Indie Authors – Are Blogs Effective Anymore?

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

I haven’t posted to this blog in a long time, but I was prompted to write this after reading Robert Chazz Chute’s great post, What if What We Think We Know About Writing, Publishing & Promotion is Wrong?  It’s a great post and I encourage you to read it first before you continue reading this post.

Are you back?

Okay, here are my thoughts, if anyone cares :)

Indie Authors – Blogging Is Dead

I agree with Robert here, with a caveat.  Too many indie authors write blogs about writing.  Who reads those?  Other authors.  I think the advice of writing in a niche that your readers will enjoy is where you build your blog.  Unfortunately for me, my blogs are either about the craft of writing or about film noir.  Unfortunately, film noir (a niche for readers) targets a very small audience.  Doesn’t work…oh well.

If you want to write a writing blog, this should be with other things to market (books about writing, consulting, classes, etc.).  Treat is as another revenue stream.

Write blog posts because you like it, not because you think it’s going to sell books.  If it does, great, but don’t expect it.  Write blog posts about something you and fans of your books will enjoy.  Your passion will come through and your fans will love it.

Indie Authors – How Do You Sell Books?

Not through a blog….at least for most of us.  Robert discusses the meme market your books by writing more books.  His conclusion is that this may work, it may not.  And I believe he’s right.  No, shocker!

Yes.  Here’s the thing: we’ve all heard of the outliers who are making thousands at this, and we’ve all heard that they are the exception.  This is true!  But then people say but wait, there are tons who are making a living at this.  Also true, but here’s the caveat: look at the genre they are writing in.  Almost all that I see (from Kindleboards, The Passive Guy and other sites) are writing in a romance genre or erotica.  Some are making it in action-adventure, some in sci-fi or fantasy.  It’s very hard to make a steady living in other categories.

Be aware of this.  Robert sites authors who are worrying from month to month whether they will make enough to pay the bills.  I believe this is probably where most full-time authors are.  And most are more dependent on Amazon than they would admit to (read this great post by Nick Stephenson about this).  I know a handful of authors who gave up their day jobs for writing, and then have had to go find work again (with difficulty) because the writing didn’t pan out.

My advice: be very careful before you quit that day job.  The publishing industry is in great flux and what’s gold today may not be tomorrow.

Indie Authors – My Strategy

Even though I’ve just said that writing more books may not be the answer, for myself, it’s working.  Not enough to quit the day job, but the revenue is growing.  Here’s some of what I’m doing:

Writing more books in a specific genre.

Until the last book, I’ve put all my focus on the Reed Ferguson mystery series.  I’ve just released the 7th in the series (The Lady Who Sang High).  Why?  Because this is the genre that is selling for me, I like Reed Ferguson, and most importantly, with the release of each book, I am gaining more fans.  And fans do tend to read in specific genres, as Robert notes.  Yes, you will get some rabid fans that will read anything you write (and how cool is that), but most won’t.  But having a series in a specific genre is a good revenue stream.

Many indie authors who are making money at this recognize that genre is important.  Which leads me to another strategy…

Knowing my life goals.

If you want to write what you want and you don’t care about sales, more power to you.  I want to do this for a living, so I’ve got a strategy in mind.  It involves not only writing goals, but financial goals.  I’ve always dreamed of living in the foothills, so I’m in the process of selling my house and building a home there.  Then I will pay it off as fast as I can.  No mortgage means I need less each month to live on.  And no, I’m not making a ton of money at my job.  I sacrifice in other areas to make this happen.  I’m very careful with how I spend my money so that I can achieve this goal.  It’s not everyone’s, but it’s mine.  Could I move to the family farm three hours from Denver and live there rent-free and write full-time?  Probably.  But being that far from Denver would depress me and interfere with my writing, so it’s not worth it to me.  I’ve evaluated what it will take to live on writing, what I need in savings, what I need for retirement, and much more.

I also have writing goals, like how many books I will produce each year, and each month.  People ask why I’m pushing so hard, even though I’m moving and have a lot on my plate.  Again, no one else will.  I’m driven and I love writing.  So I do it.

