It's Feb. 13 now - 3:10 PM. I actually had an entry all written out since last night but I decided to start from scratch. You see, I just found out that one of my solo bundles - Eternally Seduced - made it to Top 100 on Amazon and both bundles - Eternally Seduced & To Love a Shifter - made it to Top 100 on Amazon UK.
So yeah I'm doing the happy dance right now. Kinda feel like crying, too, but since I'm typing this in the common room of our home, no, thanks. I'd like to keep my tough persona together.
But anyway, I wanted to rewrite everything because I want to start this on a really HAPPY AND EXCITING note.
Listen to me very closely. I want to tell you something that your parents, your teachers, your friends, your colleagues - all your naysayers may find incredulous because they're not a writer like you. Are you ready?
But then came self-publishing online. And the gates to publishing were forever demolished. Now, anyone can self-publish and have the CHANCE to get other people to read your book. More importantly, you can be writing and self-publishing straight from your home - you don't need to rub elbows with high execs in publishing just to get a foot in the door.
Now, before I proceed with the rest of my post, I want you to understand what THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT.
- This post will NOT teach you how to write a good book.
- This post will NOT help you craft a perfect query letter, sample pages, and everything else you need to hook an agent or an editor.
- This post will NOT teach you about the technical aspects of self-publishing. For that, you might want to check Mina Esguerra's Bronze Age Inc instead.
- This post will NOT teach you about offline marketing - book signings and stuff are not my specialty because obviously I can't do that for the main bulk of my readers as they don't live in PH.
- This post is NOT meant to CONVINCE you to do it MY way. I just want you to know what worked for me and take what you will to make your writing journey as easy and successful as possible.
- Making your book NON-FILIPINO readers could relate to.
- Making your book DISCOVERABLE on Amazon.
- Establishing your PLATFORM as an author.
- Making your writing your full-time source of income.
Picture this - Maria Luzviminda Kalupit-Lupitan has written a book in Taglish and set in Philippines. She's asked me to help her publish her book on Amazon. What do I tell her?
1. We change her name.
- I used to wonder if my author name Marian Tee puts some readers off because my surname is Chinese and they then think they wouldn't be able to connect with my books. One author friend told me that the average person outside Asia is unlikely to realize that Tee is a Chinese surname. So I was lucky. But what if my last name happened to be Chua or Gosiengfiao? I want Maria's life to be simple and her career to progress as quickly as possible so I'm going to advise her to dump hard-to-spell surnames or names and stick with something easy. Like Maria Kale. I mean, really, whatever works. Just don't make it so hard for them to spell your name that if they search for your name on Google, they won't be able to find you.
- Maria needs to rewrite her book in English. If she can't do this on her own then she needs to hire an editor to do it for her or a ghostwriter. Or maybe she can do something for another author in exchange of the other person translating her book. It has to be translated. Because if you don't translate it then you're just needlessly alienating about 90% of your potential market and WHY would you do that?
- Characters must have Western-sounding names
- Characters must live in the US, UK but really most Western countries would do.
Well, that book was a total flop. It never made it to Top 5k as far as I can remember (or even Top 10k on Amazon). I’m sure there are a lot of factors why it’s so but based on the feedback from a number of reviewers, they just couldn’t get into the whole Japanese thing.
And yes, that book has its share of glowing reviews, but guess what? Most of it came from Western readers who were manga / anime otaku themselves.
Well, after that I learned my lesson – I’ll still write about Asian heroes / heroines from time to time but I won’t expect it to be a quick sale. Of course your experience could be different. So don’t let me stop you from trying!
Also, keep in mind that my characters may not be Asian these days but it doesn’t mean they don’t have Asian or even Filipino attributes, and that brings us to our next question ---
Maria asks: Can I write about Filipino characters or should I switch off my being “Pinoy” when writing for international readers?
NO. All my characters are based on different facets of my personality or the person I am, which is basically a Filipino-Chinese raised by a middle-class family and who’s lived all her life in the Philippines.
