Matthew Mather’s The Complete Atopia Chronicles was his first novel. Within days of its release at the start of August 2012, it shot to #1 on Amazon’s science fiction list with over 40,000 downloads in less than ten weeks. It still remains in the top ten.
While luck always plays a role, in this case it wasn’t purely luck, but a focused and directed marketing campaign that helped drive it to the top — the SHAKESPEARE ebook marketing system.
As attention spans shorten in the online and real world, readers don’t trust a new author enough to read 400 pages. For a new author, a winning approach is to serialize, to create your work as a set of progressively longer stories that connect together through cliffhangers to get a reader hooked.
The first short story needs to be punchy and tell a complete story in itself while leaving the reader wanting to know more. You must also hook the reader on the first page somehow, create a mystery, a reason and need to keep reading.
3. Focus on Amazon.
To start, focus only on Amazon. The first rule of entrepreneurs is to focus, focus, focus. The large majority of revenue in digital books comes from Amazon, with a small minority coming from all of the other players combined.
So when you start, focus solely on Amazon: getting reviews, moving up in the ranking, etc. By focusing exclusively on Amazon, you force people to buy from one place and thus drive up your rankings in this one spot.
4. Use Key Social Networks.
Use your personal social networks to maximum effect. Post on Facebook and ask people to re-post your postings for free book offers. Make sure to email everyone at work on the internal email. Use your LinkedIn network to mention that you have a book out. Announce your book on other networks as well. Pin it. Google+ it. Stumble it.
Email top-selling authors in your category when you release the first installments of your work. Ask them to read the first one (by starting with serialized shorts, it makes it easier for other authors to read your work). Ask them to post on their blog or Facebook page. When I released Atopia, I had six top-selling authors who posted to their readers for me!
5. Encourage Empathy for Your Main Character.
It is critical to create a character that you introduce right away that readers can empathize with. People read primarily because they want to feel an emotional involvement with a character they meet in your writing. Keep this front and center in your mind when writing your novel.
6. Use the Kindle Select Program.
Use the Kindle Select program where you can offer your book for free for 5 days each 90 days. Used effectively, this is an extremely potent tool for reaching an audience.
There are at least 40 websites I use to promote a free weekend for my books. These sites are specific to books that go free on Kindle Select and are often free to use for promotion. [You can find over 150 such Kindle promotion websites at http://bookmarketingbestsellers.com/101-ebook-listing-and-book-review-websites.]
If you can plan it ahead of time, write out all of the parts of your serialized work ahead of time, and then each two weeks release one of them, promoting it on Kindle Select for free and on the promotional websites. I can usually get 4000+ downloads of a free book when I do this.
7. Create Perceived Value.
Create perceived value by offering a deal. For instance, divide your whole work into 6 parts and sell each for $0.99. Then offer the whole collection at half price, e.g., $2.99 for all six. This creates perceived value on the part of the buyer when you start to sell the entire collection.
8. Edit Your Book.
If your work is not edited well, you will get killed in the reviews and by word of mouth. Go on Craigslist and find a recent English lit major graduate to edit your book on the cheap. While the quality may not be perfect, hiring unemployed English-lit majors can save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars. There is no excuse to not get an external editor of some kind. Not getting one will kill your chances of success.
9. Post Your Book on All Free Posting Websites.
Craigslist and other free online classified ad sites are secret weapons for new authors. It is incredibly difficult to get outside feedback when you are a new writer. My solution? Post an ad saying you’ll pay someone $10 or $20 to read your book and give you honest feedback. This is not for line editing, but for high level feedback to make your story more engaging.
Bonus: Get 20 people to read your book like this. These people will often become your biggest promoters by writing reviews, tweeting, Facebook posting, etc.
Free PR – When you release your book, create several press releases about aspects of your book, what it is about, why people would like it, etc. When you release each of the story segments, put these press releases up on the free press release websites. There are dozens of high quality free release sites out there (http://www.bookmarket.com/onlinepr.htm). Highlight that the short story is free that week.
10. Ask for Reviews.
It is crucial to get reviews as this has a direct impact on the Amazon ranking and recommendation system. You cannot do fake reviews. Apart from the ethical issues, Amazon has an impressive array of technical tools to make this difficult. Instead, be honest and creative: Ask friends, family, co-workers, and social network followers.
11. Engage with Your Audience.
Find any and all ways to engage with your audience once you start to get readers. Do a video blog on YouTube about the process. Do a regular blog showing progress on your next books and stories. Get people to like your Facebook page.
Self-published writers like Amanda Hocking, B.V. Larson, and Hugh Howey have all succeeded beyond the highest projections of publishing houses, with the 50 Shades of Grey series, the Star Force series, and Wool.
Often overlooked, independent writing has a long and illustrious history, including legendary writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Beatrix Potter and Rudyard Kipling. I believe the digital age will provide opportunities for an unprecedented number of independent writers to succeed as self-published book authors.
About Matthew Mather
Matthew Mather’s The Atopia Chronicles are an exploration of the meaning of love, life and the pursuit of happiness in a world teetering on the brink of eco-Armageddon. What could be worse than letting billions die? In the future, be careful what you wish for.
Mather started his career at the McGill Center for Intelligent Machines, founded one of the world’s first tactile feedback companies, and won an award for the Best New Videogame in Canada. He’s worked professionally in computational nanotechnology, weather prediction systems, genomic, and cybersecurity. Matthew lives in Montreal, Canada.