Today, I have a special treat for you all! I got the chance to sit down with Rachel Thompson to talk about her digital publishing success – and she has some awesome advice for anyone considering the self-publishing route. Let’s take a look at what she had to say about finding success on with Kindle publishing and personal branding for authors.
Allison: For readers who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about you and your content creation experience, especially with self-publishing.
Rachel: I started out as many of your readers have – a blogger, back in ’08. I still blog regularly, every Monday. As my posts became more popular as did my presence on social media, I pulled together many of my more popular essays, wrote original material never seen before, and published my first book, a collection of primarily humorous essays titled A Walk In The Snark in January 2011 which reached #1 on the Kindle Motherhood list in September 2011. I released my second original collection titled The Mancode: Exposed and that book hit the Amazon Overall Top 100 within one month as well as #1 on several key lists including Parenting and Families, Marriage, and Relationships.
It sounds like self-publishing has been good to you! Why did you initially decide to go the self-publishing route rather than the traditional route?
To be honest, I was so excited about the thought of putting together my own work with the fabulous help of experienced people in the field of publishing: my editor, a formatter, a graphic designer, another writer who’d helped many other writers go this route – it simply felt the right way to go. I encourage anyone who wants to indie publish to find others who know the way – there are tons of great resources out there now.
So, do you think digital publishing works better in some genres than others or is this something all authors should be exploring?
I think it can work for any genre. I’ve worked with a few authors who are hesitant due to the full-color graphics of their material, but in the end, the work looks amazing. The medium works better than print in most cases from what I’ve seen. I certainly can’t speak for everyone. It’s taken awhile to bring graphic novels to eBook format but many people are thrilled by it.
A lot of authors are intimidated by the digital self-publishing process. What advice can you give for those not technologically savvy?
To me, formatting an eBook is like math. And ‘Hello, writer here!’ So I hire someone amazing to format my books for me. It’s not that expensive and it’s always done correctly. Other authors I know are deeply involved in the formatting of their books and know every symbol and code (again, math). If it’s worth learning to you, learn it. If it’s not, pay someone. Bottom line: make sure your product looks the best it possibly can or you will hear about it.
You have a very strong personal brand. Can you talk a little bit about how that developed and why having such a definitive identity online is important for authors?
Yes, the Queen of Snark, BadRedhead, et al. Branding is key for any author. When I first started writing my Mancode pieces, there seemed to be, oh I don’t know, a somewhat snarky tone to them? People really responded to that and someone (I honestly don’t remember who) nicknamed me the Queen of Snark and it stuck. As anyone in social media or personal branding will tell you, if it ain’t broke…yea, that.
How has social media and blogging played a role in your success on Amazon?
I initially used Facebook like many do, to connect with family and friends. It was in 2010 that I discovered Twitter and learned the ins and outs and how it can be used to promote your brand effectively that I realized the impact it could have on my author platform. I really got into learning Twitter – all the different applications, analytics, ratios – and became the Collective’s resident expert, teaching free webinars monthly and helping thousands of tweeps online every month. Tip: remember content (no links). Twitter is social, social media is social. Link after link? #notsocial
The connection of Twitter to your blog is critical. Always have your Twitter button prominently displayed. People read left to right, top to bottom, so make it visible! Top right placement is best. If we have to search, we won’t find it, give up and you’ve just lost us as a follower. If we can’t RT (retweet) your posts, we become frustrated. You’ve written great content and now we can’t share it? Ack. And join Triberr! It’s the ultimate connection between Twitter and blogging. Your reach will increase dramatically.
As for my personal success, I participating in numerous blog tours, promotions, and did multiple guest posts connected to my blog and others where the sell links always lead back to Amazon. I’ve also been an early adapter of the Amazon KDP Select program. Absolutely, for me, the best move I’ve ever made, career-wise.
Your books have ranked #1 on Amazon in multiple categories. What’s your top tip for an author who wants to replicate that success but are brand new to digital publishing?
Realize your first book isn’t going to be your moneymaker. It’s your name maker. Pricing it above $2.99 will only upset readers and it won’t sell. If you’re in this to make money, think again. If you want to put out a quality product, make your name, and hopefully have people read your story, great. Pay for ads, pulse price at 99cents, do blog tours, work your social media constantly, be nice to people, give away without expectation to receive, and if you don’t know how to do something, hire someone who does.
All while writing your next book.
You are your own boss in digital publishing. Work hard, work smart. It won’t happen quickly (it took me nine months to hit #1 with my first book remember) but only a month with my second. My favorite quote is from my quietly brilliant genius writer friend who came up with the title A Walk In the Snark:
What is the best way to promote your book? Write another.
~ Ryne Douglas Pearson, screenwriter of KNOWING
If you could do it again – go back in time and self-publish your first book again – what would you do differently?
Well, the dreaded deadlines of course. Yea, yea, I know. (Hey, you asked.)
Many people think that just because you’re self-publishing you don’t have deadlines to meet but that’s completely untrue. I had a high-exposure blog tour to enter, my editor had another project to finish, and my formatter was about to throw my job out the window. So if I could have taken another month to add or remove an essay, would I? Perhaps. I did take greater care with the second book, removing those time constraints, other people’s desires and pressures to “get the book done already!” and it was a much more pleasant process.
I’m working on my next book in a similar manner – I don’t believe I need to publish a book every month or so which seems to be popular among many indie writers. I’m not criticizing in any way – it’s important to build up their backlist, absolutely. I’m simply not that prolific!
My next book will be out before summer and I’m quite comfortable with that schedule. I still have a social media consulting business to run, and I’m a wife and mom. My brain is always on, but at some point, even the redhead needs to rest!
I’ve been writing since age ten, and blogging helped me find my way back to my calling. I don’t think I ever could have dreamed people would be reading my books or interviews. I’m grateful for the help people have given me and inspired every day by ideas and words I can’t wait to write.
As long as I have coffee. And Nutella is nice, too.
Thanks for such great advice and information about self-publishing, Rachel! Readers, in addition to checking out her blog and the books listed above, you can also check out Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide To Self-Publishing Success, which Rachel cowrote with Carolyn McCray and Amber Scott.