PUBLISHED JANUARY 2017
by Fauzia Burke, Founder & President, FSB Associates
Just over two years ago, I made the decision to jump to the other side of the publishing table. For the last 20-plus years, I have been helping authors and publishers get their books noticed—first, working in the marketing and publicity departments at Wiley and Henry Holt, and then launching my own online marketing and publicity firm, FSB Associates. But in April 2016, I became a published author when Berrett-Koehler published my book, Online Marketing for Busy Authors. And at almost the same time that I was signing my book contract, my husband and I made the decision to follow our long-held dream and move to Southern California after living our entire adult lives on the East Coast.
While all those sudden changes seemed scary initially, it ended up being two of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Being an author allowed me to connect with my clients on a completely different level, and, honestly, I believe I’m better at my job because of it. And two, getting out of the New York publishing bubble allowed me to meet an entirely new set of publishing professionals—mainly independent authors.
I’ve had the honor of speaking at several recent writers’ conferences and independent publishing events, and the authors I’ve met there have opened my eyes beyond traditional publishing. These authors are smart, dedicated, and successful; they work hard and are scrappy about promotions. But the one thing that remains true among everyone I speak to is the importance of community in the independent publishing world.
When you are an independent author, and may not have the support of a traditional publishing house behind you, your fellow author community becomes so much more important. Not only are they your editorial board during the writing process, they are also your reviewers, your evangelists, and your cheerleaders.
There are many ways authors can band together to help each other succeed. Here are some that I have found most effective:
- Social media promotion: If you’re just getting started building out your social media presence, ask other authors to share your content with their readers to help drive traffic back to your pages. Retweet your fellow authors’ content, and link back to their pages as well. Share good reviews/features. If you really like another author’s work, chances are your readers will as well—especially if you write in similar genres.
- Newsletter/e-mail swaps: Share other authors’ publication announcements or pre-order deals in your e-newsletter in exchange for them doing the same. Think about it: If you each have 10,000 subscribers, you’ll be doubling your reach. And if even 1 percent of those subscribers buy your book, you’re looking at another 100 copies sold with zero marketing spend.
- Reviews: We all know the importance of online reviews, so be sure to ask fellow authors to write reviews of your book so that you have a populated product detail page if they are comfortable doing so. You want to make sure the reviews are authentic, so ask them to be truthful. Don’t just stop at Amazon; post reviews on other sites such as Goodreads and Barnes & Noble’s website.
- Events: Events can be one of the most stressful parts of the publication process. How many of us have wondered if anyone would show up for a planned event? Relieve that stress by attending each other’s events and promoting those events to your audience.
- Websites: Think about adding a page to your author website with book recommendations, then feature the books of your fellow authors with links to purchase. Hopefully, they will return the favor.
- Promote: Recommend your fellow authors to bloggers or podcasters you may know and help them get attention. Imagine if each one in your group knew 10 people who could help spread the word—you wouldn’t need a publicist.
- Buy: Most importantly, buy or, even better, pre-order the books. If each of you buy the others’ books, it will even out. If you really love it, buy more copies and give them out.
If you think these ideas sound great but you’re still looking to find a community of writers, start by talking to your local library—many have writing groups that meet on a regular basis. Try attending a local conference; chances are there will be time for networking with other authors. Or join a writers’ group on Facebook or LinkedIn. There’s no reason your author community can’t be digital.
A strong community is essential for publishing successfully. In an environment where over 1 million books are published each year, it’s important to make yours stand out and to help your fellow authors do the same.
Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s also the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, April 2016). For online marketing, book publishing, and social media advice, follow Fauzia on Twitter (@FauziaBurke) and Facebook (Fauzia S. Burke). For more information on her book, visit FauziaBurke.com.