It’s not too hard to put out an e-book. Sure, it takes work to write a novel, but as far as turning that into an e-book — even I figured it out pretty fast.
The tough thing is promoting what you’re doing.
There, I can do much better.
A Couple Cases
Shawn Kupfer is beginning to promote the sequel to his novel, 47 Echo. Shawn’s approach is interesting: letting fans take part.
It’s a smart move, allowing fans to have fun and to use more brains than just the one in Shawn’s head. (I can assure you that Shawn’s a bright guy, but more bright minds coming up with independent ideas is neat, and I look forward to seeing what people come up with.) Sure, he’s also giving away a Kindle and some other goodies, but it’s that inclusion of his readers that will be fun to watch.
Chuck Wendig is a busy guy. I’ve followed his blog for awhile, and it’s been a blast watching things blown up (in a good way) for him. Chuck likes trying different things. One of the things he recently tried was a Kickstarter project.
It was funded in a matter of hours, and he continues to get backers every day.
Chuck is also promoting the upcoming release of his novel, Blackbirds (affiliate link), whose main character, Miriam Black, knows when people will die. Chuck started a Tumbr blog called This Is How You Die that allows readers to submit ways they can see their own deaths happening. (Some are humorous — others much more serious. I submitted this one and this one.) He’s received hundreds of submissions while generating interest in his book.
If You Build It, They Will [Probably Not] Come
It’s a nice thought that all one has to do to find success with their writing is create a blog, write a book, and then sit back and watch success unfold before their eyes.
But it doesn’t work that way — if it did, I wouldn’t be spending this afternoon writing mortgage procedures and rushing to write as much as I can before going to bed at a decent time so I can be up for the day job tomorrow.
When I released Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors, I did just that — I released it. No fanfare or build up…I created the e-book and offered it with little more than saying on The Juggling Writer, “Hey, I have an e-book out there,” and doing the same on Facebook and Twitter.
I didn’t give the release the attention it deserved.
I never believed that all it took was releasing the e-book — no If you build it, they will come. It’s done better than I thought it would, but I didn’t have high expectations since I didn’t really promote its release.
There’s no formula for success with writing and releasing your own e-books. The closest thing to a formula I’ve seen is this: write a genre series and keep it coming. Once you have half a dozen stories out there, you increase your odds of people reading more than one thing you’ve written.
Oh yeah, and make a lot of noise about what you’re doing without annoying those following you online.
Where that leaves the person writing and self publishing literary or mainstream e-books, I don’t know. (I’m considering the e-book route with the last novel I wrote, and it definitely falls into the realm of mainstream fiction.) There are definitely days I consider setting aside the harder writing I do for the fun and speed of a genre series.
How about you? What are some different ways you’ve promoted your writing, or creative ways you’ve seen others promote what they’re doing?
Paul Lamb says
I don’t have the hustling personality to promote myself, so self-publishing will probably never be the route for me. I’m not sure where that leaves me. All I really am certain about is the story itself and doing everything I can to make it as perfect as possible. I suppose I’m old school in that way, mired in 20th Century thinking about publishing success. But I keep on keeping on. (And reading others’ thoughts.)
Christopher Gronlund says
Paul: I definitely think I sometimes came along a couple decades too late. I know writers have always been expected to help promote what they do, but not like things are today. I’ve heard John Irving say that were he starting out today, there’s no way he’d have made it. Writing’s become noisy business in ways with the expectation to spend so much time online building a “platform” (I hate that term…as well as “brand” and “marketing yourself.”) I’m sure one of the reasons I like your blog is because you’re old school in that way.
I teeter somewhere in between. I definitely have my days when I get the, “You’re a talented writer and I liked this, but…I’m not sure how I’d market this novel,” rejections that make me think of withdrawing from every online effort and one day dying with a drawer full of novels only a handful of people have read. I’ve had enough close calls to know that I have a chance if I keep at it, but it definitely seems that what I’ve always wanted as a writer has changed…at least with what writers are expected to do these days. The encouraging thing is that the agents I’ve heard speak, and the handful I’ve spoken with, would rather a writer work at creating the best novel they can than living on Twitter all day in the hope of creating a following. But…while I’m not one who rides the publishers and agents will soon be obsolete bandwagon, with the way publishing has changed in the last 5 years, I do have those days when I think, “I gotta get in while the getting’s good!” — and by that, I mean getting in the old school way.
Like you, I don’t have the personality to promote myself the way I probably should. I’m willing to work hard and steady, but I’m not good at making noise. I don’t want to do 10 different things to let people know I exist — I want to write the novels I’ve dreamed about writing since I started reading more contemporary fiction as a young teenager. When I was young and thought about being a writer, it was never about fame. It was always about moving to someplace like Wisconsin — on a lake, maybe — and having a wife and maybe even a family and supporting all that by writing. Being part of a smaller community and just doing my thing…returning to Chicago, here and there, to see friends and relatives.
The dream has always been a quiet life, writing.
So I definitely cringe at the thought of being a noisy writer…
Self-promotion isn’t just for self-publishing — not by a long shot. Even if you get one of the “big six” to pick up a book, their marketing department is only going to do so much. With the Internet, authors pretty much have to do some form of self-promotion… or just sit there and watch other authors who do leave them in the dust.
It’s strange, because Hemingway would never have thought, “What does this say about my personal brand?” Authors today, though, have to constantly think along those lines. Of course, I ain’t Hemingway — I’m not even the guy who delivers beer to his hotel room — so I suppose it’s not that strange.
Christopher Gronlund says
James Morrow, Robert Olmstead, Jim Lynch, Jeffrey Ford, Anne Ursu–all published authors (good authors, at that) who aren’t household names despite publishing deals. (Okay, now that Ann Ursu is writing YA stuff, maybe she’s becoming more known.) It’s why I put Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors out myself, even without really promoting it…were it released as a physical book, I probably wouldn’t have had much more luck.
It definitely depends on me and my promo efforts, even though I am a much better writer than a promoter. But that hasn’t always been the case. When I wrote indie comics — especially when I self published a book — I did a decent job promoting things. I’ve been looking back at things I did then…not to see if I can repeat the efforts, but as a reminder there was a time I spent a lot more time making sure people knew my writing existed.
So I need to go back to that mode and have as much fun promoting things as I do writing — because I really did have a blast seeing what attention the comic book work I did could get.
Whether I’m doing it all myself as e-books, or backed by a publisher, I gotta work harder letting people know I exist.