I guess I never came out and said it, but I've gone indie. There's a lot of reasons for this, some of which I might get into in a future post. Suffice to say that after examining traditional and electronic publishing, writing a whole series of posts detailing how to self-publish on various platforms, and, finally, coming to the realization that it's really a personal choice (there's no right or wrong here) and that the right choice for me is indie, I've fully embraced the concept.
Two of the more immediate challenges I'm facing as I jump in are (1) generating more titles to sell and (2) getting people to buy the titles already out there and then leave a (hopefully favorable) comment. The consensus amongst my peers is that the more titles you have for sale, the more you'll sell. Of course, writing a novel takes time, and there's not much to do about it other than to get cracking. With regard to #2, if you poke around the Amazon discussion boards you'll see plenty of posts like this one where the poster recognizes the challenge indie writers face and wants to help out by reading and reviewing his/her book. Judging by the number of authors responding to such requests, I'm guessing this is a challenge faced by indie writers en masse.
So what's a new, unknown indie author to do?
In the past, I've alternated between offering my first fantasy novel, The Hall of the Wood, for free as a PDF download and selling it here and from various retailer web sites. Upon the completion of my second novel, The Five Elements, I decided to serialize it a chapter at a time on this blog while simultaneously giving away the novel in its entirety along with selling it through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. There's been some experimentation, tweaking, and price adjusting along the way, the end result of which has been that I have a strategy that at least gives me a clear direction for the immediate future. How effective it winds up being remains to be seen.
So, this is what I'm doing:
The serialization of The Five Elements is already underway. I just posted Chapter 13: The Hounds of Hell last Sunday. I'm debating whether to also serialize The Hall of the Wood. I probably will once The Five Elements is concluded. The goal here is to promote the novel while hopefully gaining some readers for my blog, for my books, or for both.
2.) Free PDF download from this site
Both novels can be downloaded for free from my web site. You could say this is a preemptive strike against pirating, but I'm not well known enough for that to be an issue right now. The truth is that I'm giving them away for free to gain readers. Price is sometimes a barrier between a consumer and a product; free eliminates that barrier. There is, however, a personal request that comes along with each download: At the beginning of each novel is a "Note from Author" page that asks the reader to go to one of the retailer web sites where the book is sold and to leave a comment once they're finished. Reader gets a free eBook, I get a review. Seems like a fair deal.
3.) Free PDF download from Scribd
Both novels are posted to Scribd as PDF's where they can be downloaded for free. The versions are the same ones I offer here, so you wouldn't gain anything by downloading from one versus the other. The reason I've got them out on Scribd is because I figure each retailer/outlet has their own audience. A visitor to Scribd isn't necessarily going to know about my web site and vice versa. So I figure if I give away my stuff there with the "request for review" author page attached, I might just get some feedback.
4.) Sell eBook versions on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords
Yes, there actually is a "pay" option in this strategy of mine where a reader would have to part with some cash and I might actually make a little money. Both novels are available on Amazon as Kindle formatted eBooks, Barnes & Noble in nook format, and Smashwords in a variety of other formats (see links on right for all options). I expect to get most of my sales from Amazon and B&N, but Smashwords distributes to a number of other retailers, so it's good for reach if nothing else.
5.) Sell print versions
I've been eBooks all the way since I started this venture, and especially since I got a Kindle. But I also recognize that many people are still only interested in traditional format books. So, as of pretty much now, The Five Elements is available in a print edition. I wanted to go through this process with one of my novels first, so The Hall of the Wood is lagging a bit, but it will also be available as a print book pretty soon. I'm using CreateSpace as my POD provider; so far the process has been time-consuming but rewarding.
That's it. Only time will tell if this strategy works. I'll post progress in a few months.