The challenge of becoming visible as an indie — and an interview

As anyone knows who’s stuck their toes in the self-publishing waters, one of the biggest challenges facing indie authors is getting noticed. So that beautiful tree you cultivated fell with a satisfying crash? But if no one is there to hear it … you get the idea.

It’s the same thing when you throw your brilliant work of staggering genius out into the pond of all the other newly-minted indie authors — and the pond is so full, it doesn’t make a ripple, since there’s no water left.

When I first published Yseult in January 2012, KDP Select was a totally new element thrown into the self-publishing mix, and having a good free run with one of your titles was enough to give sales a push for weeks. Now, not only is it getting harder and harder to have a successful free run, the sales post-freebie are less and not lasting as long. KDP Select is no longer enough to draw attention to your books.

Back when I first started out, I did try a few other things. I wrote to review sites to try to get them to pick up my books, (without success) I did interviews and guest posts on other writers’ blogs, all those things they tell you to do to get the word out about you and your books. But the only thing that seemed to have an effect on sales was a successful free run. And now that isn’t even working anymore.

So how is an independent author supposed to become visible?

One of the things I’ve had some success with are group promos. I talked about that elsewhere, and I still think it’s one of the ways authors can help each other out and reach a larger audience. Which is why I’m participating in another one this month: Kindle Books on Fire. Check it out! If you have a US address, you might even win a new Kindle Fire!

Another thing I’ve been experimenting with more recently is paid advertising. I haven’t had the greatest results until now, but on Lindsay Buroker’s blog recently, she recommended BookBub, which sends targeted emails to readers of specific genres. Their list of fantasy subscribers is over 70,000. (BTW, if you’re an indie author or are considering going that route, I highly recommend subscribing to Lindsay’s blog. She shares a lot of useful information about her own self-publishing experience, and I’ve learned a lot from her posts.)

After reading about Lindsay’s experience with a 99c discounted book, I decided to try BookBub with a freebie of Shadow of Stone. The ad prices are staggered according to genre and the discounted price at which the book is being offered; an ad in the fantasy category for a free book right now is $45. They seem to only take one book a day per genre, however, so competition is steep. I think I got in because of my award nominations in traditional publishing, since Shadow of Stone still only has ten reviews. They also only take full length books, according to their guidelines, at least 50,000 words.

Anyway, results. Within hours, I’d recouped the money I spent on the ad — in sales of the companion novel, Yseult. Of course, this only works if you have books in a series. I saw a tiny increase in sales of some of my other books that are not part of The Pendragon Chronicles, but not much. It’s looking like the bump in sales of Shadow of Stone after the freebie would also have covered the cost of the ad. Yesterday, I had 9 sales and 13 borrows on Shadow of Stone. So I’m definitely going to try Bookbub again, as long as they will give me a listing, that is. 🙂

I also wanted to point anyone who might be interested in the direction of an interview with me up on the OWW workshop. There I mostly talk about my decision to go indie, but craft and theme as well. (The interview is about two-thirds down in the newsletter.)

As to recent writing progress: I’ve been slowed down a bit by a cold, and the fact that the colonoscopy I did this week is having some unpleasant aftereffects. (The results of the exam were negative, btw, which means that’s good for me.) But despite that, with the inspiration of Fast Draft, I’ve gotten 38 pages written on Ygerna this week, my Pendragon Chronicles prequel. That’s nowhere near the 20 pages a day we’re supposed to be doing, but I’m quite happy with it. Hopefully once health issues clear up, I can increase that.

I wish everyone a great week!

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5 thoughts on “The challenge of becoming visible as an indie — and an interview”

  1. Thanks for sharing all the info Ruth – everyone talks about ways to do things, but so few ever discuss the realities of those things. By the way, I’ve subscribed to Lindsay for months and she is one of the best indie resources currently out there – second your recommendation.
    I did give Bookbub a brief look, but as I’m only working on 30k-length novella’s at the moment the advertising wouldn’t work for me, however, they still appear to be a good additional way to work on discoverability – the real indie battle.
    I hope you feel better soon and have a fantastic week 😀

  2. Yeah, Gene, I’m a little bummed that BookBub doesn’t do novellas — I’d love to use them for Looking Through Lace! Maybe if I ever bundle the novellas into one book …

    Thanks for the good wishes and nice comments on the post. 🙂

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