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Buy My Book Or Everyone Dies! And Other Clever Ways To market Your Book

11 Feb

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This blog is generally about humorous pet sitting stories but I am going off-topic momentarily to write about something that may be of interest to writers, both fiction and nonfiction. As you’ve no doubt found out, experts in the publishing industry will always go out of their way to tell you that to professionally publish you need a ‘platform’, which is industry jargon for a way to garner an audience. Without some professional achievement, award of merit, or other endorsement you have no clear way of reaching readers, and that is what a publisher will want to establish: whether or not you are going to sell books. Talent is secondary, and if you don’t believe me pick up a copy of Fifty Shades Of Gray and marvel at its literary prowess. Writing is a business, like anything else.
So in these modern times we now have POD, or print on demand. Nowadays, anyone can publish a book. No longer does your manuscript have to sit in the drawer, languishing after each failed attempt at getting a professional to read it (someone you haven’t paid to read it). Now you can take matters into your own hands and get it out there into the market, selling it on Amazon.com or any other place that accepts self-published books. And if you look at the bestseller lists there are indeed self-published books on them, doing quite well.
Okay, now that we’ve established that, I have some words of advice. Eight months ago I finished a novel I planned to self-publish. I’d done the traditional route for many, many years, finding that publishers were looking for more reasons to say ‘no’ to my manuscripts than they were to saying ‘yes’. I figured I would bypass them and release and market my own book. I did my research, picked a publisher and established a marketing plan. I will say this once but I may repeat it later: nothing can prepare you for the journey, what it may actually hold for you and your book.
I worked my ass off for years, saving my money. By the time my book, The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World was ready, I had about $12,000 set aside to invest in it. Publishing the book isn’t where you are going to spend much, it’s the advertising. All tallied, I spent under $2000 on publishing, copyrighting etc. I went the cheap route and edited the book myself (not recommended) so I could save around $3000 (professional editors charge by the word, and my book was about 280,000 words. At twelve cents a word…you do the math). So with publishing and editing you are looking at around $4000, give or take. Next I hired someone to create a website. This cost me $1000. Then I hired a marketing firm to the tune of $6000 for a three-month advertising campaign. Acting upon their advice I then spent two to six hundred dollars a month for four months on other promotions (they did not tell me where to spend my money, they simply gave me ideas and I made the decisions myself).
I learned many things. Firstly, I’ve only just begun; five months of promotions is merely the beginning. Secondly, you are going to realize how many human parasites are out there, ready to try and con you out of your money and/or book rights and/or dignity. In order to get book reviews I pitched it to many blog sites, book review sites, etc. Maybe one in ten replied to queries. Beware of sites that want money for reviewing your book; they are most often a scam. One in particular, Review The Book, required $25 for ‘site maintenance’. They looked reputable but turned out to be thieves.
I joined book-reading sites such as Goodreads and Librarything and entered my book into free giveaways. In a certain period of time (a week, a month) people enter the contest and when the time expires winners are picked, addresses are sent to you and you send them the books. Great idea, good promotion. The idea is they will read them and offer feedback on the site, book reviews that will help you to sell more copies. The downside is that there are many professional booksellers that lurk on those sites, vying for free merchandise they can sell. It was barely two weeks after I’d sent books to ten lucky winners (taking seven days to ship via ‘Media Mail’) when I found them for sale on ebay and Amazon.com. Right now you are saying to yourself: ‘your book sucked and they wanted to get something out of it. Maybe they were too lazy to burn it’. As you may recall, the book is 280,000 pages. Of everyone who read it, the fastest anyone made it through was in three weeks. I read it in eight days once, but I really dedicated myself to it, and I know the story. These books were for sale, used, after less than a week of arriving at their destinations. Think what you will, but their profiles (I know these peoples names; I was, after all, given all of their info to send them the books) on ebay and Amazon.com are professional sellers. And go to Amazon.com and simply try and sell them a used book. You have to set up an account, blah blah blah. They don’t just throw away cash on used books, especially one from an unknown author. But the joke is on them: I’m having a hell of time selling it. Good luck!
At this point, all told, I’ve given away more copies than I have sold, and the books that are selling used I don’t see a profit on. Again, you may be thinking: ‘This guy is a shitty writer and his book sucks ass’. Go to my website http://www.edgarswamp.com and read a sample. I think you’ll be surprised.
My main point with all of this (besides bitching about the vultures on the reading sites), is that yes, you can self-publish to get your work out there, but if you don’t have an audience have at least $10,000 you can invest. If you don’t have any marketing money, it isn’t worth it. 300,000 books were published in 2012; yours will merely be one of them, vying for people’s attention.
All this said I’m glad I did it. I don’t learn anything unless I do it myself. And I haven’t given up hope; I know it’s a good book and it just has to find its audience. That is my biggest piece of advice: believe in yourself. At the end of the day that might be the only thing you have left.

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