1) Must be hybrid or have a plan to be hybrid. Unlike several years ago, I tend to encourage an unpublished author to try to get an agent and get traditionally published, That might seem odd but the flood of content has made succeeding at self-publishing perhaps more difficult than the arduous traditional publishing route. Unless a new author is an expert at the following things listed below, then you need what a publisher can provide. However, even as you’re doing that, be writing the next book and consider dual careers, traditional and indie. For traditionally published authors, if you haven’t already gone hybrid, start. Because once you are no longer frontlist at a trad publisher, the odds of you getting the rights to you backlist back are slim and that publisher can barely promote its frontlist, never mind your backlist. You need that monthly revenue from the indie side.
2) Discoverability. This is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. I don’t have the secret. If I did, I’d be doing it, and then everyone else would be two weeks later. We do a lot at Cool Gus for discoverability, understanding it doesn’t lead directly to sales, but it does give us wider reach: Slideshares, book trailers on Youtube, direct brain transmission, Facebook, blog, extortion, Twitter, Medium, MRIs, Instagram, etc. We spread the word far and wide, while also doing #4 below.
3) Engagement. This is the step I have to make beyond simply being discoverable. It’s not enough to be out there, I have to be out there and be active. I’ve got get people interested in me and my books. That means always responding to people, putting interesting conversations out on social media, face to face interaction, always having a book ready to give away, giving away lots and lots of eBooks. Signing books. Mailing and giving out swag.
4) Find your niche. I’ve written whatever the heck I wanted to over three decades. Which is not a good business plan. I’ve got thrillers, historical fiction, romance, science fiction, nonfiction, suspense, you name it. I was thinking last night I should write some horror as I just wrote a ‘ghost’ into my current Time Patrol book. But I also understand you can’t get discovered everywhere. We’re building my new web site at bobmayer.com and it’s focused on one series, my current one, Time Patrol. Everything else is secondary. It’s also organic in that every Wednesday there’s a new briefing on a historical event covered in the books. My goal is to own a chunk of the top 100 in the bestseller list in Science Fiction-Time Travel. I’m looking at the new time travel shows coming out on TV this fall and targeting those audiences along with existing shows such as Doctor Who, 12 Monkeys and others. So find you niche and own it!
5) Think beyond the norm. At Cool Gus we’re already working with one very popular app that has nothing to do with books, but does reach the target audience for our romance authors. We’re looking at mutually beneficial relationships like that to extend both sides reach. We’re also using Cool Gus, yes, the man himself, well, beast, in our marketing because frankly, he’s much more interesting than me. We’re tying in our author Amy Shojai’s nonfiction on pets and her fiction (which features dogs) into that. We’ve also got Cool Gus, in the vein of Sherman and Peabody, introducing our new series of time travel videos. We can’t chase what others are doing, because they’re already doing it. We have to come up with new and innovative ways to reach readers.
Bottom line? After three decades making a living as an author, I firmly believe it’s the best time ever to be a writer. Because we can control all of the above. Our career is in our hands!