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Marketing Your Books in the New Age of Publishing

photo by BarbaraDin longer diatribe about marketing your self-published book. This is a year-long class, which I’d be glad to give if y’all are interested.

Publishing is in the greatest upheaval since Gutenberg. Supporters of traditional publishing will tell you it’s the only choice, or you’re not a real author.

I’ll take the opposing view: the only rational choice, from both the artistic and commercial perspectives, is to pick yourself, own the process, and reap the rewards. Here’s why:

  1. No publisher will give you a traditional deal unless you have a “platform.” That means you already have a well-developed following. No platform, no contract. Ever. Not done. If you can find a publisher who’ll say otherwise, I’ll eat my last book.If you have a platform, why on earth would you give away all control, and the bulk of the profit, just so you don’t have to arrange for editing, formatting, and cover design? You’ve already done all the marketing, and that’s the hard part! (Other than the writing, of course.)
  2. Control. A traditional publisher will choose the cover. Scantily clad dames and hairy chested men don’t fit your jungle adventure novel? Too bad. They choose. Don’t like their edits? Too bad. They have final say. Sure, you have a voice. A small one.They will not publish your book because it’s good, they’ll publish it because they think it will sell. And to make it sell, they need a sexy cover, and control over the content. Oh, and if they own the digital rights (they’ll probably insist) then they decide when, how, and if it ever comes out digitally.

    They’ll also decide whether to publish it at all. That’s right, if you sign a contract with them, they can kill the book, and your only hope of publishing is to buy the rights back, which will almost certainly cost you your entire advance, or the publisher is a fool.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is self-publishing respectable? Fans of traditional publishing despise it. Everyone else does not care one whit. When’s the last time you bought a book because of who published it?

Can you sell enough copies to make it viable? Good question. If you do all the work yourself, and spend nothing but $7 to get a proof copy printed, you can earn that back selling 4 copies.

If you pay me $3,000 for a publishing package, and a few thousand for coaching while you’re writing it, that’s a tougher deal.

Writing a book to make money is a losing proposition. It just is. In 5 years, you can rethink the whole thing. Today, the market is glutted, everyone is either scared or confused or both.

Write because you need to, love to, have to. Then write another book. And another.

Be persistent in your marketing. In 5 years, when you’ve got 5 books, you’ll be one of the 1% of authors who stuck it out, instead of the 99% who wrote one book, decided they hate marketing, and disappeared again.

You Don’t Need Money to Publish

Pick the book you most want to see published. Get a couple friends who are voracious readers and who know how to express themselves to read it, and give you honest feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Take it all with a grain of salt; after all, it’s your book. But if they’re well-read, don’t ignore good advice.

Make adjustments as you see fit. Find two people you trust who have impeccable spelling and grammar. Ask them each to proofread it, one after the other. Buy them lunch, or mow their lawn, or whatever you can do to make this a trade for all involved. Or, if they’ll do it as a favor, out of love, accept the love.

Get a friend who’s handy with Microsoft Word to format the book. CreateSpace will give you formatting instructions for print, and both Kindle and Smashwords will give you detailed instructions for ebooks.

If you can find a small handful of friends who are willing to help you, or if you can trade services, whatever you’re good at for whatever they’re good at, you can have a book ready for digital and print 6 months from now; sooner, if all goes well, a bit longer if there’s more work to do.

But don’t give up because of money. Any decision you ever make in life based on money will be wrong.

And if I can do anything at all to help you get, and stay, motivated to get your first book out of the “someday” box, just ask. You deserve to see your art come to life, to have the ability to share it with others, who also deserve to have one more worthy book in their lives.

The Real Answer is Persistence

It’s not easy, but if you love your art, you can do it. Will it be perfect? Nope. But if you look at Van Gogh’s early sketches, they were terrible. He was learning. He got better because he kept learning.

You don’t have to spend money to publish your work. You do have to get creative, and either learn the things you need to know, or find folks willing to support you, or use your skills to trade with folks who have the skills.

If you look at all the people publishing their own books, you’ll see that it’s not that difficult. Your challenge is most likely that you can see the gulf between the work you’re doing, and the work you respect and love. The only way to close that gap is to keep hammering at it. Do it all yourself, even poorly. Keep trying.

Or, you can give up. But that’s a bad solution.

If you want help with commonsense marketing ideas, read as many marketing blogs as you can find, beginning with Seth Godin‘s and CopyBlogger. Sign up for my newsletter. And ask specific questions. As many as you want.

Start in that comment box below.

5 thoughts on “Marketing Your Books in the New Age of Publishing

  1. Thanks for all of the awesome advice, I love it. (Your words are motivating) Just keep moving my work, plucking , trying, and I’ll sell one million copies one day.

    1. It’s the long haul, Robin. A quick glance at your book and your story tells me you have plenty of reason for impassioned presentation of your book.

      I suspect there’s more of your story to tell. I hope you’re writing it. Another book is a great way to create interest in your first.

      I wonder why I didn’t think of Dog Ear Press for a name?

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