“I can’t say I ever planned to release my second book in the middle of a pandemic,” shared Haley Newlin, bestselling author of horror/thriller novels Not Another Sarah Halls and Take Your Turn Teddy.
But I’m grateful that as more of us were forced inside there were legions of horror fans who were supporting me through online communities, events, and experiences.
Newlin’s success with her second book in 2020 was driven in part by an increase in readers industry-wide as more of us cozied up to a book in 2020 driving sales 8.2% higher over 2019 — the largest increase in a decade. And for readers, they’ve never had more choices than today with 4 million books published in 2019, more than 10 times more titles annually than in 2007 according to Bowker.
“We are seeing that more and more readers are turning to the author’s biography first when picking up a book,” shared Brian Bies, the publishing head of New Degree Press, Newlin’s publisher. “Readers buy the book and then one of the first things they do after finish reading is to follow the author on Instagram, subscribe on YouTube, and engage with them on Twitter. It’s totally different where readers feel empowered to talk directly to the author. And so we’ve realized one of the most powerful ways authors cultivate a book following is by learning how to engage readers directly and authentically through social media.”
Writers have long been seen as more introverted than the general population where one-third to one-half of all people are more introverted than extroverted.
“We learned that many writers just don’t feel comfortable marketing themselves,” shared Bies. “It’s not that they can’t do it, it’s just that it isn’t natural for them. And we realized how important making a writer comfortable with their public voice was — we brought in coaches and teachers to train our authors how to talk about themselves and their books. People keep saying to me, ‘you’re hiring speaking and social media coaches, not writing coaches?’ But it was transformative for all the writers — not just the most introverted ones.”
Tiffany Mosher had an important and powerful story but lacked the confidence to tell it. “Because of my depression, I was very reclusive. It ultimately led to a suicide attempt, which I talked about in my book but I had to figure out how to go from a lot of my family not knowing what happened to now the world knows.”
One of the people Bies turned to was Newlin who’d been experienced as a social media strategist and earned her masters of fine arts. Newlin knew as an author that she’d need to design, develop and execute a completely new approach for writers and authors — helping them activating and expanding their existing networks rather than thinking about marketing a book.
For many authors like Mosher, their stories were powerful and moving but without learning how to tell it beyond the book, their reach is limited.
“I think too often writers are told to change themselves to sell books or build their audience,” shared Newlin who has coached and mentored more than a thousand authors.
“The reality is consistency and community are the keys — and it’s one of the reasons why publishing with a cohort of fellow authors is so important. When you write and publish with a community of fellow writers, they form that early network that lifts you and your book. That’s where we’ve seen the biggest lift for writers: moving from marketing a book to building a community of readers.”
Newlin, Bies, and New Degree Press have seen their investment pay off with authors like Zev Burton (Two Fish in a Tank, New Degree Press 2021) growing his community on TikTok from single digits to nearly 150,000 before his book even was released, Rahul Rana (Making Moonshots, New Degree Press 2020) leveraging his book into a job in venture capital and eventually being named one of the top venture capitalists under twenty-five, and Tiffany Mosher (Beauty Beyond the Threshold, New Degree Press 2020) doing more than three dozen radio and podcast interviewed and eventually hired into the film industry based on her memoir.
“While most first-time or younger authors may not come into their books with large audiences,” shared Newlin “you can teach and coach an author how to act more like many of today’s social media influencers. It’s about being real and honest and vulnerable. But perhaps most importantly is recognizing that the first step is activating the people you already know and letting them help your book grow.”
“We realized that some of the best people for authors to learn from are younger indie authors, YouTube creators, and social media influencers,” shared Bies. “We can learn a lot from them, and in an increasingly noisy market, we have looked at unique ways to help authors establish themselves and their books.”
And the investment has paid off with New Degree Press’ authors selling an average of seven to ten times more than self-published authors and double that of traditionally published authors according to industry figures.
Continued Bies, “we can’t market for an author because quite frankly people aren’t buying the publisher — they are buying the author. But we think you can teach the techniques, approaches, and mindset of influencers even to people who never saw themselves as an influencer.”
“I never realized my story would touch so so many people,” said Mosher. “But I’m so grateful it has.”