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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE COMPETITION, SELL MORE BOOKS

MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE COMPETITION, SELL MORE BOOKS

By Rosalyn Kelly

These Strategic Relationships will make a big Difference to your Sales

You’ve done your research. You are an expert on the genre, subgenre and perhaps sub-subgenre of your novel and you know there are plenty of authors out there writing similar stuff to you who have avid, loyal readers.
All you need to do is get in front of those readers. Easy. Right? Hmm…
Ahead of the launch of my debut novel, I set up my author platform with social media channels, website with an active blog, mailing list and regular guest blog spots. On the day, and the following weeks, I ran Facebook ads and Amazon ads with some traction, as well as promotions on BargainBooksy and the rest.
My launch was relatively successful (I sold 200 copies in the first ten days), but then sales tailed off.
Just like getting ‘bums on seats’, my issue was ‘eyes on book’. I knew there were readers out there who loved books similar to mine – grimdark epic fantasy (think George R. R. Martin) – but I couldn’t seem to reach them.


Rewind to one year before the launch

I self-published my first novel in October 2017. Twelve months before this date, I set up my social media channels to start identifying and approaching online influencers, specifically book bloggers and reviewers.
The aim was to have a good understanding of who to approach for advance reviews. As well as to start getting my name known among potential readers.   
As an entirely unplanned consequence, I started to make friends with other authors, both in my genre and within the wider author community.

This was an accidental AWESOME thing that I didn’t fully appreciate until later.



Post-launch lightbulb moment

It feels completely counterintuitive to fraternise with the competition, and not many businesses or brands would link so closely with the enemy. (Can you imagine McDonald’s and Burger King doing a joint ad campaign to sell their burgers… nope!)
But for fortunately for us authors, there are plenty of readers to go around and it makes complete sense to buddy up with your rivals to launch a united strike on the same audience.
For my subsequent post-launch marketing efforts, I focused on reaching out to those friends that I had unwittingly made. And added author collaborations, such as newsletter swaps and cross promotions, into my marketing mix.


Strategic relationships

Connecting with authors who write in the same niche as you is an excellent strategy for growing your audience and selling more books. But it needs to be done intentionally for the best results. 

Below I share some tactics as to how I did this.



Um, hi, do you want to hang out with me?

Have you ever been in a situation where you have to make friends? Starting at a new school where everyone else already knows one another, at a two day networking event where you don’t know anyone but your boss wants you to come back with ‘contacts’, moving to a new city where you only have one acquaintance.
In those situations, you just have to go for it, select your targets, swallow your fear and make an approach. Smile, laugh, listen.
It’s the same on social media where the majority of your author friend making will happen. Except that you have more time to plan. And can cringe and feel awkward in private if the online approach you make is rebuffed.   


Mission: make friends

1. Identify the authors you’d like to be friends with

Instead of getting flustered and trying to be pals with everyone, focus your efforts on targeting a core handful.
The first thing I did was made a list of ten traditionally published authors and ten self-published authors who write similar books to me.
My connections soon grew to many more than that number, as you meet new people and are introduced to others. But a target of twenty is a good place to start and doesn’t feel overwhelming.
2. Find out where they like to hang out
Unless you’re lucky to live somewhere where lots of authors also call home, you’ll be making friends virtually.
Take a look at each author’s website and sign up to their mailing list if they have one. Follow them on social media and notice where they like to spend their time. The usual hang out spots are Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram. But others might be active on Wattpad or Pinterest, or another online locale.
There are also plenty of opportunities to meet in person. I went to a brilliant fantasy convention, BristolCon, the same month I launched my book, Melokai. It was recommended to me by one author, and I met lots of other authors in my genre face to face. (Mostly at the bar with a beer in hand…)
As well as conventions there are also conferences, events, meet ups, open mic nights, writer groups and so on where you can meet and make new author mates in the flesh


