I spoke with Steve Umstead this week, a best-selling author (Amazon top 100) and business owner, about how social media has factored into selling his two novels Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s return (available for the Amazon Kindle, Nook and all eReader formats and, in the case of Gabriel’s Redemption, paperback editons).

The face of a Ninja

Author of Gabriel's Redemption

The two novels are adventure / sci-fi stories which he marketed exclusively through social media. Steve commented, ” Having the ability to reach hundreds, even thousands of people with very minimal cost, just time, is invaluable to a self-published author.”

Even if you aren’t paying a social media expert, time is an investment and the ROI cycle still applies- you can brute force your numbers but you still need to make the most of your impressions (impressions = when someone sees your tweet, facebook, blog etc).  Having 10k followers who don’t know who you are isn’t a platform, having 2k followers who will buy your product however is smart use of time and resources. But how do you get them to buy your product?

“…authors need to get involved in building their own platform.[but]I’m not a ‘yell to the heavens’ type of marketer in terms of my own work. Prior to releasing Gabriel’s Return (book 2), I tried to build up anticipation by encouraging potential buyers to try book 1, as book 2 was on its way. After release, I worked it similarly, in that I still encouraged potential buyers to pick up book 1 now that there was a second one if they enjoyed the first. I think multiple books is one of the biggest keys to success  ”

Here Steve goes a step beyond marketing and edges on creating a community, or what Seth Godin would call a ‘tribe’. He’s appealing to his existing base while expanding it. By getting too caught up in creating new social-media-followers lot of people make the mistake of not tapping their followers. 500 fans who have read your book and will talk about your book is much more important than 1000 new fans who have not yet read it.

But the question that so many people ask is, “Yeah but how do I start my following? Where do I find my initial fans? I know how to manage a tribe, but how do I start a tribe?”

For Steve it was simple trenchwork, “Post release [my plan] was tell everyone I had met online, for the most part fellow authors, and hope they bought it, enjoyed it, reviewed it, and told a few friends. It really was flying by the seat of the pants.”

So did Steve take his following and impose a master-stroke marketing plan?

“Sales for book 2 were significantly better than book 1’s first week, but that wasn’t necessarily due to some magic marketing methods. By August of this year, I had made contact with many, many more people online: fellow authors, readers, genre fans, etc. Therefore I had a much larger audience to talk to.”

Pay close attention to how Steve improved his initial sales push for his second novel, its very simple and if you blink you could miss it: he built a platform and used his voice. And he created genuine fans by doing it. REPEAT buyers (which is essential, anyone can use your product once but what you really need is brand loyalty which generates word of mouth campaigns).

Steve’s sales of book 2 “Most definitely,” resulted in an upswing for book 1, meaning that he has assured a certain number of sales for book 3 and beyond, “As I mentioned earlier, I think this is one of the most important facets of being (or trying to be) a successful self-published author. Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer have both said this for a long time – having more than one book is key. It gives credibility, as many potential buyers see an author with one book and may just pass by. Why? For a couple of reasons. One: an author with one book may be a flash in the pan, may not have top quality work, may be a risk. Two: a buyer may be more likely to buy a book from an author with another book, because they may like the first one and want to move on to another. ”

But while Steve claims that 99.9% of his marketing is organic, there’s still the business owner in him who says, “Because it’s the second in a trilogy, it makes for a natural combination of marketing. Marketing for the first book consists of letting readers know a second book is out (again that more-than-one advantage), and marketing for the second mentions a progression of the story arc, and that (for now) the first book is at a lead-in price.”

There’s some smart work going on behind the scenes, common sense use of the “long tail” effect.

Steve Umstead’s Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s Return are adventure / science fiction stories. He uses common sense social media campaigns to market those novels, tempered with a bit of pure businesses smarts- but something to remember about all of this.

His books are extremely well written.

No amount of social media savvy is going to get a sell a bad product. There are no “smoke and mirror” approaches to SM campaigns. Steve is a perfect example of the saying: The best way to get people to listen is to have something worth saying.

The full text of my chat with Steve will be available tomorrow.