So you can say that my characters are still Filipino in every way. In fact, all my heroines are virgins (oh yeah, I said the V-word. Virgin, virgin, virgin. :P) because that’s what I’m comfortable with. All my heroines believe in true love and are pretty old-fashioned one way or another. The only difference is that I also give them certain Western characteristics (and names!) to make it easier for international readers to relate to them.
Consider InChick – a story which I shared on Girltalk and about a Filipino-Chinese girl in her mid-twenties named Yanna Jao.
I retitled the story How Not to be Seduced by Billionaires and renamed the character as Yanna Everleigh.
This is going to be a very lengthy example, but I want you guys to see how I’ve tweaked my stories to make it more suitable for Western readers (also: please keep in mind that I write steamy stuff now. In the past, I’d have died of embarrassment just for typing BREAST in public. :D)
InChick sample (unedited) ---
When I opened the door, I saw that there were three tables in the room. All were occupied by busy employees. Near to the door were two rows of seats, with each having five interlinked chairs. They looked like the seats you'd see in airports.
The left row had only one available chair. In the other row, a guy was sitting alone. I decided to sit there because I wanted to place my bag next to me. Smiling at everyone in general, I took the third seat in the right row then placed my bag on the seat between me and the guy.
Three girls and one guy were at the opposite row. They were looking at me oddly.
I looked at the guy at my side.
It was then I realized he was absolutely gorgeous.
He was tall and had black wavy hair. He was wearing a dark blue blazer and trousers, with a white striped shirt underneath. He smiled at me. I smiled back. Finally, a friendly place! "You're applying, too?" I don't warm up to people easily, but it was better to chat with people than drive myself crazy with worry about my first ever job interview.
He raised a brow, making me wonder what I said wrong, then with a little sexy smile, he said, "No."
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"QC," I replied. See, that's the trick about making your place sound better than it is. In Manila, there were very distinguished ways to categorize people according to their residence. For Filipinos, you either lived in Forbes Park or didn't. But it was different for Filipino-Chinese like me. It was how you say it that separated the rich from the not-so-rich. Now, places like Makati, Greenhills, and New Manila spoke for itself. Even though New Manila was part of QC, you have to specify your area because New Manila was a class of its own. If you lived in other but still tolerable areas of QC, you have to use the acronym and say it like it's the OC instead of spelling out the words Quezon City.
He nodded. "Ah."
He wasn't Filipino-Chinese. If his mestizo looks didn't make that obvious enough, his unremarkable "ah" clinched it.
Then he turned to the four people next to us and smiled. "Now that we're all complete, we can start the interview."
He turned to me. "You're Yanna Jao, right?" He offered his hand. "I'm Sean Sinclair and I'll be interviewing you today."
Omg. I had just spoken with the guy who could be my future boss. And I just took the seat next to him like I was going to interview the others as well! No wonder they were all looking at me oddly!
I took his hand weakly.
This is so not a good start of my job-finding quest.
“Sorry, sorry,” I mumbled red-faced as I force-squeezed my way behind the row of seats on the left side of the table. It was the only way to get to the other side of the room. The entire left row of seats was fully occupied, and their wheels squeaked as the other applicants pushed their chairs further in so I could pass.
“Ditz,” the bottle blonde in a severe black suit not-so-softly sneered as I walked past her. Since I was wearing my favorite pink suit and everyone here seemed dress for mourning (why did I not get the memo that black was back as the new black?), I told myself I’d let just that one go.
Only one chair from the opposite row of tables was taken, occupied by a man wearing a pinstriped suit and studying a sheaf of papers he held in one hand. Even seated as he was, he exuded an authoritative aura that made me gulp. If this man was going after the same job I was applying for, I might as well give up now.
Taking the seat next to him, I quickly sat my bag on the chair on my other side as I hurriedly hand-combed my shoulder-length brown hair, which was still half wet from my shower.
