My Self-Publishing Journey – Six


This is another massive topic on which I don’t yet have the experience to pontificate. Suffice it to say that the e-publishing world is full of writers who have self-published a book and who have sold practically no copies. This may be because the book is dreadful, it may be because there is no market for it, or it may be just because the potential buyers don’t yet know about it.

This is tough.

It could also get very expensive: there are a lot of people eager to separate me from hundreds or even thousands of dollars in advertising, and there is a very good chance that I won’t get that back in sales.

For the moment, I am confining myself to things I can do cheaply, while I try to understand what works and what doesn’t.

That includes:

  1. A self-hosted wordpress website, with my own domain: – here’s a post from Tim Grahl on doing this. I use TSOHost as my service provider and am very happy so far.
  2. A Twitter account, @AlexBrantham, which I use in moderation (trying very hard not simply to tweet “buy my book!”). I’m using this in conjunction with followerwonk to understand when best to sent tweets, buffer to schedule tweets at those times, and justunfollow (now Crowdfire) to manage followers. Here’s good advice on using Twitter.
  3. A Facebook page,
  4. Creating an account at Goodreads: creating my own book there, and claiming Author status. I’ve put a few blog posts on there, but the most useful tool I’ve seen so far is the Giveaway. I set up one of these to give away 3 copies; the only catch is that you can only give physical books, not ebooks, so this cost me real money to buy and then post the books. However, well over 700 people expressed an interest, which is at least some kind of engagement.
  5. I created accounts and set up giveaways at LibraryThing and BookLikes: the big advantage of both of these is that you can give away ebooks, which costs nothing. Hopefully that should yield a few reviews. Reviews are essential!
  6. If you’re going to self-publish, why not also self-interview? Smashwords have a nice tool for doing this – here is mine.
  7. I’ve begun my own mailing list, using MailChimp. The usual advice is to set up some sort of offer, so I pulled together a little ebook of short stories and offered it for free to anyone that would join my mailing list. The big issue for me here is that US anti-spam laws require that a real address be included on all circular emails: although I’m not US-based, so the law doesn’t apply directly to me, it does apply to US-based service providers like MailChimp. You have to supply a real postal address, but I wasn’t comfortable providing my own home address in this way – it’s not like I have an agent or publisher to hide behind. It took a while, but eventually I settled on a UK based PO box service, who for a small deposit (£10) will set up a pay-as-you go forwarding service. Sorted.
  8. I have also got free mentions at WiseGreyOwl, WordsUnlimited, WorldLiteraryCafe, and of course I’ve taken the opportunity to make contributions (NOT “buy my book”!) at a number of blogs and forums.

I started all of this about a year before I was ready to publish, soon after I completed the first draft of the novel. That feels about right: building a website, a Twitter presence, and a personal network all take time.

I’m still scratching the surface of this game: here is a terrific list of marketing opportunities.

Another really good piece of advice, I suspect, is that the best way to sell books is to write more books! Having just one book on offer doesn’t make an attractive proposition to a reader – where are they supposed to go if they like your first one?

You are also much more likely to succeed by attacking an existing market instead of trying to create a new one: in writing terms, that means aiming squarely at the centre of a genre, such as romance, murder/mystery, scifi/fantasy or (if you are so inclined) erotica. These are all good markets to play in from a financial perspective. On the other hand, if you are writing for self-fulfilment, as I am, then you can only write the novel that you have to write.

Here is a good post from Nick Thacker on making a proper Marketing Plan: Smashwords also have an excellent free Marketing Guide. It makes a lot of sense to take the time to work out what activities you are going to do, when, for what cost, and with what expected outcome. Otherwise you’re just thrashing randomly, which isn’t a good way to achieve anything.

That’s always assuming that you know what you’re trying to achieve, of course!