My point is, decide what you want and how you will achieve it.  Then you have to put the effort in.  No one else will do the work for you.

Creating multiple series in different genres.

I’ve just completed the first draft of the 2nd book in the Noah Winters adventure series.  Why am I branching out from the Reed Ferguson mystery series?  Because the Noah Winter series sells okay, especially in paperback (I believe this is the case because it’s a middle-grade novel).  The first in the series, The Emerald Quest, gets rave reviews.  I think I can build it into a decent series, it means a revenue stream.  At some point (probably next year), I will finish the Nephilim series.  I haven’t pushed it because horror doesn’t sell as well, and Nephilim will only be a trilogy, with possibly a prequel.  So a limited revenue stream.  I am also going to create a series in the action-adventure/thriller category that I hope will help sales as well.

Know my marketing goals.

I’m testing different strategies.  With the Reed Ferguson mystery series, I’m releasing books as soon as I finish them.  I try to get Bookbub ads whenever I can.  But with the Noah Winter adventure series, I am going to wait until I have three books in the series before I advertize.  Why?  Because I will advertize The Emerald Quest on Bookbub (if they’ll take it and I believe they will because there’s less competition in middle-grade books), and I should see sales of the other books.

Having multiple series in different genres also allows me the opportunity to advertize (and get accepted) more on Bookbub.  And even though most readers don’t cross genres, some will, and I’m going to take advantage of that.  I do hope that other sites (like The Fussy Librarian), will give Bookbub competition and this will mean another great place to advertize with great results (and I believe The Fussy Librarian will), but for now, there’s no arguing with Bookbub’s results.

Not relying on one vendor.

I know a lot of authors are exclusive to Amazon.  That’s fine, but for me, I don’t want to be exclusive there.  If Amazon corners the market, they can change how much they pay authors…in a negative way.  Yes, I’m saying this even though JA Konrath rudely ripped me on this :).  There are many respected authors who believe Konrath and his ilk are wrong – read Dean Wesley Smith for one.  Alibaba could make a move on Amazon, Barnes & Noble could sell its Nook reader base to Apple, Alibaba or others.  Apple and Google Play are growing.  So are foreign markets, but not through Amazon.  My marketing strategy has been to branch out and it’s working.  I sell well on Barnes & Noble, and my sales at Apple and Google Play are growing as well.  And I hear this from other authors, too.  So I’m fine with what I’m doing here.

Write fast.

This one you can’t get around, unless you get lucky and one book takes off in a big way.  But I’m finding that the more I write, the faster and easier it becomes.  It’s fun and I can’t seem to stop.  That’s where my focus is, so I don’t write many blog posts anymore.  They take up too much precious time, for too little gain.  And speaking of writing, it’s time for me to stop writing on this post and get back to the next Reed Ferguson mystery, Sweet Smell of Sucrets.

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
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2 Responses to Indie Authors – Are Blogs Effective Anymore?

  1. Toby Neal says:

    Nice post, Renee. I read the Robert one too. I thought I’d throw in 2 cents from my personal rollercoaster ride in authorship…I am continuing to do extremely well in the “crime with romance” genre, and even in sticking with KDP select where last month I earned one of their Kindle All Stars top 100 bonuses.
    Why are my books doing well and so many others not? *shakes head* I don’t cite luck. I think I’ve stuck with my winning streak after some other trials (in literary suspense and romance) Lei Crime Series. I’ve been a savvy marketer (as have many, and I’ve shared everything I do) and I’ve nurtured my committed readers by cultivating the Book Lovers Club and my email list…but I keep writing a LOT, fast, and each book is better than the last if the reviews are anything to go by. I blog on two topics and post weekly: personal stuff for readers (a dream, last week, and whatever I think is interesting to them) and The Writing Life for other writers.
    I still think of every blog post as a sample of my writing voice that hopefully will interest someone enough to buy my books. But a formula? No one knows that, or we’d all be millionaires.
    I am going to try other genres…in a book or three, when I’m in a better position financially to take risks and write books I just feel like doing… and I haven’t left my day job either, though I did put a new roof on my house thanks to books. :)
    Toby Neal, author of the Lei Crime Series

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