How indie authors can break through the noise with NoiseTrade

My biggest challenge as an indie author is getting the word out about my books. In a maelstrom of self-published authors, shouting louder than everyone else is just not a viable strategy–and at worst might very well annoy the audience I’m trying to win.

Lately, I’ve been looking into innovative book marketing companies who promise to help authors reach their audience more effectively than the author can do alone. After giving Story Cartel a go, I also decided to check out NoiseTrade.

My book on NoiseTrade
My book on NoiseTrade

NoiseTrade launched in 2008 as a music website, but expanded into eBooks in 2014. It’s a place for authors and musicians to give away their latest work to hungry readers and music lovers. While NoiseTrade consumers pay nothing to download, they are required to give their email address and postal code, and provide their consent to be added to the author or musician’s e-mail list. Downloaders can decide later to tip the author.

It costs nothing to post a book on NoiseTrade. However, authors can pay $50 to $500 extra to receive promotion in NoiseTrade’s Wednesday newsletter, or $500 to $1000 for a feature in NoiseTrade’s Saturday newsletter, which usually includes an interview.

NoiseTrade counts eight people on its core team. Staff work remotely from Minneapolis, Nashville, Chicago and Atlanta.

Amanda Michelle Moon, head of NoiseTrade Books, told me that she is optimistic about indie publishing. She also gave a few tips about how to have a successful launch on NoiseTrade.

Amanda Moon is the head of NoiseTrade Books and creative coordinator.
Amanda Moon is the head of NoiseTrade Books and creative coordinator.

Q. The publishing industry is in a state of flux right now. Where do you think it’s going, and how well will self-published authors fare against industry published authors?

Amanda: My background (and degree) are both in Music Business. I’ve published two books, and the music experience has helped with the process greatly. Publishing has, and (I believe) will, continue to follow the music industry trajectory. The huge signing bonuses have already gone away, publishers are getting stingy about where they are spending money. It’s going to continue to get harder and harder to get that elusive Big 5 contract.

However, self-published authors have huge opportunities. By getting smart about the business side of publishing, they have the potential to make much more money than most ever would with a publisher. Having to do everything “yourself” is impossible, though, so I am much more an advocate of people thinking of themselves as “Indie” rather than “self” published. “Indie” is independent of a major publisher, but not alone. Very few people can actually do it alone.

Q. How can self-published authors match the marketing budgets of the big publishers?

Amanda: They can’t, and they don’t need to. A lot of publishers work through a formula for each book: Galleys on NetGalley, giveaway on Goodreads, ad in Name Your Large Publication. They can’t look at each book individually and make the strategic decisions that are right for that particular book, they don’t have time. It’s a shotgun approach. A self-published or indie author can take the time to really get to know their readers and target their marketing dollars in more effective ways. Just because a New York Times ad worked for Stephen King doesn’t mean it will work for your horror story.

Q. Could you provide a brief history of NoiseTrade, including when it expanded from music into books?

Amanda: In 2006 one of our founders, singer/songwriter Derek Webb gave away one of his albums for free online, asking in return for a little information (name, email address, and postal code). In three month’s time he gave away over 80,000 full downloads of his album and collected valuable information for as many new fans. As a direct result, Derek saw many sold out shows, increased merchandise and album sales, including a curious spike in sales of the very album that was given for free.

It was the massive success of this experiment that inspired Webb, with the help of a few trusted friends, to start NoiseTrade. Since its launch in 2008, NoiseTrade has seen incredible growth as a marketing and distribution platform for music. Books was added in early 2014. It was an idea that had been kicking around for a while–a few of the founders had ties in the book world, and the similarities between the recording and publishing industries are undeniable.

Q. How many book downloads do you get per month compared to music album downloads? How many musicians and how many authors have posted their work on the site?

Amanda: Music has about 10 times the downloads as books. There are over 20,000 musicians that have used the site in the last seven years, and almost 2,000 authors in the last 18 months.

Q. For an author looking to add their book to NoiseTrade, what tips do you have to maximize the success of a launch?

Amanda: Promote it! So many people put books on our site and don’t do any promotion around them— that has about the same success as putting a book on Amazon and then never pointing people to it. There is a ton of noise, you have to let people know what you have out there. We offer a few tools to help, including a widget that can be embedded on web pages, and a weekly, curated newsletter of paid content.

My NoiseTrade widget for We, The Watched:

Q. What do you tell authors who are worried that putting a book up for free on NoiseTrade might hurt their sales on other channels?

Amanda: Josh Garrels, an independent artist, recently released his new album with us the same day as it dropped at all the major retailers. When factoring in the tips he received, the amount of money he lost was negligible, and he added tens of thousands of new fans to his email list. These are the people who are going to support his subsequent albums, his shows, everything else he’s doing.

Authors have the same opportunity to create dedicated fans as musicians do, but they need to weigh the short-term loss against the long-term gain. We see a lot of authors put excerpts of their books on the site and see minimal engagement and high unsubscribes. It’s because they’re not offering anything other than what someone could find on iBooks or Amazon already, without having to give up their email address. The transaction has to be beneficial for both the author and the reader for it to work.

Q. When someone downloads a book, are they opting in to receive emails from the author?

Amanda:  Yes. When a fan, either music or books, submits their email address to us to download something, they are agreeing to receiving emails from us (our weekly features) and any author/artist whose work they download. We do not share or sell email addresses beyond with the content creators.

Q. Besides NoiseTrade, what other innovative companies are helping self-published authors right now?

Amanda: I’m a huge fan of the model created by InkShares. It’s crowd-funding, but one person can’t spend a bunch of money to get the book through. The crowd really does need to support the project.

WiseInk also has a really great business model. As an author, what I really want is the “Manager” from the music industry: the partner with the experience to help make decisions, coordinate all of the other moving parts, and really help think strategically and long-term for both the particular project, but also for the artist’s career. WiseInk is more of a partner than a traditional publisher, and I love what they’re doing.

Q. What’s coming next for NoiseTrade? What can you tell me about any plans to further expand or enhance your services for authors?

On the immediate horizon are some updates to our weekly emails. We’re adding descriptions to all our books, not just our main features. We’re also launching a book club, where readers are going to have access to ask authors questions on social media. We’re actively working to bring in more genres, and also new readers, and continuing to create a community on the site.

Thanks to Amanda Michelle Moon for the interview. Please also check out my interview with Story Cartel’s Joe Bunting on how authors can get more customer reviews.

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