Thursday, March 8, 2012

Publishing Yourself

More and more writers are opting out of publishing via the traditional route: author to agent to publisher to reader. They’re now cutting out the agent and publisher steps and going straight from author to reader. Doing that means authors will have to take on more of the work themselves.

Some may opt to hire experts to help: an editor, someone to lay out the book, a cover artist, a printer to produce the book. Even if the writer plans to go straight to e-books and bypass print books, there is still much to do: the layout of the book, a cover artist, an editor, and learning how to create an ebook. And in either case, the author must be prepared to promote the book.

On a listserv I follow there’s been a lot of talk about Kindle and raising your stats and sales by offering one book for free. For many authors, that seems to be working. If you don’t have a backlist, it doesn’t work as well, though. So, how do you promote?

The same way authors have always promoted. Book tours help. The rave today is blog book tours. Start planning yours long before your book goes live. While you’re getting your book ready to e-publish, visit blogs to find hosts – don’t wait until the book is ready. You need to be prepared long before that. Offer free books to targeted reviewers. Make your presence known through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, GoodReads, your own blog, your website, LinkedIn, Google+, listservs, all the “in” places. Start building an email contact list of people to let know you have a book out. Just putting your book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or other sites that sell e-books won’t be enough.

Weeks before your book’s debut, pitch to your local media, see if you can get mentioned. Try to line up speaking engagements. Talk to friends who have blog talk radio shows to see if they would welcome you as a guest. Start a list of other places to promote your book: your college alumni magazine, your local paper, a neighborhood email circle, local TV and radio stations. Why not approach a national station? They may indeed say no, but that’s okay. You’re no worse off. Line up cover blurbs. Get other authors to give you a one or two line “praise” to go on the cover – the bigger the name or status of the author, the better. Don’t be a wall flower.

Pay attention to what other authors are doing to promote their books. Start a file on your computer to keep ideas and another to maintain a contact list.

Buyers won’t find you just because your book is online. You MUST find them.

Leave a comment telling us what you plan to do to promote your book – or what you’ve already done that was successful. Or, if you’ve ever bought an ebook or a print book from an unknown author, what made you plunk down your money for that book?
 Helen Ginger is an author and blogger. She teaches public speaking as well as writing, editing, and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its thirteenth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, Co-Partner of Legends In Our Own Minds® and Coordinator of Story Circle Network’s Editorial Services.

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  1. Great advice, Helen. Of course, it's all easier said than done, particularly the part about lining everything up before your book is out, not only because most of the targets actually want to see a book before doing or commiting anything but also because that is precisely the time when the self-publishing author is stretched thinnest.

    My own four novels are on a borderland--technically micropress but practically speaking, I did all the work. It helped that I am a designer and editor as well as a writer.

    I would add one more suggestion to your long list: lists. If you can, by luck or maneuvering, bump your book up into one of the many Amazon Top 100 lists, even temporarily, all of a sudden, sales synergy sets in and the demand becomes self-sustaining. My first novel, Bashert finally crept into the Top 100 of Jewish Fiction on the Kindle and has been selling very well ever since without further PR, sometimes climbing into the top 20, sometimes slipping back around #40, but selling.

    A curious thing about these list-driven sales is that the impulse Kindle readers do not seem to write reviews. Interesting.

    --Larry Constantine (Lior Samson)

  2. It's great to have subscribers to my website. I can send updates to them abou book promo.

    The Spinster’s Vow

  3. Thanks Larry. The Kindle Select program does seem to be helping authors get their ratings up. It's the biggest topic of conversation among authors right now, it seems like.

    Enid, that's a great tip. Thanks!

  4. I'm with a small publisher, but I've done a lot of online promoting and am finishing up a book tour right now. It's a lot of work but worth it.

  5. I have seen so many self-published friends start fast out of the gate and then give up in despair after their immediate circles of influence are reached. So I'll watch these comments with interest.

    I have to say I've only ever purchased one $2.99 self-published e-book, and that was because I trusted this author's ability to pull it off and because I understood his inability to interest traditional publishers—it's a sexy coming-of-age YA, and as such, is hard to place on the shelves. I did enjoy it, though: ADULT WORLD by Christopher Scott Grimaldi. I'm not sure I'd ever cruise for such reads, though. For me, the personal interaction was key.

    That said, I think that if you have a solid product that is stuck between genres, that's a good reason to give it a go.

  6. I'm a certified wallflower. Sigh. Goodreads is a great place to build interest for your book, if you join a thriving group on there that accepts free eBooks for reviews.

  7. The few e-books I've downloaded have come from authors whose blogs I read. I do find all the online interviews that I encounter via the blogosphere helpful.

  8. Excellent article, Helen. I've bought unknown e-books at $2.99 or less that I've heard of through Facebook posts, so that seems to work.

    Readers can hop over to Crime Fiction Collective next Monday (Mar. 12) to read my related article for indie authors, but mine backs it up a step and discusses the importance of not racing out of the gate too soon, with a first or even second draft. Amateurish mistakes can sink your career as a writer by self-pubbing a book that's not ready. It's important to take the time and effort to create a quality product first, then hire use a freelance editor, if you can.

  9. Oops! Typo there in the last phrase! Not good for an editor! *blush* Should be "then hire a freelance editor"

  10. Such wonderful advice. It is a bit daunting, though.

  11. Like Laura, I'm a wallflower. I love the writing process, I love working with other writers and editing their works, but I hide in terror from the marketing scene. I'm exploring ideas to come out of seclusion, but so far they're just ideas.

