Self-publishing’s Marketing Maze

I have just spent several hours with Twitter—reading tweets from those I follow, pouring over the Help section and, by trial and error, attempting to build a list of those whose tweets would interest me by clicking the green ‘following’ button.  Not an easy task.  It’s extremely time-consuming, and it’s easy to get sidetracked.  Just after lunch I entered my first tweet ever— to Joel Friedlander—whose articles I’ve been reading for months.  I must admit that seeing my face and words there in the Tweet list was quite startling, until I sat back and assured myself that I had finally dipped my feet into the murky waters of the world of Twitter. One of Friedlander’s articles warns a newbie (I prefer to think of myself as a neophyte, but you can’t say that, not if you want to sound tech-savvy) to take time, read many tweets, and learn the ropes before jumping in.  Read on and see how I jumped too soon.

Soon I found another name to follow, Scott Perry@New_Authors.  I think you can tell by his web name why I found him.  He recently tweeted “End of the Road for Professional Publishing?”  Jumping in, as I’ve been known to do, I quickly retweeted him that I might be quoting him, as I was blogging on the trials of marketing a self-published book.  Sent it off, only to realize it wasn’t his article, but had appeared in the August 5th English edition of Today’s Zaman, a Turkish periodical.  So much for all the research into tweeting that I did this morning.  With that embarrassing confession, I will continue with the matter at hand, that of marketing a self-published novel.

It was indeed the increasing popularity of self-publishing, the burst of interest in ebooks, that gave me the courage to return to Amazon’s Createspace (it was Booksurge when they did my Menokin book) to publish The Sound of Caissons.  Let me explain the difference between my two books:  The Lees of Menokin, a story about Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and his Northern Neck of Virginia home, Menokin, had a ready audience—The Menokin Foundation near Warsaw, Virginia, has a Visitor’s Center where they were happy and eager to sell the book and help me promote it by giving me a venue to speak, etc.  And in Virginia the Lee name will always attract attention; other historic sites in the state are carrying my novel.  It has been read by several book clubs, and I have been invited to speak to three of them.

The Sound of Caissons, however, has no such easy ready-made venue.  If I can get Army military exchanges to carry it, however, I should call that a huge step toward success.  We’ll see, I can’t apply for that until I have books in hand. That will hopefully be in September.

Several months ago, using Google search, I began tracking down helpful websites for self-published authors.  They all recommended social networking.  Frequently it was stated as a necessity in order to sell books. So, I held my nose and joined Facebook, Twitter, and a couple of others.  I didn’t want to do this, I wanted to immerse myself in my next novel.  I had been asking friends and family for months why they wasted time on it, meaning Facebook, and no, I didn’t want ‘to friend’ them.  Oh, dear, I’ve had to eat my words.

“The author can sell their e-book at whatever price they wish, and through programs available on self-publishing sites, can decide each and every detail regarding the book — from typeface to cover design, from editing to distribution. This way,” says the aforementioned Turkish periodical, “the author also holds all the rights to his or her work. The system bypasses numerous levels in having a book published, such as the editor, the publisher and the distributor, as well as the marketing stage,”  Well, everything is basically true until you come to the part about “bypassing the marketing stage” and that, I think, not so much so.  I assume they refer to the many book tours that professional publishers traditionally arrange for their authors. That, at least for me, would indeed be a royal pain.  What they don’t say, is that if you want to sell your self-published book, you’d better be prepared to spend hours every week, marketing through social media channels including a website on which you blog frequently.  Then there’s the issue of getting people interested enough to read what you post on your blog.  And getting around to local stores who may agree to take your book on consignment. Believe me, there’s no “bypassing the marketing” if you’ve self-published.

It is also said that because technology is expanding and spreading throughout the publishing world daily, our self-published books may possibly be picked up by a mainstream publisher.  Well, what I say is, don’t hold your breath waiting for that one.  Even someone on my Createspace project team said that was “unlikely”.

So, taking all this into account, I guess I’d better sign off on this blog post, and get on with my social media exploration.  I still have a lot to learn.  It’s a tech-happy world out there, so I’d better run to catch up with it.  I must confess, around noon while sipping on my fruit and orange juice smoothie, I paused to write a scene that had popped into my head for my new novel!