What if you could carve out a niche self-publishing and selling books like a rock star?
Sounds a little crazy, right? Kind of like punk hair, heavy-metal riffs, insane vocals, and a whole lot of attitude.
Hiâ€¦Iâ€™m Steff Green. Iâ€™m a freelance writer and big fan of classic punk rock and heavy metal.
And my first jobs as a freelancer were writing for underground clothing brands and records labels.
Ever wonder what it would be like to dominate self-publishing, sell more books, and build an author brand with a massive following?
I know I did. A few years ago, I took a look at those rising punk-rock stars and brands. And I decided their rebel-approach to marketing, selling, and promoting their work could help me make some noise self-publishing books.
Well,â€¦it worked. Iâ€™m a best-selling author and sell thousands of books every month. And I want to show you how to rock self-publishing, build a niche audience, and sell more books.
Thinking about embarking on a self-publishing adventure? Youâ€™re about to become part of the book worldâ€™s punk rock underground.
Here are my 6 tips to sell more books like rocker-legend Sid Vicious.
1. Understand why your readers need your books
First, a lesson in punk and metal fandom to help you understand your readers.
At the heart of punk and metal is a core dissatisfaction with whatâ€™s offered by the mainstream:
- These arenâ€™t casual listeners whoâ€™ll enjoy whateverâ€™s on the radio.
- They’re hard-core music lovers who need to listen to something with edge, grit and heart.
- Punk and heavy-metal musicians understand this because theyâ€™re fans first, and they write the songs they want to hear, the songs they need.
So what does punk rock have to do with self-publishing?
A lot more than you might realize.
Readers buy self-published books, because theyâ€™re searching for something they canâ€™t get from the traditional book market.Â For example:
My fans arenâ€™t people who pick up a few bestsellers a yearâ€”they finish a book every day.
Theyâ€™re looking for a specific experience (In my case, a mystery to solve, some hot supernatural dudes, and a happily-ever-after).
And theyâ€™re in constant need of more material to scratch their reading itch at a price they can afford.
Traditional publishers set the stage for your
Why? They might give readers a few stories to love, but when they hike up ebook prices they push the voracious readers into my waiting arms.
Or in other words…
Your book genre/niche is reader crack
Theyâ€™ll never get enough of reading the same type of stories:
- Science fiction
This is true even for non-fiction books
People who love books about self-improvement, entrepreneurship, history, politics, cooking (or anything else) will read every book on the subject they can get their hands on.
(Just ask my husband, who must own every book about steam trains ever written, but still scours online bookshops just to see if they have something different.)
Because of this, the first way to sell more books is to know your genre intimately.Â Be a fan first.
Understand what people get from their reading crackâ€”the elements that are essential to get them to pick up a bookâ€”and then build those elements into self-publishing your work.
2. Figure out how readers find you
Punk musicians donâ€™t bother trying to get their music into traditional record stores or on the chartsâ€”they know they canâ€™t compete with the major labels.
Instead, they figure out where fans are buying and swapping music and merch and made sure they’re there, too.
As a self-publisher, you canâ€™t compete with the big publishersâ€”they own print distribution.
But you can excel in self-publishing, leveraging digital platforms, and building an audience better than many big publishing houses. How?
Figure out how readers shop for digital books so you can get your books in front of them.
- Making sure your book cover is readable in thumbnail format because thatâ€™s how readers see it.
- Understanding the process of searching for a book on Amazon or Apple or other platformsâ€”the different categories and bestseller lists that a reader clicks on, and the search terms they type in.
- How authors in your niche/genre use keywords and tropes and hooks in their book blurbs to blatantly slap a reader around the face with what theyâ€™re getting.
- Which books in the genre your book is most similar toâ€”and try and market it to the same readers.
3. Treat your fans like rock stars to create a loyal following
Fans of punk and metal are some of the most loyal in the world. And we don’t just play a band on repeat all day, we:
- Buy the vinyl, the T-shirt, and the limited-edition art book
- Go to all the shows
- Swap music recommendations with friends
- Follow our favorite bands online and talk to them at shows
As a self-publisher, you have a lot in common with punk-rock musos.
