I am sure many of you will have heard of Mel Sherratt, whose book Taunting the Dead was a bestseller in 2012. She’s a great supporter of other indie authors, so I have asked her to share some of her knowledge and experience with us all.
Since my novel, TAUNTING THE DEAD, became one of the top ten self-published Kindle bestsellers of 2012, I’m often asked how did I do it. The answer could be one of a few things: did I get lucky? Did I get noticed in some way? Did I have a marketing strategy? Did word of mouth take over once people started to read it? The answer is obviously the latter one – joking! In truth, it’s probably a bit of all of them. So I thought I’d share a few tips with you:
1. IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: Cover, cover, cover. Personally, I think covers are everything for e-books. I know they’re not seen as often as on a printed version but online they are crucial to catch someone’s eye, just as much as walking into a book shop and spotting one on the shelf that sticks out from the many.
When I was getting ready to publish TAUNTING THE DEAD, I literally trawled the internet for hours over several evenings to find the rose featured on the cover. In my mind, I had the image of a rose on a freshly dug grave but I wouldn’t be able to get that! (although I have met a local photographer now who says he could replicate something for me now.)
When I published THE ESTATE series, I used the same fonts for titles and author name and I sourced a set of photos out. All my books have tag-lines. So images, author name font, title font, tag-lines – now, I have my own brand.
2. EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. I know, I know, it’s nothing new, I hear you say. And despite errors appearing in lots of traditionally published books too, this isn’t an excuse to use. I didn’t get TAUNTING THE DEAD copy edited and I literally learned from my mistakes! Until you’ve had your work professionally edited, you can’t begin to imagine what they pick up. A good copy editor swaps words round in sentences, deletes words and sentences and you’re left with a sharper and more intriguing story. I’ve just written my seventh book, and I’m still learning. I hope I never stop!
Also don’t ever put anything out that you don’t think is good enough, just for the sake of getting the book online quickly.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA SHOULD BE SOCIAL: Don’t join every network you read about and spread yourself too thin. Concentrate on one or two that you enjoy and interact with people. A weekly update on my website blog, a Facebook author page and Twitter are what I use. If I concentrate on these, I can take my time to build things up. They are also great for announcing new books – or posing questions when I’m working. Readers love getting involved. It’s more personal.
4. MARKETING: Before I self-published, I hosted a blog called High Heels and Book Deals and for two years I absorbed myself into indirect networking. I interviewed authors and reviewed books for publicists that I met online through Twitter, and then tweeted out the posts I did to all those involved, so it would be the author, the publicist, their agent, the publisher etc. They in turn would retweet them. In between these posts, I wrote a few about my writing journey. I then started to attend crime festivals such as Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate and CrimeFest in Bristol and events like Crime in the Court, Goldsboro Books, London and started to meet the people I’d known via Twitter, plus lots more. During the two years I ran my blog, read books for people etc, it took up a lot of time – I did it for at least 20 hours a week – but it was great fun.
When I put THE ESTATE series out, I started a new website solely in my own name, Writer of Murder and Mayhem, (although I do have a page on there called Murder they Wrote where I promote others) and put three books out in quick succession over six months so readers were waiting for the next.
Although I don’t do as much to promote my books now, when I have a new one coming out, I try and do a few interviews and guest blog posts so that I can tweet these out for my followers and add them to my Facebook author page. I’m often asked to do interviews, which is great, and I spend a lot of time chatting to my readers on Twitter and by emails. I think it’s important to take time to build up a relationship with your readers. And there’s nothing better than getting a message from someone who has read all your books and can’t wait for the next one.
5. TRY ANYTHING: Sometimes you have to take a chance. For instance, I’m taking part in two panels at London Book Fair next week for Amazon KDP – The Author’s Journey and The Future for the author. I’m absolutely petrified at the thought but excited too. Public speaking is part of an author’s life – embrace the terror!
So, with a well-edited, well-crafted novel and an eye-catching cover, anything is possible. Ensure the writing is the best you can achieve, don’t rush and always make certain the formatting is perfect. Things like this make an author stand out.
Her books are available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – Just £1.99 in the UK store.