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We've just witnessed a movement passing through its infancy. By maturation, let me use the analogy of the Gold Rush:

In those days, there were no rules, no conventions, no standards. Gold was everywhere; you could pluck it off the ground. But that quickly passed. Mining as a business matured. Most of the prospectors went home (or met worse fates). Some day, we may fondly refer to the indies who led the self-publishing charge as the Oh-Niners. They got rich by the sweat of their brow and the luck of their timing. Those of us who came after are left resifting through the well-trodden ground to find our gold. And there's still much of it to be found. We just have to dig deeper.

[and that concludes my analogy ;) ]
 

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LilianaHart said:
I say meh, and a few other things that I can't repeat here on KB. I know several new authors who are doing very well out of the gate. And it's because they listen to the advice given to them from authors who have experience. You have to write good books, and you need several of them. AND THEN...you need to keep writing great books on a schedule that keeps you at the top of the ranks. Amazon works on a cycle. You have to keep feeding it. I have a book coming out every two months this year. Three of them are written, but I still have 5 books to write and 2 anthologies. I work 14-16 hours a day, and I do everything. It's hard.

Marketing does work. You have to market. Social media is marketing. Reader conferences and book events are marketing. Be visible. The more people see your name, the better off you are. I took advice from others who gave it when I started, and I published 5 books at one time, and then I kept it growing, all the while building my fan base. You have to do EVERYTHING (Steps 1-5 and then steps 6-42 that aren't listed) for this to work. And here's the thing...it doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen in a year. And sometimes it doesn't happen in two years. Keep writing and building your catalog and your fan base. It'll eventually work if you keep writing good books. On the other hand, sometimes it does happen quickly. A lot depends on genre, your Internet presence and a whole host of other things.

1.) I've tried Select. I've never liked it and didn't think it worked that great when it started. Every second you spend in Select is a second you're not building your fan base at other outlets. It doesn't matter if Select is getting you money NOW. You need to think money in the LONG TERM. Because the now money eventually disappears, just like it does in Select. And when it does, you still don't have that fan base built up at other retailers and you're still poor.

2.) Twitter and Facebook can be time sinks if you just get on there and play games and talk to other writers. Build a fan base and communicate with readers. And then keep doing it. It's part of your job. There's really no way to get around social networking in today's publishing age. It has to be done. Embrace and nurture it. Also, Twitter and Facebook are two vastly different sites. Your fans are different on each. Take the time to learn how to talk to each place. I've got 2700 followers on Twitter--almost all of them use some type of i device. I've got 2400 fans on facebook--most of them use Kindles. These are important things to know.

3.) It depends. Usually the promotions that work are the ones that are more expensive. Even when I first started I didn't waste my time with blogs that had 25 subscribers just because they asked me to post or advertise. The best promotion is a new book. I've done only a handful of paid promotions since I started. It's not necessary for a successful career. I'm about to do my first huge one in February. It was an invite only promo and it cost me big bucks. We'll see if it works. If it doesn't, I'll know for next time.

4.) I've never solicited reviews. Anyone who reviews my books picks it up on their own. I will send ARCs to reviewers if they're on a reputable blog review site and if they email and ask.

5.) The thing about sites picking up your free books is this: they're more likely to do so if they know you're going to have a lot of downloads. They want the sure bets that are going to garner a lot of traffic. I've never NOT had POI or ENT pick up a freebie of mine. Usually I don't even have to email them. They like authors who have an extensive catalog with good reviews. And they like books that have good commercial appeal.

Mostly, indie publishing takes a lot of hard work plus a lot of good books. I see the authors who have the best success have a combination of (great social media presence+great books+business savvy).
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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Marketing. Yes, I keep meaning to do that. Good advice from some big sellers on this page. And really, as has been mentioned many times up thread, building a fan base is what it takes to succeed in this business. That makes it just the same as it always has been. And it ain't easy.
 

