by Martin Cavannagh
We are now living in a golden age for indie content creators. Through Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram, artists can connect directly with their fans and bypass traditional gatekeepers like agents — they can even make more money this way.
The most ubiquitous of these content creators are YouTube stars, people who have been able to amass enormous followings (and similarly large incomes) by independently creating and releasing content. And the principles that have allowed them to succeed aren’t exclusive to video content. Countless self-published authors have built sustainable careers by following the same rules.
Here are four things that all self-publishing authors can learn from popular YouTubers.
Go Where Your Fans Are
In 2018, you don’t become a hit with teens by posting on MySpace. After all, they’re already two steps ahead of you (and in the process of abandoning Instagram, probably). So where should authors find their fans?
Every author needs to have a Goodreads account. Countless indie authors have become Amazon best-sellers through Goodreads recommendations. On a deeper level, you might find readers in niche forums and Facebook groups. And speaking of YouTube, more readers are turning to it for their recommendations. Getting your book into the hands of a popular influencer might be your gateway to success.
Show Them the Real You
If you’re reclusive, then indie publishing with the intent of becoming a bestseller is not for you. These days, readers will want to be part of your success story: they want to discover you and your books before they become the next big thing. They will even help you spread the word and leave reviews for you — but only if they feel invested in you as a person.
YouTubers today are notorious for offering too much information regarding their personal lives, resulting in fans who think of them as personal friends to whom they pledge undying loyalty. Authors don’t have to chronicle the details of their divorce on Twitter just to appease their fans, but they do need to get involved in conversations.
At the very least, an author should regularly update a blog, where fans can find out more about their thoughts, life, and the progress of their next book.
Regular Content is Essential
When you’re a YouTube star, the name of the game is consistency in quality content. That’s why you’ll see the biggest names drop videos up to two or three times a week. The effect of this is two-fold:
- They become part of their fans’ weekly routines. Taking a two-week break runs the risk of breaking loyal fans from their habit; and
- If each video gets a million views, then doubling your output will also double your revenue.
It’s also crucial for indie authors to capitalize on their captive audience. If you have a dedicated readership of 10,000 readers, you might not be able to live off your earnings, making $5 per sale to your followers once every two years.
But if you’re able to publish your books with some consistency — or half a dozen titles annually, as some authors do— you can keep your readers engaged and generate three or four times the sales. And just like when you find a YouTuber you like and start mainlining their old videos, the same goes for books. If a reader enjoys the first book you’ve written and they see that you’ve written ten more, then there’s a great chance that they’ll run the board and drop their hard-earned cash on everything you’ve written. This is one way to become financially self-sustaining.
Tap into Secondary Revenue Streams
The biggest names on YouTube don’t just rely on YouTube ad revenue. They’re constantly hustling and picking up promotional opportunities, becoming affiliate partners for companies, or selling their own line of merchandise.
As an author, you have the benefit of having penetrated your reader’s mind. If they’ve read and enjoyed your entire book, what else might they want from you?
If you’re a non-fiction author, this is easily answered. After all, if someone has bought your book on how to paddle-board, have an affiliate link to a company that sells paddle-boards. If you’re a novelist, why not sell mugs and T-shirts related to your books, or host a series of webinars on how to write novels like yours.
For self-publishers, there are more ways than ever to attain success. By modeling your approach on others who have thrived as independent content creators, you can give yourself a better chance to turn your passion into a career.