Mike Madden

British indie author Mike Madden has written several books in several different genres and finds success and challenges in each one.  He details his success with Amazon’s KDP Select and discusses the other ways he’s marketed his work.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

Mmm…No1…Cookbook was originally conceived so that I could keep all of my recipes in one place.  I am an avid cook (not chef!), and have around 40 cookbooks, as well as newspaper and magazine cutouts and handwritten recipes handed down from my mum.  This way all of my recipes are in one handy place, on my Kindle, and I can easily take that to the shop as my shopping list.  The recipes can be described as “Every Day Cooking For Every Day Lives”, there’s nothing too fancy in there, and they range from starters and soups, to main meals including lots of curries, and finally desserts and cakes.  I find that television chefs use too many obscure ingredients, and they seem to have every utensil under the sun to aid preparation.  These recipes are essentially very simple, and are presented in an easy step-by-step format.  The book was originally designed for the Kindle, so even in the paperback version there are no pictures, but do you really need to know what Key Lime Pie or vegetable soup look like before cooking it?

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I am only an indie writer because I have not yet been “discovered” by a major publishing house!  Seriously though, I do not choose mainstream formats, preferring instead to challenge the market.  A cookbook on Kindle?  On Amazon.co.uk there are less than 1,000 available compared to 90,000 paper cookbooks.  No market or a gap in the market; I’ll let the market decide.

3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?

As I mentioned earlier, I do not write in mainstream formats so am unlikely to appeal to a traditional publisher just yet; however, I have had plenty of praise for my writing.  My adult humorous novel Stags! reached number 1 on Amazon’s Free Kindle Humour list, and is currently in 3 Amazon bestseller lists for paid books.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

Self-publishing is great for getting your work out there quickly and relatively easily, but it is also a great tool for learning.  I knew nothing about fonts until I self-published Stags!, and I knew nothing about Kindles until I started to look at that medium too.  You quickly realize that marketing is the hardest thing in the world, and the realization that no one will buy your book just because you believe in it is a harsh lesson, but one that all indie authors must learn quickly.

5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?

I have tried book signings; for instance, my children’s picture book Ole And Zac And The Port Of Tumbattle has a pirate theme, so I sat outside a couple of local Tesco supermarkets dressed as a pirate and signed copies.  A book signing for Stags! was featured at the Levenshulme festival, as a result of which I got coverage in The Irish Post.

These are fine for small coverage, and I realized how much fun it can be to dress up as a pirate, but by far the most successful marketing technique has been via KDP Select.  This allows you to offer your book free for up to 5 days every 90 days, but during this time you must push it.  Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Goodreads, anything you can think of.

But it can’t just be a one way thing.  Follow blogs and they will follow back, but you must participate.  Download other free books and engage with other authors.  Contact Pixel Of Ink, Kindle Nation Daily, Digital Book Today, and others, and consider a paid promotion which can be done for as little as $29.99.

If you are successful you will get thousands of downloads.  Stags! got around 5,000 in 5 days, and then the fun really starts.  If you have done it right you should continue to push, push, push when it is a paid download again. Stags! hit around 200 paid downloads in the first week and then sales started to taper.  Bear in mind that the more sales you get, the more Amazon will “recommend” your book.

If you can get it into the top 20 in any category this will generate more sales.  When a potential customer looks at a bestseller category the first page has 20 entries.  A few will go to the next page of 20 entries, but after that visitors dwindle.  It’s a bit like getting on the first page for a Google search.

The next phase is to drop the price to less than $1. This hits the bargain promotions and sales will get an uplift. Continue to expand your network, and make use of your free KDP Select days every quarter.  There is no such thing as overnight success.  You have to work at it.

6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?

I disregarded local newspapers and trying to get book reviews.  There is just simply not enough coverage.  If you have enough friends they will cover the local area for you, and even in your own area, if someone does not know you personally they will not be inclined to buy your book.

7. Which services or vendors do you recommend for the marketing methods you used?

Business cards and flyers are invaluable, but cheap and cheerful will do fine.  Make sure they have your email address on, mobile number if you really must, book details including website and blog details, and Amazon, Amazon, Amazon.  Amazon is king and is a very trusted site.  If your book is on Amazon people trust it.  In terms of internet marketing there are tons of free sites that will push your free days, including Pixel Of Ink, Digital Book Today, etc.

8. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

It’s all about the marketing.  Apart from your family and friends no one will buy your book – you have to sell it to them. Or get Amazon to sell it for you by exploiting the free KDP Select feature as described.

9. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?

For paperbacks I now exclusively use Createspace.  I have used Fast-Print, but only because Createspace did not support UK distribution.  Now they do.  Createspace is quicker and easier to use, produces a better quality product, and the finished book gives more profit to the author.  The only caveat to this is that the Createspace cover designs are limited, but I would not be surprised to see them expand these in the near future.

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?

Start slowly and dedicate at least an hour per day to it.  Don’t expect it all to happen overnight, and do not disregard any channel.  It is a learning exercise as much as a marketing exercise, and by the time you get to book number 10 you will be well on your way to becoming an expert!

11. What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a sequel to Stags!, the working title of which is Infidelity.  I got some really nice fan mail after my latest marketing exercises, and that prompted me to finally put pen to paper, metaphorically speaking.  I am also looking to produce a book of dark poetry in collaboration with a friend who does some terrific illustrations.  In the pipeline there is the biography of an English rock and roll singer, but he is based in Madrid so there are a few logistical issues with that one!

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?

Having launched three books in three very different genres, each one challenging the market in a different way, it would have to be “Laughing in the Face of Tradition”.

13. How can readers learn more about your books?

You can visit my website at michael-madden.co.uk and my blog at mmm-number-1.blogspot.com.

Shaun J. McLaughlin

Shaun J. McLaughlin believes every writer must be in it for the art, and strives to make his writing stand out from the rest.  Shaun discusses his success with blogging and what he believes it takes for a writer to succeed.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

My self-published novel, Counter Currents, is a story of smugglers, river pirates, rebels, love, and war.  Most scenes are set against the grandeur of the Thousand Islands during the drama of North America’s forgotten war, the Patriot War of 1838.  Among the raiders was Bill Johnston, the Thousand Islands legend.  The protagonist, Ryan, a young immigrant, is drawn into Johnston’s world of piracy and secret societies.  Ryan falls for Johnston’s daughter, Kate.  Tugged by the opposing currents of romance and war, Ryan struggles to reconcile his troubled family history, his duty and his heart. Counter Currents is history illuminated by fiction.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I worked as a writer – journalist and technical writer – for over 30 years.  Since my teens, I wrote fiction on the side. For my first novel, I queried dozens of agents and publishers in Canada and the US.  Over half never responded. One small publisher in Iowa offered to publish it, but they closed down shortly after I signed the contract.  Weary of rejection, I studied the self-publishing arena and the related technologies, and made a decision to be my own publisher.

3. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

I do both.  In the same month (March 2012) that I self-published my first novel, my first history book, The Patriot War Along the New York-Canada Border, was published by South Carolina-based The History Press.  It covers the eastern half of the Patriot War of 1838.

There is an interesting story behind that.  I created a history blog in January 2010 in advance of my novel to help promote the book and the era.  An editor at The History Press discovered the blog and asked me to write a book about it.  I said yes, of course.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

I am astounded at how simple it is to be self-published.  Between Smashwords, CreateSpace and Kindle/Amazon, anyone who can follow step-by-step instructions can produce books in multiple formats.  There is no barrier to publishing.  Technology has sidelined the gatekeepers and unleashed writers.  You’ve got to love that.

5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books.  Which ones have been the most successful?

I have tried most of the popular marketing techniques: blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and guest posts on other blogs and e-magazines.  I had both books reviewed, and even paid for an ad on Goodreads.

My history blog, raidersandrebels.com, is the most successful.  It gets over 600 visits per month from history lovers. The key is to provide readers with free, interesting content.  That blog links to my imprint blog where I describe my books.  A small percentage of visitors become customers.

Two history articles that I wrote for the Thousand Islands Life e-magazine early in 2012 did well, as did a book review on that mag.  The magazine’s audience is in the heart of the region where both my books take place.  The exposure led to a regional spike in sales, especially for the history book.

6. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

My research into the business of self-publishing taught me that my book is one of millions available.  It is one leaf in a forest of 10,000 trees trying to be noticed.  You cannot be in this business for the money.  Like a painter or musician, you must be in for the art.

7. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?

Next time I will spend no time trying to find a publisher for my fiction.

8. 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?

From my observation, the authors that succeeded financially did not hit the big time with their first book.  They built up a fan base, good book by good book, until they broke out.  In brief: write well, write often, be patient.

9. What are you currently working on?

I have a detailed outline for the sequel to my novel.  It will be set partly in Australia, which I will visit in the fall of 2012 to scout locations.  I plan to research a second history book on the Patriot War to cover events along the western front.

10. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

I write about history (and by extension, historical fiction) like a good journalist covers current events: how people face their trials and triumphs never gets dull.

11. How can readers learn more about your books?

My publishing imprint has info on both books: raidersandrebelspress.com.

K. Ford K.

K. Ford K. went from freelance writing to indie publishing, finding frustration along the way with traditional publishers.  Now enjoying the freedom of self-publishing, K. discusses the varied tools she uses to reach readers.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

What if a timid, sexually-inhibited woman suddenly developed the psychic ability to see what everyone else needed to be blissfully happy in bed?  And what if she started blurting out sexual advice against her will?  That thought was the seed for my new novel, The Concubine’s Gift, and the poor, long-suffering character of Bernice Babbitt was born.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I became an indie author by choice.  I was a freelance writer, publishing articles and short stories in newspapers and magazines and had several near misses with major publishing houses.  Many times they decided to publish my novels and then changed their minds at the last minute.  I was starting to feel like I was in an abusive relationship.  Editors told me they loved my work; I cozied up to them and then they slapped me with a rejection. After awhile I was back and the same thing happened all over again.  ‘Indie-authorhood’ has been wonderful.  I love being in charge of my own career and being able to make all the editorial and marketing decisions about my novels.  I’ve been lucky in that readers have been very supportive.

3. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books.  Which ones have been the most successful?

Some of the marketing techniques that have been the most successful were getting book bloggers to review my book and being active on the Goodreads site.  I have hosted lots of book giveaways and those are always fun.

4. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?

I have my novel listed on Amazon’s KDP Select.  The best thing is the free days of promotion but I think I will discontinue after one more month so that I can list the book on other sites such as Smashwords.

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Diane Schochet

When Diane Schochet befriended another writer who in turn started her own publishing company, she was able to publish her book and see her literary dreams realized.  Diane talks about her book, the specific marketing tools she uses, and a tip that worked for her son’s book as well.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book.

Cog Stone Dreams is about Dessa and her mystical, magical, humorous love story.  It is about the bow and arrow murder she witnesses, 9,000 years of history she encounters in her dreams, and includes Jewish themes and the perfection, degradation and restoration of wetlands in California.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I’m not an indie writer.  A couple of years ago, I took an online advanced UCLA novel writing class.  A classmate liked my writing.  I liked hers.  We met and became friends.  Then in 2011 she informed me that she was becoming a publisher.  Her deceased aunt, Carol Fenner, had left her literary collection to my friend.  Carol, who had won Newberry awards, a Coretta Scott King award and two other awards, had one book that hadn’t been published.  My classmate decided to publish her book, my Cog Stone Dreams book, and some books that she had written, and opened Red Phoenix Books.

Doctor Claudia Alexander, my publisher at Red Phoenix Books, is a scientist.  She says my genre is environmental fiction.  But I’m not a scientist so I say my book is Jewish magical realism.  (Think Isaac Bashevis Singer.  I’m aiming high.)  However, the environment may be a better selling point.  The story is mostly set on Southern California wetlands.  Amazon.com puts books about wetlands in their Lakes and Ponds category.  Today the Kindle Edition of Cog Stone Dreams is the number 17 bestselling and the number 1 best rated in the Lakes and Pond category.  It has been among the top three Lakes and Ponds book for three months now.

