Any time I get a chance to speak to a published author, whether they be traditionally published or not, I always have a tendency to ask the same question. I ask because I still haven’t really gotten a good answer, and it’s an important one to me. Particularly since it’s likely that I’m going to be self-publishing my debut novel (so soon. It’s so weird to probably be so soon) this is one of the most important skills I need to have…and no one can give me an answer on it.
How do you publicize your book?
Now, several of the authors I spoke to (M.C.A. Hogarth and a few like her come to mind) had audiences from other venues first. Micah is an artist, and had done work within her community before the fiction started coming out. So when she started publishing, she already had a platform to start from. I don’t really have that benefit. The platform I have is small and built primarily out of people I already know in person. I’m in a group of people who don’t have a lot of money and don’t necessarily have large platforms of their own. I don’t have any one person who can give me a big shoutout and say “HEY THIS BOOK IS AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD BUY IT BECAUSE THE AUTHOR IS A COOL DUDE” though if someone is willing to do that, I will gladly rock the Papyrus-from-Undertale look and wear a “cool dude” shirt around everywhere.
Others have been authors long enough that they were starting when blogs were the Hot New Thing, and so they had their blog and it was the Best Way Of Publicizing Themselves. Unfortunately, I live in the era where blogs are a dime a dozen, and it’s difficult to make anyone pay specific attention to yours. I’ve at least tried to let anyone swinging by my blog apprised of what my writing is like through the Fiction Fridays, but that’s not exactly enough to keep someone coming back time and time again. And while Tales from the Café was running, that was a good serial, but maybe a little niche. I’m still working on the proper serial I started the last time my site was up (now lost to the land of lost servers or something) and I’m hoping to get that up and running again. But.
None of this is publicizing my stuff. None of this is bringing in new people, tying them to chairs, and shoving my book in their face. (Nicely.) So how am I supposed to do this?
I ask. And I ask again. And I ask a few more times.
And more often than not, I get a shrug and a “Just put your name out there as much as you can, I guess” as the answer. And the problem is that I already know that. But where am I supposed to put my name out? If I were starting a business, I’d make flyers and start posting them everywhere I could. But people don’t exactly look at community boards for book ideas–and the boards themselves are getting harder to find anyway. I could track down writing conventions and set up there, but often times that means a good chunk of upfront cost, and time off of work (since I’m a server) and I don’t have much money and if I take time off, I’ll have even less. Now yes, the argument can be made that if I really want to do this, I need to be willing to make sacrifices.
I’m not saying I’m not willing to do that.
But I’m also not willing to jeopardize my ability to pay rent based on my need to sell books. I rent with two other people, who happen to be my parents. If I can’t pay rent, the whole family can’t, and I’m not sending my parents into the street. I’ll be the starving artist, sure. But I need to hold my own in the household.
So how do I do this?
I still don’t have an answer. I wish I did. I’ve seen a bunch of things online that claim to help with these sorts of things, and I don’t know if I trust them. Again, I’m on a very limited budget. There’s only so much I can do, but if nothing else I’ll put this out here to my little community of literary luminaries out here. We’re a small bunch, but what ideas do you have? What’s the hot new way to make your book known? Book trailers? Are there websites I should be on, where I can throw the book at people? Are there lists of book bloggers, or some organization that puts together book blog tours? Where are the resources I’m missing? What’s the trick?
I feel like there’s got to be a site. Maybe it’s somewhere on Goodreads. I don’t know. Maybe that can be my task for the next month: trying to find places on Goodreads and I don’t know, Facebook or something, where I can throw my book at people. (Such violent imagery. Of course, I mainly see this as an e-book, though I’d love to have DTBs as well, so it’s just me throwing Kindles at people. …I don’t know that that’s much better than DTBs, actually. Hm. Maybe I need to rethink this.
It’s also possible there’s something here in my city that I can do, at least locally. One of the things I love about Richmond is that we’re a massively literary city, and there are a lot of groups and resources for writers just here. There’s a small bookshop in the city that I adore, and I know they’ve had book signings and whatnot, so maybe I can wander over there and see what the prerequisites for that are. There are only about a billion libraries around, and I know another local self-published author who’s doing a launch party at one. Maybe I can look into that as well. (Though I have a terrible vision of putting one together, getting all this stuff set up for it, being all happy and ready…and then no one coming. I’d be so heartbroken.) Maybe I should ask her.
Also, I have my NaNoWriMo friends. It’s possible that I have a better framework to work from than I think. I’ve been a sprint leader for a few years now, which gives me a good group of people on Twitter to bounce off of, who might be willing to get my book and read it. It helps that my debut novel started its life as a NaNo novel, and so there may be something I can do through them.
(You see? I’m just leading myself on dead-end tangents. I. Don’t. Know. And I hate not knowing.)
So let me know, luminaries. Let me know if I’m on to anything here, or if I’m totally barking up the wrong tree. I’ve got to get some kind of direction to run in…because this book is coming, and it’s coming fast.
And that’s kinda scary.