So, for those of you who do not know me, my name is Theophilus Monroe.
I write speculative fiction, mostly urban fantasy and some epic fantasy.
I went from 1-2 sales/month to full-time author in less than six months.
I can't explain everything I did to make that possible (writing more books and learning how to do so faster and better was also key).
Still, I did it with very little social media engagement.
You do not have to spend hours and hours on social media to become a full-time author.
I did it with hardly any social media presence at all.
This was by design.
I decided to spend the hours I used to spend monitoring my social media accounts to write more words per day.
I also decided to focus my marketing on newsletter growth—what most six-figure authors will tell you is still the #1 most effective way to sell books.
That allows me to be more disciplined with my time. I have an hour scheduled each week when I prepare my newsletter. The rest of the time is spent writing more books!
StoryOrigin has been one of the most important tools in my toolbox to build a full-time author career (almost) entirely through email marketing/newsletter growth.
While I use a variety of tools to acquire new readers/subscribers and promote my books here are the stats I can attribute to StoryOrigin alone:
(New Feature: I only have one book in beta so far, but it's already proving to be a valuable tool!)
Here are a few tips I've picked up that help me make the most of the several tools that StoryOrigin offers.
If you have a small newsletter (less than 1000 subscribers), your primary focus should be on list growth over sales.
Even after that, a new subscriber is ultimately worth more in terms of your long-term success as an author than a sale.
First, create a polished reader magnet.
Preferably something exclusive to your subscribers that they can't get anywhere else.
A novella or full-length novel works best.
When requesting swaps with other authors, focus on reader-magnet swaps.
Remember, once someone is on your list and you do the work to turn them into loyal subscribers, they'll likely buy anything you wrote in the past and anything else you write in the future.
If you have a small list, but I see you're trying to grow your list with a reader magnet, I'm more likely to accept your swap request.
I like to help authors who are building their lists the right way.
However, suppose you have only 50 subscribers, and you want to apply to my list with a Universal Book Link.
In that case, I'll probably decline the invitation.
When you have a larger list and you're really working to grow your audience, I'll definitely accept your invitation provided your book fits my genre and has a professional cover.
What do you do once someone has grabbed your reader magnet?
A certain percentage of them will take your free book and unsubscribe.
That doesn't mean that they won't become fans.
They have your book.
If they read it, they may become fans even if they aren't on your list.
Do not fear unsubscribes.
There are many reasons why people might unsubscribe from an author's email list, and obsessing over why someone unsubscribed is usually a waste of your mental resources.
Still, that doesn't mean there aren't things you can do once someone has subscribed to keep your readers satisfied.
Make your emails interesting.
Allow your personality to show through.
Give people a sense that they are in your “inner circle,” members of an exclusive club. Don't make every email a sales pitch.
Focus on reader engagement. This is not necessarily the same thing as reader sales.
You can create polls for free (I use strawpoll.com) and ask all kinds of questions that get readers involved. For example, you can offer giveaways and contests.
Pull back the curtain a little and involve readers in your process.
I have two series in the works now that I wouldn't have written if I hadn't polled my readers.
I sent out a poll a while back that asked, “Which of these secondary characters would you like to see starring in their own adventure?”
I learned quickly which of my characters were among my readers' favorites.
The results were surprising!
I didn't realize, in fact, that one of my tangential characters was one of my readers' absolute favorites!
His new series is now in the works.
There are a thousand ways to engage your readers, but the more “connected” they feel to your newsletter, the more likely it is that they'll stay subscribed, read your emails, and click your sales/links!
Think of these swaps as gifts, or offerings, that you can bring to your readers.
We don't have to be jealous authors.
Instead, we should expect that our readers will read other authors.
In fact, we should hope that they do!
Remember, when your readers are reading other authors, it also helps you get into that author's “also bought” and “also read” lists on Amazon.
If a lot of readers are reading you and another author, Amazon (Since I'm in KU, I can't speak to other retailers) will be more likely to recommend your books to that author's readers.
There are several reasons why most authors should email their readers more than they do.
Many authors are afraid of “annoying” their readers.
Remember, you're looking for fans of your work!
