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The Indie Writer Route: Guest Post by Derek Haines

October 6, 2010

For those writers who are ready for a challenge, ‘Indie’ or self publishing, is a viable alternative to traditional publishing. For one thing, rejection letters are a thing of the past. Secondly, you get you book published much faster. However, be prepared to work like you have never worked before if you decide the ‘Indie’ route is for you. You will be editor, proofreader, designer and your very own general factotum 24/7.

In my case, I suffer from what could be seen as a handicap by living in a non-English speaking country, so selling my books at the local bookstore is not a possibility. Therefore I have to rely on technology to get myself known in English speaking markets. No matter where you live though, you need technology to get your message out.

Having now published six books as an ‘Indie’, I admit right here that I had no idea what I was doing when I published my first book. Just published it, popped it on Amazon and crossed my fingers. I learned a little with my second, third and fourth but it wasn’t until I published my fifth book that I started doing things right. What I learned was simple. Writing the book is easy. Getting it noticed and read is not. Then actually selling copies and making money is even harder.

So what did I learn after four less than successful attempts at self publishing? Simple.

Start your book marketing BEFORE you write your book.

When I gave birth to the idea for my fifth book, the very first thing I did was select the book title. Not a working title, so I needed to get it right. The other factor I got right was using a character’s name for the title. Milo Moon. This made marketing a lot easier as I had ‘someone’ to promote.

Before I had written my first chapter, I had registered so I could showcase the book and the story, and give a focal point to send potential readers from other sources. Then of course in today’s ‘socially networked world’, I started signing up my new title on Twitter, Facebook and any other social sites that would allow free registration. All with the aim of getting my forthcoming book and of course myself, known. Also important was registering my new website with as many search engines as possible. Even though social networking is the new buzz, don’t forget the good old fashioned search engine. It gets people directly onto your site which is the whole aim of the exercise.

The next step was? Promote, promote, promote. And then promote some more. Both the book and myself. Half of me even became my main character and I started tweeting and posting about pancakes. One of Milo’s favourite things to eat. I also developed a ‘voice’ in my messaging by my character. Never contracting and using overly polite language and register. This differentiated myself from my character.

A note of caution here. Communicate live as often as possible to connect with your potential readers. Do not fall into the trap of using auto-posting all the time as you’ll quickly create a very bad social image if your messages are always ‘Check out my book and buy it now!’

I like the adage, ‘Make social contacts who become friends, who become fans, who become customers.

So, after two months of promoting my new alter ego, I actually started to write the book. As it took me the best part of six months to complete, there was eight months of marketing and product recognition in place before the book was published.

In this period of eight months, Milo Moon attracted nearly 7,000 followers on Twitter and my own personal following increased from around 5,000 to over 15,000. The Milo Facebook page attracted 700 friends and the website was registering over 400 visits per month.

So to the launch. Of course I had contests for signed copies, give away copies and really ‘cranked up’ promotion. Using every contact I could persuade to get my message out, but within reason of course. During the first three weeks after the book’s release, I spent almost every waking hour ‘being available’ on social sites. This aspect is vitally important nowadays as you have to build credibility in both your product and yourself.

The result? Well my book certainly didn’t compete with Dan Brown on the bestseller lists of course. This is not what ‘Indie’ is about. But sales in the first two months were more than ten times better than my previous book and also helped boost sales of my previous books and increased my visibility and recognition as an author enormously.

The best part though, was that the hard slog of marketing was great fun. And still is. I write because I love to write and I am an ‘Indie’ because I enjoy the freedom it allows me.

Is it for you too? Well if you have read this far and I haven’t scared you off yet, there’s more fantastic help and advice for you, that I could well have used before I stumbled aimlessly into my first book. The Indie Book Collective is an awesome new initiative that offers bucket loads of guides, advice, help and practical information for ‘wanna be Indies’, so you don’t have to be totally alone on your way to becoming a truly credible Indie Author.


Derek Haines


@Milo_Moon and @Derek_Haines

Facebook Derek Haines Milo Moon

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2010 2:44 pm

    Derek thx for sharing your insights in marketing your books. You’ve clearly figured out how to use Twitter and other social media to your advantage. I learned some great tips and I hope our readers use your example cause dude, you totally rock.

  2. October 8, 2010 2:50 pm

    Derek, thanks–the key to social media is to keep it ‘social” and make sure each communication adds value to the life of the person who read it. otherwise, you’re taking instead of giving, and not even sharing.

    Scott Nicholson

  3. June 2, 2011 11:05 am

    Thanks for the information.

  4. August 20, 2011 6:33 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I am seriously toying with the idea of becoming an indie publisher, and you have great ideas. I will definitely be watching your posts – and I think I’ll check out this Milo Moon character, too. Hey. I like pancakes. Anyway, thanks for the genuine and readable post.

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  1. The Indie Book Collective « Derek's Vandal Blog
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