R.G. Taark is a sci-fi writer who has already experienced success with the indie writing process. Learn which marketing methods work for him and what he would have done differently he could go back.
1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.
My Guardsman series is a science fiction mystery, set in a “Bladerunner” style world, with direct action and very human goals and desires.
2. Why did you become an indie writer?
I first started writing as a hobby. My life was turned upside-down and I had to start over again at 33. While I was working on the state licensing requirements for my “real life” business I started writing books and stories I had in my head during my spare time. I enjoyed writing and found a mentor who taught me what I needed to do to make my disparate scribblings into a coherent book. When I was done I published my first book and the second followed quickly.
3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?
No, I have not been traditionally published. I haven’t put any effort into the traditional publishing aspects of the business. Partly because of my innate rebellious streak, and partly because it was never a big deal or pressing issue with me. The writing was a hobby, and I almost chaffed at the idea that when my first two books were both in the Amazon top 50 in the Science Fiction category, that I was actually an author. The concept was somewhat alien and surprising when it was actually pointed out to me. It wasn’t a huge shock, but it definitely hadn’t sunk in until much later that I had done something special. Now that I have been in the top 100 I work to reattain that level for the fun and challenge of the work. The way I see it now, if the traditional publishing happens eventually, I will be better prepared for the offers with some success behind me.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
I have enjoyed it. It truly is a hobby gone mad for me. It is not to the point of reliably paying the bills, so while I enjoy it, I keep that in perspective. I would never trade the experience and enjoy the process of creating something unique.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
The most successful marketing I had was word of mouth and enthusiasm when I first started. Once I was in the top 100 the momentum carried the books forward on their own. I am in the process of redeveloping a more regimented marketing campaign that is a hybrid of two different types of marketing campaigns. That has not started and I don’t have my assets deployed yet so I can’t and won’t talk about success yet when it could go either way. I am working on increasing my exposure and redirecting momentum on my books with my additional published works.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Pay per click worked great driving traffic to my website, and generated in less than a week two and a half times the amount of traffic to my site. Unfortunately, I suspected early on and was proven correct with empirical data from the site and the PPC vendor, that while I was receiving the traffic, I was not monetizing those clicks. I was spending ten dollars to make one, and that one had no real difference from existing sales trends. For me the PPC didn’t work with my books. It would work great with my primary real life business, but I was not happy selling my $0.99 book for $0.74 per click. That is why I have redirected my marketing effort to a more exposure- and momentum-geared plan.
7. Which services or vendors do you recommend for the marketing methods you used?
I keep business cards with me at all times. I have seen minimal returns from that method. I am focusing on my written assets at this point and not so much on the actual marketing process. My approach is to have something for people to look at first, then worry about the marketing. I have not used independent organizations to market my work, I am developing and implementing my own strategy.
8. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I learned that it is no different than any other absolutely terrifying and intimidating activity: you just have to do it once. Once you have done it once, it gets easier and easier every time thereafter. To conquer your fears you need to face them and that seems to be the biggest issue for people I talk to, just stepping up to and conquering their fears of publishing their work.
9. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I would have done a better job editing my books. I’m an Army guy, and a Marine friend of mine found errors. I was humiliated and promptly fixed them. The friendly inter-service rivalry between he and I served as wonderful motivation to learn from and not make the same mistakes twice.
10. Indie authors face the challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie just starting out?
Be creative, be prepared to be weird, and be enthusiastic. People I talk to are shocked that I have books, not that I’m dumb or incompetent, just that so few people actually have accomplished it. Be creative with your approaches to finding new customers. Use friends and family who like your work; them talking enthusiastically about your projects will be a huge boon to your marketing. People will look at you like you are odd when you tell them you have a book, so I answer that with enthusiasm for my projects and they generally ask for my cards and where to get my books. Positive and infectious enthusiasm for your books is contagious and gets people interested. Don’t be afraid to show it.
11. What are you currently working on?
I have two books working for release now. One is an erotic vampire book that is totally out of character, but fun to write. I wrote that for someone and it was well-received. It was recommended I publish it, so I shelved it for about a year and now have finished edits and will release it soon. The primary is a military/sci-fi thriller that starts a new series for me. This is a more typical book of mine. It is a technically oriented and action-based story line that started a few years ago, carrying forward a few more years. Before I started writing that the world was literally a different place and several events I wrote about in that book actually came to pass about six to eighteen months after I finished it. I had shelved that one too for a time while I wrote the later books in that series and planned the final battle sequence in detail.
12. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
To market myself in one sentence, I would say: “I’m a hard core sci-fi nut, with a serious ADD writing style that dabbles in many different styles and genres for fun, but always makes it home to my sci-fi roots.”
13. How can readers learn more about your books?
I maintain my own website at: rgtaark.com.
There I have everything from book and project listings to my favorite meatball receipts, to my workouts, to my music, to my reading material, to my games and hobbies, and my friends who have assisted my writing process.
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