One of the most exciting aspects of being an avid reader is discovering an author who's work is original and though-provoking. Last year I made such a discovery and since have read all nine of his books. Today he's a Guest and he's going to give you some useful advice about marketing novels. Ladies and Gentlemen...
How I found my first half a million readers
There is plenty of advice on how to write a great book. Many gifted writers have shared their wisdom on that topic on this site, so instead, I want to focus on how to sell the great book you’ve written.
I’d wanted to be a writer for more than twenty years before my first book was published. It had been a dream that kept me going through some dark times. I’d dropped out of high school as a young self-made millionaire, but while sitting penniless in a federal prison cell at age twenty-five, I knew I had even more to write about.
There were many times when I doubted my dream would ever come true. Finally in 2010, I made the time to write a priority and, in 2012, finished 'Outview', my first novel, a metaphysical fantasy thriller. Then began the arduous job of researching the publishing business and searching for agents. I got lucky when Mike Sager, a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist for Esquire, signed me to his new indie press.
My dream wasn’t just to be a writer, but to earn my living from it. So clearly, just publishing books wouldn’t be enough, they’d have to sell. With my background in business and marketing, I decided to study the indie authors who seemed to be successful. They were putting out lots of books and writing in series. So my first step was to focus on getting a few more books out. 'Outview' was published in January 2013 and by the end of the year, I finished the other two books in the trilogy, 'Outin' and 'Outmove'.
Once I had three books out, I could really start marketing. Yet at the same time I needed to write my next series. As most writers know, both are full time jobs. I also have a young son, and numerous other obligations, so I needed to prioritize. That meant I wouldn’t have a blog or be very active on social media – the time needed to write posts could be better spent writing books.
I modified an old business mantra into my own, “Early to bed, early to rise, write like hell and advertise.” I tried every book-marketing site I could find, but mostly just got sales spikes that quickly faded. Then, after realizing that most of the biggest selling indies were giving away books, I tried perma-free. Deciding to give away 'Outview' was tough, I’d spent years on it. But it changed everything! Tens of thousands of people downloaded it, and many of them purchased the next two books in the series. Suddenly, I was selling books every day. That’s when I adopted another mantra, “Getting readers is more important than making sales.”
I followed the strategy for my next series and now half a million copies of my books have been sold or downloaded. Dream achieved, I’m a full time writer, supporting my family solely from my book sales.
Although my books are available on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble nook, Kobo and Google Play, Amazon is where 85% of my sales come from — a company I love, and I silently thank them every day for the opportunity to expose my books to their massive worldwide customer base. It went so well that I chose to publish my second and third series myself.
Along the way, I discovered a few other important strategies. First, build a mailing list. Once you have a reader, hold on to them. I’m lucky that almost every day I hear from a happy reader. Always answer fan mail. When 'The Last Librarian', book one of my newest series, The Justar Journal, a dystopian thriller, was released in November 2015 it immediately became a bestseller because I sent an email to my entire list, telling them it was available.
After noticing that sales of my first series, The Inner Movement, didn’t really take off until the third book, 'Outmove', was published, I decided to wait and release the three books in my next series, The Cosega Sequence, a techno-thriller, all at the same time. It makes a big difference and creates a sales whirlwind.
All those sales lead to higher rankings, more notice, more readers and other benefits. An agent approached me wanting to represent my audio book rights for the Cosega Sequence. She obtained a great offer with a nice advance from Tantor Media, part of the largest independent publisher of unabridged audiobooks. The film rights of 'Cosega Search' have been optioned. And television producers and a major Hollywood studio have expressed interest in my 'Inner Movement' series. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t given away enough books to build a reader base. There are millions of books out there, you can write the best story in the world, but if no one can find it, no one will read it. Readers are more important than sales.
So for any newly published writer reading this, or for established ones whose books aren’t selling, here’s a recap of what worked for me:
1. Get a great cover.
2. Write a series (and release the whole series at the same time).
3. Give the first one away for free (when it can’t be free, never price the first one for more than $0.99).
4. Advertise (and never stop).
5. Build a mailing list (there are great articles and online courses on how to do this).
6. Keep putting out more books.
7. READERS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN SALES.
Good Luck! And Eric, thanks for having me.
Best selling author, Brandt Legg is a former child prodigy who turned a hobby into a multi-million dollar empire. At eight, Legg's father died suddenly, plunging his family into poverty. Two years later, while suffering from crippling migraines, he started in business. National media dubbed him the "Teen Tycoon," but by the time he reached his twenties, the high-flying Legg became ensnarled in the financial whirlwind of the junk bond eighties, lost his entire fortune . . . and ended up serving time in federal prison for financial improprieties. Legg emerged, chastened and wiser, one year later and began anew in retail and real estate. In the more than two decades since, his life adventures have led him through magazine publishing, a newspaper column, photography, FM radio, CD production and concert promotion. His books have excited hundreds of thousands of readers around the world. For more information, or to contact Brandt, visit BrandtLegg.com, he loves to hear from readers and always responds!
When Brandt isn't writing his fast-paced complex tales he can also be found here:
Thank you, Brandt, for these great insights into successfully marketing novels. This is an issue all authors have with their work and your advice is worth its weight in gold. I strongly urge readers to check out Brandt Legg's novels; you'll quickly become hooked, just as I was, and want to read them all.
Eric @ www.ericjgates.com