Friday, February 14, 2014

Adventures in Self-Publishing Part Three: The Fine Art of Marketing

Writing your manuscript is, I've found, the hardest part of self-publishing. It's time-consuming, it takes up lots of blood, sweat, and tears, and the agony of having to take a chainsaw to a beloved scene, character, or entire plotline can feel like amputating your own leg with a chainsaw. With self-publishing, however, you skip over a lot of the drama that would go along with getting your story into the light of day, but unfortunately it's replaced with the second-hardest part of self-publishing.

Marketing your work. (Dun-dun-DUNNNNNNN!)

With traditional publishing, the publishing house typically takes care of all the marketing for you. It's in their best interest that your book sell, so they can recoup the royalties or whatever they've paid you for it. They'll advertise the hell out of your book, and if it's good enough for them to pick up (or marketable enough, at least), you can just sit back and let them do all the work.

Self-published authors, of course, have to do that all by themselves, and I tell you, it's hard. Many writers I know are introverts as well, with makes going up to people and howling variations of "HEY! Buy my book!" really, really sucks for an introvert.

Fortunately, I have a few resources that I'm bringing to bear with this venture, and your marketing army can be every bit as important as your Fellowship of Self-Publishing (see relevant post) with getting your book out there and in the hands of readers.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Word of Mouth
Tell people about your book. Tell your friends and family and co-workers. This might not be easy (see above point about introverts), but in many cases if you get the right balance of passionate vs. annoying (that is, way over on the passionate end), then some of these people might be interested in buying your book when it's available in whatever format. (Having it both in paperback and ebook formats helps.) If you're part of a guild or other writing group, they might let you bring copies of your book to sell at gatherings and workshops, and talk about your book.

Not a lot of brick-and-mortar stores left in my area, to be honest, but there are a few. If you can find a place that will accept your work on consignment (that is, they have to sell it before they will pay you), try it out. I have a local bookstore that specializes in St. Louis authors that I'm going to try with Sheep's Clothing; they're a small place, and will only take five copies at a time, but if you're not a big-name author this is a good way to get your foot in the door.

Talk to Local Media
Talk to your local paper about your book. It helps to get together a press release ahead of time so you're prepared if they want more info or an interview.

I even talked to a woman at work who was in charge of the library's internal newsletter (doesn't get much more local than that!) and she agreed to include an article on Sheep's Clothing in a future issue.

Many libraries will want to purchase books that are actually going to circulate, so you might want to build up a bit of a demand through things like positive book reviews before heading here, especially if you aren't well-known just yet.

Swag is any free giveaway dingbat that doubles as a handy-dandy form of advertisement for your book (or even you as an author). This can be anything from business cards to bookmarks to flyers--and bookmarks would be perfect as a free item for people you know are readers to start with. Sites like VistaPrint offer all sorts of promotional swag at a variety of prices to let you get your name out there.

Go Online
Online coverage will offer you the widest net to cast to get potential readers and fans, but this will be a multipart venture in itself.

Author platform
Get yourself an author's website, the more professional-looking the better. You can set it up so people can buy copies of your book right from your site, and find out about what projects you have coming down the pipe at the same time. You can even offer samples of things you are offering for sale, or teasers of things you're working on.

Social Networking
Any sort of social networking site will offer you a good chance of finding someone who is interested in reading your book. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are the ones I use, and I already have a few nibbles.

Get yourself a Goodreads account if you don't have one. Not only is this a good site for bookworms to meet similarly-inclined bookworms, but the Author program offers you ways to promote the crap out of your book, from making your own ads to offering promotional giveaways. You can also make sure your book has an entry in Goodreads so the curious can find out what the silly thing's about.

There a whole pile of writer-centric magazines, ranging from Writer's Digest to Publisher's Weekly. Contact them with a copy of your book and a press release and see if they'll run with it.

Public Readings
This may run up against the comfort zones of the introverts, but if you find the right venue and you like entertaining potential fans, you can bring along a couple dozen copies of your book to sell on the spot, though if the venue you choose won't let you sell your stuff on site, you can offer bookmarks or business cards to attendees. (See swag, above.)

I won't pretend that this is anywhere near a comprehensive list of all the things you could possibly do to get your book sold, but these are the ones I've seen recommended by a lot of fellow writers. I'm still wading my way though all this myself, but then my book's only been out two days at time of writing. My only remaining advice is to get creative.

We're writers. Creative is what we do.