You have written a book. You like it, you’re proud of it and you think people should buy it from you.
What to do?
Option #1: Google every literary agent in the country and spend your days crafting slightly different letters to each of them. Send them off in clean brown envelopes, accompanied by a double spaced copy of the first 3,000 words of your work, PAPER-CLIPPED, NOT STAPLED, a synopsis and a CV that makes you want to cringe.
Option #2: Go to Amazon KDP, write a blurb, upload your book and feel a bit odd.
If you choose option #1 and you’re successful, then things are looking up. Literary agents know the right people to talk to, publishing houses mainly, and these publishing houses have the money to invest in getting your book sold. They know how to do this; they’ve been doing it for a long time and they’re very good at it.
Choose option #2 and you face the challenge of selling your work alone.
But you’re a writer, what do you know about marketing? You look online, you find advice. It tells you to build a brand, write a blog, use social networking, shout as loudly as you can, do everything in your power to get yourself noticed. It feels weird again, but you do it. Twitter seems to be OK, lots of people on there trying to do the same thing, HEY! Someone just followed you! Definitely follow them back. And another! Your followers are shooting up! You’re popular! Looks like this might just work! Tum-te-tum…hmm…hold on a minute, everyone seems to be just talking about themselves..why is nobody talking about you?
Why? Because they’re busy building a brand, writing a blog, shouting as loudly as they can… Meanwhile, a fifty foot poster advertising the latest Times bestseller is being pasted up in Leicester Square.
What’s wrong with this picture?
The answer, I believe, is that the perception of self-publishing as ‘going it alone’ is wrong.
If you are taken on by an agent and a publisher, then you have money and expertise on your side, but you also get something much more important: people. You get people who instantly believe it is in their interests to sell your book. For as long as your contract exists, they will dedicate at least some of their time to making sure you have as loud a voice as possible in the public domain. Why do they do this? Because they’re paid to. They may also like your book, and they’re probably very nice people who lead decent lives. But they’re still paid.
If you self-publish, the chances are you don’t have the capital to spend on marketing experts and posters in Leicester Square. But you do have one of the most powerful things on the planet at your disposal and it’s absolutely free: the internet.
The problem is, it’s not being used correctly.
Take Twitter. I’m a novice. I only have
59 60 followers as I write this, which is three times the amount I had two weeks ago, but which still makes me a very tiny Tweep indeed. I follow quite a few self-published authors and they seem to belong to a friendly and varied community that expands into a vast network of other people. I can see the potential.
So far though, and I must stress again that I am a novice, it seems like it is not always being used the right way round. People are tweeting about themselves, when they should be tweeting about each other.
I don’t just mean re-tweeting, which is great in itself, I mean actually constructing a tweet about something you’ve read from another self-published author, whether that’s a quote, a paragraph or a whole book. I don’t know about you, but I’m far more interested in the Tweets that say “look at them” than the ones that say “look at me”.
Social networking is the most useful tool, perhaps the only tool we have as self-published authors, but it only works if it’s used socially – it’s a network, not a mass of unconnected megaphones. It only works if we give more than we expect to get, otherwise we’re just shouting into the darkness, aren’t we?
So here is a reminder to myself and a suggestion to you. Try this: look up someone else’s work. Download samples, check out their blogs, maybe even go crazy and buy a book or two. Give them feedback. Tell them what’s good and bad about their work and if you like them, shout it out. Tell your followers how good they are and try to get them noticed. Believe that it is in your interest to promote your peers.
Publishing houses have posters, we have Twitter. Go forth and Tweet.
STOP PRESS: Rachel Abbott (author of the #1 Kindle Store book ‘Only the Innocent’) has a very useful article on the best way to approach Twitter. Check it out here: http://rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/using-twitter-are-you-a-writer-a-brand-or-a-salesman/