O is for Observe (Other Writers)

Hello, and welcome to the April A-Z Blogging Challenge! Over the first 26 days of April, we will explore aspects of writing and marketing books – authors, feel free to weigh in, and readers, feel free to observe and ask questions!



I have to let you know up front that this one is going to be tricky. Observing other writers gives you a very handy yardstick against which to evaluate your success, and that road leads to tears. However, that said, much like reading bad reviews, observing other writers can clue you in to some tricks for success. For instance, when I was just starting out I read a blog post from Joseph Lallo, author of The Book of Deacon – one of the first self-published books to get really popular. Lallo opined that by setting his first book free, he had gained many more readers. I did the same, and sales of The Light & Shadow Trilogy went through the roof.

(Likewise, if you’re starting out, you might observe authors (including me) recommending that you write an entire series and either release it all at once, or at 1-2 month intervals. I genuinely believe that this was a big component of my success with the aforementioned trilogy, and hope you can make that strategy work for you as well!)

Below are a few ways that you can observe other authors. Before you start, please write down something like the following and tape it to the top of your computer screen:

Every author’s path to success is different. For each author who struck it big on their first book, there area dozen who spent years writing before they found commercial success.

(And you know what? You might want to hope you strike it big after 5-10 books – because then you have a backlist that will get you lots of traction!)

  1. Blogs: many authors are very open about the things they feel they did right. It’s worth giving a glance around to see how your favorite (or most admired) authors advise running your career. Blogs may also provide a reference point in how to interact with readers.
  2. Facebook pages and groups: due to some recent Facebook changes, many authors are moving away from pages to groups. Either way, they all run things a little differently. Some use Facebook as their blog and write long, rambling posts; others use short, snappy text and images.
  3. Book descriptions: how do your favorite authors structure their book blurbs? For instance, while many authors and marketers hold that your book blurb is for advertising more than for a story summary, Jen Foehner Wells (author of the hugely popular Fluency) wrote a simple narrative teaser without bold, italics, or reference to awards. Simple doesn’t mean bad – it was a great teaser, and it worked gangbusters for her!
  4. Backlists: go check out self-published authors’ pages on Amazon or other sites, and you might see that they have not only each book they’ve written, but packages of whole trilogies, short story anthologies, and other combo reads. These can work wonders by giving the readers savings, and also avoiding any drop off that might come from, “that was great, but I’ll get the next one when I get home and have wifi” (which often, despite wonderful intent and sincere enjoyment, turns into, “oh, whoops, I just never bought that book. I’ve been there, dear readers).
  5. Advertising: there are blog posts about this, too, but it’s always worth observing how authors advertise. You may even see their ads on your facebook feed! Do they do giveaways? Ads for their latest book? Example: while Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games fame could certainly get away with marketing Mockingjay and Catching Fire on their own, for many authors it may make more sense just to advertise Book 1. People who don’t know who you are (at the start, that’s everyone) won’t care at all that that your Book 2 is out. You want to sell them on Book 1.
  6. Keep observing: okay, this isn’t a thing to watch so much as a reminder. Maybe all of a sudden your sales dropped off sharply and you’re not sure why – it could be anything from a cultural shift to an Amazon algorithm change. The collective group of authors is on top of that, suggesting new keywords and strategies. And after all, one of the great wonders of this business is that you can change things up when they don’t work. Keep observing, and make changes as necessary.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Comment below!

4 thoughts on “O is for Observe (Other Writers)

  1. This is my first visit to your blog and I have marked it as a favorite- today’s post is full of practical and valuable commentary/advice. I look forward to reading more of your writing- thank you for taking the time to blog for us!

  2. I know about the setting the first book free. Write an entire series and release all at once…I’m taking note of that.

    • Faleye,
      It was the first way I did things, and then I moved to releasing the books in order. To be honest with you, I wish I’d stuck to the all-at-once! It was much lower-stress, and gave me the chance to make sure all the plot points lined up :)

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