Category Archives: Advice

Marketing the Self-Published Novel: A Mega-Challenge

Marketing is my bête noir. I am reticent by nature and the struggle to promote myseIf is a psychological as well as tactical struggle. (Have you read my self-published book, Ninth-Month Midnight? No? Point made.) To try to remedy this failing, I’ve sought out advice on the Internet and combed through book after book on craft. The following is a compendium of received—sometimes contradictory—wisdom:

First we have Hugh Howey, author of the wildly successful science fiction series Silo, the early books published independently through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Here’s what Howey said in a Huffington Post Interview by Jeff Rivera on March 24, 2016:

Int.: What do you do to promote your books that leads directly to sales?

Howey: I rarely promote anything. I don’t, really. Lately, I haven’t even told readers that I had a new release. This isn’t to be coy, or because I don’t care, but because I haven’t seen that it makes much of a difference. Maybe you can blow out the first week, but I’ve tried this every way possible, and I see the same general overall sales eventually. This won’t be true for every author, but for me, the day after release, I’m writing the next story.

I took this with a grain of salt, and justifiably so, given a later interview on the Writers & Artists website, where Howey modifies his previous remarks:

Social media is important for me because I don’t have much of a social life! Writing is very lonely. I enjoy connecting with people, and so I use social media to engage the writers I already have.

Most experienced writers tell us to create a strong writer’s website and build early word of mouth through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Goodreads. If you’re indie publishing, they advise, create an Amazon Author Central page. Use Hootsuite, an app that can schedule your posts across multiple platforms (I did manage to view the Youtube tutorials). And develop a comprehensive email list (another challenge); then use MailChimp to schedule the emails automatically (I’ve been meaning to get to the tutorials).

Here’s one I love: Create a video trailer. Uh, sorry, but I don’t know how. I suppose it’s another thing I could learn, or I could hire someone to do it for me for at least $500 and at most $5000. (And that’s before the novel has made a cent!)

Dizzy yet? Robert Stricklin, in How to Market Your Self-Published Book, tells us to attend book fairs and arrange interviews, targeting local and national news outlets as well as radio and TV stations. If that’s not enough to do, he makes the following suggestions:

  • Everyone should make a point of dropping into local bookstores, meeting booksellers, and signing stock. Everyone should be willing to do at least a few speaking engagements at libraries and bookstores.
  • Distribute printed promotional material. Create fliers that you can post wherever permitted (e.g., clubhouses, campuses, supermarket bulletin boards) and business cards you can hand out to everyone one you meet. 
  • Solicit reviews. Offer review copies to newspapers and magazines that critique books, including college and university publications. and to sites that review books for free.

I hear that for a price, you can get reviewed by Kirkus and PW, and then use only favorable (let’s be optimistic here) reviews in your promo campaign.

Here’s a zinger from Tess Gerritsen: The most important thing you can do as a writer is to write. Write the next book. And the next. Because every new title on the bookstore rack serves as an ad, another chance for readers to discover you.

This oft-repeated urging (see Howey’s complacent, the day after release, I’m writing the next story] is rife with irony: Move on to the next novel immediately, the experts seem to insist. Immediately? In other words, I’m expected to put in a few spare hours of writing regularly as I go about countless promotional activities and tend to personal responsibilities.

All these unrealized expectations make for a heavy load of guilt that I refuse to carry any longer. I’ve made peace with myself. I do what I can. My social media presence is sketchy at best, but I do post occasionally on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. More importantly, I’ve begun work on another novel that I intend to self-publish.

What’s the Score on Flash Fiction?

How many words constitute flash fiction? What’s the cutoff? The number seems to vary according to publication. Up to 1000 words according to Smokelong.com and Flashfictiononline.com submissions criteria. For Vestalreview.com the cutoff is 500 words. Flash fiction is significantly shorter than short stories, but how short can fiction go and still be recognized as a… Continue Reading

Self-Publishing To-Do List

I had no idea what I was doing when I decided to self-publish my novella, Ninth-Month Midnight, about a woman who loses a child and almost loses herself before a charismatic psychic offers her hope. I came to the do-it-myself decision after wasting too much time waiting for traditional publishers to bite. It took trial… Continue Reading

GUESS WHO GOT REJECTED

Have you ever struggled with that niggling “Are you kidding?” inner voice, as in, “Are you kidding, taking yourself seriously?” Self-doubt afflicts us all at one time or another. This blog post is intended to provide the antidote this particular poison. What follow, Dear Readers, are excerpts of manuscript rejections garnered from the Net. Can… Continue Reading