How To Promote A Self-Published eBook – Two Simple Ways to Get Major Results

I’m a huge fan of retro video games. Like many Reagan babies, I owned an NES, a Nintendo lunch box, ate Nintendo cereal, watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show; I could go on, but you get the idea. After the NES faded in popularity, I went on to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, then the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, before losing interest when I attended college (Parties are more fun. Studying has its purpose too, I suppose).

Now, at 33-years-old and with a little bit of disposable income, I’ve started to collect some of the games I missed purchasing in my childhood. There are certain “brands” that I’ll buy pretty much anything from (e.g. Mega Man; Castlevania; Ninja Gaiden; The Legend of Zelda; Metroid; etc.), but what about the games I didn’t get a chance to play or that were unknown to me back then? I’ll buy a few of those too, but only if I see a demonstration on a YouTube channel, and hear some reputable voices vouch for it.

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The reason I include this anecdote is because the same methods that work for alerting me to retro video games that I should give a chance are the same ones that alert me and many other readers to self-published writers that are worth a read.

Dispel the notion once and for all that if you write it, they will come. They won’t. You have to get noticed or self-publishing is an exercise in futility if your goal is to make money and/or get people to read your writing. I’ve known many talented writers who choose to self-publish. What happens when they release their books? Nothing. It’s every self-published writer’s worst fear.

So, how exactly do you get readers and sales for your eBook? 

  1. Win over an influencer. Some think getting good reviews on Amazon or Smashwords are enough. Not true; they help, but you need to draw traffic first. The best way to do that is to have an Internet influencer promote you on their media. Who exactly qualifies as an influencer? A good ballpark figure is at least 1,000 followers on social media or WordPress, or the face behind a heavily-trafficked website that many people in your niche know about. While press anywhere helps, to get real results you need to get an endorsement from an Internet “star.”
  2. Give some of it away for free. That means giving free copies of your book to influencers. That means putting up chapters for free online. You’re not Dan Brown or Stephen King yet, so you have to earn your readers’ attention and show that you’re talented.

And that’s it. Are there other ways that you can promote your eBook? Of course. That said, if you want results in a big way and quickly, focus on the big win. Anything else is often just a tiresome waste.

Have you had success as a self-published author? Share a comment below to help aspiring authors. 

How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

chess

One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

Thinking About Kindle Direct Publishing? Hire a Formatter!

Do you want to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing? Great! Just make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to uploading it on KDP or you might be less than satisfied with the results.

I was excited to roll out a collection of short stories, tentatively titled New Weird America, on Kindle Direct Publishing. I edited all ten of my stories once again, making sure they were as tight as possible. I wrote my dedications, my biography, my title page, my table of contents, the whole shebang. In less than a day, KDP had my title up and running. Two days later, I took it down.

A word to the wise – the formatting you use in Word (or Pages, or whatever you use to type your manuscript) doesn’t always translate so well to Kindle Direct Publishing. My table of contents looked completely off. My introductory pages were cut off in weird places. I didn’t even get a chance to actually see how my stories looked from the free introduction, but given what I had seen, it needed to be pulled.

With the new possibilities for reach using Amazon Direct Publishing, self-published authors need to consider the possibility of hiring professionals to format their manuscript for readability on Kindle. I found a website, Word-2-Kindle.com, that does this job for only $49. I suggest that anyone new to KDP utilize their service, or others doing the same.

The rap on self-published books is that they are of poor quality. Formatting issues that hinder a reader’s capability to enjoy your work are a big turnoff. To uphold the standards of your writing, make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to using Kindle Direct Publishing.

Self-Publishing: The (Potential) Rise of a New Literary Middle-Class

Hey, it’s been way too long since I’ve published an actual post here on The Literary Game. I can’t make any promises that I’ll post with any regularity, but let’s give this another shot. Before anything, I want to let you all know that I want to make some changes to this blog. I am not the god of writing. I have my perspective on things, and yes, I’ve been published online a bit and have a degree in Creative Writing, but the authoritative tone of the previous posts is going to be no longer. Instead, I want you to join me on a journey through the literary game. Together.

If you caught the farewell post a while ago, you might remember that I’m working on a new project, Beautiful / Losers Magazine, which you can check out by clicking here. Dario Cannizzaro, co-founder of the magazine and a good friend of mine got me to do a total 180 on what was once gospel truth to me – self-publishing. For my longtime readers, you’re probably aware of how much disdain I had for self-publishing. While it is true that there is a lot of weak, sloppy work out there in the world of self-publishing, there is some incredible stuff as well. Whether it’s easy to find, that depends on your Web savvy.

