Guest Post – The Independent Author’s Guide to Self-Promotion

Advertising is hard. I don’t know how the guys on Mad Men do it. I had to jump right in it with both feet because I had little choice. I’m an indie author. I exemplify “independent” in every possible way. I have no agent, no publicist, no major publshing house behind me doing the heavy lifting so I can focus on nothing but writing. All I have are some close friends and family reading each chapter as I finish them. They call me on mistakes and try to poke holes in the plot so I can fix them.

I had a very naive expectation that all I had to do was plant a seed about my novel and with little intervention from me, the seed would sprout into a mighty redwood, attracting enthusiastic booklovers from all over the land. “What is this exciting novel about?” “Please, tell me more about your book, dear author, please!” “When can I buy your book?!” I would sit back and toss tidbits of information to my growing fanbase while I could focus on writing.

I was in for quite a shock. My vision of letting the advertising fire burn bright and long with the occasional log tossed in by me was a joke. Advertising is hard. Promotion is hard. It requires much more work than I imagined. One thing is for certain, no one outside of your friends and family will buy your book if they don’t know that it exists. If you are just a regular Joe Blow like me, you have to get the word out yourself.

The most popular means of self-promotion is without a doubt social media. You can create your own Facebook Page for your novel free of charge. With a little work and inputting some details, you can create the page in no time at all. So, you’ve got 300 Facebook friends, that means that at least half of them will click the “Share” button and help spread the word, right? Don’t count on it. You get tired of the requests to join someone’s Mafia or water someone’s crops in Farmville? Do you get irritated with the status updates claiming that if you don’t click “Like” or “Share” it means that you kick puppies and support poverty? Out of my friends and family, only 19 people clicked the “Like” button. Anytime I post something about my novel, I simply ask “Help me out and click the share button”. You’d have thought I was asking someone to click “launch” on a nuclear missle. I’m lucky to get three or four people to click “share”. It bothered me at first, but then I thought back to all the times I would growl at my monitor “Don’t tell me what to do!” when someone was trying to guilt me into sharing a story. Turnabout is fair play I suppose. A little support would have been nice, but I’m not begging for it anymore. Well, actually, I’ll stop begging after this. Please hit the like button and share this. Pretty please? OK, now I’m done with the begging. Moving on.

Facebook http://on.fb.me/HsSci2

The next challenge was Twitter. I could not for the life of me understand the need for it. I have Facebook, if people want to keep tabs on me, they can do it there. Why do I need Twitter? I relly don’t care about every random celebrity thought. I created a Twitter page and came back a week later to find thirty followers. And half of those were spam, dirty spam if you really want to know. I decided to spend an afternoon with Twitter and I finally got it. Twitter is a great way to connect with people from all over the world that share the same interests. What is your novel about? Who is your audience? Reach out to them and find them, they have no reason to find you if they don’t know anything about you. Once I figured that out, I made it past 400 followers in a week. I actually got a little overzealous on Twitter and they temporarily suspended my account. Guess they thought I was a spambot or something. I had to reply to an email and promise to dial it down a few notches. Hopefully they will let me back on the playground soon.

Twitter http://bit.ly/I6gQVu

Along with Facebook and Twitter, I did similar things on Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Digg, and a few things that I can’t recall this second.

The next phase in my free advertising plan was to create a YouTube video, simply a two minute trailer for my novel. I sat down in front of my Mac and fired up Microsoft Powerpoint. (Yes, I got Microsoft Office with my Mac purchase, figure that one out.) I figured I would keep things simple. Its nothing like a trailer for a summer action movie. I used a solid black background and white lettering. The hardest part was deciding on the music. I fiddled around with Garage Band for about an hour and gave up on that idea. My musical talents are non-existent and I was getting nowhere fast. Then it came to me. Non-copyrighted material that could be downloaded for free use. After scouring a few sites, I narrowed the finalists down to six pieces. After my own private American Idol contest, I decided on a winner. Here’s a bit of behind the scenes trivia, the piece is a group of monks chanting. No instruments, just a beautifully eerie chant that was perfect for the video.

YouTube http://bit.ly/Hn9NF3

The most successful means of self promotion was the free sneak peek that I offer. I made my chapter outline and figured that I could make the character introduction chapters and the following three chapters that set the stage for the book into a sneak peek. Nothing beats positive word of mouth. It is the ultimate goal of any advertiser, get the consumer to tell other consumers about a product. I polished off the first seven chapters and uploaded them to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Much to my disappointment, they couldn’t be free, a minimum charge of 99 cents applies. Wanting the sneak peek to make it to the masses for free, I uploaded three versions of it to Rapidshare and to a torrent site for the Bit Torrent community. As far as a I can track, the sneak peek has been downloaded over 600 times. It could be twice that for all I know, once you put something into the bit torrent cloud, it has a life of its own. See for yourself, I uploaded it to one site, just one. Look at it now.

Google Search Results http://bit.ly/HjHgzE

Does this all seem like a little too much for you? Do you have a hard time just keeping the formatting straight when you type? Did you know that ebooks have several different formats? Do you know how to convert the formats? Does making and uploading a YouTube video seem impossible to you? Do you know how to upload a file to the file sharing community to distribute your work? Can you do it?

I can. I’m a computer nerd, a real tech-head. I’m the guy that you bring your broken computer or laptop. I’m the guy you ask about what smartphone is better. I’m the guy that helps you decide between a Kindle Fire or an iPad. When I made the detailed plan to promote this book, I realized that I could offer the same service to other aspiring authors. Once I looked at the competition, I knew I could do it for a better price. I was shocked to discover that other companies only give authors about half of the royalties, some as low as 40%. Armed with the technical know how, I founded the Stephenson & Powers Publishing House. My business partner, Carl Powers, is along for the ride. We plan to offer aspiring authors 75% of the royalties of their book. No money up front, we don’t make a dime until the author does.

Homepage http://bit.ly/HGUv0F

Once I finish my first novel, I will be able to focus on getting the company off the ground. I hope that I can help out my fellow authors.

Richard Stephenson

One thought

  1. Great post Richard! I actually wanted to comment on a few things because self-promotion is something that I struggle with as well.

    Learning how to work social media can be really difficult. However, it’s word of mouth that helps anything become viral. Before I started selling my novel, I gave my Facebook friends–325 people–a heads up that my novel was coming out. I asked that they’d invite friends to a social event to purchase my novel on one day. That came to a total of 1000+ people. Total books bought 76.

    I know a lot of my Facebook friends. They’re not random people. The relationship building helped me get a lot done. Instead of spamming people on Twitter, I built connections with them too. Quite a few of them signed up for the purchasing event, which helped increase my sales. Many of them still retweet advertisement about my novel. One even read the book and wrote a review.

    Also, KDP is a great program for new authors. I’ve given away over 600 copies of my novel so far, which helped me sell more in the long run.

    Though I don’t sell 100 books per month, I’ve reached best sellers list in my genres twice. My advice I want to add to your great post is to build relationships. For anyone using social media, remember the term “social.”

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