Better Than "Used to Be" for Self-Publishers
by Stella Atrium
week a self-publisher complained to me that the lag-time between a
GoodReads giveaway and posted fan reviews on Amazon was three weeks. I
turned away to hide my smirk. I supposed it's true that we're so
spoiled by the internet, we don't remember how it used to be.
decade ago I trusted a small publisher to produce a paperback fantasy
novel I wrote. Turns out, he was really a printer masquerading as a
publisher with no press release plan or distribution plan. The weight
fell on me to get the word out.
did research and surfed the web for compatible sites and posted
articles about writing and even a "glass bead game" that asked readers
to buy the book. This was before FaceBook in the days of listserv —
I attended sci-fi conventions and traveled to bookstores in the Chicagoland area and staged and attended author appearances.
begged friends to lend support at my author appearance at the local and
famous bookstore where the proprietor could boost my contacts inside
the industry. Except it rained cats-and-dogs that night and I felt
sorry for the four friends who did make it to the event, late and
efforts went nowhere. It used to be that a self-promoter expended time
and treasure and never reached the intended audience. Listed are a few
memories that are burned into my mind.
1) Introvert at Tradeshow
— Did you ever see a booth at a trade show inhabited by a painfully shy
writer who spoke to three people the whole day? I have.
2) Author Appearance with No Fans
— Did you ever see an author at Borders seated alone at a table with
stacks of her books and a blank expression of defeat? I have.
3) Retail Marketing to Bookstores
— One writer told me he boosted sales by driving up the California
coast visiting bookstores for a personal pitch to owners to place 4
books on the shelves of each stop. An E for effort, but the price of
gasoline makes this adventure prohibitive — even if the retail stores
are still there. A hit-or-miss method at best.
4) Book Signings at Conventions
— Writers hate this duty and function like turtles out of the shell. I
count Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Jordan in this number. Writers often
drink to get past the dread, so they function like hungover shell-less
turtles at the morning signing, drinking copious amount of water.
5) Regional Conventions
— Did you ever attend a regional convention where you negotiated a
giveaway of your book as part of the "fan appreciation" bag, only to
discover the 80 attendees preferred stories about zombies and were
really there to get laid? I have.
6) Listings on Industry Websites
— These were accomplished using a form with no personal contact and no
acceptance of connected blogs or Amazon listings. Some of these still
hover online, static and aging and misleading.
7) Fan Websites
— These genre lovers accepted articles and shameless self-promotion to
boost traffic by adding your fans. Except your fans and hers together
came to five, including your mother.
8) Getting into the Pipeline —
Used to be... All promotion was accomplished with paperbacks, so each
event included shipping a case of forty books to the hotel that hosted
the convention, and then shipping them home again.
9) Managing Remainders
— Did you ever work with a printer who wanted to be certain the check
cleared before he shipped the books, even at 40% off? Did this same
printer dump remainders on the market so they hung around for three
years at $1.89 sold by resellers on Amazon? I have.
10) Tardy Reviews --
Did you ever find a complimentary review of your novel three years
later by a respected reviewer on LibraryThing who must have picked up a
remainder book? Guess what... that happened to me too!
don't bring your complaints here that GoodReads or Twitter or
LibraryThing aren't working for you. Industry connections today are
accomplished without shipping cases of books to neighboring states, and
without leaving the house.
Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled.