Friday, May 18, 2012

Marketing -- A Big Scary World

I think I've made it clear that I'm quite the sociaphobe. Writing books is so comfortable and safe for someone like me. That is, until the book is actually published, after which, the terror begins. I've been running around trying to figure out how to market my book. I'm not exactly the type to stand on a picnic table in a crowded park and yell out "Buy my book!" At first, I did a search for a publicist, someone who specializes in marketing for indie authors. Interestingly enough, I found that most of their marketing outlets were through social networking websites. The services included signing me and my books onto a Facebook author's page and registering for about a dozen book review sites. They wanted a lot of money to do it, too. It seemed kind of silly since the websites were all well-known and free to register. I can do it myself. Another service had to do with sending out press releases to major distributors...except that I'd have to write the press release myself. Again, why would I pay someone for that? If I have to write it, I can send it as well. Then again, my book is being distributed through Lightning Source, which is owned by Ingram. You can't get much more distributed than that. None of these paid services had anything unique, no marketing magic or inside connections. The end result is, do it myself.

It's not exactly an easy quest. The first thing I did was to set up an author page on Facebook. I don't have a personal Facebook page because it's not my kind of scene. I'm not interested in knowing every time a former high school classmate takes her kid to soccer practice. I could care less if someone is suddenly married to Jesus or "Likes" the Cats of America Facebook group. But I set the page up as an author, which was a pretty freaky experience. The page was confusing and cluttered. I first had to set up a people account before I could start an author page. Then I had to go through the people account and hide everything -- not exactly for privacy but because there was nothing on the page and I didn't want people to stumble across it and find a page full of blank fields. Once I had the author page set up -- with the most hideous combination of "cover" and "profile" images -- I struggled to figure out how to show off my books. Oddly enough, the author pages were not very author-friendly. I looked up other authors to see how they did it. Smaller authors like myself just sort of went with whatever they had. It looked like they had some trouble too, so that the pages were all a bit awkward. The more established authors -- like J.K. Rowling and D.J. MacHale -- had token pages. In other words, they had the page up but didn't put much effort into it. There were no posts or updates except by fans. I doubt the authors even know their pages exist, let alone visit them regularly.

A positive side of the Facebook experience was that I discovered a number of pages that catered to indie authors. On each one, I shamelessly posted a self-promotional comment and link (everyone was doing it). But after I did that, I would scroll through the page and find very useful information. I found links to various websites where I could display my book, and other sites that offered free book reviews. There were contests and tips and even groups that were willing to do book review exchanges. So while I originally was going to merely throw up my page and run, I've decided to sniff around a little bit more, get to know the authors and all the helpful pages.

So far, I've signed up with The Author's Den, which is kind of like a flea market for authors to show off and hopefully sell their books. I also contacted eBookSwag, which is another site to display your book. (They actually charge 10 bucks to show it off for a day, but every bit helps.)

I used to think that book contests were silly. Back when I was devoted to the Big 6 (despite their 400 rejection letters), I scoffed at the idea, thinking that respectable best-selling authors didn't enter their books in contests. Duh. I guess I'm the silly one. For one thing, winning a contest is yet another method of drawing attention to your book. For another, you can get cash prizes, which is really cool, especially if your royalty checks don't amount to much. The print version of my newest book, Dismal Thoughts, was accepted by Lightning Source and should be available on Amazon and friends very soon. I already ordered a batch for promotional purposes. One of those purposes will be to submit it to the Indie Book Awards. It couldn't hurt. CreateSpace on Amazon also provides a nice list of competitions. I shall enter those as well.

Marketing takes a lot of time, but it's not that difficult. The key, I think, is exposure. I don't have a lot of friends or family who'd want to read my preteen books, so I rarely pass them on to my sparse inner crowd. So I have to depend on the world wide web. It's a big world. But if I can reach just one person for every thousand, it's a good start.


  1. Check out Anne Rice's fan page. It's a wildly successful example, and she interacts with her fans all the time. :-)

  2. Hmm, it's a fan page, not an author page, and it's not all clunky and confusing like the author's page. In fact, it's great. Stupid, Facebook. They should tell authors to do fan pages instead of author pages. (What I really mean is, stupid me for not exploring all the options.)

    Thanks, Ellen. Looks like I have more work to do.