A serialized fiction growth-hacking technique for fiction writers

Most book marketing tips and strategies are for non-fiction authors. When publishing experts are asked, “well what about fiction writers,” the answer is usually, “um, I don’t have experience with that, but it should work too.”

Here’s how to sell books: build a platform and an email list.

BUT HOW?!

Usually by giving away a lot of free stuff or some free books.

BUT WHAT IF I ONLY HAVE ONE BOOK?!

Then you’re screwed.

Or maybe not.

Here’s a trick you can use.

1. Offer the first chapter for free on your website.

Make it immediately available, without any barrier or sign up required. Don’t ask them to buy or give up their privacy until they’ve had a chance to test your writing. People buy from people they know, like and trust – don’t ruin your chance for them to get to know you by asking for a sale too early.

2. At the end of the first chapter, ask them to sign up to your list to get three more chapters for free. Every week send them a new chapter with a short note explaining who you are, why you’re writing, and what you hope to accomplish.

Week one: I’m so glad you enjoyed the first chapter of my book; I’ve attached the second chapter for you. Writing has always been a dream of mine and I’m really excited to be sharing this with you. If you want to find out more about me or my background, click here to view my bio.

Week two: What did you think about the second chapter? I hope it held your interest and you’re ready for chapter three. I’m attaching it for you here. I’m giving these chapters away for free to broaden my platform and make it easier to connect with readers. If you’re liking this story so far, would you do me the favor of sharing this page with your friends who might enjoy reading it also? Here’s something you can just copy/paste to Twitter or Facebook.

“Enjoying some free chapters of (Book) by (Author Name) right now. Click here to download them. (link).”

Week three: Here’s the third chapter of (Book). I’m an indie author chasing my dream of being a writer, so I really appreciate your support and interest. (It’s really useful to reveal more about yourself, tell stories, your writing process, your personality… reveal just enough, but keep it short and charming. You need to let people see you.)

Week four: Here’s the fourth chapter of (Book) – I’m so grateful you’ve taken the time to read this far, I hope it means you are enjoying the story. If you’d like to continue reading and find out what happens next, you can get the book from Kindle for just $2.99 (link); and if you want to be a rockstar and patron of the arts please leave a quick review on the Amazon page – it just takes a minute but will mean more to me than you’ll ever know. (PS it doesn’t have to be a glowing 5 star review, just your honest feedback of what you liked and didn’t like about my writing).

I plan on writing a sequel/another book this year, and with your permissions I’ll let you know when that’s available and send you some more free chapters. Until then, if you want to know what I’m up to, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Why use this strategy?

You can sell a lot of books with very little effort if you’re already visible (if you’re already a #1 bestseller). But if that’s not you, you’re going to need as much help and support as you can get. The way to attract fans and get them to support you is to let them in.

Be human, share your dream and goal (make it very specific if you can – like “my goal is to sell 5000 books this year and I really need your help”). Don’t ask for anything except the opportunity to share your writing for free – give, give, give, then ask.

Create a relationship, and interaction, and get them involved in the story. It’s fine to giveaway 4 chapters for free and still charge for the rest of the book (it’s probably not far off from Amazon’s look inside feature anyway, but people will appreciate it and your list will grow.

Don’t make people knock. Leave the door open and let them wander in.

The big advantage with this technique is you can use it even with your first book and no platform, and it will work SO MUCH BETTER than “sign up for updates!” And your list (and sales) can be growing on autopilot while you work on another book (at least, as long as you’re bringing new traffic to your site.)

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
  • Derek: I think that this is a very, very clever strategy, and I firmly believe that for new authors, it’s the only way that works (without spending a fortune). Of course, getting the first few will be the hard part…how about a follow-up article, for those who are introspective, shy, etc., on how they can go about building a list, and attracting those first precious folks to their blog? 🙂

    • That’s a great question – email signups don’t work if you have zero traffic. But getting traffic isn’t so hard, you need to write content that appeals to your target audience. For fiction authors, write about other books in your genre, publishing news in your genre, similar TV shows or movies that your readers would like, other authors in your genre (it would be really smart to feature other indie authors in your genre to build your platform and traffic super quickly). Being shy and introspective is a huge bonus – it means you probably like to stay home and write stuff. Great. So write blog articles and publish them. You don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t need to be outgoing or salesy or promotional (you shouldn’t be Tweeting or yelling or trying to get attention!). Just write epic quality content, talk a lot about other authors and people and stuff going on that’s more famous than you. Comment on anything interesting and related to your genre. Write a 500 word article a day, about something. (I can make a list of 100 great topics for any genre in an hour – brainstorm, make your list, then write one a day). Most other ‘book marketing’ is a waste of time. My way works and it’s easy but most authors aren’t going to do it. They’ll whine that it’s too much work and they want someone else to do it for them so they can focus on writing. That’s why it’s actually pretty easy for fiction authors to build a platform quickly, because most authors aren’t ever going to do it right.

      • And how to get people read those posts? Publishing them in Quora?Twitter, Facebook?

        • Good question; I usually post on Twitter and Facebook. I should also be turning posts into Powerpoints for Slideshare, and then recording short videos about my post and linking to it from YouTube. I think that’s more than enough (though posting on LinkedIn is a good idea too); I don’t use Quora much but it’s another option. I’d say pick three you’re comfortable with. And – guest posting on bigger blogs will work much better than posting on your own blogs – you can build a platform quickly if you do a few of those. I haven’t focused on guest posting yet because I don’t really have much to sell (and I don’t more clients for my services). But…in a year or so, when I have more books and products, and can turn traffic into revenue, I’ll concentrate on bringing in my traffic with these methods.

  • Christopher Raymond

    Very nice post, and wow, chapter by chapter. I thought this was about giving away first seasons (a la Platt, Truant, and Wright). I write Middle Grade fiction, so my chapters are pretty short.

    Do you have this automated? Would love to hear about that.

  • Nick Travers

    Thank you, this is a great technique that I’m going to try out.

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