When should you just give up (how not to fail as an author)

A while back I was going to write a post or email about this topic: the majority of authors have been doing it for years, spending a lot of money, and don’t see a profit. It’s an expensive hobby. So they start asking “how do I sell more books?” or “when should I just quit?”

And the standard advice is to “just keep writing!” which isn’t actually a good idea.

Because, if you’re not succeeding, either:

A) You’re writing books nobody wants to read or

B) You’re not packaging them or marketing them well

Those are two critical issues you need to FIX if you ever want to start making money from your writing. If you are publishing stuff that nobody responds to, and you feel like it’s an uphill battle, and sucks up all your time and money, you’re doing something wrong. Focusing on the writing is like sticking your head in the sand. And worse, you might spend a year writing a book, and when you’re done you have no more of a platform than you did when you started.

You should have learned how to market books in the beginning, set up a platform that attracts readers on autopilot, and then gone back to writing. I also hear this a lot from writers: “I don’t want to market my books because it takes time away from my writing.” That’s an excuse. Marketing feels overwhelming, and you don’t know what to do, and it doesn’t work anyway, so you just ignore the problem.

Today I posted two long responses to Facebook questions, I’m going to paste them here. THIS is your marketing plan. If you don’t know how to do these things, figure it out.

Plan One

1. Start reviewing books in your genre and put those reviews on high traffic sites, and your own book.
2. Start writing about topics that attract your target readers. Do big, evergreen posts that are interesting enough to share.
3. Partner with authors in your genre (start promoting their books. Interview them. Find ways to help them out. Become the hub. Help 100 other authors to get them to link to your site. Do group giveaways.
4. Contests are amazing for traffic, followers and more email subscribers.
5. Learn enough about design to make your own covers. Use Canva or Wordswag to make simple, nice looking covers on your own.
6. Look at the bestsellers in your genre, and copy everything they do – including adding an ‘about the author section on Amazon’ (that’s another chance for keyword placement you’re not even using…)
7. See if you can get those negative reviews off your books’ homepage (you would need a lot of friends/followers to upvote one of the other positive reviews. Some authors will say this is dishonest; but negative reviews always get the most “helpful” votes and show up on the front page of Amazon, and that doesn’t necessarily reflect the majority of readers’ reactions (out of 187 reviews, only 5% of them are one star. Is having them show up “the truth” about the book? I think they’re probably scaring away normal readers who would take a chance.

Plan Two

1. Use giveaways to build a big email list of readers of my genre. 2. Connect with 25 other indie authors with very similar books and do a big group promotion/ giveaway.
3. Get some of those authors to give me an editorial review, maybe 5 or 10. 4. Use the big list I made with giveaways; ask them to download my book for free and review it.
4. Publish the book on the same day as another bestselling book in my genre (mainstream) gets published.
5. Find ways to encourage people to buy my books with other bestselling books in my genre (for “also boughts”).
6. Serialize or split the book up so that I can give the first part free and charge for the other books/parts in the series.
7. Offer big launch rewards, ie if they buy 10 copies of your book they earn some great prize.
8. Post some of the content on your blog. Contact 50 popular blogs in your niche/genre and pitch them a guest post.
9. Make an awesome piece of evergreen content that appeals to your target readers, email all those blogs again and ask them to share it (a really easy way to do this: talk about other people, then tell them about it…. for example “the 25 best YA fiction book review websites in the world” or “my top 15 favorite financial planning books of all time”. Say nice things about lots of people, link to them, tell them about it, hope they share and link back.
10. This should have come earlier, but make sure your Amazon page is perfect: keywords in title and description. Amazing book cover. “About the Author” set up with picture, bio, and keywords. 5+ editorial reviews. 20+ regular reviews. Set it up and send traffic. If people aren’t buying, there’s a problem.

Stop whining!

When I post comments like this, the responses I get are:

“I don’t have time to do that. I’m too busy. I need to use my time to write.”

Which means, they are asking for help, but they are unwilling to do anything about it. They are really just looking for someone to bail them out, or do it for them, or they are just whining and looking for comfort and support.

But that’s ridiculous. A big book launch might take me 10 hours of work. A little bit of research, a little bit of set up, a little bit of money and I can hit #1 in my categories, get a hundred book reviews and keep the book earning money indefinitely. That means the MORE I write, the more money I earn, which gives me MORE time and freedom to write.

Yes it’s hard in the beginning, but it gets easier and easier, if you’re building a platform. If you aren’t building a platform, you’re losing hundreds of readers a day. Don’t build it later. Build it now. Take a weekend and commit yourself.

Because most authors aren’t going to. Which means it’s not actually that hard to be ahead of the curve.

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
  • Jessica Woods

    Great advice! Self-publishing is about so much more than just writing a good book…and so many people don’t or won’t realize this. It’s a lot of work, but if you love what you do, you won’t mind half as much. I would add that people need to use every opportunity, online and off, to promote themselves. That could mean making bookmarks with a link to the book on them and handing them out at bookstores or libraries, contacting local media and just goold old-fashioned networking with other professionals in your genre.

    • I’ve had more luck with online promotions, mostly because they take less time and effort and reach more people ; though I still attend events, but I do it to make real friendships with people (which are invaluable, and much more powerful in the long run).

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