A.J. Flowers is a fantasy author, book blogger, and automotive engineer in Detroit. She loves her writing, her work, and above all, her faith and family. When not writing or designing, you can find her saving the world from annihilation on her favorite video games side-by-side with her Dutch husband and princess Blue Russian kitty named Mina. You can follow her writing advice, published work, and fun personal stories on her blog.
Q: What marketing strategies do you find most helpful? Any resources you would recommend to other authors or aspiring authors?
A: Before I give advice, let me explain what experience I have with marketing a book. I actually self-published a writing resource guide before any of my other novels had finished the publication process. The reason was because this guide was based on the positive feedback from my blog. It was definitely a hard book to market, given that my credentials were roughly zip, but in the end it shouldn’t matter. This is a compilation of everything I’ve learned from the ground up, and is based on what I learned from others, not necessarily what I had to say myself. It’s safe to say if my method allowed me to market this book and receive sales, it should help other authors. Fiction doesn’t require credentials like non-fiction, and it should be easier.
In order to market my book, I used my e-mail subscription list as the main jump-off point. I currently have over 500 subscribers which were hard-earned by posting insightful and useful information on my blog at least once a week for a year.
I released the book as free for a week to get the ball rolling, and I was shocked when I moved 1,000 units. Since the release, I’ve continued to have solid sales in both ebooks and paperback, as well as consistent pages read on people who have a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Aside from a few days of Facebook advertising, which got me only enough sales to pay for the advertisement, my email subscription fan-base was really where I had success in marketing. These are people who already liked what I have to say based on my blog, and would encourage their friends to read my work. I can’t reinforce enough how important it is to have a platform with dedicated readers. Those are the people who will make or break you when you’re first starting out.
When I have more books released, especially my fantasy novels, I plan on using the funds raised by my writing guide to finance Goodreads and Amazon giveaways. Unfortunately, I have to purchase my own books to give them away, and after fees and shipping, royalties only give back a small percentage. I know the key to success is word of mouth. The more people who have your book on their “to-read” list means more exposure, and the likelihood that their Goodreads friends will see your book through their friends and be encouraged to try it out as well.
Q: So that being said, what advice would you give to someone like me, still aspiring to get that first novel published?
A: There’s a lot aspiring writers need to learn. There’s a lot more to writing a book than just “tell a story,” even though that’s the essence in a nutshell. There’s prose to improve, plot arcs to develop, writing no-nos to learn, and even when the book is done, there’s still marketing. Even traditionally published writers are expected to shoulder the majority of marketing. My best advice has been pulled together in my writing guide (free on Kindle Unlimited), or if you want some quick tips, I’d recommend these blog posts: 4 Essential Resources Every Writer Should Use, 3 Prose Edits You Should Know, and 3 Drafts to a Publishable Manuscript.
Q: Sounds like you've done your fair share of research! But beyond the technical side, do you ever get writer's block? And what tips do you have to overcome it?
Q: What are your thoughts on good and bad reviews?
Q: As someone who self-published, what would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?
A: I have a lot of opinions on the pros and cons, here they are:
Self-Publishing Pros and Traditional Publishing Cons:
- Self-Publishing super fast (you can publish the instant you feel your book is ready). Whereas Traditional publishing can take years. It can easily take 1-2 years just to find an agent or publisher by submissions and querying. If you have an agent, it may take them a year to sell your book, or they might not sell it at all. And then the publisher can take an additional year for everything they need to do in order to actually publish a book.
- It’s more profitable to Self-Publish. Amazon KDP offers 70% royalties and Traditional Publication is usually around 30%.
- When Self-Publishing, you have full control over new editions, giveaways, price, cover... EVERYTHING! You have little to no say over these things when going through the traditional route. Depending on your contract, some publishers may even be able to make changes to your book without your permission!
Self-Publishing Cons and Traditional-Publishing Pros:
- With great power comes great responsibility. If you mess up when Self-Publishing, it’s all on you.
- When Self-Publishing, you may be tempted to release the book before it’s the best product it can possibly be. If you have editors, they’ll make sure the book isn’t released before it’s ready.
- If Self-Publishing, you may not be able to afford what your book deserves such as a content editor ($6,000), a copywriter ($600), a book cover without using stock photos ($1,000).
- If Self-Publishing and you go with PoD (Print on Demand) then you may have difficulty getting your book into physical bookstores. Bookstores don’t like to purchase books which can’t be returned. But with a Traditional Publisher you not only won’t have to worry about that, but usually the publishing has an exclusive catalogue they send out to bookstores and your book will be on it! That’s a marketing benefit that self-publishing can’t offer.
- While Self-Publishing is more profitable per sale, Traditional Publishing does have the perk of an advance on royalties. Even if you don’t make enough sales to cover your advance, you get to keep it.
All good tips! Thanks for sharing!
A.J. published the first in a fantasy angel trilogy in December. Check out Fallen to Grace here!
And check out A.J. Flowers on her social media!