This will be ridiculously funny (I'll be mostly making fun of myself) and only moderately useful (more of a moral tale of what not to do). As you have seen, my second little book of tweets arrived, and I have screamed about it everywhere. Which was a good thing because it prepared me for marketing The Badlings, which should be ready this week or the coming week, and about which of course I will also scream everywhere, albeit louder. (Screaming equals marketing, by the way. Coupled with free hugs.)
As you have also seen, there are a ton of tips and tricks floating around in the self-publishing universe that you can employ and that can make you dizzy (they make me dizzy, that's why I don't read them). At first I was trying all those tips and tricks, and I have just fallen into the trap of trying them again and have decided to write this cautionary tale for myself lest I forget it when birthing my next book (and I do, I tend to forget, which sucks).
The following are big terms that have been no doubt coined by big publishing houses and are used by indie authors also, but which I have not figured out how to do and am steering clear of until I do.
1. Release date.
So there is this notion of hyping up interest about your book by setting a release date and then dangling it like a carrot in front of the hungry reader, counting off days. This requires planning and bossing people around, like prepping everything before that date so your book is really out there on that date and nagging your team (formatter, designer, editor, proofreader, feet washer, back scrubber) to get it ready on time. I hate both. I hate planning and I hate bossing people around. Well, I'm lying. I love bossing people around, but I hate pushing them to speed up their work because it results in errors that ultimately need to be fixed and slow everything down. The other thing is, I can't afford to shower them with money so that I can truly whip them with a studded cudgel and demand they bloody do their shit faster. They do it when they can, and so I wait and I can't predict the actual final date. I also have to wait for the various distribution channels to approve my files (or not) and I can't predict that either. I used to be worried about it. Now I'm like, fuck it. It is what it is. I don't really have a release date, but I still scream about every little step accomplished on the way to the book being published, and that is my marketing process. You'll still send me diamonds when the book is out, right?
I hate planning (did I mention it already?), and giveaways require planning. Proper giveaways. Also, my memory sucks when it comes to little mundane things like that. So I set up a giveaway for Blue Sparrow 2 on Goodreads, only to remember that it takes them up to 2 business days to approve it, and realizing that maybe I should've set it up earlier, before telling everyone that the book is out? Christ. This is why I'm a writer, I don't know how to do these things and they drive me bananas. No worries, I'll do it my way. And my way is to do it spontaneously, as we say it in Russia, when the reins hit the horse up its ass (a loose translation of an idiom that signifies a moody daffy unpredictable person who tends to be mildly eccentric = writer). So instead of giving away multiple copies of books on Goodreads and letting their system select a winner (which I set up for Blue Sparrow 2 following an example of other authors because I decided I'm doing it wrong somehow and why don't I try doing it like others do), I'll just post a picture of me with the book and ask you to repost it everywhere and then select winners by hand (like yesterday I poked my finger at the screen with my eyes closed to select the winner of a Blue Sparrow 2 copy). That way I don't need to plan anything! YES!!!
There is a way to make your books available for pre-orders now, on Amazon. I forget how. I actually glanced through their rules of how to do it, and my brain started to smoke. So whatever. Maybe I'll figure out how to do it. Until then, I only know how to set it up painlessly on my site (thank you, Squarespace people, I love you, you have created a website system that even a techie idiot like me understands how to use). Again, proper pre-orders require a set release date, and as you have seen above, I try to avoid pinning that down (or, rather, I'm incapable of pinning it down).
4. Media kit.
Whatever the hell that thing is, I'm not even going to touch it.
When the new book is out, you usually see authors parading through bookstores giving speeches about it, and reading out of their books, and going to conferences, and to conventions, and even to the moon. Whenever I went to those things, it was always conjured up helter-skelter, not tied to any particular book release. Also, I don't have a team of helpers who would drag me out to appear in places, and that's okay. I'll focus on writing the next book, and the next, and the next, and then at some point if a bookstore invites me, great! Otherwise, into the laptop screen (or into the book) my nose goes.
There is a way traditionally published authors get editorial reviews before their books are published. No clue what that way is, and of course I have no access to it either. But! You guys beta read my drafts, and read my books, and send me lovely emails about them and tell me your thoughts on all the sparkling places online, so those are my reviews. And the actual reviews you write on Amazon and Goodreads and Wattpad and the other places. Thank you for that! They make a huge difference. They are my nuggets of gold that I collect, they are the path to my world domination. I'll be filthy rich one day from them, I tell you. Watch me.
7. Is there a thing I missed?
In conclusion, the moral takeaway of this cautionary tale is this.
What's that supposed to mean?
It means this. The best practice to get your book known is to be there, always there, every day, talking about everything that goes into making your book. Whether it's online or in person, you choose. What are you comfortable with? You choose. You don't have the money to hire a gazillion publicists who will do it for you, and your time is best spent on writing. Alas, because you self-publish you have to somehow get your book out there, so do what will get your excited. Excitement is contagious, and it will make your readers excited too. Talk about it. On your blog, on social media, on the bus when taking a trip to the dentist (that's what I do, I always carry bookmarks with my face and my website and my motto of READER YOU ARE MY PUBLISHER on them and give them to people), at the grocery store, on the moon (I mean, who knows, maybe moon people will be your new fan base).
And don't get discouraged if there isn't much hype about your book out there. If you please at least one reader, that's huge.
YOUR READERS ARE EVERYTHING.
They will spread the word for you. And yes, it takes time. Be patient. Get ready for long years of work before you start seeing big results. All good things take good time. But never give up. Eventually it will tip. Either the quality of your writing will get to the point where it'll be impossible to ignore your books and they'll start spreading like fire, or that one reader who loved your book will talk to ten people who in turn will talk to ten people each, and so on, hundred of people will grow to thousands, and then the big wigs will notice you and give you a publicist team for free. That's my plan for world domination, anyway.
Also, read this Advice for Authors post by Seth Godin, my marketing god.
That is all.