toward this in small ways).

Amazon played the inclusivity card in a huge way: With CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), everyone can now publish a book.

Smashwords played the inclusivity card. Several other companies have, too.

This seems to be working well for them.

Imagine winding back the clock. What if Barnes & Noble or one of the big five publishers had played the inclusivity card before Amazon did? How might things be different today?

Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe there is a way for big businesses to become more inclusive without sacrificing too much quality. There may even be a demand for it. There are authors who would like something in between traditional and self-publishing, where you could get some benefits of both.

We can’t control what the big companies do.

We can be grateful for the opportunities that companies like Amazon, CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, Smashwords, and many others have provided.

And most of all, we can remember to market a positive image for books in general in addition to marketing our own books and services, realizing how creating a positive reading experience for buyers may have a significant impact on book sales overall.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

The Transition from Newbie Indie to Complete Author Package

Complete

The newbie indie author typically launches with a humble beginning:

  • One book on the market.
  • First attempt at formatting.
  • Just friend and family support.
  • Could use some editing help.
  • Not sure how to promote the book.
  • Very tentative about any marketing.

The professional indie author has a complete package:

  • Multiple books available.
  • Several customer reviews.
  • Substantial fan base and following.
  • Extensive online platform includes blog, website, and social media.
  • Knows many formatting and publishing tips.
  • A variety of connections provide valuable support.
  • Experienced with several marketing strategies.
  • Shows confidence to setup promotional events.

It’s easy for a newbie author to encounter a professional author and feel overwhelmed.

Yet every author starts out new.

(You can do research and start out wiser, and you can start to build a following before you publish… but no matter what, the author you are on your debut doesn’t compare to the author you are when you become wiser, more knowledgeable, and more experienced.)

Here’s the thing: Every newbie has the opportunity to evolve into a professional author with a complete package.

It’s easy, really; much easier than you think:

  • Time is on your side. Improve a little here and a little there, and over the course of time, you’ll have a complete package. Time also gives you experience. Learn what you can.
  • You need initiative. If you’re negative and tend to convince yourself that this won’t pay off, that won’t be worthwhile, and you’ll never be able to do that, then you’re right: It won’t. There are so many opportunities out there for those who are patient, show initiative, and don’t give up.

Most marketing strategies don’t pay quick dividends.

This doesn’t mean that they’re not worthwhile. Many free and low-cost strategies pay long-term dividends that make them worthwhile.

Here’s the difference:

  • When you spend a couple of years diligently branding your image on a variety of online platforms and in person, you can eventually build a name for yourself. When only do this short-term, you aren’t noticed or are quickly forgotten.
  • When you post content relevant to your target audience for several months, eventually you attract a healthy following as word spreads about your gold mine. Early on, there isn’t as much material and you haven’t been around long enough to get discovered.
  • When you only use one online medium, only people who favor that one online platform can find you. When you have a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc., you’re visible to everybody and you also look like a more complete author.
  • When you’ve been posting for a couple of years, you look like an established author who has been around. When your content is relatively new, you’re still struggling to get discovered and build your following.
  • When your blog is new, you have a basic blog with a few posts. Over time, you can have several pages on your website with valuable content geared toward your target audience, and your website evolves as you come across and try out new features.
  • When you’ve interacted with other authors for a couple of years, you learn many useful formatting, publishing, and marketing tips. This helps you improve over time.
  • Researching marketing strategies and trying them out takes time. The more effort you put into this, the more knowledgeable and experienced you become.
  • After a few years, you will have more books out, a larger fan base, a bigger following, more reviews, more connections, more experience, more knowledge, more wisdom… you’re more of an author than you were.

Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, motivation, initiative, a thick skin, a good support system, and much patience.

You don’t write a whole novel overnight. (I hope!) You don’t do all of your marketing overnight, either.

It’s a choice you can make. Do you want long-term success and to thrive as an author? Or not?

There are many opportunities out there. Grab them.

  • Have you signed up for free exposure through Read Tuesday? You still can.
  • Did you take up Green Embers’ gracious offer for free indie advertising? It’s not too late.
  • Are you contacting bloggers for possible guest posts, interviews, or book reviews? You can’t do it if you don’t try. Check out the Story Reading Ape, for example.
  • Which local bookstores and libraries have you approached? Put together a press release kit, grab a few copies of your book, and give it a shot.
  • Check out complete authors to see what they’re doing, that you aren’t trying. Take the word “can’t” out of your vocabulary. Figure out how you can. Don’t expect immediate dividends. Strive for a complete package a couple of years from now. Be patient, work hard, and let time be on your side.

The difference between an author who develops a complete, professional package and one who doesn’t is very often as simple as showing initiative. It’s not really a secret, and it’s easy enough for anyone to do it.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Check out the CNN iReport for Read Tuesday. You can help support Read Tuesday by voting on it, commenting, and sharing the iReport on Facebook or Twitter. Click here to see the iReport. Tell your friends and maybe we can get additional national exposure for Read Tuesday. Any help will be much appreciative. Here is another example where a simple thing like initiative can make a huge difference.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Turning Pro: Taking Indie Authorship to the Next Level

Pro

You would like to start out looking like a pro.

Many wise authors strive for this:

  • Searching for similar titles to see what may be highly marketable.
  • Asking experienced authors, editors, publicists, and small publishers for advice.
  • Doing research on writing, formatting, publishing, and marketing.
  • Trying to build a following before publishing.
  • Joining a writing group to improve as a writer.
  • Receiving ample feedback from the target audience.
  • Hiring a cover designer and editor.
  • Building buzz prior to a book’s release.
  • Writing a press release and distributing it to the media.

