Why have I come to that conclusion? We take a brilliant idea, build a world, add characters and put them through horrendous obstacles. And if we’re good writers, we wrench our reader’s emotions in an oh so unkind way in the process. Why? Because they like it (I’ll not go into that mental disorder at the moment). At some point, we play god and let our characters overcome their obstacles returning the reader to the world from which they wished to escape for a time. But even then, we know the readers, too, are sadistic enough to want to put the characters through another set of equally wretched problems in the future. In fact, we authors hope for it.
If you’ve been mentally unbalanced (I mean, an author) for any amount of time, you know that’s fifty percent of your job. Only fifty percent, you say? (Please ignore the fact that I’m talking to myself. It’s nothing really). Absolutely. Don’t deny you long to prey on increasing numbers of victims (readers, I mean), inflicting your brand of mental instability on them to create an addiction. And there’s only one way to do that… that nasty “m” word (and no, it’s not mental institution): Marketing.
For many authors, especially if you’re indie published and write middle grade fiction, that ‘m’ word causes either silver bullet psychosis or severe depression—both states manifest the underlying malaise in which we authors live. We all want to sell more books, but how do we get noticed? As one who has suffered from this disability right along with you over the last four years, I’d like to share what I’ve found to work for me and my Andy Smithson, MG/YA coming-of-age, fantasy adventure series. A word of warning: you’ll not find any silver bullets. But perhaps you can take away a nugget or two and see if it’ll work for you.
The middle grade fiction market is tough. Our readers, in large part, aren’t old enough to be online. Some authors go the school visit route and proclaim success, but I’ve never found those opportunities turn a profit. If your objective is to sell thousands of books and become a full time author you need to scale your efforts.
Since I published the first book in my series back in April 2013, I’ve distributed over 200,000 books. But even with that, I’m unknown to most book buyers. I’m going to assume you’ve been in this business for some time and already follow traditional advice and practices (professionally designed book cover, professionally edited content, write more books, etc).
I’m always looking to see what actions produce the greatest return. Some folks rave about social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc). Blogs are much the same. While I have over 50k Twitter followers, based on Twitter stats, I don’t see much interaction happening there. And Facebook pretty much makes you pay to talk to your followers which I refuse to do. My blog isn’t much better. Sure I post periodically, but a single post doesn’t usually get much traction.
Don’t get me wrong, these tactics used to work, but they don’t anymore. So what’s an author to do to sell more books these days? What I’ve found is as follows:
First, permanently set the price of one of your books to free and use it to give potential readers the opportunity to get to know you and your work at no cost to them. If they like the first book, they’ll buy more.
Second, run promos on BookBub and similar reputable sites. These sites have gathered thousands of email addresses of interested readers and they send them deals on discounted books daily. I’ve run five BookBub promos since I started, all promoting my freebie novel, and I’m never disappointed. The initial downloads get the freebie out there and the follow up sales of the rest of the books in my series make it profitable. The key is to get the freebie novel out there. After that it’s just math that determines success. Of the 200,000 books I’ve distributed, three quarters are freebies that fueled the 50,000 copies I’ve sold.
Third, turn yourself into BookBub. What I mean by that is make building your own email list a priority. As you’ve probably found by now, BookBub is very selective. But what would it be like to have an email list of your own, of readers interested in YOUR books that you can contact whenever you want. You only need a handful or two of raving fans to make a go of publishing as a career. I’ve taken to running Facebook ads, giving away my freebie, book one in the series, as the enticement to sign up. Yes, it’s an investment, but isn’t it worth it if you can build a career?
Fourth, rewrite your weakest book. I think we would all agree that our first book is our weakest. Back in January 2016, when I published the fifth book in the Andy Smithson series, I committed to rewriting my weakest book. It had been four years of learning and improving my craft and I knew I had grown as a writer. I knew that even though I give it away free, it is the determining factor of whether folks chose to buy the next book in the series, or not. Since republishing it in March, I’ve seen book two's sales steadily increase month over month. In fact, the improvement has rejuvenated sales of the entire series. Now that I’m about to publish book six with the final book seven to follow, my revenue is growing.
A final word: The publishing industry is constantly changing. Strive to do the same. Blogs, free social media, and similar tactics used to sell books. They don’t anymore (except this blog--MGNinja). Stay informed as to the current trends by listening to podcasts like The Sell More Books Show or Self Publishing Formula. Join Facebook author groups with authors who aspire to become self employed from their publishing efforts. Take the time to fill your mind with narratives that will help you succeed as an author at this time in history.
If you found this post informative and helpful, I encourage you to join my email list at http://bit.ly/MiddleGradeNinja. You’ll get the first book in the Andy Smithson series for free at the same time!
L. R. W. Lee is the award-winning author of the Andy Smithson juvenile fiction series of epic fantasy books for kids 9 to 99 including teens and young adult, set in medieval times with knight, magic and mythical adventures. Her characters are young and fearless, but in real life L. R. W. can't handle scary movies, Stephen King novels, or cockroaches. She knows she wouldn't last long in one of her books. Nope. But give her a drink and a Hawaiian sunset and she'll be just fine.
She lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband. Their two children have flown the coop. One came to roost at Microsoft and the other in the Air Force.
Andy Smithson just found out how much the zap of a wizard's curse can sting. But after an epically bad day, he finds wizards are the least of his problems.
An otherworldly force draws him to a medieval world where fire-breathing dragons, deranged pixies, and vengeful spirits are the way of things. Trading his controller for a sword of legend, Andy embarks upon an epic quest to break a centuries-old curse oppressing the land. It isn't chance that plunges him into the adventure though, for he soon discovers ancestors his parents have kept hidden from him are behind the curse.
Blast of the Dragon's Fury is a coming-of-age, epic fantasy adventure featuring fast-paced action, sword fights, laugh-out-loud humor, with a few life lessons thrown in.