If you're a fan of someone, do you find it annoying when they send you emails?
Real fans are eager for the next tidbit from their favorite authors. This all relates to the last section above.
Your goal with your letter is to first get more subscribers and, second, turn subscribers into fans.
Also, the data is clear in the domain of email marketing.
Those who email frequently are far and away more successful than those who occasionally email their lists.
There are many reasons for this, and you can look up the research on the topic yourself.
But in terms of leveraging StoryOrigin's powerful tools to grow your audience, this is key!
First, you'll want to focus on how and when other authors are sharing your work.
Do you have a launch or promotion coming up?
You want to get as many authors out there mentioning your book/sale as possible!
But how can you do that if you only send out one newsletter a month and you only accept 2-3 swaps or feature 2-3 promos in each one?
More frequent emailing to your list is key!
If you're emailing weekly (I email my list once a week and 2-3x during a launch), you can include 2-3 swaps from other authors over several weeks, then coordinate their mentions of your book during your sales period.
So, when I'm doing a launch, I generally run my books on a promotional sale for 4-5 days the week after release. Each of those days, I'll have 8-10 other authors mentioning my books!
How is this possible?
Because over the weeks/months before the launch, I've been featuring other authors' books.
They are sharing mine when I need it the most.
I'm only mentioning 2-3 books in each email I send out.
When I need my swaps to boost a sale/launch, though, they're all going out around the same time.
When you set up and plan your campaigns, all you need to do is to add a note in the “Description (Visible to Applicants)” section mentioning when you are hoping to have mentions/swaps and if your book will be on sale.
In addition, you can be proactive by initiating swap requests for the dates you need.
Search for swaps in the range you're looking for and send out requests.
You can even add “FREE” or “LAUNCH SALE!” stickers to your book covers during the sale period.
Just make sure to change the cover back again after the sale is over and the book is back at full price.
Suppose you are focusing on launching a new book or your sale promotion over a period of a few days.
In that case, you can stack all these swaps with paid book promotions and ads to really boost your sales and, if you are consistent and (ideally) over your span of 4-5 days see a gradual increase in sales each day, there's also a good chance Amazon will notice and start recommending your books to other readers.
One of the most powerful features on StoryOrigin is the ability to run ARCS (Advance Reader Copies).
I do this with all of my e-books. I'll discuss audiobooks below.
If you don't have a large ARC/Street Team already, you can do swaps for reviewers with other authors.
Look up group promos for reviews. However, you can use your reader magnet, also, to gain subscribers, and then turn some of those subscribers into reviewers.
This is done largely through an introductory sequence (a series of emails sent out automatically) to anyone who joins your list.
Currently, I have a series of about five emails that go out to anyone who grabs my reader magnet.
The first, of course, is to simply welcome the readers and offer them their free book.
A few days later, my sequence follows up with an email to confirm they received it, etc.
One of the earlier emails will invite the subscribers to follow me on other platforms—I focus on Amazon and Bookbub since their emails about my new releases are free and tend to lead to a lot of sales.
But I also send invites to follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, etc.
I'll send an email with a book recommendation in my catalog that is the natural “next read” after my magnet (I also have a link at the end of my magnet to a sales page for the next book).
And, eventually, a month or so after someone subscribes, I send an email letting my subscribers that I have a few openings on my ARC/street team and am looking for readers who like to read books for free before they are published!
I explain the process—keep in mind the Amazon ToS for review solicitation---and offer an easy sign-up to my ARC team (another list on my email service provider).
Then, the next time I have a new ARC ready, I can load it up to StoryOrigin and email my curated ARC team with the link!
I've built a list of about 200 ARC readers EXCLUSIVELY through this strategy with my email sequence.
And, by the way, most of the ARC readers are so grateful for all the free books that when you put it on sale, if you let them know, they'll gladly pick up the book for $0.99 so that their review gets “verified reviewer” status on Amazon.
But don't be afraid to ask!
ARC readers can also be converted into BETA readers.
The new BETA reader feature on StoryOrigin is incredibly powerful! It also saves me a lot of money on my edits.
When I have BETA going, my readers can read my books almost like they would serial fiction.