These are great things to do, and they can help immensely.

Yet, no matter how hard you try to nail your first book, you always improve and grow as an author:

  • After establishing yourself as an author, you have a fan base to work with and toward.
  • You find yourself reading a book, wondering why you didn’t think of that, or something you see triggers a design idea for your book.
  • A reader provides a helpful suggestion that you hadn’t considered.
  • You come across publishing tips you wish you’d known previously.
  • Once you have enough books out, you may start thinking more and more about becoming a small publisher.
  • New connections may open new possibilities for your books.

Unless your book is free or you donate 100% of the proceeds to charity, then technically you’re a professional author. But that’s not what I mean by professional. Rather, there comes a point in every writer’s career where you feel that you’ve made the transition from amateurish to professional. When you’re more experienced, wiser, and your writing has matured, you realize you’ve made some transition. This probably doesn’t happen just once, but several times over the course of writing.

Another thing I don’t mean is any distinction between indie and traditional authors. More and more traditional authors are also indie publishing, often with a pen name, which really blurs any line you might want to draw between them. It’s not how you publish that matters most to a reader, but how professional the book is. There are different degrees of professionalism even within traditionally published books.

As you grow as an author and strive to become more professional, here are some of the things you might consider:

  • ISBN options. When you start out, it’s hard to invest more than about $10 in an ISBN option. As your sales grow, you start to consider buying a block of ISBN’s. For example, in the US Bowker offers 10 for $250 or 100 for $575. As you start to think of developing a serious imprint and expanding your distribution options, this might fit your needs.
  • Professional websites. You may want something that looks more like a website and less like a blog. You might want your own domain name. You may add a site for your book and another for your imprint. At Facebook, you may add an author page or book page. If you create a Facebook page (i.e. more than just a Facebook account), it will have a Like option, and if you feed your WordPress blog into Facebook (but beware of this issue), those Facebook page Likes add to your follower tally (so do Twitter Follows if you feed your blog into Twitter). From your Facebook home, find the Create a Page option on the bottom-left. For an author page, click Artist, Band, or Public Figure; one of the options is author. (You can also make a page for your book by selecting Entertainment.)
  • Professional help. As your sales grow, you might consider investing more on cover design or editing, or even interior design. Although I’ve enjoyed designing my books, I’ve found a cover designer and had covers made for my most recent books and works in progress. I like the new covers much better, so I’m very pleased with this decision. I’ve also purchased illustrations and designs for book interiors.
  • Advertising. It’s difficult to invest in advertising when you’re starting out. There is a huge risk that you won’t recover your investment. You wish you could throw a little money out there to relieve you of the need to market your books, but it doesn’t work out that way. But once you’ve achieved some degree of success, you can better gauge your book’s marketability, you know you will have some initial support, and your current royalties can help cover your investment. You may be looking for ways that an advertisement can complement your marketing, such as a paid advertisement for a one-day book promotion.
  • Giving back. When you start out, you need a lot of help. As you gain experience, you have more knowledge to share and need less help. You might pay it forward, helping new authors through blog posts or who approach you with questions (whereas most people don’t like unsolicited advice). As you become more efficient with your own marketing, you might help a little to promote up-and-coming new authors whose work you like.

I’m presently collaborating on a publishing project with other authors to create a new series of math and writing workbooks. There is a creative element that will hopefully help engage children in learning fundamental skills. We’re getting professional covers for the series and professional illustrations for the interiors. We have a logo. We’ll use an imprint and purchase ISBN’s. We’ll be setting up a website. Our goal is to create a professional series of math and writing workbooks that meet the needs of students, parents, homeschoolers, and teachers.

Maybe a traditional publisher would like to have this series. But we’re indie all the way. 🙂

We’re hoping to launch the series in the spring or summer of 2014.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

How to Create Book Publicity

Undies

That’s one-half of what you need: publicity. The other half is having a marketable product. With this post, I’ll focus on the publicity side.

How do you get your book discovered when there are millions to choose from?

That’s the million-dollar question, and every author is trying to answer it with two cents. 🙂

Too many authors are hoping for instant publicity, or at least to have someone else create the publicity for them. Shortcuts are hard to come by and even if you do hit the lottery, this kind of short-term publicity often doesn’t bring the success that you’re hoping for.

Let me illustrate this with a specific example:

Indies in their Undies

Just imagine a dozen sexy indies promoting an event called “Indies in their Undies.” Maybe they’re wearing Victoria’s Secret undies. They’re going to do a supermodel sort of walk onto a catwalk, wearing just their sexy undies and each holding up one book during the process.

(You’re ready to sign up, aren’t you?)

Sure, this could get a lot of publicity. But it’s not going to be a magnet for publicity.

If you just go out and do this, do you think the news van is going to happen to pass by, see a group of people walking around in undies holding up books, film it, and show it on the six o’clock news?

No. You have the same problem as getting a great novel discovered. Even though it’s a newsworthy idea, it doesn’t just make the news. You have to go to the media. The media isn’t coming to you.

To make this work, you need to know how to generate publicity for the event.

You see, most authors think this through backwards. Authors intuitively think that if they do something that would intrigue the public, that this will generate publicity for them.

But that’s not how it works.

You do need something that’s newsworthy. Heck, that could just be the release of your book. Whatever the news is, what you really need to do is publicize the news. The news itself isn’t going to get you publicity all by itself.

So if you wanted to make an idea like “Indies in their Undies” work, here’s what you would really need to do:

  • Build credibility for the event.
  • Create buzz for the event.
  • Prepare a press release.
  • Distribute the press release to the media.