People from the opposite row were staring at me oddly. I could feel their gazes on me, and most of them weren’t friendly either. My heart sank even as I tossed a grateful glance at the unoccupied seat at the head of the table. Obviously, whoever it was Kastein Inc. had assigned to interview us was also late – but what if the other applicants were planning to tell on me once the interviewer arrived?
Sensing the man next to me turning to my direction and not getting any unfriendly and competitive vibes from him, I silently breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of having at least one person in the room not antagonistic toward me.
Friendly smile in place, I said, “Hel--oly shit.”
Bottle Blonde gasped.
I cringed at the sound. That was what I should have done. Gasped. But then – who could blame me, really? Anyone would have been completely shocked at seeing someone so incredibly beautiful in person. Men were not supposed to be beautiful, dammit. But this one was.
His sun-kissed hair seemed to have all the shades between dark gold to copper – his natural hair color, in other words. It was impossible for any artificial hair dye to create his kind of hair, which was also naturally curly. Those adorable curls would have made him look gay if not for his strong jaw. His eyes were the lightest shade of gray, almost silver – and they were laughing at me, with his sexy-looking lips curved in a slight, amused grin.
My heart sank the second time in minutes at the sight of it. Great. Way to make an impression on a potential rival in the workforce: let him know he’s turned your head around completely.
Desperate to make him forget my embarrassing gaffe, I asked quickly, “Are you applying for the marketing research position, too?”
He raised a brow, making me wonder what I had said wrong. His sexy secretive grin still playing on his lips, he said simply, “No.”
We stared at each other after that. I didn’t want to – I swear I didn’t – but somehow his gaze was commanding and magnetic, and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to pull my gaze away unless he let me. And really, I knew how ridiculous that sounded – especially where I was concerned.
My parents had even nicknamed me “Little Miss Granite” because I was stubborn as a rock. Even as a kid, I had a tendency to be headstrong when there was something I wanted.
I had never been a pushover, and yet here I was - a slave to a stranger’s gaze. I was scared that if this man told me to bend over, I’d ask if he wanted me to take off my undies first or let him do the honors.
It was a freak-out-worthy thought, considering that I had never thought of sex in such graphic terms. In fact, the only sex scene I had ever watched in my life was the one in Breaking Dawn and the only hardcore part in it was when Edward broke his bed’s headboard into pieces. And all the time, I had kept thinking, if his hands could do that, what about his…well…you know? Was that even a good thing?
“You’re late, you know.” The European accent of his voice made my toes curl. Even so, one part of me was dismayed at his words – did he really have to say that out loud? But the other part of me was just plain relieved he spoke. It somehow gave me the strength to look away, and I did so quickly, training my eyes on his necktie, which was a lovely silky shade of red. Again, it was the kind that should have made him look extremely gay. But no, it did not. It just made him more mouthwateringly sexy.
Still not looking at him, I mumbled, “I miscalculated the traffic on the way here.”
“Ah,” he said.
I mentally groaned at the sound. It was very, very sexy, too. Everything about this man was just plain sexy, and it was extremely terrifying. You see, I was what you’d call a sexual prude. My parents had the most amazing love story ever, and because of it they sort of drummed into me since I was old enough to enjoy bedtime stories that I was destined for an amazingly romantic adventure of my own. Of course, by the time I got to high school, those bedtime stories had turned into the most horrible of warnings.
Walter and Carole would constantly warn me of how a man’s, umm, member could end up literally tearing your hymen apart and send you to E.R. if you weren’t made ‘ready’ by true love. Since Walter was a top-rated surgeon and Carole his nurse for twenty years, you could just imagine how believable their horror stories had sounded during my younger years. Of course, I knew better now, but old fears were pretty hard to kill, especially if you’d been listening to them since you had your first period.
Feeling like I had to say something or Mr. Too-Sexy-To-Be-True would know how much he was affecting me, I added lamely, “I didn’t mean to be late.”
“I know,” he said so nicely it made me look at him. I inhaled sharply when I saw how he was looking at me, the way his eyes took its time to linger on my lips. It was like he wanted me to know he was driving himself crazy wondering how my lips tasted.
I bit my lip.
His nostrils flared.