So, how did I change my perspective? Well, it all started when Dario mentioned to me and Austin Wiggins, the third member of our triumvirate of co-founders, that he had completed a novel titled Dead Men Naked. Dario asked if we would be so kind as to read his manuscript, and offer our thoughts. In short, it was damn good! Now prior to reading Dario’s book, I had been on a mission to get a poetry chapbook published. I know that the Big 5 publishers wouldn’t be interested, for obvious reasons; however, I reached out to a few friends in the “underground poetry” movement who are further along in their careers than I am. I had some leads, and some people who genuinely wanted to help, but it came to nothing.

Now there are many small presses that publish a wide-range of material, but generally, much of it is outside of my stylistic parameters. My poetry and fiction is edgy, with a raw spirit that I guess rubbed off on me from spending the better part of the last twenty years hanging out with crazy punk rockers and other assorted misfits. My work isn’t for the book club or professors at Yale, and many of the small presses cater towards a more elite set than my work, which purposefully tries to be accessible and portray life on the margins. That said, I kind of hit a wall, just like many other writers trying to get a book out.

After speaking to Dario, and hearing that a talented writer like him was going the self-publishing route, and later learning that Austin was planning to do the same, I realized maybe I should reconsider my skepticism of that path. The Big 5 are looking for people with platforms, books that can make a huge amount of money. The small presses, by virtue of their limited resources and reach, can’t provide a significant income and can be quite difficult and time-consuming to get published with, due to sheer volume of submissions, stylistic parameters, entry fees, and limited windows for submissions. For a writer who loves writing and wants to make it their career, self-publishing, with a little bit of luck, talent, and extreme skill in marketing, can lead you to the literary middle class.

There are many talented writers who are broke and struggling to find publishers for their material. Why not take my example, and give self-publishing a second look? Make a name for yourself online organically, and scale from there. You can write and make money at it, maybe not at Stephen King or J.K. Rowling levels, but enough to pay the rent while doing what you love, so give it a try!

The Importance of Reviews for Independent Writers

I am going to tell you a secret: As a general rule, I do not read independent writers. 

Perhaps I am biased. I have seen a handful of talented figures who are not publishing with literary journals or publishing houses through the blogosphere and through various publishing operations. They are the exceptions.

I was weaned on weighty writers who wrote heavy, simple, and philosophical fiction: Raymond Carver; Flannery O’Connor; Carson McCullers; Kent Haruf; etc. The intelligence and humanity of these writers doesn’t appear on indies much at all. Hell, that kind of intelligence and humanity doesn’t appear much even on the Big 5 or anywhere outside of the University of Iowa.

Indie writers can call me a conservative or wrong or whatever, but instead of calling me and those of my ilk names, what they ought to consider doing is concentrate on getting reviews.

I know an excellent website called Indie-Pendent Steam. The site is operated by Virginia Arthur. Virginia does not pull any punches in her reviews. If your writing needs work, even though you paid her for a review, she will still call it as it is. The good news for budding writers though is that Virginia will not post bad reviews, instead she will default to proofreading such work instead. Even with caring professionals like Virginia who take steps to protect the reputation of independent writers, many do not have the mental toughness to handle bad reviews, even if no one sees them. That’s a horrible character trait in any writer. Still, if you are an indie writer and want to prove people wrong and get people reading your stuff, you need to obtain some reviews to build that initial traction and pique readers’ interest.

As an editor, I am as tough as possible on my writers because to flatter with kind words will not serve any aspiring writer intent on crafting excellent fiction. As a book reviewer, Virginia takes a similar approach. If you’re an independent writer, you should seriously consider working with Virginia. Her book reviews are fair and unbiased. Her reviews actually hold weight with readers because there’s a quality attached to her opinion.

How To Make Money From Self-Publishing Your Own Writing

Many new authors choose to self-publish their writing. Oftentimes, this comes about for two reasons:

  1. A lack of confidence in their own writing’s ability to be published.
  2. A lack of knowledge of how to get their writing published.