I upload 5-10 chapters at a time using the “BULK UPLOAD” feature.
When I upload a BETA copy, I usually run it through ProWritingAid (you can also use AutoCrit or Grammarly) first just to clean it up.
The readers will often pick up on other errors I missed.
Still, it's best to give them a relatively clean copy.
You don't want to annoy your BETA readers with obsessive typos/mistakes.
If your errors are minimal, BETA readers are usually glad to help.
Make sure to tell your readers to “highlight” the errors and use the comment bubble to put errors/corrections in the margins (otherwise, a lot of them will put the mistakes they find in the chapter review section, which makes it more difficult for you to locate the error in your manuscript).
When it's out of BETA, I usually have a clean copy to send to my editor.
The cleaner your manuscript is when you give it to your editor, provided you have a good editor, the more time your editor will have to really take your prose and dialogue to the next level.
Some authors out there don't use swaps/promotions because they do not want to acquire freebie/deal seekers.
Here are a few tips/thoughts on how to address that issue while maximizing the functionality that StoryOrigin offers.
First, giving your free book to a freebie seeker isn't necessarily a loss to you.
A lot of freebie seekers will still purchase books from authors they love.
Those freebie seekers are like “trial readers.” If you win them over with your trial offer (reader magnet), they'll likely become fans! So, don't disparage those freebie seekers.
Some of them might become your most loyal readers over time.
Second, if someone is truly a “freebie seeker” who will never buy another one of your books, chances are they'll unsubscribe.
If you're following my advice above and emailing frequently, you'll convince them to bail sooner rather than later.
You actually want disengaged subscribers to unsubscribe.
Third, you can use the functions of your email service provider to “filter” your more engaged readers into a more exclusive list.
Usually, when you create your automation sequence that subscribers receive after they sign up, you can create “triggers” that will take those who open certain emails or click on your links and put them in a different list.
By doing this, you can create a more engaged and smaller list of those who are more likely to buy your books and engage your email content.
It will also lead to higher open and click-thru rates.
You may want to email the more exclusive list more often.
Then, I wouldn't ignore the original “larger” list completely.
I'll still email them occasionally.
I'll go “fishing” into my larger subscriber pool from time to time to see if I can re-engage some subscribers who, for whatever reason, didn't engage in the past.
I'll also email the larger list during a launch or major sale.
If someone ever applies to my newsletter, I'll check their past performance.
I also check the past performance of other authors before I apply to their newsletters.
If I see a list of “0s” next to their shares on previous campaigns, I won't accept their swap.
This is just common courtesy: if you're going to accept or request swaps with other authors, make sure to live up to your end of the bargain.
It's poor form, especially if the other author shares your book first, to neglect to share their book when scheduled.
Try to stick to the dates of your campaigns.
If something comes up and your newsletter won't go out when it's scheduled, be sure to either (1) email the other authors you're swapping with or (2) add a note to your campaign indicating the new date you will send it.
The surest way to spoil your reputation with other authors, though, is to forget to send their swap on your letter and fail to communicate if there was an extenuating circumstance that forced you to postpone the date.
If your newsletter does not go out on the exact date in your campaign planner, make a note of that also in the “Notes for sender” section, which can be found on the “Confirmed Newsletter Swaps” page under the “Upcoming” tab.
There aren't a lot of great options out there for marketing audiobooks.
However, on StoryOrigin, you can join/create group promos for audiobooks.
You can also do audiobook “swaps” with other authors.
One of the most time-saving features, however, that StoryOrigin offers is a system for distributing your promotional codes from Audible or Findaway Voices.
When you publish an audiobook through ACX or Findaway, they will give you promotional codes that you can distribute to your listeners in hopes of securing reviews.
The problem is that the systems by ACX and Findaway don't make it easy.
However, with StoryOrigin, you can set up your audiobook under “Audio Review Codes” and send the StoryOrigin link to your listeners.
They will request a code directly through StoryOrigin and you can easily distribute your codes when requests come through.
This is a lot simpler and less time-consuming than emailing everyone who wants a code.
Give it a shot.
It works great!
About the author: Theophilus Monroe speculative fiction and fantasy writer