Monday, January 16, 2017


I find myself going round in circles so often with the whole "how to self promo" thing for authors. Plainly put, no one truly knows what works. Some claim a Facebook advertisement garners results. Some say it won't. Some authors don't do a single stitch of advertising, and their books fly off the virtual shelves. Other authors spend hundreds of dollars each month on ads, blog tours and whatnot, and perhaps don't even see a blip on the radar when it comes to sales.


A few authors I know have gained success bundling their books or novellas and pooling their resources (and in that way, they've gained a modicum of success on bestseller lists). This is all fine and dandy, but it just highlights the fact that the market at present is saturated with new releases every day. With the prevalence of permafree copies, 99c specials, giveaways, I can tell you I have more books on my Kindle app than I can hope to read in four years. And that's not even talking about what I've got squirrelled away on my Kobo and iBooks apps.

After the initial boom in ebooks and small presses, we're now entering an age of overabundance. Readers have more choice than ever before, and it's becoming increasingly difficult for authors to make their voices heard (and sell books).

I'm going to put my cards on the table. I'm *lucky* if I sell one or two copies of one of my dozen or so titles each month. Granted, I don't write in a popular genre like romance, and my career so far has genre hopped a bit, and also I haven't been arsed to release any new novel-length works during the past few years.

A lot of work goes into self-publishing. Not only is the author responsible for content creation, but she takes on the role of publisher too – this means being willing to invest in editing, design, formatting, illustration. This means shelling out money. And it stands to reason that the same amount of effort must go into marketing.

Even traditionally published authors can no longer rely on their publishers to handle their marketing for them. While big-name authors will get marketing budget tossed at them, many new and mid-list authors will need to supplement whatever promo they get from their publisher with efforts of their own.

With so much noise in social media going along the lines of BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! actually selling enough copies to make a decent living is becoming more and more difficult. This is the reality of the system. It's no use crying about it.

You, as author, are not special. Don't try to deny it. Unless potential readers are invested in you, they simply don't care. Accept it. Deal with it. Getting bitter and twisted about it won't change that fact. You simply have to ensure that the product (because yes, your special darling *is* a commodity) you put out is the best that it can be.

Work on the premise that no one cares, and you'll save yourself a pile of heartache. Ask yourself why it is that you write. If you're looking to make oodles of money, be prepared for disappointment. Play the long game. No one cares about your awesome YA kick-ass heroine who resembles "XYZ of that popular dystopian setting's heroine". There are hundreds if not thousands of other authors out there who most likely are publishing books that are similar to yours. And also feel as if they are TWU SPESHUL SNOFLAKES.

So, what can you do?

It's about attitude readjustment. You are not going to sell your book on Twitter or Facebook. You may not even sell your book using your newsletter. Word of mouth is best.

I'm going to say it again.


And there's nothing *you* personally can do to make it happen.

People must care enough about you to care about your writing. If you're a whiny little sh*t who complains about the fact that you're being discriminated against day and night, that everyone else has it soooo much easier than you and your life is just terrible and one disaster after the other...

Guess what?


If all you ever post every day are buy links and bits begging people to BUY YOUR BOOKS, guess what? NO ONE CARES.

If you send people who follow you DMs telling them to BUY YOUR BOOKS, guess what? They'll unfollow or, worse, block you. If you constantly self-promote in communities where self-promo is forbidden, guess what? You'll get blocked.

Your shotgun approach to marketing won't sell books. It won't make people care about you, as a person or an author. You'll just have yourself labelled as "that author" and folks will be resistant to picking up copies of your books.

Sending buy links to other authors won't work either. They're in the same boat that you are. You need to reach readers, not authors. If you think getting [insert famous author name here] to share or retweet your buy link will automatically result in fame and fortune, you're sadly mistaken. Readers aren't stupid. If you don't put down what they want to read, they won't pick it up. If you think getting your novel reviewed in the local papers will make a huge difference, nope, nope, nope. You might see a slight bump, but newspapers and magazines get pulped. And, while reviews on vendors' sites like Amazon are gold, and Good reads is pretty fab too, they still won't sell your books.

So, what to do, if as this post suggests, nothing works?

Cultivating your readership is an exercise in patient gardening. Your readers must be so excited about your next book that they share news of an imminent release for you. Hell, they must love you so much that they make and share fan art. Or gush about what they're reading randomly on social media. And there's no easy way to reach this point.

My suggestion is as follows: go see how your favourite top authors handle their social media. One thing you'll notice is that many of them rarely (if ever) share buy links. Instead they talk about the things that are important to them. They share snippets of (curated) personal info. They might post cat photos or pictures of what they're baking. They might talk about the writing process. What books they're reading. Hell, even what they're knitting. What music inspires them. They might offer insights about current affairs (although here be careful that you don't go overboard with politics – this can also be a turn-off).

Don't inundate people with all the terrible things in your life. Remember, NO ONE CARES whether your left testicle is slightly lumpy or that your dog ate an entire block of hash and has now pooped it all over your afghan. Okay, I digress, the last example is actually quite funny, but I hope you get my point that folks don't want to be privy to the unrelenting existential crisis that you've been having for the past three decades. You won't win awards (or sell books) for being a martyr. Find ways to turn your setbacks into opportunities to shine.

(For instance, if I'm feeling blue, I ask my friends to post me pictures that will make me smile and it's so lovely to see engagement that way).

Thing is, it's not wrong, per se, to post buy links from time to time, but it's *how* you do it and with how much regularity this occurs (less is more, IMO). People want to get to know you, the person, and then they'll be more prepared to care about your writing. If they feel that they can relate to you and you're not like those annoying religious fundies who go door to door trying to sell afterlife insurance when all you really want to do is watch telly, then you're on the right track.

But remember this, it's not a case of overnight fame. You're not going to get rich off your debut novel (those stories are the exception, not the rule). Write because you love to. Tell the stories you love AS IF NO ONE CARES. Don't be that author who makes you want to hit the unfriend button.

PS. Use the fact that no one cares as a way to free yourself from the expectations of others. That's what I do, and I can guarantee that instead focusing on making beautiful books that *you* love to read, makes the journey worthwhile. 

No comments:

Post a Comment