Market Sense

Statue in Fog
Marketing your own work is often compared to trying to sail in thick fog. It’s hard to know where you’re going. / AP photo

How Do You Market a Book by Yourself?
I went to the monthly meeting of The Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group last Tuesday.

It’s a local group that meets the third Tuesday of every month (except December) to discuss the business of writing.

I look forward to it, because I learn something about the business every time I go … even if it’s something eye-opening about myself.

This month we talked quite a bit about self-publishing, and I mentioned the difficulty of marketing your own work.

I truly believe the best marketing is still word-of-mouth … but how do you get people started talking? It often feels like sailing around in a dense fog.

When I had finished my novel, Reichold Street, I thought it was good, but then, why wouldn’t I? It was my creation, after all. Sort of like having a literary child.

And, although it’s not really her kind of book, my wife thought it was pretty good, too. While that did wonders for my ego, it doesn’t sell books.

The Traditional or Indie Way?
I knew most traditional publishers today won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, so an agent is a requirement for entry; but I think most new writers have heard the tales about finding a reputable agent. It’s a chore unto itself.

It can take months or years and, even if you’re fortunate enough to find one willing to take a chance on you, there’s no guarantee of finding a publisher equally willing.

I’m not a total newbie. I’ve written articles for a major international company (although I’m not sure a literary agent would care). I even had a few fiction credits over the years. But the bylines for my fiction were dated and few … and not exactly awe-inspiring.

Then there’s my age. I’m no spring chicken. Not even a late summer one. I’m fast becoming a gristled old rooster. I had retired from the nine-to-five routine and was writing because … well, because I had to.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid because there’s something in me that demands it. I sent my first story off to collect a rejection letter when I was a teenager and I still have stories in my head that I need to write.

Need to.

So, I took the indie leap.

Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote about writing a book tells it pretty much like it is: There’s nothing to it. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

But I discovered going indie is a mini MBA program unto itself. You’ll never learn more about the publishing business than doing it yourself.

Writing can be difficult, but being your own editor is chore I don’t recommend to the faint of heart. Neither is converting it to the proper electronic formats. It’s boring and tedious … and you miss a lot when you try to polish your own work.

It took me several iterations to get it right.

The Really Hard Part
But as hard as all of that seemed, it (pardon the cliche) pales in comparison to trying to market your own book.

I had very little social media experience before publishing my own novel. I had built a web site for collecting old cameras, and started a little-used blog about photography that has morphed into the one you’re reading now.

I’ve discovered trying to build a presence on Facebook, Twitter (you can follow me there @ronherron) and Goodreads has a steep learning curve. I often feel like a hamster on a wheel, running to keep up with things that don’t always seem to be taking me anywhere.

I put a couple of books … my short-story collections Zebulon and Tinker … into Kindle Select the other day. They’re exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. I also used the Amazon free promotion program for each of them.

Zebulon had 125 free downloads in three days, and I’m waiting to find out if the Select program helps with sales (I’ll let you know what happens).

One of the new visitors to the writing group suggested I try to schedule school and library visits; perhaps even do a reading. It makes sense. I’d have to do it even if I wasn’t an indie author.

It will take some effort on my part to get the word out. I already know I can’t depend on social media to do it for me, but I need something to stimulate sales or I’ll be turning out more blogs than books.

So I’ve decided to get off my duff and do the legwork (although I may wait for Spring, when there isn’t so much snow).

I’d welcome any comments you have.

Oh, I did manage to write six-thousand more words on my next novel since my last post. That’s why I feel OK about blogging again so soon. I’m an indie author … and proud of it.

All things considered, it’s a great time to be a writer.

The Official Book Trailer for the Award-Winning “Reichold Street” –

 

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11 Responses to “Market Sense”

  1. karensdifferentcorners Says:

    Hi Ron
    Great post. With the new year I think we are all trying to find the perfect way to market and it’s hard and can be time consuming. I did a post last week on my blog and shared a few of my ideas for marketing offline. Stop by and if you have more ideas, please share.

    http://karensdifferentcorners.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/marketing/

    Like

  2. My pal Ron Herron (Painting with light) with a splendid article on how to market your book…:) | Thomas Rydder Says:

    […] Β  […]

    Like

  3. Patrick Jones Says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  4. lauraleeauthor Says:

    I’ve been writing a series of blog posts called “nothing works” about promoting an indie book. I actually regret going that direction. I think I ought to have been more patient and maybe found a new fiction agent who was willing to send it out to more publishers. You still have to promote your own work when you have a midsize publisher or even a major publisher behind you, but the difference is that mainstream reviewers take you seriously when you’re published by Harper Collins, so it is easier to get results. I put ten years into writing my novel, I feel as though I did it a disservice by being impatient to get it out and not being as patient when it came to finding just the right publishing house for it. I don’t think I’ll do another indie book, although I respect the concept.

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    • Ron Herron Says:

      Lauralee – I’ve read your blog, and I understand your frustration. But reviewers will read indie books, too. My novel “Reichold Street” was a 2012 Readers Favorite Gold Medal winner, based on its reviews.

      However, your book is NOT something a mainstream house would overlook, if it’s well written. The first hardest part is finding that literary agent to represent you … and a great many will take an indie published book (or the manuscript it was derived from) and pitch it to mainstream publishers.

      I didn’t want to spend years trying to do that, since I’m already retired from a long career, so I went indie. But if I thought an agent representing a major house might be interested, I’d send the manuscript to them in a heartbeat.

      In fact, I’ve entertained the thought since winning that award last November. Random House follows Readers Favorite reviews (RF even does some reviews for books by their authors).

      Keep in mind, most mainstream-published books never sell more than 5,000 copies (and many sell far fewer, as someone already mentioned to you), regardless of their reviews. If I can come close as an indie… even a small percentage of that … I’ll be content.

      But by all means, do not give up that quest. Keep looking for an agent and, who knows, your dream of mainstream publishing for your story can still come true. You’re young enough to try.

      ~ RLH

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      • lauraleeauthor Says:

        I do have an agent, and my non-fiction has sold upwards of 85,000 copies on some titles. I am not at the beginning of my career. That is why I do regret listening to my agent’s advice to self publish Angel (expressed with all the normal wave of the future enthusiasm.)

        Angel is not actually self published, it is with a small print on demand publisher (paid an advance).

        I find that publishing this way has put me back to being viewed as an amateur/beginner after a long time dues paying.

        My agent was enthusiastic about the book and got good feedback from the 8 publishers she sent to, but did not have a lot of fiction contacts and didn’t want to pursue it further. I regret that I did not seek another fiction agent and keep putting in the effort for a mainstream publisher. I think it would have been worth it and would have paid off eventually. My agent has done a good job for me on non-fiction an I just didn’t want to change.

        A poorly selling novel by a mainstream publisher has a shot at being put in libraries and gathering mainstream reviews.

        I do think I made a mistake in going the indie route. It is great for some depending on what you want.

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        • Ron Herron Says:

          Wow! 85,000 copies! I guess I should take a better look at what kind of non-fiction you do.

          I’d also say you were right about finding a better agent for your fiction work. Good feedback from 8 publishers is encouraging … but your agent was the sticking point.

          If it were me, I’d shop around for a good FICTION agent and try again (it doesn’t mean you can’t keep the one you have for non-fiction writing).

          It’s not a strike against you any more to indie publish (some big names have done it), and if the story is good there will be people interested.

          Going indie is not for the faint of heart. I admire you for trying. πŸ˜‰

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