Feature: Lessons Learned
 by Jake Kerr

my self-publishing journey

In my last column I noted that traditional publishing marketing methods had turned out to be ineffective. I had sent out copies of the book to over 200 book bloggers. I advertised and promoted in social media. I even used Google, Bing, and Facebook for advertising. In the end nothing seemed to really effectively sell the book.

Somewhat in desperation I decided to study the genre that has the most effective self-published authors—romance. My eyes were opened when in the first romance forum I joined there was an income survey and over 30 of the authors answered that they were making more than $100,000 a year from their self-published books. Clearly these people knew what they were doing.

I spent a lot of time studying the romance methods, and a few basic rules became clear:

You have to position your book to be discoverable by Amazon.

You have to maintain an email database to communicate with fans.

You have to utilize the major book promotion companies if possible.

You have to release new books often.

Let’s go through each item.

Positioning your book to be discoverable means that you need to maximize your use of keywords. I don’t want to get too complicated, but when you upload a book to Amazon you describe it with a list of keywords. These keywords both place your book in categories and make it easier to find via searches. 

An important strategy is to make sure your book is in as many categories as is appropriate so that when people browse those categories, they can find your book easily. Similarly, this provides you more opportunities to reach top 100 charts, as each category has its own chart. 

I had embraced the second point, which is to maintain an email database, but one of the things that it is important to note is that this is a long-term strategy, and Tommy Black and the Staff of Light was my first book. Generally speaking, you gain fans with each book release, and as your fan numbers grow, they allow each new book release to do better than the one before. 

Unfortunately for me, I was pushing a single book, and a long-term strategy was one that I just was going to have to maintain, with the hope that it would pay off with a future release. In the short run, however, it was little help.

I also learned about book deal and promotion companies. The strategy is simple: Discount your book to 99 cents or free for a short period of time, and advertise it with a company that promotes book deals. 

The final lesson is the most important of all, and the one that I failed in most dramatically. The absolute core strategy, which is so important that it can work while you ignore practically everything else, is to release books on a regular basis. Each book builds on the previous book, and this incremental growth eventually turns into formidable writing career. 

With these lessons learned, I changed my plan at the end of 2015. I priced Tommy Black a bit higher at $3.99, and then applied for a free promotion at Bookbub, hoping that the big discount would lead them to approve my deal. Concurrent with that I finished book two of the series, Tommy Black and the Coat of Invincibility. 

My goal entering 2016 was to create a massive free promotion of book one that would lead into interest for a successful launch of book two. I would then enter 2016 with the series jumpstarted, with book three ready to push things even higher.

Next issue I’ll let you know how it went! 

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