This is an edited transcript of the Reedsy Live webinar that Alessandra hosted. To watch the video, click the image above.
Welcome. My name is Alessandra Torre. I'm a New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels. I write romance and suspense novels. I started out as a self-publishing author and I am now hybrid: I have two traditional publishers but the majority of my books are self-published. I've hit the New York Times bestsellers list six times, and every time it was with a self-published book.
You absolutely can find self-publishing success. My self-published books are more successful than my traditionally published books, and I'm going to share three of my secrets.
Secret 1: Master the Blurb
When I first self-published my first book in 2012, I had a grand total of three sales on release day. That slowly grew to 5 to 15 sales a day, and I was like that for a month, maybe almost two months. At that point, I made one change and literally overnight, my book went from 15 sales a day to 100. Then the next day I was at 300 sales a day. My sales doubled every single day until I was selling 2,000 copies a day. I was right in the top 15 on Amazon; publishers and agents were calling me, and I ended up signing a six-figure book deal within two weeks of achieving that rank on Amazon.
That one change is my first secret. It's so simple, so easy, you can literally do it today: I changed my blurb.
By blurb, I mean the books description on Amazon, or Nook, or iBook, or any retailer site. When you pull that up and you see the one to three paragraph description of your book, and that description paired with your cover and your rating and your price is what makes readers decide to either buy your book or move on to the next.
I rewrote my blurb on a whim. I was just sitting there looking at my description one day and I thought, "You know what? I'm going to rewrite this," and if it wasn't for the 15 minutes that I spent on that, I would not have the career I have today. Because of that blurb, everything changed for me.
The Three Rules of Blurbs
- Be concise. Nobody wants to read a five to seven paragraphs long blurb. If you can cut your blurb down to two to three paragraphs, that's ideal
- Cut out unnecessary details. A lot of times I'll read blurbs they've got full first and last names of all the characters in the books, and the cities and states that those locations are. They share unnecessary details when they can just summarise all of that. You don't need to educate the readers on every character in the book in that blurb and everything that happens in the blurb. Be concise, don't spoil the book, don't give too much away, and try to shorten it down.
- The first three sentences are the most important. It's really the first three lines of your blurb because that's what shows up on the Amazon description page, and they have to click more information to see the rest of your blurb. You got to grab them with this first three sentences. Those are crucially important. If you spend any time at all, spend time on this first three sentences because you never know.
Video: How to Write a Kick-Butt Blurb
What I learned with my first book is that readers were clicking on my cover, reading my blurb, and then moving on to another book. You don't know right now today how many readers you're losing because of your blurb. That goes the same with everything: your cover, your price. Change things around. If a book has grown stagnant — if your release isn't going as you expected — change things. Change things and look at the impact — you can always change it back later if you don't like how they turn out.
Secret 2: The Social Network You Can't Ignore
My second secret is all about the number one social media network that is absolutely ignored by 90% of authors, and that is Goodreads.
Goodreads is owned by Amazon, has over 55 million members, and it's the only social network that is 100% devoted to readers. It's for talking about books, sharing books, recommending books, and reviewing books. That is the sole focus of the website. There is absolutely no reason why every author in the world shouldn't be clamoring to get on Goodreads — but oh my gosh, authors love to avoid Goodreads like the plague. I have heard so many times, "I'm never going to go on Goodreads," or, "I'm going to avoid Goodreads."
Authors are scared because they hear that readers are mean or that they talk negatively about authors and books. I have to tell you, I spend 20% of my online time on Goodreads and I don't come in contact with that. I'm certain there're trolls, as there are trolls everywhere, but you can easily avoid them, stay out of drama, and focus on the positive.
Goodreads is a necessity for a self-published author. I'm going to say that one more time: Goodreads is a necessity. If you want to be successful, you need to (at minimum) have an author profile on Goodreads, and keep all of your books updated so that readers can find you and recommend those books. I have video tutorials and walkthroughs on everything that you need to do on Goodreads, but this is huge and this is important.
One of my books, The Ghostwriter, was just nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award. The day that it was nominated, I got an email from an audiobook company who wanted to purchase the rights to it, and I received an email from a publishing company in Bulgaria who wanted to purchase those rights for that territory. Goodreads is a worldwide market and most people have no idea how much publishers are paying attention to that: foreign publishers, audiobook publishers. Everybody is watching Goodreads, watching the books that are talked up on Goodreads so you can get discovered there so easily.
So create your author profile, claim your books, and then promote those books on Goodreads.
Video: How to Promote Your Book on Goodreads
Secret 3: Networking with other authors
While writing is a very solitary activity, promoting your book is not. One of the best ways to get exposure is through partnering up with other authors and cross-promoting.
But it's not just about cross-promotion, it's also building relationships with other authors and sharing information. I can right now tell you 15 marketing strategies that don't work, and they're 15 marketing strategies that I didn't waste time and effort on. My friends did and they came to me and they said, "Alessandra, I tried this and I might as well have lit money on fire." Great. That's information I can use. You want to create author friendships and network with other authors so you can share what works, and what doesn't, and we can all grow together.
Thirdly, it's a support system. My husband does not understand the frustration that I go through when I've hit writer's block, or I when I've just wasted 14 hours of my life formatting a book that looks garbage. He doesn't understand that. It's a great place where you can vent, learn, and get support. Author networking is very important.
You might be saying to me, "Okay. That's great Alessandra. How do I network with other authors? How do I find these people? What do I do?" I'm going to give you a few tips for author networking.
No matter what your genre, you can find a convention. I attended the Utopia Convention, where there's a ton of YA and fantasy. Romance Writers of America and RT is great for romance authors, Thrillerfest is great for mystery and suspense. Search your genre, search conventions, you're going to find something. That's one way.
If you don't have the money or the desire to travel to a place and meet a bunch of strangers, online groups are great. I have Alessandra Torre Inkers, that's a Facebook group I have with thousands of authors and aspiring authors. Become active in Facebook groups, especially Facebook groups that are for writers of your genre, and you're going to start making friends, you're going to start seeing names pop out. It's harder if you're a brand new author, so don't feel like you got to make a ton of author connections as a brand new author, but once you are publishing and especially if you're publishing on a regular basis, then it's time to form an author group.
Reach out and fining five or six authors that are similar to you. Similar to you in terms of your number of followers, your genre and writing style, and similar to you in how many books they write per year. Once you find that perfect blend, create a pact with these authors.
I effectively had a business relationship with six other authors where we all agreed to very precise rules: whenever one of us had a cover reveal, a sale or release, all of us would promote that on our social media networks. At the time, when I was starting out, I had a following of 5,000 people. Through our author group, this following was suddenly multiplied by six. Six of us, all with about 5,000 followers, were all promoting my sale and my cover reveal. Each of our sales, cover reveals, and releases were six times more successful. When all of us became more successful, all of our follower numbers grew, all of us had more power, and the more we could help each other out.
You benefit in these relationships by helping each other out: it's huge. Networking is absolutely huge. So form an author group, if not, just form friendships, they're crucially important.
Many thanks to Alessandra for hosting this great talk. To find out more about the work she does with authors check out her website, Alessandra Torre Ink.