I hurriedly released my lip, realizing he might have thought I was being deliberately provocative. I swung my seat back in, staring determinedly at the wall across me. I had a hard time believing I just had some sort of eye-sex with a near total stranger. A really mind-blowingly hot one but – still a stranger.
Who was still staring at me.
I gripped my armrests tightly, using it to anchor me in place and not turn towards him like his eyes were demanding me to.
A soft chuckle then I heard the cushion of his seat squeaking a little as he turned to face the others.
“Now that we’re all complete, we can start the interview.”
At his words, I had swung my seat back to face him in a second. I gaped at him. Had I heard him correctly?
Mr. Too-Sexy-To-Be-True glanced at me, his grin no longer secretive but wicked this time. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to officially welcome you to Kastein Inc. Thank you for your interest in joining my company. I’m delighted to see you all here.” He all but purred the last pronoun out, with a swift glance at my lips under his lashes as he spoke.
It had the most incredible impact on my body, and I could only silently gasp in horror as I felt my nipples coming to life until they were poking against the thick silk of my shirt.
I hurriedly grabbed my bag and placed it in front of me, but one glance at the knowing gleam in the man’s eyes told me I was too late.
Maybe – maybe I was too late all along and just one look at me and he knew he could have me. Anywhere, anytime, any---oh God, what the hell was I thinking?
“You’re Yanna Everleigh?” He didn’t wait for an answer and offered his hand instead. “I’m Constantijin Kastein and I will be interviewing you today.”
No wonder everyone was staring. No fucking wonder. He was a Kastein – a board member at the very least. And I had taken the seat next to him like I was going to interview the others, too, when I should have been with them at the opposite side of the table.
Still drowning in a mental pool of embarrassment, I slowly took his hand. His hand immediately gripped mine, but what made my eyes shoot up to him incredulously was how he also managed to caress my fingers at the same time.
When writing about settings, it's natural to feel intimidated about writing a place that you're not personally familiar with. The research that you have to do, the lengths you'll need to go to make it accurate...my head hurts just thinking about it.
But there's no going around this. Most people know about US or at least what to expect from US settings even if they’re not Americans or even if they aren’t living in the US but you can’t say the same about the Philippines.
So anyway, I used to research like hell about places like this how I did it in Evren. Sorry, I don't have a copy of the MS but if you download the samples you'll see what I'm talking about. The story was based in Nevada and I researched the place extensively to get the right feel for the story.
But anyway, nowadays I don't do that anymore. Now I just "relocate" local places to Florida since its weather most closely resembles Philippines.
Example #1 Death Loves Me Not – This YA horror is set in Florida, but my setting is actually inspired by various local places.
First, I renamed Quezon City as Quiece ---
The city of Quiece had the most unpredictable weather in Florida, like Palm Beach but a lot stormier. Today was a fluke, with the sky a pretty blue and the sun’s rays warm rather than scorching.
Example #2: Can you guess which streets in QC inspired me for this location?
After school, Will wanted to pass by Forbidden Tastes and Stud and I went along with her. Forbidden Tastes or FT was a twenty-floor complex located at the corner of South and Thompson Avenue. The complex had tasteful cream and ivory exteriors, like a mini Hotel Ritz.
And finally, here’s how I wrote about Baclaran ---
Papa’s obsessively careful driving of his vintage Benz turned what was supposed to be a thirty-minute drive into something twice as long to reach Quiece’s largest church. Ironically, the only road leading to it was bordered by tacky strip clubs with rip-off names like My Fair Ladies and Puzzy Kat Dolls to name a few and over-aged walking advertisements. I knew for a fact Papa visited this kind of club often but I didn’t tell Mama. Live and let live. I was hoping someday they’d do that for me, too.
BUT AGAIN, like I said earlier, you can always experiment.
That’s what I did with Park and Violet, a New Adult romantic comedy set in OSAKA, JAPAN. Yes, that’s right – an Asian setting. Even with the dismal performance of Drawn, I still took a risk with PNV and didn’t change its setting.
