Monday, April 2, 2012

What YouTube Taught Me About Self-Publishing

Before you read this post, watch this video by Kevin Allocca, YouTubes trends manager, as he talks about why video's go viral. It's 7 minutes long, appropriate for children, and dang funny/ informative. Go on, I'll wait.
I love that.

Self-publishing, like YouTube, removes the gatekeepers who decide what entertainment people actually want.

That's awesome.

Now I don't think Smashword/Kindle Direct/Createspace/Lulu/etc is as popular as YouTube.


 But video's don't usually take the same amount of time to enjoy as the average book uploaded, so I think it probably equals out to a similar statistic. 48 hours of content every minute. That's pretty staggering.

How can you make your book stand out from the crowd of books published?

            1. Taste Makers How can you get your book to be mentioned by those with influence?

 I think a good method for that is pretty simple. Follow those with influence in publishing. Read their blogs, and comment. Promoted the heck out of their books/ or blog posts, and then mention that you are promoting them. When you've established a relationship with said people, tell them about your book, and maybe ask them comment on it.

I think that's why celebrities always receive so much free stuff. If they wear it, or like it, and tell their friends, then the product becomes popular.

If you're like me, then that concept kind of feels crass, like you are using people, or making friends, solely for personal gain.

But writing is a business. It's called networking.

Really, it's just making friends, and putting yourself out there. Make your voice be heard. Be polite. Be kind.

And if that doesn't work, many websites sell advertising, so you can always find your own taste makers that way. You can also put your book up for free for one day, to try to get it to appear on top one hundred book lists. That's another taste maker.

            2. Participation I love this idea, especially when it comes to self-publishing. How can you get your readers to participate in your book?

One of the reason's I've heard why Stephanie Meyer became so successful, is that in the beginning, she communicated  with her readers. She made comments on other people's blogs. She became friends with her readers, and asked her friends to tell their friends about her book. Her fan's took ownership of the idea, It became their book.  She had a prom, and other big events, where she socialized with her fans.

Respond politely to those who reviewed and enjoyed your work.

Every person with a facebook account, has a bit of a tastemaker in their status. All it takes is pushing the share button, and people participate.

I think the key to marketing your book, is allowing readers to participate, and own, a bit of the story.

          3. Unexpectedness Originality. Surprise. Be different.

 I think the content of the story will determine how special a story is, and what makes it different from the pile of content that will be ignored. Get a good cover. Make it stand out, be different from others in genre. Don't put a picture of a white girl in a prom dress on the cover.

Make it good. Make it worth mentioning.

        4. Don't give up. The main thing I got from the video, is how a story could be ignored for a while, and then one day it might just explode into popularity. So if you've self-published, and haven't made it big yet, don't be discouraged. Find a taste maker, and then watch your numbers soar.

I think some people think self-publishing is where bad books go to die. That it's a vanity press, or a place for those who can't do, or books that aren't good enough to be published. I don't think that's true.

 Most publishers only choose two or three debut writers a year, and receive thousands of submissions. Now, I know in that thousand are a certain number of books that are horrible, but I think a large percentage of these books are actually pretty darn awesome. Those pretty darn awesome books, before self-publishing, would be wasting away in a file somewhere, but now with self-publishing, those books can find an audience. Those books can go viral. Those books can make the author money.

I think to say, or think, that an author who is self-published isn't actually an author, is like thinking Justin Beiber isn't actually a superstar, because he started out through YouTube.

Self-publishing is the future of publishing. Don't be ashamed of publishing through it.

Be Brave. 
Be Nice. 
Be Heard.



  1. Justin Beiber as a label? Are you trolling for hits? :) Good article. The world isn't going to blaze a path to your door. Part of what it takes is to get more content up... more books, more stories. Getting a 'viral' e-pub up means having sufficient content so that 'taste maker' can find something they like and then promote it.

    1. Exactly.

      I mean exactly about what you said about self-publishing, not the thing about trolling for hits.

      Although, if it works, I'll tell you.

      Maybe that's another way of going viral, add Justin Beiber to the title. Like my novel could be called Funny Tragic, Justin Beiber, and Crazy Magic.

      Hmmm... :)

  2. Great article. I've read in several places that "If you build it, they won't come," which just means we have to be more active than just uploading are work.

    Of course this doesn't me spam our books. I'm more inclined to buy a book from an author I have a good conversation with than someone who constantly spams links on Twitter. Those I just start ignoring.

    1. I agree, Noree.

      (That rhymed. I didn't mean for it to rhyme, but that it did is awesome.)

      I think if you want to ask someone to mention your book, that's fine, but only if you do it once. Then you have to respect their decision if they actually comment about it or not.

      Sarah actually wrote an awesome post about proper writer etiquette on Twitter.

  3. Sheena this is excellent, some real practical advice on how to try to make your stuff go viral.

    I think it is more important to be authentic than unexpected. If you go out of your way to be surprising, a lot of times you fall on your face. But in that video of the guy sharing the rainbow, he was being himself. Sharing something that he found astounding, and it was his authenticity that shone through.

    So I think you should be yourself. Write the stories that you love, and that passion will come through, and if you find an audience who loves the same things that you love, you'll be golden.

  4. Great post Sheena! I'm always fascinated with why things explode online. That video was awesome, too! I've never really thought of self-publishing and youtube videos in the same light, and now I totally do. Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is great advice. I appreciate MaryAnn's comment about authenticity, too. I love hearing an author's real voice. Some are funny as all get out, some thoughtful, some you think you could eat cookie dough ice cream out of the box with.

  6. This is all great advice, Sheena. I'm definitely finding more quality self-published books lately, and part of that is getting to know the right people :) Networking is huge with self-publishing, because it is such a huge ocean out there and people need a reason to choose your book over all the others, which usually boils down to word of mouth. And I have to second MaryAnn's advice about being authentic. If you aren't being authentic, you're just serving up icing without a cake.

    There was a fascinating article in NY Times magazine this week about self-publishing and kids: Young Writers Dazzle Publisher (Mom and Dad)

    It's kind of off-topic, but such a fascinating issue that I'm throwing it out there anyway :)


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