This will help to get you media coverage. Media can be a professional cameraman for a major newstation, a reporter for a local newspaper, or a blogger with a popular podcast watching from your laptop camera.

Regardless of the form that media takes, you need to prepare a press release and distribute it to the media. That’s the only way you’re going to get the media to help you spread the news (apart from happening to have a personal connection with someone in the media).

If you have something newsworthy, this is a way to go beyond your blog and social media platform to reach new members in your target audience—i.e. if you can get some form of media to help you publicize your news.

Again, your news could just be the release of your book. It doesn’t have to be some wild scheme like “Indies in their Undies.”

Let’s look at another problem with “Indies in their Undies.”

Target Audience

Who’s going to show up for this event? This is very important.

If the news spreads, but the vast majority of people who see, read, or hear the news aren’t in your book’s specific target audience, all this publicity (if you can get it) won’t translate into near the sales that you’re looking for.

How about the few people who watch “Indies in their Undies” who happen to be in your target audience? Do you think they’re going to take you seriously as an author? Do you think they’re interested in your book when they watch this? (Unless maybe your book is an around-the-world photo shoot of sexy writers in their undies.)

If you want your publicity to be effective, keep these things in mind:

  • Strive to gain publicity with your specific target audience.
  • Strive to be seen as a professional. If the media views you as an amateur, it will deter their interest in you. If your audience views you as an amateur, this will also deter sales.
  • Strive to get positive publicity for your book and yourself. Negative publicity isn’t a recipe for long-term success for the vast majority of authors.

What Would Be Better?

The problem isn’t creating news. You already have that. You wrote and published a book. That can be newsworthy.

What you’d really like to do is use this to help generate publicity: an article, a review, an interview, a podcast, etc. You want some entity (or several entities) with a large circulation, viewership, readership, or following to learn about your news and help spread it to your target audience.

Here is what you need to do this:

  • Create a marketable book from cover to cover. Ultimately, it’s the perception of professionalism versus amateurish that really counts. Why spread the news about something that seems amateurish (not just the cover; your entire presentation will be scrutinized, and the book, too).
  • Build credibility. Experience and qualifications are highly relevant. The more you look like the perfect fit to write the book you wrote, the more you’ll be taken seriously.
  • Be factual. If you get a job as a journalist, you’ll learn to think this way: Can this statement be verified? When the media looks at your cover letter and press release, they’re looking for anything that may be false, and anything that can’t be easily fact-checked (e.g. “better than Harry Potter”). Spend time studying how journalists write and try to think like a journalist when you prepare materials that you will submit to the media.
  • Learn how to prepare and distribute a press release. There is a specific formula to follow if you want to look professional, and you do. You want to research this formula. (I’ll provide a reference to one such formula in a coming post. It’s not my own formula, so I won’t post it on my blog, but I will help direct you to it. Sorry, you have to wait a couple days, or use a search engine to find one such formula.) In addition to the formula, you’ll want to learn how to distribute your press release to the media.

Remember, media doesn’t have to be the Times or the eight o’clock news. Bloggers are in the media, too, and some have very large followings or widely spread email newsletters.

Indies may find media coverage more challenging, though it isn’t easy for a new author who is traditionally published, either. But it’s not a dead end. In addition to the explanation that follows, see the note at the end of this post.

It’s kind of like bookstores. As an indie, you’re going to find widespread distribution with national chains nearly impossible, but small local bookstores and non-bookstores that happen to sell books tend to be more receptive. The more professional you come across and the more marketable and professional your book, the better your chances. That’s how some indies are getting stocked in big bookstores, maybe not nationally, but on a store-by-store basis in their own regions.

Similarly, the more professional you come across in your press release, cover letter, and presentation and the more marketable and professional your book appears (and qualifications and experience factor into this, too), the better your chances of getting media coverage.

Start small and work your way upward. This gives you experience and confidence as you approach the Big Boys and Girls.

Small local papers often have inches to fill. A small local radio station may have minutes available. You’re local. You have news. It may be a good fit. Check it out, but approach it professionally.

Media that coincides with your target audience may be a good fit. Explore these options.

Don’t just think television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. There are many, many online opportunities, from websites to podcasts to online magazines to bloggers and more. Getting coverage with the most visible channels will be extremely competitive. But there are so many avenues open that you can find a good fit if you have the will to find the way.

You can prepare content that attracts your target audience and the target audience of a website, for example. Instead of simply advertising or reviewing your book, this way the website has something to gain in return for giving you publicity. There are many sites with varying degrees of traffic that have a need for frequently updated content. Publishing an article is an opportunity. You can’t do it if you don’t try.

Looking beyond the release of your book, there may be something unique about you that will help you gain publicity. For example, if you’re lucky enough to be a triplet, that’s newsworthy. Think about yourself in addition to your book.

Whether your news is the release of your book or “Indies in their Undies,” you still need to build credibility, prepare a press release, and distribute it. So an idea like “Indies in their Undies” really isn’t a shortcut to publicity. Maybe it will help a lot, maybe it won’t. Either way, to get publicity for it, you still need to do all the work of publicizing it—really, you could just skip the middleman and focus on publicizing your book.

However, if you have a newsworthy event that relates to your book and would be of interest to your book’s target audience, if you’re having trouble getting media coverage of your book, you may find the media more receptive of your related news. So in this case, an event may create news that attracts the media better than your book does. “Indies in their Undies” doesn’t relate to your book and doesn’t attract the same target audience, so it’s not the best example. But if you’re struggling to get the media attention you desire for your book, another possibility is to think about how to generate news that relates to your book.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

What Motivates Me to Market My Books?