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DDark said:
If you want to know the truth, the real jackpot isn't in sales. It's when you get all these awesome readers who send you emails, post reviews, create fanmade pictures, and really "get" your world.
Yes. This. This is why I've been working my ass off on my first novel. Covering the cost of producing the book would be great. But what I'm really looking forward to is talking with readers about my book. ;D
 

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heavycat said:
Are there any examples of authors who did not avail themselves of any outside marketing and only published book after book until they increased their sales to where they wanted them?
I doubt you'll find any author who has done zero marketing. I've been at this under this pen name for a little over a year - I have a twitter for posting new releases, responding to reader and writer comments and pimping the occasional colleague's book, for a grand total of 817 tweets. I have a facebook that my twitter feeds into - so 80% of my fb posts I had nothing to do with other than posting on twitter. I didn't start twitter or fb until I was selling about 2k a month and decided to invest a little additional time to the pen name beyond writing and posting new releases on my blog. I also put each new book up on goodreads. Overall, I would say 95% of my selling efforts has been writing/editing/formatting/uploading new titles and expanding to new channels. I have never paid for an ad or submitted to the free sites. I did try select when it was new, it worked out well, I haven't tried it since because I don't need to. My first 3 months, I released four titles a month. I wrote over 30 titles in 12 months, but have eliminated some of my older titles to strengthen and focus my overall catalog. I think month 5 was my first "wow" month at a little over 5k, month 6 was 9k month and I've drifted between 9k-14k month ever since. It's the 8th, and I'm at $4900 MTD. I'm still not where I want to be - I sold 50k+ titles 2012 and gave a couple thousand more away free. I want to sell 150k titles (at least 100k of those at a 2.99 or higher list price) in 2013. I won't buy ads - I'll continue expanding the # of channels I have, I'll add audio books, I'll write longer stories but make sure I release at least 2 a month, I'll write sequels or same world, I'll consider enhanced ebooks, I'll put out print collections and I will likely create an environment for my readers to interact with me, with one another and with other authors who write bbw erotic romance (I ordered curvebooks.com in December and am building it out this month and started facebook.com/curvebooks). I'll likely add a bookstore to curvebooks.com, starting with mine but potentially opening it to other authors.

But it all started with 4 new titles a month. Don't give readers time to forget you between new releases and don't count on social media to be the way you remind them you exist.
 
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Soothesayer said:
They will have all the chance in the world by WRITING MORE BOOKS.

Your spam tactics actually hurt writers in the long run.
Freebies are spam? Well gosh, we have a lot of spammers around here.
 

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John Daulton said:
Social media is not dead. Book reviews are not worthless. Marketing is not hopeless. (Paid advertising is a different can of worms, so I'll leave that alone for now.)

Here's my advice to you, and not just from a writer, but from an old guy who has spent over two decades in sales and marketing:

Fix your expectations.
Agreed. I have worked in advertising and marketing for over 20 years, and I find that too often people have unrealistic expectations, and become discouraged when they don't see immediate results. Paid advertising works but it doesn't happen with one or two ads. Consumers need to see an ad multiple times over a period of time before the majority will respond. A lot of people pull the plug before the ads even have a chance to work.

Targeting is also critical. We need to identify who our audience is and go where they are. If we are writing books on dog training, we need to be buying ads on pet forums, pet related blogs, and similar websites and magazines. Ads on Facebook might generate a few sales, but for the most part, people don't go to Facebook looking for advice on how to make their dog stop barking. They are there to socialize. But if someone has a dog whose barking is driving the neighbors crazy, they will go looking for information on forums, pet blogs, Q&A sites, etc.

Paid advertising should be a part of everyone's marketing plan, but it has to be targeted advertising, and done over a long period of time. Otherwise, it would be a waste of money.

Just my newbie two cents worth.
 

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"Your spam tactics actually hurt writers in the long run."
We won't know that until the end of the long run.
 

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vlmain said:
Agreed. I have worked in advertising and marketing for over 20 years, and I find that too often people have unrealistic expectations, and become discouraged when they don't see immediate results. Paid advertising works but it doesn't happen with one or two ads. Consumers need to see an ad multiple times over a period of time before the majority will respond. A lot of people pull the plug before the ads even have a chance to work.

Targeting is also critical. We need to identify who our audience is and go where they are. If we are writing books on dog training, we need to be buying ads on pet forums, pet related blogs, and similar websites and magazines. Ads on Facebook might generate a few sales, but for the most part, people don't go to Facebook looking for advice on how to make their dog stop barking. They are there to socialize. But if someone has a dog whose barking is driving the neighbors crazy, they will go looking for information on forums, pet blogs, Q&A sites, etc.

