Monday, April 13, 2015

How to Be an Insanely Great Indie Author: Randy Ingermanson, Recap by Candee Fick

Just Waiting To Be Discovered--A Mind Exploding Experience 

How did you find the last book you read? Through a friend’s recommendation? A best-sellers list? A sale promotion? On social media or an author’s newsletter? Or while browsing at the library or a bookstore? Somewhere and somehow, you discovered the book you never would have read or even known existed. Therefore, for both avid readers and authors, discoverability is the key. After all, one can’t read (or buy) a book they don’t know about.

Last September, I was in St. Louis for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference and had the mind-exploding experience of attending the “How to Be an Insanely Great Indie Author” workshop led by Randy Ingermanson (a physicist, creator of “The Snowflake Method” of brainstorming novels, and the author of Writing Fiction For Dummies and many self-proclaimed “geeky suspense” novels).

In the workshop, Randy defined insanely great as having a period of exponential growth in revenue and unit movement that eventually plateaus at a higher level than before. Being a scientist, he arrived with all sorts of graphs, statistical analysis, and even an equation:

Success = Size of Target Audience x Quality x Production x Discoverability

In essence, an author’s rank and success improves with small changes that add up. Write for a larger target audience. Increase the quality of each book in the eyes of that target audience. Increase production so the author has more books published. And increase discoverability by coming up with a strategy to attract, engage, and convert readers.

Randy’s Radical Discoverability Keys and Tactics:

  •         Attract -Readers know that the author exists on the planet. Nothing attracts like a free book, so consider KDP Select or Perma-free options.
  •         Engage – Readers become aware this author writes what they like. Nothing engages quite like a novel, which is why series do so well and production is so important. Write what would engage or delight members of the target audience.      
  •        Convert – Readers buy another book. Nothing converts like email (except a blurb and link at the back of the book they just read!) Announce to email subscribers that the next book is available and include a link to buy it. Then, at the end of the book include a teaser for the next book (or even the first chapter) along with a link to purchase. 

More Discoverability Tactics Randy Uses:

  •     Front matterReaders want to get into the story faster, but this is a good place for an “Author’s Note” to quickly remind readers what the story is about (because they might be opening it awhile after buying and forgot). Randy then offers a free gift for readers with a link to his website and a chance to sign up for his email list. Why? Browsers may scan the book and not buy this one … but still might go signup anyway and that email could get him a sale later.
  •      Back matter – “Dear Reader” letter with 3 specific calls to action. A “what to read next” teaser with a sample chapter and link to purchase. A request for a review with a link to the retailer or Goodreads page and simply ask readers to share how the book made them feel. An invitation to sign up for the email newsletter to get notice of the next book as well as a reminder about the free gift or incentive being offered. Why? Get immediate sales from readers who already love the author’s book, get an email address to notify happy readers about future books, and get reviews to sway potential readers and increase sales ranking so book is more visible on search results, genre lists, or “also bought” recommendations.
  •      Build an Email listUse an incentive of something free that would interest the target audience (like a free novella, list of romantic but cheap date ideas, drawing for a gift card, etc.) to collect a list of readers who already liked the books and want to be notified of the next release. Why? When a new book releases, email subscribers get a personal invitation and link to buy. The resulting quick jump in sales can catapult a title to the hot new releases or category top sellers lists where more future readers can discover the book and the cycle repeats.

What about social media and platform building? Randy actually asked workshop attendees to list which social media tools they would stop using. As he said, “If you hate it and it’s not working, then quit.” I understand his point. While many argue that social media is about building relationships with potential readers, it takes time away from producing more of the books necessary for that success equation. As a scientist, Randy is adamant about return on investment and being able to measure results. Example: The number of Twitter followers does not directly relate to book sales, but one can use Google Analytics to measure the desired result (email sign-ups, clicks to order, etc.) based on a specific tweeted link.