Market Pic

This is what you need to find for yourself—an idea that will motivate you to market your books. You’re unique. I can’t tell you what will motivate you. Consider a variety of alternatives. Try to understand marketing in different terms. Search for a reason that will make you—that’s right, you—market your books.

I’ll offer a few ideas at the end of this post to help get you thinking. In the meantime, I’ll share my story of what motivates me to market my books. Maybe this will help you with your search for a motivational tool.

My story unfolds by showing what is commonly done (that’s what I did, too), instead of what should have been done. After this, I’ll show how I found my motivation to market my books.

We all struggle with this. I did. When I published my first book in 2008, fortunately, I had a few things going for me starting out:

  • A Ph.D. in physics. This expertise was invaluable for my math and science books.
  • Experience formatting lengthy, technical articles for professional publication. I had also been making and formatting worksheets for several years before I ever published my first workbook.
  • Several years of teaching experience. This is helpful for many of my books which aim to provide instruction of some sort.
  • Much passion for writing and teaching.
  • Ten years of sales experience working my way through school; mostly at a department store, but I had even sold second-hand books for a few years. This helped me understand marketing and marketability, but I was initially focused only on the latter.
  • CreateSpace was relatively new in 2008; many authors hadn’t even heard about it yet. There was much less competition. (Note that my books weren’t on Kindle back then, and even now I sell about 8 paperbacks for every e-book, largely because of the nonfiction content I write—many of the books, such as workbooks, aren’t even suitable for Kindle.)

However, at the time, I lacked one very important ingredient: the motivation to market my books.

Most new authors similarly have a few things going for them—probably different things, but your strengths, whatever they may be, can help you succeed. Most new authors also lack the key marketing ingredient. Both marketing and marketability are highly important (noting that you can include having a great idea, good storytelling skills, editing, cover design, effective blurb, and such in marketability).

Many new authors feel the way that I did back in 2008:

  • If a book has merit, it should eventually sell on its own. (Problems: getting discovered; difficult to overcome slow sales rank; hard to get reviews until it sells—and if you have reviews, but no sales rank to support it compared to the publication date, that will make buyers leery.)
  • I didn’t feel comfortable asking people to buy my own books; I didn’t want to toot my own horn. Except for my mom, I didn’t even ask family or friends to buy my books—instead, I sent them free copies. (Problems: initial sales help your sales rank; you need to promote your book to help it get discovered; if you don’t feel strongly enough about your writing to tell others about it, why should they read it?)
  • I didn’t do any pre-marketing. I had no website, no blog, and wasn’t even building buzz for my books. (Problems: pre-marketing helps stimulate early sales and reviews; early sales help to build early customers-also-bought relations; exceptional pre-marketing can land a book on various bestseller lists, which can greatly improve exposure.)

As too many authors do, I just had my books out there, hoping they would survive on their own. I was very fortunate. Some of my books had enough marketability to get discovered and sell on their own (keep in mind, there are many, many more books on the market now in 2013 than there were in 2008—so if I were starting out today, maybe I wouldn’t have had the same good fortune).

Even so, sales were very slow for the first seven months. I published several books starting in July, 2008. One was a “real book,” while the others were stat and log books. I had had the foresight to publish the stat and log books, which related to my hobbies, golf and chess, using worksheets that I had previously made for my own personal use, knowing that this would give me some needed experience in formatting and publishing before I published my main book, which at the time was The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, Volume 1. I managed to get these stat and log books and my extra dimensions book ready for publication at the end of the summer of 2008, and that’s when I self-published them.

Sales were dismal from July, 2008 thru February, 2009. That was a long stretch where my conviction to self-publish was strongly tested. Like many other new authors, I got through that by working on my next book, The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, Volume 2.

When I released Volume 2 in March, 2009, sales exploded. My two extra dimensions books were ranked around 5,000 for a couple of weeks. Sales slowly dropped, but then I began publishing math workbooks for my Improve Your Math Fluency series that summer, and my overall sales have improved tremendously every year without exception. (My extra dimensions books are no longer among my top-selling books.)

A big factor in my improved sales is that I finally found my motivation to market my books. The three keys to success are:

  • Develop a good book, including the idea and writing—both the big picture and the details.
  • Have marketability that will sell your book when it gets discovered (cover and blurb that attract the right audience, content from cover to cover that will satisfy that audience).
  • Market your book effectively to help it get discovered and branded. This step requires motivation and patience.

Motivation for this third step eluded me for quite some time.

The first part of my marketing motivation came from the big boost in sales that I had in March, 2009. Also, a couple of strangers had contacted me to thank me for writing my books (even more amazing is that I hadn’t provided my contact info, and didn’t have a website or blog—they searched online, found where I taught, and discovered my email address the hard way).

This gave me confidence. Prior to this, I had felt tentative. Afterwards, I felt confident that I could write content that would please a significant audience and create marketability that was good enough to attract that audience.

Think about this. My books hadn’t changed. From July, 2008 thru March, 2009, the first volume of my extra dimensions book was exactly the same. What changed was my confidence. Confidence is something that you can change internally. You don’t need to wait for external factors to build your confidence.

When you’re tentative, you’re much less likely to get the sales that you want to gain the confidence you’re looking for. When you’re tentative, you’re also less likely to put the effort into the book’s marketability to give your book its best chance for success.

If you can start out with confidence (but not overconfidence), this can make a huge difference when you’re getting your book ready to publish and when you release your book.

Confidence was just the beginning, though.