Paid advertising should be a part of everyone's marketing plan, but it has to be targeted advertising, and done over a long period of time. Otherwise, it would be a waste of money.

Just my newbie two cents worth.
Facebook allows you to target your advertising completely and entirely towards people who not only like dogs, but who like particular types of dogs, or who like the Dog Whisper show on cable, who like Alpo or who like Organic only food, or who like "Dog training and grooming" or any number of sub-niches. That's the BEAUTY of Facebook. BUT, it, like any tool, requires some time to learn so you do that stuff RIGHT. That's why I suggest people just pick ONE marketing avenue and get good at it. Be a master of one thing rather than a slapdash participant in a bunch. That's how I see it, anyway, and it's certainly helped me.
 
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heavycat said:
Are there any examples of authors who did not avail themselves of any outside marketing and only published book after book until they increased their sales to where they wanted them?
Yes. When they open up to the KB community and share their success, they generally get attacked by a small but vocal group of KBers who place marketing above writing in order of importance. As a result, many of them have been driven away.

A good example is this thread, which got locked because the attacks became so vitriolic:

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,121594.0.html

As for myself, here is my take on the five points in your OP:

1. Select has run its course.
I've always been of the same opinion as DWS and KKR on this subject: that KDP Select is a great way to hamstring your career, especially right out of the gate.

2. Twitter and Facebook are time sinks (as is all social media, presumably)
I'm with Hugh Howey on this one: social media is a great way for your fans to sell your book. If you enjoy FB and Twitter for their own sake, knock yourself out (after putting in your daily word count / writing hours, of course). Otherwise, why bother?

3. Paid advertising is a waste of money (Except Bookbub, but only if you're one of the few and anointed in advance)
Haven't tried this yet. Until I have a lot more books out, I don't intend to.

4. Book review sites don't drive sales (So don't bother soliciting reviews)
When I first started out, I submitted my first novel to two book bloggers. One hated the beginning but loved the ending. The other loved the ending but hated the beginning. As a result, I got two three-star reviews that kind of took the wind out of things. Within a couple of months, though, a handful of people started posting genuine five-stars that were completely unsolicited. The lesson I took from it was that reviews are for readers, not for writers, and that it's better to let a book grow into its natural audience than to try and force it.

5. POI and ENT are too clogged with submissions to care about your free book (see above)
I've never investigated POI or ENT, and I don't intend to. If they want to pick up any of my perma-free titles, I'd certainly welcome the attention, but I have better things to do than beg people across the internet to download my free books.

My sales aren't currently as high as some of the people on this messageboard, but they are increasing, and have been increasing steadily for several months. I'm confident that if I focus on improving my craft and putting new words on the page, in 1-3 years I will be earning enough to make a living.

But I won't get there unless I write a lot more books.
 

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LilianaHart said:
I say meh, and a few other things that I can't repeat here on KB. I know several new authors who are doing very well out of the gate. And it's because they listen to the advice given to them from authors who have experience. You have to write good books, and you need several of them. AND THEN...you need to keep writing great books on a schedule that keeps you at the top of the ranks. Amazon works on a cycle. You have to keep feeding it. I have a book coming out every two months this year. Three of them are written, but I still have 5 books to write and 2 anthologies. I work 14-16 hours a day, and I do everything. It's hard.

Marketing does work. You have to market. Social media is marketing. Reader conferences and book events are marketing. Be visible. The more people see your name, the better off you are. I took advice from others who gave it when I started, and I published 5 books at one time, and then I kept it growing, all the while building my fan base. You have to do EVERYTHING (Steps 1-5 and then steps 6-42 that aren't listed) for this to work. And here's the thing...it doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen in a year. And sometimes it doesn't happen in two years. Keep writing and building your catalog and your fan base. It'll eventually work if you keep writing good books. On the other hand, sometimes it does happen quickly. A lot depends on genre, your Internet presence and a whole host of other things.

1.) I've tried Select. I've never liked it and didn't think it worked that great when it started. Every second you spend in Select is a second you're not building your fan base at other outlets. It doesn't matter if Select is getting you money NOW. You need to think money in the LONG TERM. Because the now money eventually disappears, just like it does in Select. And when it does, you still don't have that fan base built up at other retailers and you're still poor.

