Derek Murphy is best known in the indie publishing space for his website and indie author resource CreativIndie and his beautiful book cover designs, but this year he’s diving into fiction with an audacious plan.
Derek Murphy describes himself as “a failing PhD candidate who’s spent 10 years helping other people publish their books (design, editing, marketing) and decided recently to quit everything and publish his own.” He runs the popular indie resource siteCreativIndie, has over 250 YouTube videos on his channel focused on helping and educating indie authors, and is a successful book cover designer.
At the beginning of 2016, Derek set out to take the YA fiction arena by storm. His plan is unique and fearless. Derek plans to publish the first part of 10 books — “half-books” or “series starters,” as he calls them — in 2016. Each book is set in a different subgenre under the YA umbrella. So far he’s got four books out: Shearwater: A Mermaid Romance; Orpheum: A Dark Fantasy Romance; The Scarlet Thread: A Dark Fantasy Romance; and Prescient: A Time Travel Dystopia.
In the Amazon product description, as well as at the beginning and end of each book, Derek emphasizes that each book is only Part 1 — then makes the offer to readers to get the entire book for free (when it’s finished) if they sign up to his subscriber list.
The advantages to this outside-the-box approach are many: publishing just the first part of each book allows him to publish faster and more frequently; it allows him to test the viability of a series idea; it’s generating a big list of subscribers in a short amount of time (he’s already gathered 12,000 subscribers for his YA list in 2016…and counting); and it allows him time to build up his reviews so that when the full book is available, he’s already got great social proof on Amazon.
But what about pissing off the readers?
Derek readily admits that it’s important to manage readers’ expectations; however, he says, “I don’t really care if they [readers] don’t like the style I’m publishing in because it’s still working for me.” He also points out that readers lose nothing as his books are available for free on Amazon through KDP, and readers will eventually be able to get the finished story for free with a sign-up.
“It’s your business,” Derek says. “You’re creating the content. You can kind of do whatever you want with it. I mean, you have to not piss off your readers, but you don’t have to let them make the decisions. You have to do what’s right for you and what makes money for you.”
(*Derek outlines his plan in more detail in his blog post How to Self-Publish a Book in 2016.)
Derek uses targeted Facebook ads and giveaways to attract readers to his website and books and ultimately onto his list. His giveaways are particularly win-win for both readers and the authors of the books he gives away. He puts together lists highlighting the best books in the subgenre of the book he’s promoting, offers those books as a prize, gets authors to cross-promote his giveaway (and why wouldn’t they, given it’s free exposure to his list?), and also offers his own book for free for signing up to his subscriber list. His most recent giveaway featured the “Best Scifi Time Travel Books for Teens 2016,” an offer that included 13 free books plus a Harry Potter “Time Turner.”
As Derek continues to build his series funnels and promote, he continues to build his YA reader subscriber list. His goal is to reach 100,000 subscribers by the end of the year. He estimates with a list that big, he could launch new books in his established funnels to the tune of 5,000 sales a day, giving him a better chance to remain sticky in the upper echelons of Amazon rankings.
Derek also continues to build his online platform by generating cross-platform content. For example, he turns his “best of” lists from his giveaways into blog posts, PowerPoint slide shows, YouTube videos, and LinkedIn posts.
YouTube is also a great way to attract traffic. Derek says he used to be terrified of doing video and had to force himself to learn how to do it. Now he’s got a robust YouTube channel featuring over 250 videos (100,000 views!) with the goal to reach 1,000 videos by the end of the year.
Adult Coloring Books
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Derek is also making adult coloring books, a category, he says, is currently dominating the Amazon charts. He’s made five so far, and he’s got plans to put out 10 more soon. They’re fast to make, taking him only a couple of days to put together a new product. He hires illustrators on Fiverr and uses royalty-free stock art. Each book has 20 coloring pages and range from topics like the current American presidential candidates to an coloring book adaption of the best quotes from Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich (titled Color and Grow Rich.)
Yep, Derek also has a castle in the works. While his original goal was to buy a castle to use as a writer’s retreat, this year he has rented Château De Cadrès located between the Dordogne region and the Toulouse area in France, for the month of November. He will host a NaNoWriMo writer’s retreat that will include book bloggers, booktubers, and other YA authors.
Advice to Authors:
A lot of writers assume that their books should have value and try to guilt people into buying their book by saying things like, “It’s less than a cup of coffee.” Books aren’t worth anything if you can’t convince readers to buy them. It’s not up to the readers to support your writing habit. You have to make your book look like it’s worth $2.99, and out of all of the books out there, convince readers that your book is the one to read.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” -Henry David Thoreau
- Try something you’re scared to do. Derek was afraid to do video. Simon was nervous about podcasting at first. Now they’re pros. The way to get there is by giving it a go.
- Run a giveaway for books in your genre to build up your email list. Many authors are reporting great success with this method, and if you leverage that content across multiple platforms, not only will you add new subscribers to your list, but you’ll develop new relationships with other authors in your genre. Win-win.
- Got a crazy idea like renting a castle in France for a month? Do it. Everyone’s got audacious ideas, ideas that if only they could bring to fruition, would wow the world. But audacious ideas come with a lot of “buts” and “what-ifs” and other excuses of uncertainty. Don’t let those things get in your way. If you think you’ve got a good idea, do it. The world is waiting.
What’s the scariest, most intimidating thing you’ve had to do as an indie author thus far in your career?
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