As I gained confidence in my books, I became curious about the marketing aspect. The more I thought about it and researched it, the more I realized that marketing wasn’t quite what I had made it out to be. Over time, I gained a new perspective:

  • Marketing doesn’t have to be done through advertising, and may even be more effective if it’s indirect. People get interested in your book when they discover that you’re an author; you don’t have to volunteer it. In person, you can wait for people to ask what you’ve been up to; online, you can simply mention your book in your profile.
  • One of the most important parts of marketing is branding. It’s about getting the title, name, or cover seen and remembered by the target audience. I don’t buy a certain brand of toilet paper because the television told me which brand to buy. Oh, but I do buy a brand of toilet paper that I recognize through branding. You want people to think, “I’ve seen this before,” when they see your book, weeks or months from now when they’re shopping for books.
  • People are more likely to develop a strong interest in your book when they interact with you personally and see your passion for your book. Interacting with your target audience is a valuable personal experience that we small-time authors can provide. Reading a book by an author you’ve actually met: Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
  • If you don’t feel strongly enough about your own book to market it, why should anyone want to read it? Are you saying that it isn’t good enough to share? If you don’t know if it’s good, is it because you didn’t put enough effort into it? If you feel that it’s good enough to publish, then you have to feel comfortable sharing it. You have to work on your perspective.
  • Publishers spend months creating buzz for books. They send out several advance review copies. Other authors, including many indie authors, put a lot of effort into marketing their books. There are millions of books to choose from. The books that are marketed effectively are much more likely to be discovered.

I approached this scientifically (after all, I am a physicist). I did research on marketing. I did some marketing experiments. My curiosity about marketing helped motivate me somewhat. I gained some needed marketing experience this way.

But neither confidence nor curiosity were my chief marketing motivators. They helped me along, but they weren’t enough.

My main motivator came when I realized how many other indie authors there are, and how challenging it is to self-publish. On top of coming up with a great idea and writing your book, which seems like it should be the hard part, you also need to:

  • Be good at writing and storytelling.
  • Serve as your own editor.
  • Format your own book.
  • Design your own cover.
  • Illustrate your book.
  • Market your book.

It’s a challenge just to be a good author. It’s more than just a challenge to be a good author, editor, formatter, cover designer, illustrator, promoter, publicist, and public relations specialist. You shouldn’t have to be a pro-of-all-trades (not just a jack-of-all-trades) to self-publish a book successfully. But you either need to be, or invest money where you aren’t (with the risk that you may not recover it).

I strongly support the indie publishing concept. Self-publishing offers so much:

  • Freedom in writing (not unlimited, but now you aren’t forced to give into an editor’s demands).
  • Greater per-book royalties (and you deserve it since you’re much more than just an author).
  • Instant acceptance (no need for query letters, book proposals, rejection letters, or contractual negotiations).
  • Quick to market (skip several months of contacting an agent, writing letters and proposals instead of more books, and a lengthy delay waiting for the publisher to get your book ready).
  • No exclusivity (anyone can publish; no gatekeepers are deciding what is worthy).
  • Access to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and more (the door is wide open). I strongly support the big companies who’ve provided such amazing opportunities to indies.

The more marketable and more effectively marketed books tend to rise to the top, and the less marketable and more poorly marketed books tend to fall to the bottom.

My big motivator came when I realized that I could have a significant, positive impact on many other indie authors and the image of indie publishing. This is something bigger and far worthier than my own books.

It’s not just me, of course. I see many other authors and even small publishers helping indie authors and supporting a positive image for indie publishing. (This helps to provide balance against those who speak negatively, those who fear indie publishing, and bullies and snobs and such.)

One indie author is tiny and vulnerable. Together we can thrive.

By the way, this is the spirit behind Read Tuesday—a Black Friday type of even just for books. It’s a great opportunity for indie authors and readers.

My WordPress blog is geared toward helping indie authors in various ways, especially marketing. It’s not about selling my books. I put ample information up here to provide free help to anyone willing to seek it, and I have organized my posts in an index to make it easy to find. There is a ton of free information here (feel free to recommend the free content). My hope is that it will help others.

It’s not just the how-to part. I also try to help with motivation and putting things in a perspective that may be useful to humble writing artists who are passionate about their books, but who may not yet have the mindset they need to effectively market their books.

This is my marketing motivator:

  • I’m motivated to market my books to show by example things that other authors can be doing and to share my experience with others. I’m not searching for secrets that I can keep to myself; I’m looking for ideas that may help other authors.

As I said, I see many other authors sharing tips that they have learned. I see many other authors helping new authors out. Indie authors are coming together, and we have much strength through this.

Recall what it’s like to be a kid. There are bullies, there are good influences, and there are bad influences. Just think what a positive difference it makes when an older kid takes a genuine interest in a younger kid and serves as a positive influence, like a big brother or sister. Or even when a group of kids the same age band together and support one another in positive ways, keeping one another on track, and helping to motivate one another. Great things can come of this. Indie publishing isn’t so different.

What motivates you to market your books? That’s the million-dollar question. Most likely, money isn’t the answer. The best motivator for you is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. There are many possibilities. Following are a few examples:

  • Are you sharing something valuable to others? This could be how to lead a healthy lifestyle, help learning a foreign language, or a novel that will help preteens deal with peer pressures.
  • Will your book improve people’s lives through entertainment? It may be a fantasy world that people will fall in love with, an adventure that people want to experience but couldn’t in real life, or a travel guide that will help tourists make the most of their vacations.
  • Do you have a story that needs to be told? Maybe it will draw out emotions from readers, give people hope, illustrate the strength of the human spirit, or help others in similar situations.
  • Does your book support a noble cause? Perhaps the royalties are donated to charity, the book promotes a worthy cause, or spreads awareness about how to prevent one of life’s problems.
  • Have others told you that you couldn’t succeed as an author? If you’ve ever been told that you’ll never be a successful author, that your writing isn’t suitable to publish, that self-published books don’t stand a chance, or if you’ve received several letters of rejection from publishers, you may be able to use this to help motivate you. Where there is a strong resolve, there is a way to overcome the naysayers.

