For Indie Writers

My non-fiction books that I wrote in the 1990s were conventionally published, but for my new novel Rules of Force I paddled out into the largely uncharted waters of self-publishing. Along the way I devoured the advice posted by some of the champions of e-book self-publishing, such as Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Michael Stackpole and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Their insights  proved to be extremely valuable. They are truly providing a service to writers trying to make sense of the rapidly-changing business of publishing.

So now, instead of just being a taker, I hope to add some small bit of knowledge to the self-pubbing database. Specifically, I thought I’d share my experience with a recent promotional push. It’s no secret that getting your work in front of potential readers is the toughest part of self-publishing. Many online book reviewers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of submissions, and most of them flat-out state that they do not accept self-published books for review. Because, you know, you’re aren’t a legitimate writer unless a New York publishing house is taking 85 percent of the revenue….

Whether a book is selected for review is something that is out of your control. But there are a handful of avenues for promotion that are completely in your control. One of those is the Goodreads book giveaway. Most writers are probably familiar with Goodreads, but for those of you who aren’t, Goodreads.com is a social networking site for avid readers, and it has millions of users. One of their most popular programs is the book giveaway. For now, it is only open to print books (they are testing e-book giveaways) but, like many of you, I made my novel available as a print-on-demand trade paperback as well as an e-book.

If you haven’t signed up with Goodreads, it’s pretty simple. You have to register and set up an author page, which takes a couple days for approval. (You can review books, link to your blog, post book trailers, etc.) Then you (or your publisher) can enter a newly-published book in the giveaway program. You can give away as many copies as you like; I decided to offer two signed copies. You can also set the time parameters for the giveaway. They recommend two to four weeks; I set mine for three. Goodreads runs the contest and selects the winners. You just have to mail the books to the lucky recipients.

So how did it work? Over the three weeks of the promotion I had 623 people enter to win, and 65 people put Rules of Force on their digital “to read” shelves. I even picked up a couple of followers of my reviews. Better still, Goodreads provides a list of who entered the giveaway to the author or publisher, so you have a nice demographic snapshot of who is interested in your book.

You have two periods of maximum visibility: When it is newly listed, and during the last few days of the promotion when it shows up on the “ending soon” page. When my book popped up on the “ending soon” front page, I was getting 100 people a day sign up for a chance to win. Granted, some of these people probably enter to win every book in the giveaway program, but still, I had over 600 people look at the cover of my book, read what it is about, and decide “Interesting, I think I’ll enter.”

Not bad for the cost of two POD books and postage. The jury is still out on how much of a sales bump I’ll get out of this, but I definitely consider the promotion successful in attracting the attention of potential readers.

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