A few years ago, I belonged to a local writers group. I’d just completed my first novel a few months prior and knew little nothing about the publishing process. The group was a mix of fiction and non-fiction writers, with a few writers who had self-published, a few writers who were in the midst of working on a novel, and a few folks who were just thinking about writing some day. There was one author who had recently signed with a moderate-sized independent publisher after self-publishing four books. When the group leader asked him about self-publishing, he said, “Self-publishing is the only viable option for everyone sitting in this room.”
Well, I immediately disagreed. Not out loud, of course. “Self-publish? No way would I even consider self-publishing. This guy doesn’t get it. My book is good. I’m going to land an agent and get a big huge publishing contract and possibly a movie deal.”
For me, self-publishing wasn’t a last resort–it wasn’t even a possibility. As many of you know, I have self-published two books. How did I go from “hell no, it’s not going to happen” to pushing that “publish” button on KDP? Well, the journey wasn’t easy.
When I finished my first book, I had crazy starry-eyed dreams of agents and movie deals. When I thought about self-publishing, I conjured up the image of some crazy woman selling poorly printed memoirs out of her garage. There are some people (authors and readers) who still view self-publishing this way. Admittedly, there are some books out there that “give publishing a bad name.” But to be quite honest, the main reason I changed my opinion about self-publishing and the authors who choose to publish their own books is because I’ve seen some exceptional books out there that are every bit as good (or better) than some of the books the Big Publishers are cranking out.
Obviously, my opinion about self-publishing has changed over the years. I think there’s been an overall shift in the way the publishing industry looks at self-publishing. I’ve heard of authors who have decided to ditch their traditional publisher in favor of going it alone. There are some authors out there who immediately choose the self-publishing route because they like the freedom of having creative control. There are other authors who wouldn’t rather leave their manuscript sitting in a drawer for all eternity than even consider self-publishing. And, that’s fine. Every author is different. Every book is different. We all have different goals. But, self-publishing is NOT a bad thing. It took me a while to figure that out.
I’d really like to hear from authors and readers out there. How do you feel about self-publishing? Do you think there’s still a bias against those who choose to take this route? Have you self-published a book, or have you considered doing so? What are some of the negative and positive things you’ve heard about self-publishing?
If you’re a writer (published or unpublished), I’m sure you’ve heard about or experienced the difficulty of marketing a book. It’s hard to draw attention to your book when there are thousands of other books competing for readers’ attention. I’ve blogged about this topic before, so I know I’m not the only one who struggles to shine the spotlight on my book. There’s no single magical, free, easy way to sell books, but for those of you who have time, energy, and very thick skin, here is a list of marketing strategies that have been very effective for many authors:
Some of you are probably bookmarking this post, ready to dive headfirst into marketing.
Some of you have already figured this out on your own and are waiting to hear back from the editor at your local newspaper.
Others might be shaking their heads, wondering how they’ll ever have the time or money to follow up on these suggestions.
Still others are recoiling in horror at the thought of visiting their local bookshop or writing a press release.
For those who are shaking your head or recoiling in horror, I understand. I’m with you. I have zero marketing budget and no backbone. I have heart palpitations at the thought of picking up the phone to order a pizza, so the very idea of waltzing into a bookstore with a stack of books to sell fills me with terror. The list of marketing strategies above have worked for some authors, but they might not work for you. This list if for those who are ready to take a fearless approach to marketing. It’s for those who have the time and resources to invest in their books.
For the rest of us–the introverts, the writers with full-time jobs, the author with four kids, the novelist battling health problems–this list might not offer much comfort. So, what do I have to offer you?
I offer you unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding. I understand why you’re terrified at the idea of showing up at your local bookstore with an armload of books and a stack of business cards. I understand why you don’t have time to contact reviewers. I understand why you can’t spend this month’s grocery money on a Goodreads ad. I understand.
We all do what we can. Sometimes we have to step outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we have to take risks. I challenge everyone to try just one tip on the list above. Send one Tweet. If you don’t want to tell everyone how great your book is, I’ll do it for you. If you don’t have time to contact a list of bloggers, send me an email. I’ll promote your book on Authors to Watch. It might not make an immediate difference in terms of sales, but that one Tweet might be the start of something. That one feature on Authors to Watch might give you the incentive to reach for more.
I’ve recently decided to promote myself on Twitter once a day. For some authors, this might sound like nothing, but for me, this is a big step. Maybe one day I’ll work up the nerve to contact a local bookshop, but for now, I do what I can. I believe in myself even if I might not be in a position to act on some of the marketing tips I listed above. I haven’t given up. Neither should you.
I believe in you. I have faith in you. Your books deserve to sell. Even though marketing can be expensive, time-consuming, and frightening, we owe it to ourselves to do what we can, even if it’s only one Tweet per week. At least it’s something. So, don’t give up. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be featured on Authors to Watch, or if you just want to talk. If you have any marketing tips, leave a comment and I’ll update the list above.