3. Have you been traditionally published?

Yes.  Non-fiction articles in magazines.

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James Strait

James Strait has authored two books and has a third on the way.  He offers some good, detailed advice about how to get on the radio to promote your book, as well as which marketing techniques to avoid.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

Pretend that there’s a modern democratic republic that has lost its way. Imagine a society in chaos, a political structure compromised by power hungry sociopaths.

Fade to an ultra modern think tank, one whose expertise is genetics, and one that’s discovered that every human cell has a time stamp. And that having the ability to turn the time stamp on and off allows for a clone of any age to be rebirthed.

Picture a cabal of desperate modern times political operatives, with a brand new twenty-first century copy of Thomas Jefferson. Then think the predictable, that the modern Jefferson takes extreme exception to his being rebirthed, that he escapes the clutches of his new artificial deities, and that he goes on the run.

Such is the story line of the newly minted action-adventure novel, Thomas Jefferson is Missing.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Nothing more than the desire to have some of my thoughts go down in literary history.

3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?

Yes, my first book, Weird Missouri, was traditionally published by Sterling. However, Sterling does not publish fiction; thus, my second book, a novel, has been published independently. I chose an independent house that was within an hour’s drive from my home in order to have some physical connectivity, hoping for some hands-on control of the process.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

While not perfect, it has been a learning experience, a chance to grow, so I’ve loved it.

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William Steele

In his engaging and well-reviewed autobiography, My Journey, Major General William Steele recounts his life and military experience.  He discusses why it was so important to acquire an editor and the specific, targeted marketing techniques he uses.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

This is a unique autobiography and one worthy of your time.  Consider the following reviews:

My Journey is a wonderful story of one man’s lifetime of dedication to his family and to the nation.”—Howard “Bo” Callaway, Secretary of the Army (1973-1975)

“[It is] a story of his life in childhood, in the U.S. Army, in corporate America, and upon his retirement.  [It] includes many interesting and moving details in his life recalled with great clarity . . .”—General William R. Richardson, U.S. Army (Ret.), Commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (1983-1986)

“It is splendid, engaging, written in an appealing conversational style, candid, and told with becoming personal modesty.”—Dr. Lewis Sorley, military historian and author of Westmoreland

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Actually I intended writing about my life to provide some historical record for my family and future generations.  But I wanted it to be written and printed in a professional manner.  I hired an editor to help me achieve that goal.  After looking at the draft, she thought that others might benefit from my experiences and suggested that it be edited and published with that in mind.  At that point we decided to do so.

3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?

No, because I did not start with publishing as a goal and did not approach a publisher for that purpose.

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Jonell Kirby Cash

Jonell Kirby Cash used something a little different than either self-publishing or the traditional route.  Learn about the innovative method she used and the one-on-one experience that came with it.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

A Ring, A Dance, A Second Chance.  The book is Katie and Taylor’s love story.  They dated in high school, but married others, and both are now widowed and live alone.  Their odyssey begins when, out of the blue, forty-something years since they last talked, Taylor calls Katie.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

As I grew older my responsibilities changed and so did my interests.  I noticed there were few works of fiction and fewer movies that caught my attention or offered a reading or viewing experience that was meaningful.  Often, my friends and I would whine that we couldn’t find novels with characters that had any resemblance to us (the 50 plus) and we’d say we wished that older people would become more active in the writing arena…and we’d wonder if writers just got tired or lost their creativity.

When I whine I usually look for an option.  Since I’d always planned to write a novel, but never had allocated time to learn how to write fiction, I decided I should give it a try—I’d never be any younger.

I’d published in my academic field (five books).  I enjoy writing, I understand communication, and I had the basic skills of grammar.  I’m also a psychologist; therefore, I understand human nature.  So, in the seventh decade of my life I decided I had the time to enjoy learning to write from a novelist point of view.  This decision was the motivator to get me started on this venture—the first step in the process of writing a novel.

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Patricia Herlevi

Patricia Herlevi reflects on her music background as she discusses her book, Agnes et Yves: Ma Vie en Bleu.  Learn how she makes marketing work without having to break the bank.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

“French Kiss” meets arts journalism meets Parisian artists meets Katherine Hepburn.  In hot pursuit of an affair with a Spanish Don Juan, Francophobe Agnes’ plans are derailed by a French painter and transportation strike.  Bonjour Paris!

