5 Publishing Lessons I Learned Working With a Professional Marketer
As a life-long fan of classic science fiction as well as emerging new voices from the genre, Fabrice Stephan's underlying passion is the exploration of technology through fiction, which he shares in his latest novel, Human Starpilots. In this post, he talks about the five biggest lessons he learned about publishing by working with a professional marketer.
For indie authors, it’s a no-brainer that publishing is a challenge. Where you work as a teacher, in business, or any other trade, selling books is a brand new world.
Anyone who’s already been through the process will tell you that writing is only half the work, while editing, publishing, and marketing makes the other half. Some publishing books might give you a “fool proof” recipe for success. And on some account, they are right: self-publishing a book on Amazon or other platforms is easy and fast. But once your book is up there, you’re lost in a crowd of other writers who have little to no sales. There might not be a cost in publishing your book on Amazon, but, in this case, there’s no gain, either.
This was the point I had reached when I turned to Reedsy to find a professional marketer. I had published two nonfiction books and was in the process of publishing my new science fiction novel. The first two had been downloaded about 200 times, but hadn’t received any reviews or ratings — nice but limited progress that I had achieved using both Kindle Countdown Deals and price promotions via different websites. I wanted to give my third novel more of a chance to reach people.
So I turned to Reedsy with a clear request in mind: I wanted professional help with launching my book. And I also wanted to learn more about the trade of book marketing in general. I found marketer Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who met my needs exactly and who went above and beyond my expectations in regards to showing me the ropes.
Let’s take a tour of some of the lessons I learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Patience is a virtue
When it comes to promoting your book, what you need to do is engage in consistent, small-scale promotional efforts that earn you as much money as they cost — and then to increase your investments as you make progress.
In this way, promoting your book is a game of patience — and requires you to set lots of long-term groundwork before you start earning profits. Those profits might not come with your first book. With the second book you publish, you will build on your author brand. With the third, you’ll have more to offer potential readers. With the fourth, fifth, sixth, etc — you will continue to build upon (and reap rewards from) your promotional efforts.
So be patient, and stick it out for the long haul.
Lesson 2: Reviews are key
Of course, the more the merrier when it comes to finding readers. However, when you’re just getting started in your publishing career, you do also want to be strategic about who you’re marketing to so that you can attract the right kind of readers: in other words, readers who enjoy your genre, who are already looking to read a book like yours, and who will, therefore, be more likely to leave a positive review.
For example, someone who reads mostly militaristic sci fi might not be interested in pure adventure sci fi without any space battles. If you advertise to them and they’re let down by your book, you’re more likely to receive a negative review.
That’s where refining your target market plays a big role, and Mark helped me do that in spades — as you’ll see in the next three points.
Lesson 3: Your cover needs to provide key information
I don’t think I need to tell other indie authors how important a good cover is. What Mark stressed with me is that you don’t only want your cover to attract the attention of readers, but the right readers: the kind of readers who will enjoy your book and leave reviews. Therefore, your cover should immediately give readers an idea of your book’s genre and it’s story.
Lesson 4: Get your author bio right
Mark also helped me work on my author bio to make it more personal, professional, and informative.
Before... I have been trained as an engineer and I work, by day, in computer science since 1996. I have already published technical books on computer science. Fan of science fiction, both of the great classics and of the new voices, this is my first full-fledged novel. I was born in the USA, I lived in France, Denmark and Australia and I have settled now in Macon, France, close to Burgundy with my wife and my two kids.
After... Fabrice Stephan is an engineer and is the author of multiple technical books on computer science. As a life-long fan of classic science fiction as well as emerging new voices from the genre, his underlying passion is the exploration of technology through fiction, which he shares in his novel Human Starpilots.
Partially inspired by the classic Robert Heinlein novel Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Stephan’s debut novel Human Starpilots explores a future world, where, desperate to escape ecological disaster on earth, humankind’s fate relies on the investment in a unique and limited group of only six pilots capable of surviving the training of managing hyperspace jumps learned from a borrowed Alien technology.
And, if the risks and challenges these brave pilots faces wasn’t enough, contact and collaboration with the Alien Federation begins to reveal even more surprises.
When he is not exploring other worlds through science fiction, or computer technology through his work, Fabrice Stephan has traversed much of the globe. Born in the USA, he has lived in France, Denmark and Australia before settling in Macon, near the border of Burgundy, with his wife and two kids.
Lesson 5: Your blurb should target your audience
Mark and I also reworked my blurb to make it more efficient and direct, and to ensure it spoke to my target readers.
Before... In 2130, Earth ecology is failing fast. Its inhabitants are dying and the governments are hard pressed to contain the disaster. So when an Alien Federation suddenly contacts Earth and offers assistance, everyone jumps on it. There are further surprises: those aliens prove, once their DNA analysed, to be distant cousin from us. The Federation will provide to Earth advanced technology and support against the climate change with a single condition: To trade among stars, they need pilots capable of managing hyperspace jumps and only rare humans have what it takes to survive the training and become one. To receive support, Earth has to find and provide starpilots to take its share of the load. After a careful selection, six are chosen to fly to the far away planet Adheek. There, they will try to learn their new trade. If they fail, Earth will collapse. If they succeed, it may have a chance. But no one has prepared them to what they will face to gain that chance.
This debut novel was inspired by the classic “Have space suit, will travel” from R Heinlein and by the science-fiction work from LE Modesitt. It is a tale of adventure in a far land, of going beyond one’s own limits.
After... Only augmented pilots can cross space. But at what cost? In 2130, Earth’s ecology is failing fast. Its inhabitants are dying and the governments are hard pressed to contain the disaster. An Alien Federation contacts Earth and offers assistance. We accept their offer to trade among the stars and receive their support. In exchange, they aliens, who prove to be distant cousins, need pilots capable of managing hyperspace jumps and only rare humans have the right genes and capacities to withstand them. After a careful selection, six are chosen to fly to the far away planet Adheek. There, they will compete with students from other planets to try and learn their new trade. If they fail, Earth will collapse. If they succeed, it may have a chance. But no one has prepared them to what they will face next. If you want to recapture that sense of wonder from reading Robert Heinlein’s “Have space suit, will travel” and the tale of adventure and going beyond one’s own limit from L.E. Modesitt Jr, then you won’t want to miss this thought provoking novel.
In the end, working with Mark totally changed my perspective on selling books. Time, consistency, targeting, focus, and forbearance — these are all elements you need. And only a professional can help you settle in the rhythm you need to survive the publishing world.