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Jennifer Foehner Wells – A Case Study in Successful Self Publishing

Jen’s new novel, Remanence (yes, we had to look up what it means), was published on March 11. Two weeks later, it’s all over Amazon’s science-fiction best-seller lists, and already has 28 Amazon reviews, which are mostly raves. So it is selling, and people are reading it, loving it, and telling the world about it.

How did Jen pull it off? Here are some of the things she did right:

Writing:

The book is terrific. Jen planned ahead and created an outline of the major plot points, filling out the details as she wrote. The end result is a story with complex and believable world-building, characters that are well-drawn and engaging, and a plot that is clever, original, and unpredictable.

Production:

The book has been professionally edited and designed. It reads as well as any traditionally published science fiction book, and the cover looks great. Nothing about it says “amateurish.”

This was a conscious decision: Jen wanted nothing to distinguish her book from other traditionally published books on the market. As a shopper and reader, she knew that a good cover and a well-edited book make a critical difference. She therefore has a team of professionals (editors and designers) who work on her books.

Promotion:

Google Jen’s name and you’ll see just how completely she owns the search space. The first page is all hits for her: her website, Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Boing Boing (a rave review), and Twitter. A lot of that is the energy she’s put into promotion, but a lot of it is the “Foehner” in her name. Look how she disappears if you Google “Jennifer Wells.”

Secondly, Jen has been really smart about how she handles her online presence. Well before the publication of her first book Fluency, Jen started building her audience on Twitter. She chose a target audience made up of people who specifically enjoy science fiction, and made sure to engage with these people and keep her posts interesting for that audience.

When her book was published, she already had a dedicated list of readers interested in buying it. The early sales meant that Amazon’s algorithm started recommending it to new readers. The book has now sold almost 100,000 copies and has been translated into three languages.

Advertising:

Jen uses advertising intelligently. We first heard of her when her first book was offered at a discount using Riffle. Services like BookBub and Riffle are inexpensive and reach a lot of the right readers.

Connecting:

Check out how well Jen uses her Facebook group to connect with her readers (and as a smart way to avoid Facebook’s boosting fees): https://www.facebook.com/groups/SperoancoraCrew/  She’s not self-promoting. She’s tossing around ideas and information and fun octopus stuff (one of her main characters is an alien octopus). She’s talking with people, not at them. It’s fun and interesting. She’s also promoting other writers rather than herself. That sort of thing gets noticed and paid back.