I wrote this novel as an old fashion style comedy with some mistaken identity, especially around “Pablo”, plots twists, and a surprise ending.  I adapted the novel from a screenplay of the same title, but for the novel I brought back the mother character, and brought in more psychological baggage which I dealt with through comedy of errors.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

Thinking back to my music career which spanned from 1986 to 1996, I have a knack for do-it-yourself projects.  I also think that it is a real confidence builder to take on a project yourself and see how far you can take it.  My motivation for going it independent with music came from a music industry with a closed door policy.  I sent out over 50 demo tapes over the years, and received a large pile of rejection letters.  I still wanted to record and perform music so I found a way to do that without a recording contract.

Now that I am authoring books, I thought I would see how far I could go on my own in building a target audience, and cooperating with other independent authors.  The learning curve is steep, especially at my age, but I have to admit, I enjoy the challenges.  Those challenges spark creative solutions.

3. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

No, I have not traditionally published any books yet.  I am not averse to publishing books traditionally.  I contacted agents and went the normal route, receiving a fair share of rejection letters and some encouragement.  Then a friend suggested I try Lulu.  At first this felt daunting so then I went with CreateSpace instead.  Since my novel has commercial appeal, especially for the Francophile markets, I don’t know the reasons why it has not been picked up by a commercial publisher or agent.

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Frank Coles

Frank Coles brings a wealth of experience to his writing and has enjoyed success in indie and traditional publishing.  Learn how he’s mastered marketing across a variety of media (social and traditional formats) and why reviews are so important.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.

Dark Market (Assassin’s Rule): Kill anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Never get caught.

John Savage is a special force of one.  A corporate investigator who had to leave when an investigation went wrong.  He’s become a 21st century warrior serving overseas, but not for any one government, only the highest bidder.

When he finds a dead body with links to his old life, he returns and finds that what forced him out was only the beginning of a conspiracy to commit murder on a grand scale: the Dark Market, in which anyone can take part and anyone can be a victim.  Now Savage must battle to finish what he started.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

I get a buzz from writing, the blank page is like siren call from another world for me.  I’ve been writing professionally in one way or another for nearly two decades – TV, journalism, advertising, branding.  Writing has taken me to the North Pole and all around the world.  Then I became an ‘author’ four years ago.  Since then my writing output has dropped.  It became all too much about guessing what agents, editors and sales departments were up to.  Learning all about the shadier parts of the business that are in plain view and pitching all the time – but so slowly – because the business is so slow.

Now don’t get me wrong, my bread and butter has always been pitching, whether it’s TV programs and formats or journalism and brand concepts.  But there is a big disconnect in publishing between, well, everything: traditional and indie, agents and editors, slush piles and proper business development, taking risks and playing it safe, publishing times.  It’s a book in itself!

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Kenneth Weene

Kenneth Weene works through a small publishing house through which he and other authors do their own marketing.  Learn more about that, Kenneth’s book trailers, and his advice on how to properly use social media in your marketing efforts.

1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me one of your books in five to ten sentences.

Set in a small bar in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne tells the collective bittersweet stories of the people who make the place their home – people who have not fallen off the social ladder but who are hanging on desperately at the bottom. These integrated stories of men and women, who may not be successes but who still are so very human, offer laughter, pathos, and a sense of camaraderie.

2. Have you been traditionally published?  Why or why not?

My books are halfway between traditional and indie publishing.  All Things That Matter Press is a small house so we, the authors, have to do the marketing ourselves.  But as a publisher they offer cover design and editing as part of the contractual deal.  They take no money but make their profit from our sales.  Would I prefer to move to a “larger” house, one that could provide more marketing service?  Sure.  But I do appreciate the sense of family that we have created.  The owners of All Things have been very supportive, and many of the authors work together and are wonderfully supportive.

I must admit that I would never want to self-publish or go with one of those “indie publishers” that sell their services.  That would feel like I was their mark rather than their valued writer.

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