Authors: Let’s collaborate!

Are you a self-published author or small press responsible for promoting your own work? Have your own mailing list with at least one subscriber who isn’t you? If yes, good. You’re in the right place.

Just starting out and wondering how the hell you’re going to get people to even know your work exists? I hear ya. I’m in the same boat.

Here’s the thing. Unless I’ve failed to update this recently, I’m still working on my first full-length novel. Right now I’ve got a very limited mailing list and I don’t send to it much because to date all I can really say is “still working on it!”. When this book is ready, I’m planning some significant spending on marketing. My hope is that the outcome of that effort will be a bigger mailing list (1,000 would be great), along with new readers, some reviews, maybe even a few fans. My hope is that you’re planning a similar effort (and honestly if you’re not, we’re probably a bad fit — but keep reading, maybe your position will change, maybe not).

In addition to working on my writing, I’ve put a huge amount of effort into learning how to be successful at self-publishing. The single most important thing I’ve learned so far is this: reader demand outstrips author supply. Put another way: there are never enough books! Seriously. That’s the truth. This means that even if you and I are writing in the same sub-sub-sub-genre, very few people are going to be thinking “should I buy that person’s book or Alan’s book?” E-books are not exactly expensive. They’re much more likely to be thinking “I want both of those books!” Even if we’re writing in vastly different genres, there’s a reasonable chance that at least some of your potential readers are also my potential readers.

Authors tend to be collaborative because we’re not actually competing with each other. Our biggest challenge is awareness.

I fully intend to spend some money promoting my book(s). I’ve been watching and reading everything I can find about things like Amazon ads, Facebook ads, and a handful of other options. It’s not pretty. It’s really easy to spend a ton of money and get pathetic results, particularly with these so-called AI methods that promise better performance but seem to be more tuned to increasing their revenues than the author’s results. Not to mention the pragmatism required to overcome my distaste of sending real money to these evil empires.

I’ve also spent a very long time in or on the sidelines of online marketing, including a stint at a major ad agency. Two things have always been true: good content and a good mailing list beat everything else, almost every time. Certainly over the years much has changed. I’m not discounting Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, et. al., but those platforms can be fickle. Not only do can the mechanics for success change from day-to-day, one false move and you can find your account suspended with no avenue for appeal. You’ve got no ownership over those platforms. But if you have an email address, then you are only sharing control of that connection with the person at that address.

What I want to do as I build my reader base is share. As my novel approaches launch (I’m currently targeting early 2025), I’m going to have much more to put in my mailings. My intermittent newsletter will become more regular. If we turn out to be a good fit I’m happy to share a description of your work and a link in my newsletter, hopefully in return for the same in your communications.

I’m keenly aware that offering to mention your work to my tiny handful of current subscribers isn’t exactly a compelling proposition. But I plan to keep doing this when I have hundreds, thousands, or even more people on my list. I’m also not looking for symmetric relationships. When I do have a sizable list, I’m not going to be looking to collaborate only with people who have a similar number of subscribers. This is because my motivation here is to help indie authors, big or small. I trust that some will pay it forward when you’ve got your own big subscriber base and everyone wins.

None of this will happen next week. I’m expecting my marketing at launch will net me a significant number of subscribers. I might not hit that 1,000 goal, but it will be in the hundreds. That’s when I’ll start sharing. Hopefully that means sometime in the first quarter of 2025.

If this sounds good, or if you have other ideas where you think we can help each other, drop me a line.