Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Better Than "Used to Be" for Self-Publishers

by Stella Atrium
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Last 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. 

A 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.

I 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 — remember listserv?

I attended sci-fi conventions and traveled to bookstores in the Chicagoland area and staged and attended author appearances.

I 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 drenched.

puzzleMy 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.bags

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. convention

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!computer

So 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.

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