However, I did tweak Park’s character a bit. In the original story, he was 100% Korean. In the revised version, I just turned Park into a Nordic god adopted by Korean parents. So I get to keep his name – Park Jin – but he’s now big, blond, and beautiful.
Well, for whatever reason, the experiment was a success and PNV made it to Amazon’s Top 500. :D
So ultimately, it all boils down to making your characters and stories relatable. :D
3. Maria needs to write more books.
At this point, Maria has done EVERYTHING she could to make her book relatable to non-US readers. I really want to emphasize this because you will likely - not always BUT likely - have a hard time marketing your book if international readers can't relate to it.
I give Maria three choices ---
- If her book has a SEQUEL, I'd advise her to hold off publishing Book 1 until she has at least Books 2 and 3 ready, too.
- If her book does NOT have a SEQUEL, I ask her if she wants to write one and turn Book 1's ending into a cliffhanger.
- If her book is a standalone, I ask her if she can write another book that's in the SAME genre.
Let's assume that Maria did take my advice and wrote Books 2 and 3. What's she going to do with Book 1 then?
- Enroll it via KDP Select or make it permafree (permanently free). Book 1 should always contain links to all the other sequels, sample pages of the other books, and A SIGN-UP link to Maria's mailing list.
4. Maria now needs to establish her platform as an author. Maria's name is her brand and we need to make her brand recognizable. It's what makes Jollibee different from, say, Brothers Burgers or Pizza Hut from California Pizza Kitchen. Your brand is based on the following strategies:
- Have the best covers for your books. And when I mean the best, I don’t just mean beautiful. Check out the covers in your genre. You’ll notice several similarities and you’ll need your covers to have those same elements. Sure, you can say “But I want to make my book’s cover unique”. And sure, that could work but the operative word there is COULD. Here in the Philippines, illustrated covers are HOT. And personally, I love them, too. Again, consider my YA romance Drawn. I put my foot down with my publisher. I really wanted it to have a manga feel so she got an artist to draw a cover for me. It looks beautiful IMHO but like I also said, it's not my bestseller boo-hoo. :( The thing is, illustrated covers are not what you typically see being used for New Adult or contemporary romance, much less erotica. If you insist on using one, that's fine - you could change the trend, who knows? :) But again, like I said - if you want to make things easier for you, go with a stock photo and have your favorite cover artist work from there. :)
- Make your covers a part of your brand. If you notice, all my books (well the newer ones at least) use the same font for my author name. I also include the words ‘NYT Bestselling Author’ in all my covers because it’s part of my branding. If you’re just starting out, you can use something like “NEW ADULT ROMANCE AUTHOR”. It also goes without saying that books in the same series should have some kind of series branding, too.
- Hire an editor. If you can’t afford that yet then look for another author to swap manuscripts with for editing and proofreading. You want your brand to be recognized as someone who consistently churns out polished works.
- Write a really good blurb. Check out the Top 100 on Amazon. Find the similarities between their blurbs and do what you can to imitate and improve your own blurb. It should also know what readers can expect from a Maria Kale story.
- Make your sample pages so irresistible that it’s impossible for readers not to one-click. Again, these pages should let readers know what to expect from a Maria Kale story.
4. Making Maria's books DISCOVERABLE (the more books there are, the easier it would be for Maria to promote her work)
- Your back matter should include a short author bio, an invitation to sign up for your mailing list (more about this later) and all other important links like website, Facebook page, and Twitter.
- All books should contain BUY links to your other works, your website, social media accounts and MAILING list. You DO NOT want to make it hard for your readers to buy the next book. Lastly, ask readers nicely for a review. Those reviews count!
- Contact book bloggers on the web, Goodreads, and Facebook and see if they can share about your book. There are HUNDREDS of them. Imagine if you get just 1 BUYER from each page. Say there are 500 FB pages. That's 500 sales right out of the gate! However, please remember that readers / reviewers have long memories: if you disappoint them the first time, they are unlikely to market your book the next time. So again, back to rule #1: be sure that your book is something international readers could relate or connect to before you start advertising them.