But what does all this look like for an ordinary author like me? I have four indie-published devotionals (in two series: Pigskin Parables exploring faith topics through football and Creation Declares gleaning life lessons from nature), an indie-published book about special needs parenting, and my debut inspirational romance novel will be releasing from a small press later this year. My challenges include stagnant sales on my non-fiction titles and the need to attract the attention of a different (but larger) target audience for my novel.

There are thousands of books just waiting to be discovered, but here’s what I’m doing (or will do) to attract readers to mine:
  •     Social media updates – a few minutes every day to build relationships and occasionally point toward my email list or a book on sale.
  •     Schedule guest blogs (like this one) for exposure to new readers with links to my website and books, especially around the new book’s release.
  •     Maintain my website/blog with fresh content. Update the banner image.
  •     Update the covers as well and front and back matter on all existing books.
  •     Update the keywords for all existing books to increase relevance ratings in searches.
  •     Set my two shortest devotionals as permanently free.
  •     Write newsletters to email subscribers – what’s on sale, cover reveals, exclusive contests or giveaways, and more to keep my readers engaged.
  •     Collect lists of key quotes from each book – perfect for interest hooking tweets or memes on social media with the title displayed and links to buy.
  •     Recruit a launch team to help write reviews and spread the word once my novel is released.
  •     Giveaways and contests – on guest blogs and Goodreads. Possibly using Rafflecopter to attract more email subscribers.
  •     Organize a virtual launch party closer to the novel release date, then spread the word.
  •     Consider buying a promotion with BookBub for my special needs parenting book to glean more reviews and visibility for that small niche audience.
  •     Possibly troll reviewers on competitors’ books to find someone willing to review my book in exchange for a free copy.
  •     Write more novels with a series (or two) in mind.

Let’s talk. Readers, how do you find out about new books? Do you subscribe to author newsletters and book deal email lists or rely on word of mouth from friends? 

Authors, what do you think about Randy’s tactics? Is what you are doing currently working? What has worked the best for you and your target audience? What are you going to try next?

Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Browse her current books at

TEASER:  Catch of a Lifetime, coming late 2015 from Bling! Romance

He breathes football.

She shudders at the very mention of the sport.

But when a mix-up in financial aid lands her in the middle of her worst nightmare and his star receiver teeters on the brink of ineligibility, the rookie college coach and the bitter tutor must overcome stereotypes and work together to salvage the season. Romance develops, but their growing relationship must remain hidden behind a wall of professionalism. When a scandal erupts, the aftermath could destroy both of their careers.

Can they find a way to capture their dreams and each other’s hearts?


  1. Candee,
    This is great information. Your recap was wonderful, thank you.

    How do I find books? Friends mostly.

    I tweet several times a day about my books, but also retweet or find things that interest me. It is social media, and only tweeting BUY, BUY, BUY is destructive, and will not build my audience.


  2. I love mysteries, especially ones that take place in England, Ireland, Scotland, you get the picture. Which is, by the way, how I was attracted to the last mystery I bought, Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connally. Loved the cover, it said "Ireland". I'm now on the third book in her Irish series.

  3. I once sat behind a family during a show at an amusement park where the youngest child ranted the entire time. "Buy me something. Why won't you buy me something? I want you to buy me something!" So completely irritating to everyone within earshot.

    I agree that social media can turn into an equally annoying "Buy this and Buy it now!" if we're not committed to offering our followers something of value MORE than advertisements.

    I find books by following a few of my favorite authors and then the recommendations of friends.

  4. Norma, thanks for stopping by!

    Marilyn, I agree that an attractive book cover is another key. Can't wait to see my cover design that's in the works.

  5. Thank you for the information. I'm trying to learn as much as possible.

    Friends' advice, covers, blurbs, and recommendations from my book club and Sunday School class are my sources for books to read. Favorite authors are sources as well.

  6. Thanks for stopping by Lois Ann! We're all still learning, especially since this industry keeps changing.