2.) Twitter and Facebook can be time sinks if you just get on there and play games and talk to other writers. Build a fan base and communicate with readers. And then keep doing it. It's part of your job. There's really no way to get around social networking in today's publishing age. It has to be done. Embrace and nurture it. Also, Twitter and Facebook are two vastly different sites. Your fans are different on each. Take the time to learn how to talk to each place. I've got 2700 followers on Twitter--almost all of them use some type of i device. I've got 2400 fans on facebook--most of them use Kindles. These are important things to know.

3.) It depends. Usually the promotions that work are the ones that are more expensive. Even when I first started I didn't waste my time with blogs that had 25 subscribers just because they asked me to post or advertise. The best promotion is a new book. I've done only a handful of paid promotions since I started. It's not necessary for a successful career. I'm about to do my first huge one in February. It was an invite only promo and it cost me big bucks. We'll see if it works. If it doesn't, I'll know for next time.

4.) I've never solicited reviews. Anyone who reviews my books picks it up on their own. I will send ARCs to reviewers if they're on a reputable blog review site and if they email and ask.

5.) The thing about sites picking up your free books is this: they're more likely to do so if they know you're going to have a lot of downloads. They want the sure bets that are going to garner a lot of traffic. I've never NOT had POI or ENT pick up a freebie of mine. Usually I don't even have to email them. They like authors who have an extensive catalog with good reviews. And they like books that have good commercial appeal.

Mostly, indie publishing takes a lot of hard work plus a lot of good books. I see the authors who have the best success have a combination of (great social media presence+great books+business savvy).
*Applause*
 

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A different point of view (and not to invalidate any of those that have gone before):

6 of my titles were published by "regular" publishers, and a few of these are out of print (one of these ran into censorship, which is when I started to think of independent publishing); I have at least 5 other full-sized books as an independent publisher, and another six in progress. For me, being a writer is a calling, and I don't think of myself as indie/non-indie. But I will continue to publish independently as long as the freedom to do so exists, because for me, it is a matter of principle, a statement to the world, that my voice will not be silenced as long as I can help it.

True, the income from indie publishing seems much harder to get now than it did a year or two back (when, unfortunately, I did not have my act together), but I would do it regardless whether I sold zero books or a thousand.
 

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heavycat said:
Are there any examples of authors who did not avail themselves of any outside marketing and only published book after book until they increased their sales to where they wanted them?
Nathan Lowell. Technically, he does publicity type things, like giving away his podcast version of his book. But, he doesn't market, doesn't spend on advertising, etc.
 

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Saul Tanpepper said:
We've just witnessed a movement passing through its infancy. By maturation, let me use the analogy of the Gold Rush:

In those days, there were no rules, no conventions, no standards. Gold was everywhere; you could pluck it off the ground. But that quickly passed. Mining as a business matured. Most of the prospectors went home (or met worse fates). Some day, we may fondly refer to the indies who led the self-publishing charge as the Oh-Niners. They got rich by the sweat of their brow and the luck of their timing. Those of us who came after are left resifting through the well-trodden ground to find our gold. And there's still much of it to be found. We just have to dig deeper.

[and that concludes my analogy ;) ]
I think this is apt.

Also, to simplify it, we may be in a lull. Back in 2010, it seemed like book bloggers were the golden ticket to riches. In 2011, it was $0.99 pricing. In (early) 2012, it was Select. All those things were "I win" buttons for people able to take advantage of them. There doesn't appear to be an obvious one right now.

But this is too simplistic. Whatever the flavor of the week, it's not like everyone with a book took off in ye olden days. Also, new releases were visible for more time on Amazon through, what, 2011. Then they changed things again between March-May to nerf Select and to reward authors with a large fanbase that would immediately snap up their new releases. At the same time, indie authors have become much more sophisticated. Better covers. Better writing. Closer and closer in appearance and quality to trad stuff until the lines have become severely blurred. And the big promo sites get more and more selective. All things that make it tougher for a new writer.

But all the lasting results seem to be for authors who either had a big backlist ready to go or steadily wrote new titles. And if there's a trend going on right now (serials? box sets?), it's also dependent on being prolific.

Old ladders are getting yanked up all the time. It's more cutthroat by the week. Even so, I think Select is still useful for new authors to get a toe in the door, and, as everyone else has said, the only way to increase your long-term odds is to keep writing.

Incidentally, this is a great thread. Kind of thing that keeps me coming back to KB.
 
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