Prospecting for Gold (aka Self-Publishing Your Novel)

by Steve George on October 17, 2013

I wrote Dead Blow Hammer in the summer of 2011. Everything I read suggested that making two books available is better than one, so I wrote Mimsy during the summer of 2012.

While I wrote and edited, I regularly checked the Internet for insights into publishing and marketing novels. The consensus seems to be that you need to do several things right to succeed in self-publishing, with three making the top of most peoples’ lists: a good book, a professional cover, and word-of-mouth promotion. I believed I could write a good book. I knew I could hire a designer to create a compelling cover. But the word-of-mouth thing stymied me. It sounded like the two steps to getting rich: (1) buy a lottery ticket with (2) the winning numbers—and just about as unlikely.

Still, there was hope. Other authors had done it.

My first electronic mentor was John Locke. I stumbled across his name in an article about bestselling authors who published their own books. I tracked down interviews with Locke and pulled out the nuggets I thought might help. I emailed him with questions and he graciously responded, first with a summary of his success using Twitter to garner 20,000 followers, including several hundred loyal enough to talk up his books, and second with his belief in the value of having a blog and writing infrequent posts, which was contrary to conventional wisdom. His approach has helped him sell more than a million books, validating its effectiveness. He explains how he did it in his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.

Over the past year, I’ve been following Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey. Both are beacons of hope in the self-publishing world. Konrath excels at communicating the ups and downs of his publishing journey and is extremely forthcoming about what has worked for him and what hasn’t. You can read his blog here. Howey frequently writes and speaks about his relatively sudden rise to fame with his compelling Wool series. You can check out his blog here.

Despite their advice, I didn’t feel confident about a course of action, so I kept searching. I signed up for webinars and downloaded PowerPoint presentations and read countless author interviews. Someone lauded Facebook as a vehicle for selling books. Another praised Goodreads and LibraryThings, and one found success at Pinterest. Others talked about advertising and promotions, like offering a book for free. And then there were the traditionalists who promoted book signings and news releases.

Myriad options, each with potential, all fraught with peril. Commit to one or two, which is really all you can do and do well at a time, and you may strike gold or waste months, and you have no idea which it will be until time passes. Authors who venture into self-publishing are today’s prospectors, sifting for gold, sustained by hope.

I haven’t nailed down my marketing strategy yet. I’m not a big Twitter guy. Facebook seems silly to me. I have my website. I’m looking hard at promoting on Goodreads because that’s where the readers are.

Those seem to be the most promising streams. Time will tell if I can hit gold.

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