Marketing Your Self-Published Book

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The year 2018 is my sixth year of marketing my novels through my self-publishing imprint – Huckleberry Haven Publishing. I’ve wandered down many a marketing road over that time. Without fail, each new road was promoted as the one and only route to success. Most turned out to be nothing more than the flavour of the month. These roads led to wash outs or curves I did not anticipate. And don’t get me started on the tollbooth roundabouts with no way out of the circle.

On the up side, some meandering trails came out on my version of the superhighway of success.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Write a Good Book

It does make sense that you would want something worth marketing. But remember, the quality of any book is decided on a highly subjective basis. I read a lot and many books that I would classify as pure crap are doing well on Amazon. There is no accounting for personal taste when it comes to reading. If your book is something you would want to read, no doubt there are others out there who will also want to read it. No one is an island when it comes to reading preferences.

Assisted Self-Publishing – not all it’s cracked up to be.

Do you have unlimited cash? Are you content to let someone else control your book sales? Are you okay with giving up access to most promotional opportunities?

I tried an assisted self-publishing company for my first book and I was not satisfied.

Most will promise the moon and deliver a mere sprinkle of star dust. You can format and publish your own books for a fraction of the cost while retaining control of important sales data. If you aren’t up to creating a book cover you can find someone who is. Contract with them and pay them once only for the service. The same can be said for editing and formatting. Or you can DIY the whole process. It all depends on your existing skills and how much time you are willing to invest in learning new ones.

Our Trouble-making Marten

Ignore the Pseudo-Gatekeepers.

For me, the whole point of self-publishing was to let readers decide if they liked my work. I wasn’t willing to jump through time-consuming hoops and be rejected at the end of the process because the agents or the traditional publishers didn’t think anyone would want to read my books. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that gatekeepers are not restricted only to traditional publishing.

There are many pseudo-gatekeepers in the self-publishing world who make their money by preying on an author’s insecurities. They deal in the sale of approval – admittance to a special group, a pre-screening of your work, the opportunity to win a contest that will provide a shiny sticker for your book cover.

If you choose self-publishing, I would advise you to overcome the need for approval from anyone other than your readers.

Social Media – much ado about nothing?

I know you’ve heard the cast-in-stone rules about social media. The more places you are the better. You must be active on your Facebook author page, tweet everyday, write blog posts, get photos out on Instagram and Pinterest. 

I know a highly successful self-published author who does nothing on social media but her Facebook author page. She keeps her posts and updates on that page interesting and current. Her followers engage with her and are committed to her success. Her sales tell me that more and more social media is not necessarily better.

Here is what I suggest: find one or two platforms you really enjoy and stick to those. Stake out a little bit of real estate in cyberspace where you can post about your work and your life with creativity and ingenuity. People who show up to visit won’t mind if you promote the occasional special offer for one of your books. They will appreciate your effort.

At all costs, avoid papering the social media world with advertisements for your work. This is crass – period. And it won’t sell a single book. Enough said.

Create a Huge Email List

The self-published author’s email list is an imperative that is currently sacrosanct. We are urged to go down any and every road imaginable to gather email addresses then keep all of these people updated with news about our work and promotions. Well, guess what? Our well-crafted emails end up in the same spot as junk mail in the post office – the trash bin.

I’m not saying don’t gather email addresses. At the end of your e-book, provide your email and ask readers to contact you with their thoughts. Offer them a gift. I send an e-book copy of my short stories to anyone who emails me. Gather the email addresses of the readers who respond. These are the people who really like your work and want to hear when your next book is coming out. Using such a method, the email list you come up with is pure gold. It won’t be huge but then again, your emails won’t immediately hit the trash bin either.

Watch for Part 2 of this post. I’ll share my thoughts on the dilemma faced by self-published authors when it comes to getting book reviews.

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Disappearing in Plain Sight–FREE–Nov. 11-13

My books - Guenette photo

Last chance in 2016 to start the Crater Lake Series of books for FREE Smile 

Join the thousands of readers who have downloaded Disappearing in Plain Sight and then go on to read the entire series. Both The Light Never Lies (Book Two) and Chasing Down the Night (Book Three) are available to purchase or read free of charge through the Kindle Unlimited program.

