I recently read a very interesting article in Vanity Fair about today’s gig economy. If you aren’t familiar with the term, the gig economy refers to independent contract workers who do short-term jobs for low fees and no benefits. Sounds kind of like an independent author, doesn’t it?
Well, it can be, if your attitude to your book and your work as an author is “gig mentality.” Here are some things you can do to increase your sales just by changing your mindset from gig worker to small business owner.
Use Amazon, Don’t Let It Use You. As an independent author, Amazon is a necessary part of your sales plan. But don’t let it be your only plan. The Vanity Fair article mentions that Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy sites increasingly change their tools so that workers make less and the site makes more. This has certainly been true of Amazon. Every author I know is making less on Amazon this year than last year. “Pages read” have decreased, even when sales have stayed the same.
To keep Amazon from “using you,” stay on top of your sales and your reviews. Write to customer service if something is wrong with your site or you have a question. Be politely persistent. I know authors who have had deleted reviews returned, links fixed, and other problems handled.
Is KDP Select Your Best Bet? I’m still a fan of the KDP Select program, which increases your e-book royalties to 70 percent if your e-book is only listed on Amazon. Kindle is still the best-selling platform for e-books, and the 70 percent royalty makes it very attractive. But you have to sell a lot of $2.00 or .99 cent books to make much money this way. Which means you definitely need to regularly do Kindle Countdown Deals and pair them with other promotions.
Have Two Strategies: E and Paper. Think of your e-book and your paper book (which can be either a paperback and hardback or both) as two different products you are selling. Each requires a different strategy. Your e-book is a great way to introduce yourself to new readers, especially those outside your local area. Your paper book is a way to recoup your investment and start to make money on sales. But to do this you have to let people know about your third product: you.
Sell Yourself. An author’s best product is his or her ideas. Without original, innovative, inspirational ideas no one will want to buy your books. Use those ideas to become a speaker. Make a list of topics you can speak on—and yes, fiction writers can become speakers, too. Now make a list of organizations where you can speak. Next, let those organizations know that you are available. Develop sales tools including a website, press release and speakers’ kit.
Invest in Yourself. What do you do well and what do you do poorly? What can you do for yourself and with what do you need assistance? Be honest about the time you have available to work on your writing, promote your business, and handle speaking engagements. Don’t try to do it all yourself—or by yourself. Get a professional-looking website. If you aren’t a good speaker, find a speaking coach or join Toastmasters. If you hate social media, hire a social media expert to handle it for you. Join Facebook groups, writers’ groups, and business networking groups. You are in business; go out and meet with other business owners. You’ll learn a lot.
Support Other Small Business Owners. You can go to sites such as Fivr and find gig workers to create your book cover for $50 or less. But if you are complaining about how Amazon does not value your work as an author, can you in good conscious treat a graphic artist, a social media expert, or website designer in the same way? Yes, I’m telling you to spend more money. But often the product you will get will add value to your book and value to your writing business.
By turning your thinking around and viewing yourself as a business owner, rather than a gig worker, you increase your value to yourself, your family, and your readers.