So, here you are, a published author! It’s time to congratulate yourself on getting your book published. I know what a thrill it is to actually hold the book in your hand in which you’ve invested so much love and hard work. It’s such fun to give copies to friends and family, the people who have supported you though the process. (You’ll be really surprised how long it will take some of them to get around to reading it!) So take a moment to bask in the warmth of that feeling of success. Enjoy it!
Alas, there’s more work to be done. What? More? After all the blood sweat and tears, the effort, time and frustration the actual writing cost you, not to mention the harrowing trip to publication, how can there be more?
Consider your journey: Undaunted by the seemingly impenetrable walls of the Great Courtyard of Publishing, you found your way around those walls via the danger filled back alleys that teem with predators anxious to take advantage of an author. With a lot of dedication you found people you could work with and, at long last, you reached the end of that irritating wall. Now you find yourself in the Marketplace.
And what a Marketplace it is! Everywhere you look people are selling books! Books everywhere! There are brick and mortar stores—big chains and corner independent booksellers. There are books on the shelves in gift shops, truck stops, chambers of commerce, convenience stores, grocery stores, superstores, hospitals…they’re everywhere! And online sources seem endless. Tons of specialty sellers can also be found online who focus on particular genres such as vampires or mysteries.
If your head’s spinning, sit down with a café mocha and take a deep breath while I tell you I’ve always found that discovering effective methods for getting the word out about your book is the most difficult part of the process. Even as a small press,( or maybe particularly as a small press!) it has been a struggle to get our titles noticed.
The way books are marketed today is fluid and changing faster than you can imagine for everyone from the top down. As we all scramble to exploit the internet, social media, and Twitter it’s becoming more a matter of “word of mouth” (or text on a digital page) than ever before.
Some of you may be old enough to remember a favorite bookstore with knowledgeable employees who had actually read some of the books they sold, had a genuine love of reading and were happy to talk about books and recommend things you might be interested in. While that level of customer service is very hard to fine these days, the gauntlet has been picked up by Amazon. Have you noticed the amount of email their customers receive these days with recommendations? And when you pull up any title on their website you will get the box with “People who bought this book also bought…”
The reviews from Amazon customers are becoming more sophisticated and some are developing their own following. Customers also receive emails recommending books (and movies and products) based on past purchases. And I admit Amazon seems to be pretty good at this if what they recommend to me is any indication!
Many people set up websites for themselves as authors or for their book itself. If you do this you will have to continue to update your site in some way that will encourage people to return to see what’s new.
Book bloggers and online reviewers are springing up all over the net to fill the void left by many newspapers and magazines who have stopped reviewing. (I suspect the volume of submissions became too overwhelming with the explosion of new titles and they just didn’t want to deal with it anymore!)
New websites for book lovers are popping up along the lines of Shelfari where readers can rate and discuss the books they’re read and can sometimes even get free pre-publication copies from publishers when they agree to review them.
Facebook has become a way to get the word out when you have a new book, but will only be valuable if you have cast a wide net of “friends,” and if you spend a lot of time regularly posting to keep people interested. You can set up a page there for your book but you need to convince others to “Like” it. And again, you will have to “work” it regularly.
Twitter can be valuable if you have followers or can acquire some. I admit I’m only just starting to delve into this so can’t give you any suggestions based on experience at this point.
The online promotional possibilities are exploding and no one (that I can see) has a sure fire solution yet. Everything is very experimental at this point. The bottom line is figuring out how to reach people who have a interest in what you’re offering, and that is a very old key to successful advertising.
There are also the traditional routes of acquiring media exposure on radio and TV and the new venue of YouTube. You need interviews, press releases—any coverage you can manage to get the word out. You can do book signings at bookstores and other venues such as libraries, book clubs, reading groups, writers groups and organizations. Many smaller and diverse groups are happy to have an author come and speak.
From the practical side, if you intend to sell some of books yourself, you will need to get a sales tax license from your state and report regularly and remit the taxes you’ve collected. If you don’t have distribution for your books you will need to set up billing and invoicing to the retailers who buy from you. If you are working on your own with distributors, be sure you understand your contracts and that you stay on top of them to get paid.
Well, that seems to be the end of this mini course of self publishing. I wish I had a solid multi-step program you can follow to success but, unfortunately for all of us, it just doesn’t work that way. Like the rest of us, you will just have to step out onto the marketing path and see what you can learn. Work hard and you’ll find a path that works for you book! And don’t forget to enjoy the trip!