You must first sell your book to yourself and convince yourself that marketing your book effectively is beneficial to others before you will be properly motivated to help your book get discovered.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing); but you can find an abundance of free material on my WordPress blog. 🙂

Preparing to Launch Read Tuesday

Read Tuesday

In case you haven’t heard yet, the idea behind Red Tuesday is for authors to get together and provide a book-oriented version of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can learn more about the idea here:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/red_tuesday_idea_for_boosting_book_sales/

As you may know, we’ve been making several preparations for launching the Read Tuesday event:

  • We have an artist who is working on a logo and images of assorted sizes, like various headers and portrait sizes, with and without text.
  • We have a website, http://www.readtuesday.com, but it’s presently empty. We’re making content for the website so that readers, authors, indie bookstores, and small publishers will be able to find helpful information about Read Tuesday.
  • We’re creating forms that can be completed easily and conveniently online, which will help to compile handy information, like a list of participating authors, catalog data for participating books, a list of participating bookstores, or a sign-up for an email newsletter. Presently, we’re testing out Google Docs to see how those forms work from both ends.
  • We have a Twitter account and Facebook page, but, like the website, they aren’t up and running yet. We’re working to get all of these pages ready before we launch. (It’s pretty cool when you Follow a huge company like Amazon and they Follow you back – even if it was automatic, it’s still pretty cool.) If you want, you could find us and follow us, but there isn’t anything there to follow yet. As soon as these pages are up and running, we will share them with you.
  • We’re looking to add accounts at LinkedIn, PInterest, and more. If you have other suggestions, please feel free to share them.
  • We’re putting together a promotional strategy to try to make Read Tuesday a success. We’ll definitely need your help. You can help create buzz. You can show your participation by filling out the forms (once they’re ready). You can participate with your books. You will be able to use the Read Tuesday images (once they’re ready) to help promote your own books while simultaneously helping to create buzz for Read Tuesday.
  • We’re considering a little low-cost advertising. If you have special requests, feel free to share them. Funding is limited, but we will give expressed ideas consideration.
  • We already have several ideas for how to spread awareness for Read Tuesday. We’ll begin sharing these ideas as soon as the website is up and running. Again, if you have any ideas that you’d like to share, please feel encouraged to do so.
  • We’ve only had a couple of suggestions in the way of slogans or marketing text. More suggestions would be welcome.
  • Would there be any interest in flyers, bookmarks, business cards, brochures, or other printed marketing materials? If so, we could make a file for a flyer, for example, and anyone who is interested could print them. We’re not going to sell promotional materials; but if there is interest, we can make files so that anyone who is interested can order their own (from a supplier of your choice). You just have to express your interest.
  • We need ideas for things to include in an email newsletter for Read Tuesday. If you come up with an idea for an article that may be relevant, contributions will be considered. We’ll consider contributions for content on the website as well as for a newsletter.
  • We’re lacking in the video department. Suggestions, ideas, volunteers, etc. would be quite welcome. If you make your own Read Tuesday trailer, for example, you can feature your own books in the video, promoting your own books and Read Tuesday together. Hint, hint. (Once they are ready, you’ll be able to use the Read Tuesday images with this.)

It’s taking time to get all of this ready. We’d like to launch Read Tuesday all at once. So right now, we’re thinking of launching Read Tuesday – the website, social media, sign-up forms, making the images available, etc. – the week of October 6 (on the 6th or even before, if possible, but at least some time that week).

Remember, Read Tuesday is scheduled for Tuesday, December 10. This gives us two full months to get as much participation and to create as much buzz as possible. (Then we’ll have 12 months before the next Read Tuesday – and a little experience – to make the next one even better. Don’t forget about White Wednesday – or maybe the name will change; but we want this to be a “secret” until Read Tuesday is over.)

Can you think of anything else that we should add to the list above?

Read Tuesday isn’t a person. It’s not a business. It’s not a program. It’s not really even an organization. It’s an idea. It’s an event. It largely consists of a great number of independent authors getting together to bring a huge sales event to people who enjoy reading (and gifting) books.

This means you are just as important to Read Tuesday as anyone else. So, Mr. or Mrs. Important Read Tuesday Participant, please feel free to share your Big ideas. 🙂

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Do You Support the Underdog as a Shopper?

There are many crowd-pleasing movies and books where the protagonist is an underdog who will beat the odds to triumph in the end. So as an audience, we tend to root for the underdog.

Is the same true when you’re shopping?

All other things being equal, would you prefer to buy a product from a major, national company or a small, local business?

Ah, but the question isn’t that simple because very often those other things aren’t equal. The big business may offer a better price or greater selection, or may provide more appealing financing. The small business may provide incentives of its own, by going the extra mile or being closer to your house.

There is yet another way that it’s not so simple to call the small business the underdog. Suppose, for example, that a huge company brings very low prices, saving people a great deal of money. Suppose further that this helps many low-income families live a little better. Aren’t those families the underdogs? So maybe if a huge business is helping people who could use the help in some way, then the business is supporting the underdog.

Here’s an interesting puzzle: When it comes to buying books from Amazon or a local bookstore, who is the underdog? Amazon is the huge company. Does this make the local bookstore the underdog?