However, some writers prefer to self-publish in order to get rid of the middleman. I understand that sentiment; however, I caution against publishing with a vanity press or through Amazon or Smashwords unless a writer is willing to put the money, time, and extreme effort into making the endeavor worth their while, or alternatively, if they have ties to individuals of influence/a large platform.

The reality is that for most writers who self-publish, no one will read your writing, and you will make virtually no money from your self-published book. Without the reputation and marketing that comes with a publishing house, amidst a sea of self-published material, your work will languish in complete obscurity. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.

For this reason, I urge many writers to have their writing edited to a publishable standard and then partner with a skilled published consultant. Without those two things, many talented writers will simply never get their start, unless they are willing to devote countless hours doing the job themselves, which often will still produce futile results.

Even with all the challenges for most individuals, I absolutely advocate self-publishing in two, and only two, specific circumstances:

  1. You have a large platform. You may never have published even a single poem or short story in your life, but if you have achieved a great deal in some other sphere of influence, and people recognize your name, should you choose to self-publish your writing, with a little bit of marketing, you can still have self-publishing reap results, often more than should you choose to publish via the traditional route.
  2. You have “true believers” who have large platforms. Do you have family, friends, coworkers, business partners, spouses, or others in your life who think your writing is stellar? Do they have large networks? Are they willing to spread the word and help you out? If so, you should consider self-publishing.

While writing anything to completion in and of itself is an accomplishment, for many writers that isn’t enough. All writers want their work to be read. Additionally, writing a novel or other long work is a serious time consideration. Time is money, and most anyone would love a return on the investment of their time. While, of course, writing isn’t and shouldn’t be about the money, I firmly believe that artists ought to be paid for their efforts. There’s nothing ugly about that all, and I imagine none but the most misguided or masochistic would disagree.

In short, while self-publishing is normally a terrible idea, if people know who you are or if you have even one powerful contact in your corner, then consider giving it a shot. If not, and you would like to take a more traditional route, I am available to move your writing career forward as a publishing consultant.

In success,
Alfonso

 

 

Five Ways to Effectively Market Your Self-Published Book

In previous posts, I’ve been quite critical of self-published books. The reason for my reluctance to advocate that writers go that route is that quite often self-publishing is a complete dead end. Virtually no one ends up reading the average self-published book. Of course, there are many exceptions, but truthfully, this is the case for the vast majority of books published with vanity presses.

Self-published books have a bad reputation because many self-published works could have seriously benefited from a massive edit on content, and oftentimes even on basics like spelling and grammar; however, there are quite a number of incredible books that deserve to be read that have been self-published.

So, how do you keep your self-published book from getting lost in the sea of anonymity? Here are a few helpful suggestions:

1. Tell Your Friends and Family. By tell your friends and family, I don’t mean just your closest friends, your partner, and your mom and dad – tell EVERYONE in your network. Find appropriate, non-awkward ways to pitch your book to everyone you know. Explain that you would deeply appreciate it if they read your book, and if they tell others about it afterwards. If you go the traditional route and just plaster social media, very few of your contacts will actually proceed with reading it, much less helping you publicize your book; however, if you treat your contacts respectfully by approaching them individually, you’ll get much better results.

2. Leverage Your Life. Whatever passions, work, and undertakings you are a part of, find an appropriate way to connect your book to them. Whatever base you have in your area of expertise, find a way to connect it with your book in a way that’s respectful of that world.

3. Become An Internet Player. The Internet is democratic. If people like your ideas and your presence, and most especially, if you’re helpful to others, people will respond. The best way is to start a blog, frequent message boards, become a beta reader, of find other ways to help writers via the Internet. The more writers you help, the more people will be open to reading your work and helping you promote it.

4. Make a YouTube Promo. YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine after Google. Try making a captivating video to promote your book in a way that it might go viral. If it’s just a direct pitch to buy the book, few viewers will care, but if the video itself will stick in people’s minds, you’ll get many new readers.

5. Have a Website for the Book. If you’re good with technology, develop an aesthetically pleasing, content-rich search engine optimized website to promote your book. If not, hire a web designer and SEO expert. Either way, you need a website for your book. If possible, try to make the website as interactive as possible. If you simply ask people to buy your book, yet you don’t really help others or interact with them, few people will take you up on your offer.

I hope these ideas are helpful if you choose to go the self-publishing route. Of course, if you need any help with publishing consultancy, editing, or need a skilled book doctor, just email me. I’d love to help you achieve your literary dreams!

-Alfonso