Category Archives: novel

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.

Why I Write: A Manifesto

A host of indie and traditionally published writers are exhorting authors to share a manifesto with their followers. The dictionary defines manifesto as a statement of values, beliefs and goals. As applied to our profession, it is designed to remind us why we’re writers and to get us back on track when we’ve gone astray.… Continue Reading

WRITING THAT NOVEL—WHERE TO BEGIN?

I’m lucky enough to have written and self-published a novel called Ninth-Month Midnight. (http://amzn.to/2q23pAP) But since then I’ve been going bonkers trying to get started on my next novel. I can’t begin to count the number of suggested approaches I’ve attempted to put into effect. The following are just a few of the resources I’ve… Continue Reading

Orwellian Resurgence: What’s It All About?

Given the current political scene, George Orwell’s work has re-emerged into prominence. His novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, was originally published in 1949, when the world faced the rising threat of Soviet totalitarianism. Today, almost seventy years later, the perceived threat is closer to home, and Orwell’s novel has skyrocketed onto Amazon’s bestseller list. In a 1974… 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

How to Cure the Beach-Read Blahs

With the onset of autumn, I’m guessing many of you are sick of so-called beach-reads and ready for some substantial fiction, the kind that lingers in the heart and mind long after you turn the final page. To those of you beset by the literary blahs, I offer a potent remedy. The following contemporary novels… Continue Reading

The Plot’s the Thing, Part Two

This month I turn again to John Gardner for inspiration, paraphrasing his comments on plot generation in The Art of Fiction. Last time, we talked mainly about short story plotting. As Gardner points out, writers labor over plot (as if we didn’t already know!). Trying out one approach after another, they often find that an… Continue Reading