If there’s one thing that I have learned through all these many years as a self published writer it’s that if you are ever going to get the thing out there you have to, well, get the thing out there.
I learned pretty early on that if you are not willing to get your work out there and in front of people then you are putting up a lot of roadblocks. Hell, we’d all love to just have a publisher woo us, produce and promote our books, and then we can just go to glamorous and exciting signings and interviews but, well, that just doesn’t happen a whole lot. Even the few publishers that can afford to pick up ‘new’ writers (and don’t you hate that, no matter how long you have been writing if you are new to someone then you are new to everyone, ugh!) they can rarely put much money behind them. So, promote you must, and promote you will.
A lot of that comes down to you. What are you willing to do and what is your book about?
First things first is the press release. Distill your book into some saleable points, write a brief (and I mean brief) bit about you and where you come from and the like, and then where you can get the book and then send it off to the local papers, the local media, your college, your grade school, and post it to a blog or site if you have one. So that’s done. Next you start spreading the word, so for me, I hate sending out review copies because you rarely seem to get reviewed. Better to give away a few copies to friends and strangers with your contact info and with the explicit instructions that they get the word out and pass the book forward. Lose a sale here and there and get the book out to the world. Get it in hands and get the word out.
So the book is out, what next?
For me, I find that the best response I get and the most sales I get are not from the internet but from people being right in front of me. It takes a lot of gumption to do this, but you will find that if people can pick up and look at the book you will get a good reaction. Now, you need to try to get it into stores as well, for sure, but this is never as easy as it should be since, if you are self published, you are not considered as legit as others so you have to play the ‘local author’ card heavily. But it can and does work. But for sure, get it in stores, if you can, but after that, take the show on the road.
The biggest issue with taking your book out on the road is this – cost versus reward. What will you have to invest into an event – fliers, cards, postcards, books, and whatever else you might need – and what will you make from it? You have to accept that you may take a loss for a while, but you have to then put a limit on that loss. Myself, I never make a lot at conventions but I love doing them so much I sorta do my best and treat them as mini-vacations with some weird, fun people. A lot of events you do will cost, so you better have an idea what you need in supplies and put that against the cost of the event and then decide if it’s worth it. A lot may not be worth it. I know there are definitely shows I ignore because they cost far more I can ever hope to make from them, and it’s just a no-win proposition. Few things as a writer are as frustrating as knowing you wasted money on an event where you get zero interest from people. Drives you mad.
Ok, so you are going to do events, or try them, but what ones? Well, what is your book? And where do you live? For me, I have done best at small art shows – people are generally open minded, are looking to buy SOMETHING, and if you have a good price and are a good pitch person you are on the right road. Conventions I never did well at but fantasy books seem to kill at them, depending on the con. I know the last two comic cons I did the two fantasy writers I was near made a bunch of loot on their books, so it can work, for sure. Craft shows may be interested in writers but are pretty picky that you be, you know, a crafter. Some cities and towns have writing or book events but if they don’t then start one. If you have writer friends this is infinitely easier but you can put a flier out for other writers. Or you can just ask local bookstores/libraries if you can do a reading or signing there.
The thing with any event you are at though you have to always be promoting it with the understanding that if you cannot get people other than family and friends there then you have a lot more work to do. And even if you don’t sell books at these events you are making in-roads to people. You are doing the hard work. The important work.
There is no magic in writing, in publishing, or in selling your work. It is perseverance, plain and simple. Writing isn’t natural to anyone, it’s something you work on and develop, over time, and that’s how you have to look at this process. Nothing happens in a day, but if you keep at it, and keep working at it, you’re gonna start breaking through. It’s all about believing in yourself because baby, if you don’t, if you won’t, then who the heck will? Who the heck should?