IndieReCon was the perfect antidote to London Book Fair. After the hustle and bustle of LBF, it was a joy to spend a day at Foyles. IndieReCon was put on by The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) – a professional association for authors who self-publish. The warmth and enthusiasm of this friendly community was palpable as soon as I entered the room. IndieReCon had a great energy and felt a lot more personal than London Book Fair. Successful self-published authors were genuinely excited and enthusiastic about the latest industry trends (there was a heavy focus on audiobooks), and relished sharing their tips and advice with authors who weren’t as far along their writing and publishing careers. Unlike London Book Fair, IndieReCon is for authors by authors and the topics covered and advice given was much more practical and specific on all areas of self-publishing and marketing, from how to get stocked in bookshops to how to grow your email list.
After each session, there was a lively Q&A where individual authors could ask for personal advice on their own projects. There was also a free 1-on-1 Q&A with Joanna Penn, one of the biggest names in self-publishing. I had a great time and met a lot of really forward-thinking authors. I was live tweeting throughout the event, but here are the most inspirational words I heard during the sessions.
C.J. Lyons, New York Times bestseller who has sold millions: “Taking care of business is not just paying attention to your Amazon ranking… Taking care of business is taking care of the things you have control of, not fixating on the things that are out of your control.”
This struck a chord with me because it is easy to become obsessed with data and metrics these days. Authors and publishers can spend a lot of time checking chart positions, trying to work out the Amazon algorithms, and hypothesising about what a ranking might mean, when that time would be better spent building an author platform, promoting books, and reaching out to new readers.
Katie Donelan of BookBub: “Authors now need to embrace the concept of being an entrepreneur… the authors we work with who have done really well very much embrace the marketing and business side of their job.”
Katie went on to explain that authors who spend time to learn and actually carry out the free grass-roots marketing, such as connecting to readers on GoodReads, inevitably see more success. We couldn’t agree more. There are plenty of free and low-cost marketing activities authors can do to really boost sales.
Rachel Abbott, British bestselling self-published author: “Before you work out a plan for how you are going to achieve your success, you need to define what success looks like to you.”
This echoes the point our own author, Karen Healey Wallace, made at London Book Fair – that you need to work out what is important to you and stay focussed on it. She advised authors to choose between the 3 Rs: Readers, Revenue or Respect.
“Without a doubt (my breakthrough moment) was when I wrote a marketing plan. The first marketing plan I wrote was about 15 pages long and I followed it to the letter.”
It is great to spend time researching the latest book marketing ideas and advice, but there will come a time when you will need to put a plan in action. This can be a daunting task, but our online author marketing course helps you build components of your marketing plan one at a time, before showing you how to put it all together.
Joanna Penn, author and self-publishing guru: “Little steps every day – if you try and improve your writing every day, if you connect to readers every day, if you do a little bit of marketing every day, then over time, you get somewhere.”
Overnight publishing success stories are extremely rare. It takes time and thought to craft good writing, publish professionally, and market your book to drive up your sales – rushing and cutting corners will never work. You need to gradually and carefully build your author brand. You won’t go from opening a Twitter account to having thousands of followers and fans the next day, but if you are smart and chip away at it, you will be amazed at the results.
Steena Holmes, New York Times and USA Today bestselling self-published author: “Focus on your readers, not your sales.“
Keep your readers happy and they will keep coming back. They will also write lovely reader reviews on Amazon and other retailer websites, as well as recommending your book to their friends. We always recommend that authors use Beta readers (friends or fellow writers who offer to read the book and give a frank opinion) before publication to make sure that they are giving their readers the best possible experience. If you get negative feedback, work on that before publishing.
“Create a team around you.”
Most authors do not have the contacts or expertise to do everything well. Work out what your strengths are and find someone to help with the rest.
Mark McGuinness, an author and creative coach: “Acknowledge self doubts, take a break, come back and remind yourself why you write.”
Writing can be quite an isolating experience and there will be ups and downs – times when you are delighted with your manuscript, and other times when you are frustrated with it. When you have had enough of it, take a breath and think about what you set out to do in the first place and why… then make a cup of coffee and get back to it.
We hope those tips will motivate you all with whatever writing, self-publishing or marketing tasks you have on your to-do list this week. To make sure you don’t miss out on future events, sign up to The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).