Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Self-Publishing and Self-Promotion

Picture from stock-xchnge by Andreas Krappweiss
Self-publishing almost sounds too good to be true.  You write it then publish it.  You don’t have to even write a query letter or a synopsis.  You don’t have to deal with submissions and rejection letters.  Finally, you can reach your audience without those pesky gate-keepers trying to tell you what readers want to read.  You’re a reader; you know what readers like you want.

The concept is so beautiful, like The Field of Dreams.  If you write it, they will come. 

Only what if they don’t?              

I read this NY Times article the other day on buying positive book reviews (I’m going to get to that in a minute), but the article claimed that more than 300,000 books were self-published last year, and that number is only going up.  It could be more than doubled next year.  Granted not all of these books will be in your genre, but if only 1% of them were, there would be over 3,000 books for consumers to search through to find your gem.  And that is only including self-published books.  You would also be competing for attention with all the traditionally published books, which could include every book that has ever been published in modern times.  That is a lot of books waiting to be bought on Amazon.  So how do you get your book to stand out above the masses?

Self-publishing is so easy, but self-promotion is so tough.

It is hard to proclaim to the world how wonderful your book is.  No one is going to take you seriously.  You can become really annoying if all you do is talk, tweet, and blog about your book.  It is so much better if that comes from someone else.

Which brings us to the NY Times.   According to the article (link above), some authors paid a man named Todd Rutherford money to write positive reviews for their books.  He charged $99 for one review, $499 for twenty, and $999 for fifty.  Before too long, he started making $28,000 a month.

I think this practice is dishonest and shady, and I feel that Mr. Rutherford was taking advantage of authors desperate to get some attention for the books they put their heart and souls into. I seriously doubt that very many of them actually made that money back in sales. But I do understand why the authors chose to buy reviews. 

Reviews should be for the readers, but good reviews and high ratings can help sell books because someone else is singing the praise for your book, making them more trustworthy.  However, if you have few or no reviews, your book isn’t going to look too promising.  And if just one of those reviewers gave you a low score, that is going to substantially affect your book's overall rating.   Furthermore, if other writers are artificially inflating their positive reviews, this is only going to make your book look worse than everyone else’s.  I can definitely see the dilemma these writers are in.

Still I don’t think that lying and manipulating consumers is the way to go even if it has been the corner stone of all advertising.  Books aren’t the only products with fake positive reviews (see the NY Times article above).

I wish I had some real answers on how to get your book out there in a more honest way, but I don’t.  I’d be horrible at self-promotion which is one of the main reasons I want to go the traditional route (yes I do know this also requires some self-promotion, but hopefully, I'd get some help).  For good advice go to Amanda Hocking who actually achieved that level of success from self-publishing that we all dream about.  Sheena also did an excellent post on how youtube videos go viral and how that can be applied to books.  While I think they both give great advice, it really comes down to getting your book into the hands of the right people, and there is so little control you have over that.

I think the truth is that there are no real short cuts to this publishing thing.  You either struggle to capture an agent or publisher’s attention or self-publish and struggle to capture consumers’ attention.  Either way, you need to find a way to stand out, and while there may be tricks to get yourself noticed, you won’t create a buzz unless you’ve written something that really resonates with readers.   Only then will they talk, tweet, and blog about it and hopefully, recommend it to their friends.  So no matter what path you choose only one thing truly matters, you need to write one amazing book.  J

So what are your thoughts on self-promotion?



  1. I hope whatever route you take that it all works out. I had a great aunt who was a self published writer. I don't know that anyone outside of family bought those books.

  2. I always thought self-promotion was talking about the story of the book, and crossing fingers to see if people got interested, especially because telling other people your book is good goes nowhere...

    But self-promoting is not for me, anyway. I'd rather struggle with the traditional way where I have someone to do this for me.

