Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Self-Publishers: Beware the Dreaded Comfort Zone
by Stella Atrium

Thomas MastersI sometimes talk with an artist friend who has a studio in the same building as my writing studio.  He shows his works at the storefront gallery below us.  The gallery owner expends considerable effort in the Chicago market to draw an audience into his openings, and the paintings sell well.

Except now the painter wants to market his works to regional galleries and has picked a few favorites to approach.  His paintings have all sold, though, so he needs a not-for-sale cache to request an opening at other galleries.  He also needs a press kit and ready responses to interview questions.

“I first began painting because…  The biggest surprise in my career so far was…  My favorite color is green, thank you for asking, but I’m in my blue period now…”

I asked yesterday how the plan for the gallery tour was coming along.  His greatest fear is that the paintings will sell out at the first gallery and the tour will have to be canceled.

Oh, the trials of success.  inside Masters

He gave me a soulful look and said, “I wish I hadn’t started with the gallery tour idea. The expense of travel. The need to sell myself into each market.  The constant glad-handling and repeated questions.  I’m dreading the whole adventure.”

It’s terrible that he’s so successful.  Just terrible!

Paintings are like fashion in a way.  Once Michelle Obama wears an outfit to a public event, she cannot be seen in that dress again.  Self-published books, however, are more like a stand-up routine at a comedy club.  Since the jokes work only on the people in the room, they can be re-used with a new audience.

An agent once told me that the market for books is limitless, once you tap into a national press release vein for marketing.  Unfortunately for self-publishers, that avenue is NOT Twitter.

retweetI love Twitter and spend hours with writer friends there.  We retweet obsessively and provide space on each other’s websites for interviews.  We “Like” each other on FaceBook fan pages and post weekly digests of activity for our favorite writer-tweeps.  We give klout and gold and karma and hugs.

But we don’t read each other’s books, and we certainly don’t BUY them.  Twitter is not a current that leads to national reputation and SALES.  Twitter is a comfort zone where we count the number of retweets as success without a thought that they are only a return gesture for my retweet of his tweet about his book.  None of this activity has reached a reader who BUYS BOOKS.

Are you a writer on Twitter?  Do you have a blog or website where only fellow writers visit?  Do you count yourself as successful and ignore the sales numbers on the 1099-misc? comfort zone

What is your next adventure to burst out of the comfort zone and market to regional bookstores and online READER sites?

Have you enabled RSS feed on the blog? Have your added "Like" buttons to the website that link to a fan FaceBook page?  Have you submitted topical articles to Tumblr or Helium?

Leave some suggestions here for that first step off the cliff.

Also visit me at
For a GIVEAWAY of 20 copies of fantasy novel SufferStone through March 26.


Sam X said...

I started an independent SF magazine, and of course am on Twitter and comment on people's blogs (here we are!), etc. I get excited when new people follow the magazine, but the only numbers I track are what articles & stories people read that come out from the magazine. As you say, a million Twitter followers is great but it doesn't mean a damn thing if no one is reading the content.

Stella Atrium said...

Sam, thanks for your note. The web is SO LARGE now that keeping up with daily traffic eats into my reading and writing time. The wide delta of communications means that each message is diluted and big ideas are lost in the flotsam.

I guess I'm nostalgic for the old days when you knew all that was important when Walter Cronkite gave 1/2 hour of news.

What is the name of your magazine? Is there a link?

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