Being a new indie author is like being lost in an open ocean. You have no idea where you are going and all the indie “professionals” are telling you to row until you can’t row anymore. Everyday, thousands more show up in the ocean around you. They all have the same goal: try to find a way to the shore. That’s where the readers are, on the beach, sitting back in their cabana chairs with their fully-charged Kindles, enjoying top-ranked Amazon books.
But how do I reach those readers? Where do they live? How do I connect with them when I’m only one of tens of thousands of authors franticly rowing in circles?
We’ve all read the blog articles and listened to the interviews from the big name indie authors. We hear the same advice:
Build your mailing list
Write the next book
Do perma-free books with email opt-ins
Write a series
Write the next book
Give away books through promotion sites or KDP Select free promotions
Did I mention, Write the next book?
To a new writer still green behind the ears it can be extremely intimidating trying to build up the infrastructure to create the proper marketing funnels to build your author brand. Hell, most new authors don’t even know what a “marketing funnel” looks like in an indie author business. It is hard enough writing your book, finding the right cover, and publishing on the various platforms. In the end, your digital presence resembles a rural country road with no traffic.
I spent eighteen months trying to find readers by tracking down forums, joining marketing groups, listening to every indie podcast, buying space on large mailing lists to give my books away, and doing review-for-review swaps with authors, resulting in little or no traction. Sales were non-existent, and my mailing list was half-filled with people I see everyday at work (and the rest various email accounts I used to test my opt-in forms).
I was still pulling my hair trying to figure out where “readers” were and how I could get my books in front of them.
In late 2016 I was on the subreddit, /r/selfpublish, and saw a post from an author talking about the wonders of Instafreebie and the success he was having growing his mailing list. I was deep in edit mode on my latest book, but I knew Instafreebie was something I would have to try in the spring. A couple months later I posted my new book and ran into another author also singing the praises of Instafreebie. I picked her brain on her strategy. She told me the key to success was to find the numerous Instafreebie Facebook groups and join the author bundles and promotions.
Was this the way to find those readers? Was Instafreebie coupled with the author communities on Facebook my chance? I had nearly given up and considered going the traditional publishing route. But now I had a break. I ran home to build my autoresponders in MailChimp and enroll my books in Instafreebie.
Within a month, I had tied my little boat to other author boats and we started rowing as a team toward the shore. My embarrassing 10-person email list had crossed a thousand subscribers. More importantly, thanks to the new subscribers and my email autoresponders I was able to make sales. Enough to pay for my email list manager and Instafreebie’s services, as well as the costs of writing that next book.
I’m only 90 days into this Instafreebie experiment, but I’m nearing 4,000 subscribers. Everyday I’m networking with authors to get my books in front of more readers. I still remember that first day I put my thriller into a bundled giveaway. Every time I swiped on the Mailchimp app I saw a new subscriber appear. It was magic, or a miracle, or both. All I wanted to do was fire up my word processor and start the next book.
Now I’m hustling more than ever. I can’t stop. I see progress after two disappointing years of empty marketing. I focus on the daily grind to get my words in, then jump into new promotions and nurse that growing mailing list. Instafreebie is a game changer. It’s showing me that this hobby could maybe be a career. It’s giving me that one crucial thing that I was looking for, exposure to readers.