Promoting your book as a self-published writer might feel like trying to juggle with hands that aren’t cooperating. Your strong hand does what it does best – writing. The other hand finds itself responsible for the job of getting the word out. How to share your writing with the world can be a real mystery.
The first thing to do is to make sure that your piece is properly edited. I am lucky to have an English professor from Northwestern University who is willing to do this for me. There are services online that will help for a fee, but you can also try local community collages and universities that may have people working in or toward editing professions who might help.
Additionally, it’s important to distinguish your book as different from others while keeping it attractive to readers. My mystery novel, The Shattered Swan, is set in Peru during an earthquake, but has a female sleuth who goes through challenges that most readers can empathize with. I give ten percent of my proceeds to charity - which may seem like a gimmick but it’s my way of giving back after having survived an earthquake.
Once the book is edited and uploaded to sites like Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu, the real work begins. All of those sites have amazing support services for the self-published writer. With a few clicks you can set up your own pricing, discount your book for special promotions, or discount with a code to give to specific people. You can use this last one to contact reviewers so that your book gets objectively reviewed. Another option open to you is Amazon’s “library” service where someone can “borrow” the e-book for a short time for a nominal fee. The only disadvantage is that you must have your book exclusively on Amazon for a period of time.
Now the big challenge becomes figuring out ultimately who will be your fan base. This is where the beauty of the Internet comes into play. If you are anything like me, when you go shoe shopping you try not to make eye contact with the salespeople. Your greatest wish is to look for shoes without being pressured to try on that latest sky-high wedge or the snazzy new dress shoe that would go great with any suit – when all you want are a pair of sneakers. Or conversely, you’re that hapless salesperson, which indeed we all are, trying to make a sale when all the client wants is to do it all themselves. The Internet has unlimited ways of linking the salespeople with clients who actually want to connect. And even if along the way there are those clients who insist on circumventing you, or those insistent sales clerks, there’s no need to blush at avoiding them since it’s all done through the computer. It is easier than ever to focus exclusively on exactly what we are looking for online.
Finding those communities may take a little digging, but is not difficult. First, there are the obvious ways: start a Facebook page, blog regularly, Tweet, and subscribe to online services like Murder Must Advertise. Don’t forget to use tagging features where available and put as many relevant tags on your posts as you can to avoid “shoe shopping” situations.
Other alternatives are also available to you. In my case, I advertised in paper mystery magazines like Crimespree Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I sent flyers to mystery conventions and as soon as I finish my second mystery novel later this year, I plan on actually going to a convention. It’s not all easy going and some of my efforts have flopped. For example, gosh darn it, I just cannot figure out how to get my novel onto Google Books so that my local bookstore can have me in for a book talk – but if you happen to be more technically savvy than I am, many small book stores offer that option, you just have to ask.
There are also more unconventional routes. Make sure that you talk to everybody and anybody about your project. You may find unexpected connections, like opportunities to perhaps publish in Europe, or have your novel translated into another language for additional promotion opportunities. Because of my networking, I was able to give a talk on The Shattered Swan at the Library of Congress in D.C. last year, parts of which are available to watch on youtube.
Most of all, be persistent and don’t get discouraged. It is becoming more acceptable to be self-published, and the number of people that do their reading on portable devices now is increasing daily.
Krystiana Stacy Kelly