When you self-publish your book there are both disadvantages and tasks you have to take care of yourself. For one thing, you won’t have a traditional publisher’s promotional muscle to fall back on. However, this might not be the disadvantage it seems since traditional publishers prefer to put advertising capital towards ‘sure thing’ releases, such as the latest in an already popular series.

The general expectation in traditional publishing is for a book to ‘make it’ or not in about three months. Advertising and reviews are arranged to roughly coincide with the book’s release. Most self-published authors aren’t even aware of this, never mind have it all arranged in time for the book’s publication date.

From the start the self-published author has to do things differently. An author who uses a traditional publisher usually has little to do with promoting his or her own book. Yet many expect to (magically!) get onto the best sellers’ list in fairly short order. It’s probably the one thing most authors have in common. The author who hasn’t self-published is far more likely to see his or her manuscript as something akin to art instead of as a product…and we all know how rich and prosperous artists start out.

Self-published authors tend be more self-reliant. Upon learning the self-publishing company won’t market their book they’ll generally accept the task themselves…usually with a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, many stop marketing after ninety days, when the excitement of being in print has begun to fade (coincidentally, the same time frame ‘regular’ publishers use to determine success or failure. Apples and oranges!)  

Ninety days is too short a time to even learn how to market. Self-published authors have to keep on learning how to promote because  people stop responding to advertising if it’s all the ‘same old, same old.’ One of the first things ‘everybody does’ is to add their name to lists of published authors (something that still puzzles me. Who reads those things?) This is one of the first places a self-published author faces discrimination. They generally refuse to add self-published authors ‘because there are simply too many,’ as if they’re running out of space. (Ironically, at least one ‘no self-published authors’ site I found will list you as a published author even if you merely received an advanced for a proposed manuscript that might never become a book.)

At this point, one of two things happens. Either you give up or get mad, I mean, inspired. Since giving up gets you nowhere, you may as well be inspired. Why bother with a list no-one looks at when you can have your own website? My publisher is affiliated with a web hosting company, which helped me to get a great looking site: www.ScifiAliens.com. iUniverse also suggested other things like the SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America) newsletter, which suggests marketing tips and offers current events regarding publishing in general.

One thing often leads you to other sites or ideas. Someone suggested having a blog. You’re reading mine right now. Someone else suggested blogging ‘in character.’ One of my characters is a TV host who could reasonably have a fictional e-zine. Besides, considering the issue has caused me to realize my characters are far more interesting than I am. Fortunately my ego is bigger than any of theirs so it all works out.

Social networking sites can be great, when you find one that’s both relevant and appealing to you. You want it to be relevant so potential readers can find your title, and you want to find it interesting so that you’ll stay with it. Use common sense, whichever site you choose. Depending on the community, you could be booted off if someone else complains or the site host feels you’re doing nothing but advertising.

Media attention varies when you’re self-published. If you live in a smaller community it may be easier to get media attention because there’s less local news to compete with. Media people in smaller communities also tend to focus more on the ‘local’ aspect than the ‘self-published.’ One larger city newspaper flatly turned me down in person but still expected a free copy of my book. They were genuinely puzzled when I calmly thanked them for their time and took my book with me. Venues that discriminate against self-published authors aren’t worth your time or losing your temper…better to leave them puzzled than hostile. (But to this day I wonder why they didn’t at least try to sell me advertising. And what they thought when the radio ad came out.)

Probably the most enduring thing I can tell you is that when it comes to marketing a self-published book, don’t quit. I’m assuming you wrote a high quality manuscript and used a high quality self-publishing process that ensured at least the basics were met. If your book is truly awful, you at least have the comfort of knowing traditional publishing still prints many books that are equally awful. Either way, it’s not a perfect process.

Self-publishing currently has many advantages over traditional publishing, not the least of which is that if you use POD (print-on-demand) printing, your title never has to go ‘out of print.’ POD books can always be shipped NEW instead of used. I once tried to get a copy of a book on management that had been a ‘best seller.’ The publication date was only a few years previous but the book was out of print and no longer available in bookstores.

The technology and the Internet are constantly changing. Many online marketing ‘gurus’ are saying what worked even five years ago won’t work today and what works today may be obsolete by tomorrow. No matter what you know or don’t know right now, don’t be hesitant to start learning. I went from knowing nothing about computers to being functionally competent in about two years. Sure I still have questions, but now they’re smarter ones.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Phyllis K Twombly

About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her Stage32.com account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

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