Amazon supports millions of underdogs: indie authors, indie musicians, indie filmmakers, small business owners, small publishers, etc. This is in addition to underdog consumers who may derive benefits from shopping at Amazon. Furthermore, Amazon features success stories of indie authors and small business owners right on their home page from time to time.

Yet the local bookstore is an underdog, too, right? I don’t think it’s so clear-cut in this case. I know many people who would argue the point each way, and both arguments sound good to me. One is an underdog, but the other supports many underdogs. (Now maybe there are other underdogs who are being disadvantaged in the process… I don’t know, but if there is, that’s yet another complication to consider.)

Let me back up. It’s not always right to root for the underdog, is it? Suppose the favorite has worked tremendously hard, learned much from experience, and has rightfully earned the spot as the favorite. Should we automatically root for an inexperienced underdog who comes along just for the same of favoring the underdog? That doesn’t seem right to me.

If you think about the movies and books that feature an underdog, very often the protagonist displays positive character traits and is up against an evil villain.

My point is that character is important, too. It’s not just about figuring out who the small guy is. If the big business has a positive influence on the community, while the small business shows some signs of negative character, for example, that changes everything. Or at least, it should.

Suppose you’re an author (which will be easy to do for many of you because you are). Let’s say that you walk into a bookstore and discover that they have a flat-out “No!” policy regarding self-publishing or the management treats you condescendingly or you otherwise have a bad experience there. Are you likely to support that bookstore in the future?

(I’m not saying that they have to carry all self-published books; just that they should be open to the idea and base the decision on the merit of the book. If they have a few indie books on a shelf for local authors, that will earn my support. How they treat the inquiring author is very important, too.)

If instead you walk into a small, local bookstore that makes you feel like a royal prince, wouldn’t you feel compelled to drive traffic their way and do your shopping there, too? (You should.)

Does the underdog support other underdogs and treat other types of underdogs well? How about the big business? Also look at character. These are important considerations to me.

When it comes to buying a product, quality is also important. Perhaps the big business and small guy don’t have equivalent products. If one has superior quality, it’s more like comparing apples to oranges.

Finally, let me mention one more thing about buying books. This time, let’s look at the publisher instead of the bookseller. The indie author or small publisher is the underdog compared to the big publishing giants, right? Maybe not.

A book may have a small-time author who got a contract with a big-time publisher. And the big-time author was an underdog once upon a time, until many readers supported that author enough to turn the author into a success.

I suggest that there are many gray areas here.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Hear Indies Roar!

You don’t have to listen closely. The roar can be heard throughout the world of books: The roar of the indies.

The best indie books have many wonderful benefits:

  • Many fictional works are designed around e-readers. The paragraphs are shorter so as not to overwhelm the reader, the story is designed to grab attention right away and keep it so that there is an action-packed flow, and the language is geared toward the audience. Not all indie books are like this, but many top-selling indie e-books are.
  • Traditional publishers have applied a different philosophy for years. Their editors sometimes screen great storytelling or great writing for various reasons. The audience may be too specialized. The author’s qualifications may not look impressive on paper. The proposal may not have followed standard guidelines. Etc. Now such stories have the opportunity to be shared. Not all writing screened by publishers is good writing, but some great indie stories wouldn’t have been published without e-books and print-on-demand.
  • Editors sometimes revise good writing for various reasons. Perhaps it would offend a few readers. Perhaps it doesn’t agree with the editor’s sense of style. All writing needs some degree of editing, and traditional publishers fill a demand for reading material that meets a high editing standard. However, it’s also nice to read material as the author intended it, without revising it to save our eyes from possible offense and without corrupting the author’s unique style. Some indie books have also been through several rounds of editing, but with the author having the final say. Well-written indie books have some merit this way.
  • An idea may actually be too creative for a traditional publisher to take a chance on it. As a result, you can find some incredibly creative self-published books that are actually quite good. They may not be easy to find, but if you can find the gems, they are worth the search.
  • Time-sensitive material can reach the audience very quickly when it is self-published. Traditionally published writing can take dozens of months to reach the market.

My next point, I believe, is really huge and sometimes overlooked. In fact, I would say it’s often turned against indies, when it should be the other way around.

Indie authors will often give you personal attention:

  • Some traditional publishers and their editors strive to market a bad image for indies with statements like, “You’d never see Stephen King commenting on his own reviews,” and pointing out instances where indie authors don’t handle criticism well. They do have a valid point here, but there are many successful indie authors who behave quite professionally. Plus, indie authors often do some things that big-name authors can’t or won’t do, which may be beneficial to readers.
  • It’s often easier to get in touch with indie authors, they can give you more time in personal interactions, they are likely to place higher value on helpful feedback, etc. Being smaller-scale authors, they simply have more time and one customer makes a much bigger difference to the indie than to the big-name traditional author. This has some advantages. Many indie authors are happy to meet their readers and will strive to make each reader feel special. The top indie authors are likely to give you the benefits without the disadvantages. A few rotten eggs in one restaurant shouldn’t spoil dessert in every restaurant.

Some indie authors have made big names for themselves:

  • Have you heard of Amanda Hocking, E. L. James, or Hugh Howey, for example? If not, check out their stories. There are several highly successful indie authors.
  • More and more traditionally published authors are switching over to self-publishing. Why not? Once they have already made names for themselves, why not reap the benefits of self-publishing? A small-time traditionally published author might run into a few roadblocks with bookstores or the media, for example; but if you have a name like J. K. Rowling and self-publish (and make your popular name well-known if adopting a different one), a bookstore manager or journalist would have to be really foolish not to roll out the red carpet.