3. Start up a conversation
So now you’ve worked out where they hang out, you need to pluck up the courage to approach them. Social media is just that, social, and starting a conversation by liking, sharing and commenting on posts is a great place to start. As well as sending direct messages to introduce yourself.
Most authors have blogs, which you can read, comment on and share to your own social media channels. I read and reviewed their books, and mentioned specific authors on my own blog or wrote about topics that interested them and our shared readers.   
Be genuine and don’t act like a stalker. If your friendliness isn’t reciprocated after a few attempts, move on, and remember that cultivating friendships can take time
4. Say yes to everything
Just like making friends in real life, when you’re asked if you want to go out or get together, you say yes. Say no to too many offers and you aren’t likely to be asked again.
Through my author friendships I was introduced and invited to join Facebook groups for readers and writers in my genre as well as invited to join newsletter swapping groups and author promotion networks.
I said yes to all of these invites, some weren’t quite relevant, and that’s fine. But some were brilliant connections that have hugely benefited my marketing efforts


5. Listen
When a new author friend talks, make sure you listen.
One author introduced me to the Reddit fantasy group which is really active and which is always open to hearing about new, self-published authors.
Another mentioned the SPFBO competition for self-published fantasy authors run by author Mark Lawrence, which I plan to enter this year. If I hadn’t been listening to my author pals talking about this competition, I would never have heard of it. 
6. Add value
One-way friendships suck. So instead of just taking, make sure you are giving something back and adding value.
Pass on new knowledge, useful information or new groups with your friends. Help them out when they ask. Introduce them to other author friends, welcome newbies into your network. Support one another with positivity or advice. If they do a favour for you, return it when you can.
A ‘we’re all in this together’ attitude goes a long way, as well as trying to always honour your promises.


The post-launch results

Since embracing this wonderful community of fantasy authors five months ago, I have taken part in:
  • 18 author newsletter swaps
  • numerous review swaps
  • a collaboration with twenty other fantasy authors to publish a short story anthology that will be out in April 2018
  • a Rafflecopter giveaway to boost my newsletter subscribers
  • a ‘bargain sale’ promotion with sixty other authors with a combined newsletter reach of 250k
  • various Bookfunnel and Instafreebie bundle promotions
  • critique circles and giving constructive opinions on sales descriptions and front covers
I’ve also have numerous shares, likes and comments on my social media content and guest posted on other’s blogs as well as had authors on my blog.


Hard numbers

I know what you’re thinking, the above all sounds great but what about some tangible data?
  • In the five months since I launched, I have sold 1,200 copies of my debut self-published novel.
  • Built my mailing list from 0-2,500 in nine months. It got up to 5,000 but I had a cull of inactive subscribers. (I thought there was no point in paying higher Mailchimp fees for subscribers who don’t engage!)
  • I have a social media following of 3,200.
  • And have author promotions and joint activity planned for the first half of 2018 that will continue to build my audience and sell my books.
But most importantly for me, I have made some really cool, collaborative friends, and I’m really enjoying myself as an author. I have found the fantasy author community to be generous, encouraging and great fun to hang out with. 


Moral of the story

There’s plenty of readers out there for your book and the competition will help you find them. My relationships with other authors and my growing network has helped me to sell more books when I launched, and continues to help me to get in front of the perfect readers. It has completely shattered my pre-author notion that I should be treating the competition as an enemy.
I hope after reading this, that if you don’t already have a network of author friends that you go and start one.

It’ll not only boost your book sales but a close circle of likeminded, supportive and collaborative individuals does wonders for your positivity and optimism. 


Rosalyn Kelly is the author of Melokai, The Fall of Vaasar, The Sand Scuttler, and various short stories. Rosalyn grew up in the magical New Forest in the south of England and has lived all over the UK and in the Middle East. She studied English at Oxford Brookes University before embarking on a PR and marketing career. 
After ten years telling the stories of brands and businesses, she decided the time had come to tell her own. Her first novel MELOKAI debuted in 2017 after she quit her job, went travelling for four months and then wrote solidly for the following four. Find out more at www.rosalynkelly.co.uk

And now we want to hear from you: How to do work with other authors to collaboratively grow your success? Do you have any tips for working with others? Leave a comment below!

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