I heard what Scott Nicholson had planned for September a couple of weeks ago, and I was intrigued.
Ok, I wasn’t just intrigued, I was jealous. It’s a superb idea and I think it’s going to work very well for him. Scott is very clever, always looking for an angle, and we are fortunate to be able to stand on the sidelines and watch and learn.
Without further ado (can you tell I’m in the middle of writing a wedding speech), here’s Scott.
Indie authors have the same tools—content creation, formatting, editing, graphic design, and distribution—as publishers when it comes to developing ebooks, whether the indie author tackles the job alone or outsources some of the tasks.
However, publishers still have an advantage in the toughest part of the entire writing business, and that is putting the book in the hands of a reader. Any writer who has sat in a bookstore for two hours trying to sell paper books to strangers understands what a challenge it is to find your audience. I always say, “You think selling a book to a publisher is hard, try selling one to a reader.”
Even a year ago, being active on message boards and in social media would help build an audience. Now, with tens of thousands of newly minted authors screaming for attention, messages tend to get lost in the crowd, especially when they all start looking alike.
“On sale for 99 cents for a limited time!” “Here’s my latest five-star review.” “Now #47 in Kindle books in the ‘Presidential Time Travel Fiction Fiction, Millard Fillmore’ category!”
It seems every writer has taken the “You MUST use social media” as a commandment, not understanding either of the words in the term. And while some social media gurus will sell you formulas on how to author-tweet your book ad for maximum sales effect, or you sign up for their collaborative project that costs more time than you will ever recoup in sales, ultimately your individual market reach is limited. Even with a loyal base, your messages are likely to just reach that same base over and over, a mistake that too many people make when they look at social media as a “sales outlet” instead of a place to expand your base and connect with new people.
And, clearly, audiences are not only exhausted from such messages, a violent backlash is building against authors because of it. It’s almost like everyone wants to huddle into a ball when they hear “I have a new book out.” Look. Everyone on the planet has a new book out. That’s the good, the, bad, and the ugly of the indie era.
Speaking of Clint Eastwood, one of my favorite quotes is by his Dirty Harry character: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I do pretty well with book blogs, circulating valuable content and contests and giveaways while avoiding direct sales pitches as much as possible. But I still only reach a few thousand people, far from the hundreds of thousands needed to truly go viral.
But I was thinking “What if my few thousand friends told their few hundred or few thousand friends?” It’s likely those people aren’t exhausted by “Buy my book” messages, because most of my readers aren’t authors and may be happy to tell their friends. Indeed, that is what happens with true word-of-mouth phenomena, such as the Youtube videos of cute kittens playing guitar, the Star Wars Kid, Songify, and other pop culture hits—the audience not only does the selecting, it’s doing the selling, even if no money changes hands.
My “Be Nicholson’s Agent” event in September is designed to reward the people who support me. It’s a way for me to pay back for all that readers have done for me, both in selling and sharing my books, and also to inspire those who want to do more. I am giving away 15 percent of my ebook revenue in a crowdsource promotional experiment, using one book blog to “rep” each book, sharing 5 percent of that book’s income with those blogs. Unlike other giveaways, where you have no incentive to spread the word about the actual giveaway (because your odds of winning go down), this giveaway has an ever-rising ceiling.
I kicked it off with a $200 gift card giveaway for people who “Like” my books at Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com, which will share my books with their friends. The links list and simple rules are on my blog so that anyone can play fairly quickly—as much or as little as they want, no purchase necessary. The more sharing you do, the better your odds, as it should be. The only ground rule is that nobody should do anything that makes them uncomfortable—if anything feels like a hard sale, avoid it. The total giveaway goal is $1,000, but I’ll happily give away more if sales escalate because of this user-powered campaign.
I also have a “Team Scott” of authors who are helping in exchange for some promo help and a listing in one of my ebooks—sort of a paid internship. Some of the events will be launched from the book blogs and others will be posted at my blog this month or announced through my newsletter. The crowdsource experiment is fairly unrefined at this point, but I am open to ideas. Feel free to share them in the comments section, as I’ve shared my ideas here.
Or, if you have a great plan you want to put in effect, send me a short write-up, the audience your promotional plan will reach, and how much you’d like me to pay for your effort. Now that readers sell books instead of agents, you deserve a cut, right? And why let publishers have all the fun?
And I challenge other authors to find ways to thank and reward the people who have made the indie era so wonderful for so many of us.
Scott Nicholson is author of more than 20 books, including three Kindle Top 100 bestsellers. His thrillers Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear will be released by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint on Dec. 20. He’s also collected his experiences of turning indie writing into a fulltime job in his guide The Indie Journey. His website is Haunted Computer and you can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
Drop back on Friday for a very special guest post from Bob Mayer.
Note: This post was scheduled to run in my absence while I am doing my level best to resurrect the Portuguese economy by having five meals of grilled fish a day washed down by copious amounts of vinho verde. Please have at it in the comments.