“I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories,” says Toby Neal, author of the self-pubbed mystery novel Blood Orchids. It’s all about “paying it forward–cross promotion, so to speak”, adds Neal.
Cross promotion has helped many indie writers propel their books into the hands of indie readers. So, how does cross promotion work? It’s basically about building an author platform through various forms of social media.
Neal sat down with IndieReader and gave us the inside scoop on her latest self-pubbed social media minibook, Building an Author Platform That Can Launch Anything.
Loren Kleinman: Talk about the response you got from Blood Orchids and how that prompted you to write Building an Author Platform That Can Launch Anything?
Toby Neal: Blood Orchids has been very well received as an indie book and sold over 6,000 copies since its debut in December, not to mention 45,000 downloads during my first promotional weekend. I was asked by so many other indie writers how I did it that I realized a I had some things to share—not only about the specifics of how Blood Orchids became a bestseller, but my overall marketing philosophy. I developed the minibook to have a cohesive answer that other struggling indie writers could benefit from.
LK: Why should indie writers build an author platform prior to launching their books?
TN: The biggest challenge indie writers face is visibility—without brick and mortar, in a sea of other hopefuls, how is your book discovered? I began my platform building three years before Orchids came out. There’s no “one size fits all” to this—but some overall strategies will work for everyone if they care to try them. Without a “platform”—i.e., a way to have your books known because you are known—indie writers have little hope of getting any real sales.
LK: Why is it important to have a social media strategy before you decide to self-publish?
TN: You don’t have to. But you are going to waste less time, money, and energy if you do.
LK: Why should indie writers care about social media?
TN: Social media is the new advertising dollar—and it doesn’t cost anything but time, energy and relationship skills. Yes, you could hire a PR firm and take out ads—with a ton of money and no guarantee of any effect. I know my social media friends will mobilize for me and my books, just as I will for them. Plus, done right, it’s easy, fun and takes around an hour a day.
LK: How can we stay motivated to keep our social media strategy going? Any tips when we get bogged down with life?
TN: Tell your social media friends you need help and get them to guest blog for you! Use programs like Tweetdeck, Buffer and email to pace yourself and spread out demands. Take minibreaks for a whole day or two at a time where you do nothing, but set your status as “Recharging Batteries” or something. As long as you communicate, everyone understands and is supportive. Social media is very much a responsive and relational environment.
LK: Talk about “paying it forward.”
TN: That’s the term I borrowed from that wonderful 2000 movie and novel Pay it Forward, where a child does a good deeds in hopes of changing the world by being proactively helpful. This philosophy or feeling can infuse your social media experience with a sense of giving rather than asking favors. It becomes a fun game to think of ways you can help your fellow writers and friends.
Then, when you need to ask for something, your twitter followers/fellow bloggers/FB friends etc are happy to help, because you’ve already helped them.
LK: Why is it so important to write a “good book”?
TN: Most people have a circle of at least 300 friends, supporters and acquaintances who will give your book a look out of relationship or pity. But if the book is bad, it will fall flat when that group is exhausted. At the risk of bragging, some of my best Book Lovers are my sisters and sisters-in-law, who single-handedly have given out or promoted hundreds of copies of my book, especially early on when no one had heard of it.
They wouldn’t put their own reputations on the line that way if they didn’t believe in my books, and keep getting positive response from readers and friends of theirs who read it and pass it on. Social media will only carry you so far without a quality product.
LK: Why is it important to find an editor that understands you as a writer?
TN: An editorial relationship is just that—a relationship. I think it’s important not just for you as a writer, but for your GENRE. An editor who usually works with romance or women’s fiction isn’t going to be the best one for science fiction or thrillers, necessarily. Magic happens when a gifted editor, who knows genre, is paired with a writer who can take feedback and make change when it’s needed.
My editor has worked with me on four books now, and is as passionate as I am about Lei as a character and knows mystery/suspense. With her in my corner I know my books will just keep getting better as we polish together.
LK: How can writers find their audience?
TN: I think if you follow some of the marketing strategies in Building an Author Platform, your readers will find you and your books. Targeting your blog to your readers is a critical part of that.
LK: What do writers need to know about beta readers?
TN: There are several types of beta readers. Most important are fans of the genre you are writing in, who are representative of your potential readers. Their responses can be “I liked it” to “It didn’t work for me” or preferably, “I loved it, I would pay money for this, and where’s the sequel???”
Other writers make good betas, but are often more critical than a typical reader. The best beta readers are other writers who often read in your genre for pleasure. These are the best—critical readers with writing skills who are happy to help you improve your work.
LK: Talk about “adding value” to writing.
TN: Adding value means you don’t stint or cut corners to make your writing the very best it can be—this means professional editing, formatting, copyediting, and of course a quality product. I want readers and other people who interact with me online, or have me as a guest blogger, to be surprised by the quality of the work. Adding value means throwing in that extra something that makes a bargain a great deal. It’s a mindset!
LK: What does indie allow you to do that traditional mainstream publishing does not?
TN: This has been written about to death, so I’ll just say what makes it most valuable to me. I’m already chafing with waiting for the right book deal, let alone the production of the book once it’s bought. Self publishing’s FAST. If you get your book done and edited and have a production team in place, and you can get a quality book out every six months with a regular, disciplined writing schedule.
Traditional publishing seems like snails in a molasses race to me now, and sitting on my manuscripts when they could be out being read and making money is torturous.
Another thing I love is the freedom—let the marketplace decide what people want to read and buy—it’s often different than an editor’s idea of what’s good.
LK: What feedback have you gotten from your most recent book Building an Author Platform That Can Launch Anything?
TN: So far other authors, and some social media “gurus” really like it. People appreciate that it’s short and clearly written and doesn’t make extravagant claims. For 99 cents, it’s a good buy and that’s Adding Value.
LK: What else are you working on? Give us an inside peek.
TN: I’m writing the fourth book in the Lei Crime Series (Broken Ferns) and editing a romantic suspense called Stolen In Paradise starring one of the side characters in the Lei series.
I’m excited to see the books getting out there and finding readers who love them!
LK: Give novice indie writers some advice on getting started in self-publishing? What’s your personal advice?
TN: All my most pithy thoughts are in Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything. But I will say this, and it’s not in the book: SELF PUBLISHING IS HARD WORK.
Don’t let producing your own book be an excuse for anything less than excellence. Take yourself seriously as a writer, invest in your work and take the time to make the writing you produce be every bit as good as something traditionally published—and if you do that, and market it well, you can be very successful.
Purchase Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything: a Social Media Minibook from Amazon