- Thereâ€™s no barrier between you and your readers.
- They can literally leap up on stage to crowd surf with you.
- And they donâ€™t just want the bookâ€”theyâ€™ll wear the T-shirt, sign up to your mailing list, and pay extra for the VIP events
Give your fans opportunities to get more of what they love.Â How?
- Make sure your marketing and promotional efforts make them feel like part of the crew.
- Create an author newsletters or reader group where they can find new books, share their opinions, get cool stuff for free, and feel as though they have a â€˜backstage passâ€™ to your writer life.
Tip: The more you make people feel like part of a cool, exclusive group, the more they want to remain loyal and spread the word.
4. Bring other writers with you to the show
Punk and metal bands work together toward the goal of bringing in more fans.
If a band gets a slot on a bill, they try to get their friendsâ€™ bands on as well. Fans who arenâ€™t musicians support the scene by:
- Selling merch
- Running labels
- Managing bands, and
- writing zines
If one person succeeds, it lifts up everyone
Want to be a savvy self-publishing pro?
- Get together with other authors in your genre.
- Work together on box sets, joint promotions, skill-sharing, and even co-authoring to make sure all your readers can get their hands on exciting new books.
- Build an author crew of writers in your genre.
- Support your writer-network by sharing your releases, building your audiences together, and collaborating on cool projects.
5. Donâ€™t get hung up on being a bestseller
Punk and metal musicians donâ€™t care about external validation, such as chart placements. They know thatâ€™s part of a world thatâ€™s often hostile to their music.
- Focus on their smaller audiences of die-hard fans
- Know itâ€™s better to have a few fans who will follow them to the edges of the earth than hundreds of thousands of people who once liked one of their songs.
You can be a self-publishing success without a massive audience
Think about it like this…
- A traditionally-published book that sells 3,000 copies is probably a failure for a major publishing house.
- A self-published author who sells 3,000 copies, and keeps up to 70% of their royalties, could net $10-20k.
Even my most successful series hasnâ€™t sold in numbers that would interest a publisher. However, that series alone has made me $200,000.
Self-publishing can be a great way to make a living writing, because:
- You’re in control of your own deadlines, designers, content, and editing
- You get to decide where, when and how often to put out content for your niche audience
- It’s easier to grow your fan base, build an email list, and promote future projects
Itâ€™s time to stop wishing for chart-topping success and embrace the joy of having the freedom of doing work you love.
6. Become part of your book genre
Punk and metal are about more than just the music. Theyâ€™re about:
- Ways of looking at the world
- Energy, fashion and art, and
- Finding people who are obsessed with the same things as you
The same is true for your readers
Readers attach themselves to a genre and devour it obsessively. They may not wear T-shirts with their favorite authors on themâ€¦except, actually, they do.
- Fantasy fans attend conventions.
- Thriller fans listen to true crime podcasts.
- Horror fans use book covers as their phone backgrounds.
- Readers seek out their favorite authors and fellow readers online and obsess over the books they love.
By self-publishing your books, you become part of this wonderful culture of reading-obsessed fans:
- Embrace that by becoming an active contributor
- Hang out in reader groups
- Participate in events
- Give fans free phone wallpapers
- Offer signed books and make a print-on-demand merch store
- Promote books you love by your fellow authors
- Organize events and fun surprises for readers
And just be your wonderful self. Being indie is all about participating in your genre and having a close relationship with your fansâ€”itâ€™s what makes self-publishing so much fun.
You can be a self-publishing rock star
When you become a self-published author, you join a thriving, creative, and defiant scene. Weâ€™re all in this together. And weâ€™re all here to share knowledge and resources.
What the establishment sees as a weird little world is actually your biggest strength. Your, creativity, tenacity, rebellious nature, and your ability to speak to your fans. Let’s rock this!
Need help with self-publishing and promoting your book? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Steff Green is the author of over 40 novels and creator of Rage Against the Manuscript. Download her free book: Unleash the Beast: Releasing Your Inner Writing Monster.