Please take the time to search for Facebook pages catering to readers / authors. They're one of the few FREE and EFFECTIVE ways to share your book. I'm lucky enough that I'm now in a good-enough place to afford to hire virtual assistants like those of Maxwell Author Services to do Facebook advertising for me. But when I was just starting out, I did all of it myself. I contacted literally hundreds of FB pages every day when I was promoting my first multi-author boxed set. I personally sent out ARCs and took the time to share their posts and thank them, too. It got to a point that my fingers and wrists hurt so badly that I wouldn't be able to work on my stories. The only energy I had left for each day would be consumed with ebook marketing. I don't regret a single second, though - that was my first boxed set to hit NYT and USAT.
- Give away ARCs every time you contact those bloggers. Don't count them as lost sales. It's not. It's just another form of marketing. Consider this ---
Of course, you need to be careful who you give your ARCs to. Make sure they're people you trust and won't upload your books and have them pirated. Also, not all reviewers would be predisposed to like your book. What works for me when offering ARCs is that I look for readers who like books that are similar to mine (e.g. If a reader likes A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest then she might like my NA vampire book Suit & Fangs).
- Network. Other authors are not your competition. They are your peers and when you think like this then cross-promotions become an invaluable marketing tool.
- Author A tweets about Author B’s books and vice versa
- Author A includes an excerpt and link of Author B’s book in the back matter of her book and vice versa
- Author A and B collaborate and write individual stories set in the same world or do a boxed set and combine their stories in one book
- Author A and B join forces and write a blog with their shared readers as target
Look in particular for Rafflecopter giveaways to join with other authors. With Rafflecopter giveaways, you'll have an opportunity for their readers to like your FB page, follow you on Twitter, or sign up for your mailing list - and vice versa of course.
Technical stuff - basically "behind-the-scenes" marketing, sort of like SEO for websites but this time you're doing it for your books---
- Use the right keywords to describe your book
- Make sure your book is properly categorized but aim to get your book in as many categories as possible. More categories mean more readers getting to see your book.
- Make your title and blurb keyword-oriented (but not to the point of being guilty of keyword stuffing)
Writing your next book is always the best marketing tool so please keep writing. Ideally, 70 to 90% of your time should be spent writing, the remaining 10 to 30% should be on marketing. Don’t spend all your days marketing just one book. The more books you have, the more chances you have of getting readers to buy your books. If they get hooked by Book 1, there’s a good chance they’ll buy the rest of your backlist.
- Stick to your niche. This is all about branding, too. You can explore other ones later. For now, the quickest way to establish yourself is to write the stories you love and I’m presuming that these stories belong to one genre / sub-cat. For example: my readers know that they can expect steamy romantic comedies from me, but they can either be contemporary or paranormal. Readers don’t tend to buy all your books if they don’t know what to expect from you. But if they know you’re consistent with what you write then every time you have a new release, they’ll definitely one-click it or at least do so as soon as they can afford to.
- Choose at least one way to interact with readers online and be consistent about it. For instance, I am most active when it comes to blogging and posting on my Facebook page. Lately, however, I’m trying to be active on Twitter, too. If you have little time then stick to just one method and do it consistently.
- Push your mailing list. And this means including a link to it on all your books' back matter, your author bio on Amazon and all other e-retailing sites, your website, your Facebook, Twitter - do it everywhere because this almost always ends up being your #1 marketing tool. Your mailing list is that important.
- Always be nice to your readers. Always. Never ignore whatever they have to say.
- Be yourself. They’ll know when you’re faking it.
- Sign up with Mailchimp. It offers its services for free for as long as you do not have more than 2,000 subscribers in your list. And when you do get to that point, well by then you wouldn't mind paying its affordable monthly fee.
- Create a beautiful sign-up form that - if possible - matches the design and layout of your website or at least your branding, genre, and author personality.
- In your newsletter description, you should explain the BENEFITS for readers when signing up for your mailing list. Mine is the following: they'd be the first to know about my newest releases, they are privy to exclusive giveaways, cover reveals and sneak peeks / excerpts of future books. I also use my newsletter to share with readers free ebooks I have on offer.
- Promote that link. Have it up on your website, Twitter, Facebook, blog and everywhere else. And I do mean everywhere.
- Don't spam. Always have a nice good reason to contact your readers - especially when you're already emailing them more than once per week.
- No pressure to subscribe - Don't twist their arms and don't get mad at them if they want to un-subscribe.
Maria asks: What's your routine then every time you have a new book out?
- Once the book is ready for publishing, I send ARCs to my street team (this is basically a group consisting of your most loyal readers). This way, when the book's live on Amazon and wherever, you'll have readers ready to post your reviews on Day 1.
- I notify my newsletter subscribers about the new release and include all the links.
- I update my website about my new release.
- I announce it on Facebook and Twitter. Most times, it feels like you're talking to yourself but that's okay. Also, be sure you're talking about stuff that your international readers would be interested in or readers would universally find interesting. E.g. Do you like the cover? What's your favorite scene in Book X? What are you reading right now?
- Depending on how "big" I need this launch to be, I may also book ads (more about this later).
- It goes without saying that you NEVER speak in Filipino when marketing your books because you risk alienating your other readers. You'd make them feel that they're not part of your world or the conversation and why would you want to do that?
Maria asks: What about ads? Do I have to pay for ads to market my book?
No. You don't. I've already mentioned several ways you can promote your book for free. But if you want a bigger and quicker boost in sales and ranking then yes, you may have to book a few ads for - no pun intended - your book. I've provided a link in the resource section for paid ad listings. That's how I started out - and I mean with that very link and I worked my way from there. :)
Another thing you should seriously look into would be Facebook ads. If you configure your ads effectively then you'll definitely see an increase in sales because of those ads. However, you can also use ads to get readers to sign up for your mailing list - just say that you'll offer a free book to those who sign up. If they like your free book, they'll most likely buy your paid ones. On the other hand, keep in mind also that Facebook can drain your pockets quite fast. Wrong ads, wrong market means HUGE waste of money.
Maria asks: What if I don't self-publish and just look for an e-publisher instead?
That would work, too. Actually, I don't think I'd ever be in this position if I didn't have the backing of my publisher in the past. You see, I didn't know anything about ebook marketing back then so if I had self-pubbed my first books on my own, I really have no idea if they'd still take off like they did with my publisher.
Choosing a publisher who knows what she / he is doing is very important. You need to check the publisher's other books and see how they're doing in the market. If none of them's selling well then it's unlikely yours will do any better.
With my publisher, I knew right away that she was doing things right. When Evren first came out - this was back in 2010 - it languished in the 300k ranks. When my publisher re-published it with a new cover and started on paid ads, it zoomed to Top 1000 in a month. That's 299k difference in rankings and that's definitely more than one copy sold per day.
Having a publisher means you get someone to manage and pay for stuff like editing, cover art, and marketing. With a publisher, you have MORE time to write and LESS stress. Of course, in exchange the publisher gets rights to your books and a percentage of royalties so you need to weigh your alternatives.
Maria asks: How do you deal with critics?
I don't bother reading bad reviews - and that means 2 stars and below. I like how H.M. Ward thinks of it - bad reviews only mean that your book got in the wrong reader's hands. I'm also lucky in the sense that I have really honest and objective members in my street team so when I read their reviews, I pay attention to what they feel they didn't appreciate as much about my books.
Also, I read a lot and compare my writing to other authors' books - if there's something I like about their writing that I know I don't do, I'll make sure to apply it to my next book.
Maria asks: How do you find the motivation to keep writing and finishing your book?
It's because I took a gamble on my writing and told myself that I would rather earn from my books than do anything else. If I don't write - if I don't finish my books - I don't get to put food on the table. When you put it that way, it's sink or swim, write or die. :)
Ebook Marketing 101 explained here.
List of paid advertising websites for books here.