    Great post, Helen!

  12. I'm starting up book signings again at local Indie stores. Quite a few in my area. Los Angeles has some pretty good sized stores that will host me.

  13. Great advice. I have found that KDP select has boosted my sales, especially after offering one of my books free for five days. It hit #1 on Amazon Kindle for British Detective genre.
    The way I tackle cover design is to use the wizard on Create Space for my printed book and use that same design for my e-book. Also, contact book reviewers and ask if you can be a guest. A lot of reviewers are so inundated with requests that they are happy for you to offer a Q&A and perhaps an excerpt from your book rather than asking them to do a review. If you have a blog, return the favor. I'm currently doing guest spots for book review blogs every Tuesday and it's working well.

  14. Thanks for sharing this. I am wrestling with the decision to self-publish and this post contains some things I hadn't taken into consideration. Not because I don't want to do them, but I simply hadn't thought about them. I definitely have some thinking ahead of me.

  15. Excellent advice, as per-usual, Helen ... but daunting ... and depressing ... for an under-acheiver.

  16. When I first researched blog book tours five years ago, I knew this would be the way I'd promote my own books. I don't like traveling and the petroleum embedment just wasn't right for my guerrilla environmental sentiments. Now that I've taught the classes for four years (four years!) and have lots of stories for my own e-book how-to about it, I plan to finish up my other books and have some blog book tours. Talk about doing everything through the back door. I even submitted three short stories to the free e-book promo Helen mentioned, but now need the books to promote. Better bass-ackwards than not at all, I guess. :D

  17. I have found the same phenomenon that Larry mentioned about the buyers who are list-driven not necessarily writing reviews. Or if they do, it is to say they were disappointed in the length of the book or the subject matter, which they knew about in advance and could have opted out of buying the book. Always interesting to see what those responses will be.

    I also agree that getting the book in the top 100 on some of those lists, does establish a sell pattern that continues fairly strong without a whole lot of promo.

    However, I do plan to do quite a bit for Open Season when it comes out as an e-book, which my publisher keeps telling me will be soon. I appreciate these tips, Helen, and may actually even draw up a plan. Don't tell my husband, though. He will faint at the thought of his wife actually being organized.

  18. Great tips, Helen! And when we lay the groundwork before our release, it really helps with exposure for the book.

  19. I think part of the worry for a lot of writers is that they will have to somehow organize their efforts. Even when you have a plan and ideas, if you aren't organized it can seem overwhelming.

  20. Great tips, Helen! More and more writers seem to be going down this road. I'm not sure I'll join them, but since preparation is key, I've bookmarked this post for reference.

  21. I have a traditionally published book out and another being releases on 1 May 2012. I have however just published a long novella (39,500 words) on Amazon at $2.99 and it is doing well. Hit top 50 in Regency romance. I think it helped that I was already published but also the COVER, BLURB and I got some nice (purchase related) reviews. Don't underestimate the blurb for selling your book or the cover for that matter. Professionalism is key. I paid an editor, a cover artist and for someone to format the books.
    I haven’t done much promotion of it except to my newsletter base, on twitter and on my Facebook page.
    Someone wise once told me a ‘good’ story will sell. Word of mouth is huge amongst readers especially now it’s all online.
    I am going to do guest blogging and a blog tour for my Regency 1May release later this year. A good prize and getting together as many brilliant authors as possible is key. If you want to learn how to do a brilliant tour check out Elise Rome’s blog tour on now. She helps other authors and it helps her. She networks and makes it work for everyone especially READERS, not just herself.

  22. I'm fully independent now. Yes, it's definitely a lot of work, but also well worth the effort. I also advise getting a good editor. For my last two books, I hired a great editor named Helen Ginger.

    For my most recent book, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, I participated in a blog book tour. I'm also planning to visit more blogs off and on than before, to keep my name and books remembered.

    Along with my full length books, I've contributed to the The Corner Cafe anthology, which will be offered free at first. Hopefully, people will like what they read and check out what else the contributing authors have to offer.

    Lots of other promotion in the works, plus more books to write!

    Morgan Mandel

  23. For anyone who's interested, I blogged today comparing Amazon Select to Barnes & Noble's "Nook First" program. They're not equivalent.

    As for promo -- I really hate it. So many Facebook pages and tweets are nothing more than "buy my book". I prefer to try to offer content that (I hope) might be interesting, more in the sake of making my name visible than pounding the bushes for book sales.

    I might not be in the top 100, but I'm holding steady and climbing.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  24. Morgan, you did a brilliant bbtour.

    Bron, I agree about the cover and blurb. They can make or break the book sales. I miss the back cover blurbs. You don't see those often with ebooks. They'll have it on the site selling the book, but not on the book itself. Since I sometimes have a lineup of books waiting to be read on my iPad, I'd like to have the blurb there so I could remind myself why I bought it.

    I think one thing to remember when you're writing posts for a blog tour is that your posts should be information for the reader, not a sales pitch for the book.

  25. I don't have any projects close to publication stage, so I haven't really thought hard about promotion--these sound like great tips, though!

  26. I couldn't agree with you more, Helen. Great advice!

  27. I can see already my book is but a dream. Over six thousand words so far and only short stories.

    I guess I'll hang it up.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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