Many indie authors are working very hard to help you find books that are likely to be relevant to you:

  • It’s really challenging to discover good new books – there are just too many books out there (even within traditional publishing). The traditionally published author who receives a big advance may not feel nearly as motivated as the self-published author who isn’t selling any books without actively marketing. As a result, indies are working hard to find members of their target audience, bloggers in their target audience who may review their books, etc. They are trying to deliver good books to you. Not everyone goes about this the right way, but there are successful indie authors who are striving to unobtrusively help you find good books to read.

Indies have a huge community:

  • There are hundreds of thousands of indie authors. Add to this number their relatives, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. You don’t need a calculator to see that there is overwhelming support for self-published authors. The number of books combined with the number of people in this immediate support group leads to an astronomical number of sales. A single small-time indie author may not provide much business, but overall the amount of business is staggering. Indie-friendly companies like Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu, and Ingram Spark are reaping many benefits.
  • There is a huge support group for indie authors. This starts with ample free help with tips on writing, editing, marketing, formatting, cover design, etc. There are numerous discussions in community forums for indie authors to interact with one another. There are wonderful support groups on blogs and social media.
  • Many indie authors read and review indie books. Since there are so many indie authors, this leads to many sales and reviews from within the indie community itself. Add to this their friends, family, and acquaintances, and you can see that many readers support the self-publishing concept. (I’m not talking about friends reviewing the book of an author, which Amazon is doing a great job of minimizing. I’m talking about an author and his or her friends and family reviewing books of unknown indie authors, simply because they support the indie concept.)

When you take the time to search through the haystack, every gem that you discover provides you with an incredibly wonderful feeling.

Just because there are some indie books out there that seem to have lousy covers, lousy grammar, lousy spelling, lousy formatting, lousy stories, lousy writing, or appear to have just been slapped together quickly with the hope of earning a few bucks, this shouldn’t detract from the many indie authors who have great writing skills, took the time to edit and format carefully, thought of great stories, produced fantastic covers, and otherwise published wonderful books. (Personally, I’m not in favor of calling anyone’s hard work and passion lousy.)

Let those who have done well define the world of indie books, not those who are deemed to have done poorly. The most successful indie authors show the true potential of self-publishing. Let’s focus on this.

We can do our best, we can try to help others, but we can’t be responsible for every other author out there. Should we not judge each author individually, rather than create a stereotype for all indies?

It takes much courage for a great writer to pursue self-publishing. There are also many benefits to reap for doing so successfully. And those who do succeed help to open doors for the rest.

Let me make it clear that I have nothing against traditional publishers or traditionally published authors. They provide helpful products and services. We need them.

My point is that many indie authors are also providing helpful products and services, and we need them, too.

I read both traditionally published books and self-published books. I enjoy both, and for different reasons.

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing are very large entities. The indie roar is growing, and is no longer being drowned out by the traditional roar.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Authors: Dealing with the Downs

Adversity Pic

Sales inherently fluctuate. Even if over time sales grow, there will still be some day-to-day fluctuations. There are also seasonal effects – i.e. any given type of book tends to sell better during some months than others. The economy is a factor, too.

As long as there are some sale every week, there will be some periods where sales are slow and some periods where sales are better. There will be both.

When sales are peaking, you’re thinking, “Now that’s more like it.” But they often don’t stay that way. Even if there is long-term growth, there will be a few periods where sales decline. You can count on it.

When sales are in a valley, you’re thinking, “What happened to kill the sales?” Remember, there will be valleys even when nothing has changed. Don’t panic. Exercise patience. Sales may pick up in a few days. If it’s the end of the month, maybe sales will rebound next month. Some months are also better than others. A downturn in sales for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean that sales have stopped dead.

If sales decline and you also notice something else, like a bad review, your first thought is that the review killed your sales. But it could just be coincidence. Many times, a review doesn’t have the effect that we might predict. Be patient. Sales might just rebound in a few days.

Unfortunately, sometimes sales do decline. Sometimes, a book sells frequently for a short period after its release, and then sales decline. Sometimes, reviews do influence sales. Sometimes, there are external factors that we’re not even aware of – like a change in Customer Also Bought associations and other marketing recommendations online. (Sometimes, though, external factors boost sales, like a recommendation posted somewhere online that you weren’t even aware of; and more often than not, Customer Also Bought lists provide a sudden boost.)

But if you panic that sales are dying every time your sales go through a valley, you’re likely to be causing yourself a great deal of unnecessary anxiety. It can take a couple of weeks or more to properly project sales trends.

Similarly, don’t let each review – good or bad – determine your happiness. Try not to let other people govern your emotions. Hopefully, many of the reviews will be good. See if any critical reviews have merit that can help, then try your best to forget them.

Focus on your next book and on marketing. These activities will keep you busy. And these are the best things you can do to improve sales.

When you’re going through the downs, the worst thing you can do is react emotionally in public and ruin your image as an author – that can have a much worse effect than anything you had been worrying about. Avoid posting complaints: You don’t want customers or reviewers to see them and view this as unprofessional, and you don’t really want to bring others down by spreading negativity.

Sure, you want to receive comfort and support. Try to find private (i.e. not your blog or social media) ways to seek this, or strive to find positive ways to reach out. For example, ask for advice in a tactful way that focuses on encouraging suggestions instead of ranting about the issue. If you need to write a rant to help get it out of your system, keep it private (just as you would if writing in a diary).

Remember that all authors experience the ups and downs of sales and reviews (except for the rare author who has the ability to ignore these things).

Enjoy the ups, and ride out the downs. Keep writing and marketing, and these activities may help make the overall trend grow in the long run.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers