What To Do with a Self-Published Book


Okay, the hard work is over. I’ve written my book, had it critiqued and edited, formatted it and put it up as a print or an electronic book. Now I can sit back and wait for the checks; even better, I can go to work on my next project.

At the end of the first month, I check the sales figures. Zero? Well, I guess it takes a little while to catch on. But surely all my hard work won’t go unrecognized for too long. It’s no longer fashionable to an artist to die before his works become famous.

Second month sales report. One copy? Oh, that was the one I ordered myself to give to my uncle, who sort of murmured that he’d really love to read my stuff. So far, though, he says he’s been staying late at work and hasn’t had the time.

Third month. Wait a minute! Something’s wrong here. My printer/publisher must be cheating me.

The truth: Nothing in this entire economy, including sex, drugs, and rock & roll, sells without promotion. Your book is out there, and available to anyone; surely, in this wide world, there’s someone who’d like to read it. The question is, how to make the latter aware of the former? The answer is marketing.

Marketing is ugly. No one likes doing it, really, except a certain sort of person who’s into the thrill of the hunt. Such people do well in any field. In my former profession, I was always envious of colleagues who approached and massaged funding agencies and come away with millions of dollars, using only on their own persuasiveness. The common characteristic of every one of these successful people is that they enjoyed the hunt.

Most of us don’t. But if our books are going to sell, we have to hold our noses and do it. Moreover, it never ends. I once read that marketing is “like a bump-em car; whenever you take your foot off the pedal, it stops.” The number of books we sell is proportional to the time and energy we put into selling them, so it behooves us to use our time as efficiently as possible.

Below is a collection of marketing methods that many people agree are effective:

There’s little doubt that the Internet is the best thing to happen to small entrepreneurs, including authors, in the past fifty years. A one-person operation can have an online presence as prominent as a multinational corporation. (Well, almost.) On a static website, you can list your books and sell direct to the public, or direct them to your publisher’s website. You can put up free stories and excerpts from your novels. You can put your own site together using inexpensive and easy to use tools. You can hire your grandson to do it, or pay a professional web designer.

Blogs are technically easier to do than websites, but they require more discipline. There’s no point in putting up a blog unless you’re sure you can update it regularly, not less than once a week. Blogs that aren’t updated simply drop off people’s radar and they stop coming back. Therefore, before you launch a blog, you should do some serious introspection and decide whether you have the time for regular updates, and the will to stick with it. Blogs should stay on topic, too. People come to hear about your books and commune with you as a writer. If you want to post pictures of your cat, or your recipe for brussels sprouts candy, start another blog.

The quickest way to learn to blog is to scout the blogs of other writers. Harvest the best of their methods, and when yours is up and running, offer to exchange links with them. Links between blogs are the most effective way to bring traffic.

Participate in forums specializing in your genre. This means forums for readers and not only writers. Although writers do buy the books of other writers, the bulk of your sales necessarily come from the nonwriting public. There are more of them.

Most forums permit a personal signature line at the bottom of every post. This is your opportunity to plug your books. Your signature should contain a link to your website or blog, and even a thumbnail of your book cover, if permitted by the forum’s rules.

Review sites are beginning to proliferate, partly in response to the tsunami of good, bad, and ugly material appearing as part of the self-publishing revolution. Many review sites, such as www.eroticarevealed.com and www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com review self-published as well as traditionally published books. Some will accept unsolicited ebooks to consider for review.

Avoid review sites that charge money. Such review sites make you seem desperate, and your sales may even suffer as a result.

The area of marketing is huge, and worth more study than I can discuss in this one article. For further information, check out the following:

1. John Kremer, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, Sixth Edition, 2006. A classic. In today’s market, five years old is an eternity, but the ideas in Kremer’s book may serve as seeds for marketing plans.

2. BenBella Books Blog – Marketing Section. Collects marketing ideas, both unusual and obvious.

3. Book Marketing Floozy. Another targeted blog.

4. Book Promotion Ideas and Advice Forum. A subsection of the forum of the large writers’ site Absolute Write. Sign up to post, but not to read.

William Gaius
December 2011 – January 2012

“Kill Electrons, Not Trees” © 2011 William Gaius. All rights reserved.

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