    1. I see your point, and that is a good way to go. I guess I see self-promotion as any way to get your name and book out there.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I used to think traditional publishing was definitely the way to go, but I'm not so sure anymore. I think it depends on what you want out of being published. If, like me, you've figured out that trying to get published kills the writing buzz, and if, like me, your biggest goal out of being published has become being able to answer "Did you get your book published yet?" in the affirmative, then self-publishing can be great.

    I was extremely excited to see a book by Amanda Hocking at Barnes and Noble. It means at least one person has gotten into traditional publishing via the very back door. I don't think the two things are as exclusive as they need to be. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but if I self-publish and build any kind of readership at all, a future book might be looked at more seriously by a publishing company. IF I ever get around to sending them one...

    1. I completely agree with you. Everyone one is different, and there are a lot of people who are great at self-promoting. No path is wrong. I do think that all paths are a lot of work. And you definitely can do both at the same time which is awesome.

      I think it is great that self-publishing is getting more respect. The more talented, conscientious writers that self-publish, the more respectable it will get.

  4. "I don't think the two things are as exclusive as they need to be." Yeah. I don't think that sentence says what I meant it to say. I blame blogger. :)

    (I don't think the two things are as exclusive as they USED to be."

  5. What a deplorable practice. It hurts all of us, self-publishers and traditional-route writers alike. It paints a sheen of dishonesty over the whole publishing world, and that's just sad. I really believe the majority of people out there are decent human beings. I personally don't think I want to self-publish, but I have a great deal of respect for anyone that wants to try it out. Publishing isn't easy, no matter how you slice it. It's too bad that there are people out there ready to take advantage of writers.

    Thanks for the post, MaryAnn.

    1. I'm not sure if all the authors who bought reviews were self-published. Traditionally published writers could benefit from more postive reviews too. Many mid-list authors also struggle to get noticed.

      It is a tough industry to really make it in. That's why you gotta love this writing thing, IMO.

  6. I've done some self-publishing and have had some mixed results (I've sold over three hundred e-books, mostly on Amazon.) The problem with the traditional route is that there are probably 300,000 books being queried to agents as well each year to match those getting self-pubbed. How many of those are going to get published?

    If your work hits the sweet spot that agents are looking for, I think traditional publishing is certainly the most legitimate way to go. If your work is a little quirky or too straight (mine is light fantasy when everyone wants dark fantasy) you'll have a hard time getting the excitement you need.

    I'm currently getting two of my books up on Createspace, which does Print-On-Demand, so I'll be in print soon. Maybe I'll only sell another three hundred copies, but that's better than having three hundred rejections.

    As far as self-promotion goes, unless you have an eye-popping potential NYT bestseller, you'll have to do most of the promoting yourself, anyway.

  7. Thanks for your comments Ken, very insightful.

    I do think that self-publishing is the way to go in some circumstances, and I would certainly self-publish a novel that I believed in even if the publishing industry wasn't too excited about it.

    I'm certainly not saying that it is easier to go the traditional route. I think both routes have their challenges.

    I have heard some horror stories of publishers doing nothing to promote books, but I'm not sure that is the norm. I'm guessing the amount of resources publishers put into promoting varies from book to book, but I find it hard to believe that the publishers will invest money into cover design and editing and printing and not invest a little time and money into promoting it. I'm sure they at least send the book off to some key reviewers and book bloggers. Any little bit helps.

    Maybe I'm just a little naive, but it doesn't make sense business-wise to me for publishers to do nothing to promote a book they put time and money into. Fingers-crossed that some day I'll find out. :)

    But good luck to you and your books. Looks like your finding some success. Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

    1. I agree that publishers will put some money into promoting their books, but, from what I've read, beginning writers might be called upon to do more that what they might expect. One can't have a publisher distribute and market the book and then sit back and wait for the royalties. Most writers will have to spend a good chunk of time marketing their books.

      I know I don't do nearly enough for my books... I'm just trying to get content out there. In my opinion, if you self-publish you have to have a number of books out there.

    2. I totally agree. If you want to succeed in this business no matter which path you chose, you will have to do some marketing.


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