Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Make A Joyful Noise - Thoughts on Launching a Book

My head is still buzzing from the Synchronic launch.

But I wanted to share some thoughts that have floated through my brain in the last 24 hours, via the launch itself, but also the #NAlitchat (hosted by Amy Evans and E.J. Wesley) where I was a guest last night along with Chris Fox. (BTW these folks are doing something really innovative and cool in combining moderated audio chat recordings side-by-side with a twitter feed. I'm very impressed with how it all worked!)

Make A Joyful Noise
The Synchronic Facebook Launch Party was all about creating a space where people (readers, writers, editors, fans) could come together, talk about SF and time travel (or creepy spiders and alien sex, as the case may be), and generally have a sense of celebration. Because launching a book into the world is worth celebrating! We had an amazing turnout, all day long, but the celebration would have been just as joyful with only a handful of close friends. Right? We've all been to parties - some are monster blowouts, some are intimate affairs, and they all are enjoyable, in different ways. It becomes less about the launch of the book, per se, as the sharing of the experience. The spreading of the joy.

Which brings me to...

Be Joyful in Your Work
I absolutely loathe myself on camera. I'm too self-conscious. Yet, I'm embedding this pre-interview video with Amy Evans, in prep for #NAlitchat, because we touched on an idea I think needs to be heard:

Your joy in this writing work is a key part of your success.
Note the wreck that is my house. That's REAL LIFE peeps! LOL

Amy: "... to talk tomorrow about how to take your publishing career and become a Full Ninja....What does that mean to you? When you think of a really.... successful, well-rounded, kick-butt independent publishing career, how do you define that for yourself?"

Me: "For me... any author that I see that is successful in their career and is enjoying it, has done it right. It's not just how many sales have I made, but am I really in a joyful place with the whole process? A lot of times that joyfulness doesn't actually correlate with sales. There might even be an inverse relationship - you get a lot of sales and then you kind of go crazy because there is so much to manage. So the people that I see that are very joyful in it, and having a lot of success, they're doing it right... they're usually people with more than one book out. This isn't an instantaneous thing, it's a career that you grow... but they're enjoying it every day. They're writing every day... they're producing material every day...  and they're being savvy about how to get that material out in the world."

Be The Party
One question that came up at #NAlitchat was, "What social media platform is the best for finding readers?" This is a question I hear a lot, and I have two answers that (may) be contrary to the "conventional wisdom" but that are my personal observations of how things really work (both for me and for many other authors). 

First, using social media is by no means required to sell books.
This is contrary to all the people out there who say that social media is a necessity for the modern author. I think it's a boon and can help your career, but it's absolutely not a necessity. I say this because I know authors who shun social media and sell lots of books. The books are great; they sell themselves. Does this work for everyone? No. But it definitely works for some people... hence the reason I say social media is not necessary.

Second, the question asked is the wrong question. And the subtle shift in perspective is important. It's not "What social media platform can I get on so that I can find readers?" The question should be, "What social media platform am I most comfortable on, can sustain a presence on for the long haul, so that readers can find me."

Do you see the difference?

This ties in to the way the Synchronic Launch Party went. We didn't go out and find readers... we created a space for celebration and invited in the readers who already enjoyed our work. And it was so much fun, that those people went and invited more people. The party actually grew in size throughout the day.

Chris Fox on #NALitChat  had a really great analogy for this:

Me: "A slight shift in focus... I would say, you want to be available for people to find you... you don't want to stress out about that... you just want to be available in whatever platform works for you... and people will find you.... it's much more comfortable for everyone."

Chris: "There's businesses on the side of the road that have those people who are waving the signs... it works... that's perfectly fine... but that's really obnoxious and we all say, look at this guy, waving this sign, for that store, what the heck? But when we see a popular restaurant that everyone likes, that everyone is trying to get into... we say, yeah, that's a cool place. That's where we want to be."

Audio of the whole #NALitChat -  a really fun, entertaining time and, I think, worth the listen

Start Small; Grow; Work Inside Your Circle of Influence
Now I know it seems easy for me to say "let people come to you" when you've been out in the publishing world for a while, as I have. But I didn't start out with the network and readers that I have now - in fact, I started out when people still believed you had to have an established readership before indie publishing, not that indie publishing could be the route to building that readership. So, I've been slowly practicing what I preach, and continue to do so. 

Start Small; Grow
There are so many ways to do this business, that I don't say many things are necessary. A good book is necessary... beyond that, not much else is. The next closest thing is: a newsletter. I mention this because 1) it's a vital way to maintain contact with your readership (much better than social media, because it's within your control) and 2) because you should start one even if you only have two subscribers: your mom and your hairdresser. It will grow far faster than you think, and it will be an essential tool for letting people know when you have a new book released (because they love your work and that's why they subscribed).

It also ties into...

Work Inside Your Circle of Influence
I'm a fan of Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In that book, he talks about your circle of influence, and how attending to the people within your circle helps to grow your circle. I like this concept, because it dovetails well with how I like to interact with people in the first place: I like to attend to my friends, the people I know, or even someone new who just stepped into my circle by saying Hi on Facebook. For that moment of time, however brief or long it may be, I have a connection with that person on some level. I have a chance to interact with them, learn about them, and possibly influence them in some (hopefully positive) way. 

Eventhough #NALitChat is a broadcast sort of medium - people primarily listen in and feed in a few questions - it felt mostly like my circle of influence for that hour consisted of three people: Amy, Chris, and EJ. We had a wonderful conversation, but afterward I discovered that EJ didn't have a newsletter yet.

This is me, exerting influence in my circle (poor EJ):

I was adamant about EJ signing up for a newsletter because I truly believe it's key to gaining long-term growth in your writing career. And I want that for him. I want EJ to find his audience and grow it. This isn't an effort to get EJ to buy my books. (Trust me, harassing your fellow writers is not generally a good path to anywhere!) This is me, operating in my circle of influence, helping out a friend. If the newsletter works out for EJ, it's likely he'll pass it on. Those people might find their way back to my site. Maybe the information there will help them too or maybe one of my books will catch their eye. Maybe they'll try one of the free ones, because hey it's free, and then they'll be hooked. (One of my readers recently compared me to a drug dealer who gives the first hit free. I love that reader.) This is the circle growing.

Be joyful in your work.
Make a joyful noise when you send it out into the world.
Let the world come into your circle and be friends.
Treat those friends well (or harass them into starting newsletters, as the case may be).

It's a recipe for success... and more importantly, happiness... that everyone can follow.


  1. I liked this interview very much. Joyful writing has authenticity; your voice cannot be mistaken for another, and it is clear and strong. Will you get a big tribe or a small one? There is no telling. But you and your tribe will be happy in one another.

  2. Wow! This is amazing! Thank you for coming on last night, and for all the joy and wisdom that you shared!!!

  3. Great interview! Susan, you have such a real and approachable way about you. And you're just so smart about all of this. Much to learn here. :)

    But, at least I do now have a newsletter.

  4. Thanks for the tips! Very inspiring. I don't believe anybody should ever do anything that doesn't give them joy.

  5. I love your take on launching books Susan, especially the part about doing what gives you joy. I think someone should invent a social media platform just for launching/promoting books, as all the social media get taken over, or maybe it just seems that way when you mainly follow authors! No matter how good the book is, you still have to let readers know it's out there. Finding how is the question.