I warn you, though … you will get hooked on these books and then you must anxiously await – like so many others readers – the release of the fourth in the series.

Excerpts from reviews:

Couldn’t put it down! Francis Guenette goes beyond captivating in “Disappearing in Plain Sight”. Weaving her background in psychology into the lives of her characters, she creates an intimate look into their souls.

Deeply emotional characters that will stay with you long after you have finished reading.

A stunning family drama that will captivate, infuriate and ultimately change the way you look at the world.

Set in the wilderness of Northern Vancouver Island … the landscape became a character in itself.

A story that became a meditation on love and empathy … literary fiction at its finest.

Books wash the soul

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Disappearing in Plain Sight – FREE from Nov. 11th to 13th.

Down in the Gutter with Marketing

Osar Wilde quote on San Fransciso street

For the last six months, I’ve been part of a small group of authors who gather together via email to discuss book marketing strategies, toss ideas around and in general, support one another’s efforts where and when we can. The organization is loose, the group diverse in terms of location, background, gender, writing genre and point of view. We don’t seek consensus. Instead, we bring the fruits of our experiences to the table and individual members make up their own minds on what to take or leave.

I recently floated a question to the group: What are the ethics and/or etiquette around claiming best seller status. Does getting to #2 in the Amazon Top 100 Free books make me an Amazon Bestseller? How about getting to #1 in a genre category in Free and then hanging in the Top 10 for about 48 hours of that same category after my book went back on the paid list. Is it bad etiquette to drop the word Amazon and just say Bestselling author? Does one have to make it on to a paid list to legitimately claim a bestseller status? And if so, at what point and for how long – Top 10, Top 100, for one hour or one day? What about author ranking? I was in the Top 100 for a day after a promotion. Does that qualify?

A complicated question and the group responses, as expected, ranged far and wide. A few members came down on the side of only paid lists being equated with best selling status. A best seller should, at a minimum, be based on selling. Good point. I went back and took a look at my screen captures for how Disappearing in Plain Sight had done during it’s BookBub extravaganza of free downloads. On one, a large headline read – Best Sellers in Literary Fiction – Sagas. Under that is my book at #1. It doesn’t say Best Non-Sellers due to being Free. Amazon isn’t distinguishing in the big print between paid or free – that comes beneath in a secondary header. Hmmm …. interesting.

Literary Fiction - Sagas - DPS

A member who had previous experience working in the traditional publishing field felt the entire concept of best selling, best seller, best selling author was bankrupt – overused and abused to the point of meaninglessness. Unless, of course, one attempted to claim a place on the New York Times Best Seller List. That you better be able to back up!

One blunt member of our group, wrote – The idea of a great author sitting in the gutter saying, “I didn’t sell many books but I kept my ethics as an author,” has about as much appeal to me as stepping in a dog turd. The premise of the subject is wrong! We’re flogging books and we’re flogging them cheap. We’re not sharing a cup of the tea with the local vicar. Get rid of the word ‘etiquette’ and replace it with ‘marketing’ and you would’ve never needed to ask the question.

When I got up from rolling around on the floor laughing, I read a few more responses. “In an age of distortion and mirage, the big lie seems to carry the day. Even in the dog-eat-dog world of fiction writers.” Another member agreed that best selling is a devalued currency that I could feel free to spend as I liked.

It would seem that I may go ahead and claim a spot on a meaningless list, or I may roll around in the gutter clinging tightly to my moral superiority or I may participate in the big lie and be a dog gobbling up my fellow authors.

On the other hand, I could simply play by the rules Amazon sets forth. My book sat at #1 of a Best Selling List and I don’t see why I wouldn’t mention that when it seems that to do so would be a wise marketing move.

What do you think. I’d love to widen this discussion. At best, we are in for some chuckles as we climb from the gutter to the meaningless and, dare I say, best selling heights.

Clematis 2016 - Guenette photo