This week, I want to address and issue that is a difficult one for me and, I suspect, for many other independent authors. Let me first define what I mean by the term “independent author”. An independent author is one that is not using a literary agent, has not signed a deal with a traditional publisher, and is responsible for the editing, marketing, and promoting of their book.
If this sounds like you, then you fall into this category. Now, given the choice between writing, and the other peripheral activities I mentioned, I would prefer to only write and not worry about the other activities. The reality for most of us is, unless you have unlimited funds, is that some or all of these tasks fall on our shoulders.
The difficulty with this for me is that I hate self-promotion, self-marketing, and blowing my own horn. The fact that I have to promote something that I created (and may be insecure about) is counter-intuitive. I just want to sit in a room, come up with ideas, and write about them. I do want to share my work with readers, but I don’t want to do the dirty work.
When I wrote my first book, I did what a lot of you have done or will do. I sent out query letters to countless literary agents and publishing houses. After weeks of waiting, I received either negative or no replies. I read about other authors that struggled for years through rejection after rejection and finally signed a first book for a minimal advance and received minimal marketing. I had three problems with this. The first is that I was 51 years old and I didn’t have years and years to see if this venture was going to work out. Second, I’m not very patient. I had that burning desire to see my book in print and share it with others. Third, I had little respect for what agents and publishers thought of as marketable. I had read many traditionally published books that were of dubious quality. I didn’t want to put my future as a writer in the hands of a few ivory tower-based snobs that would look at a 51 year old first time author and turn away without reading my work.
This is when I began to look at the world of independent publishing. Outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have lent credibility and attention to self-publishing. As I researched this outlet, I read books about independent publishing. I also looked for other authors to model myself after. One of the most successful and forthcoming examples is the Author, Hugh Howey. His Sand and Wool series of books went from short stories to New York Times Best Sellers. He is a strong advocate for self-publishing and independent authors and shares a great deal of his knowledge.
My first book was published in April. Like the books advised, I set up keywords on Amazon, I set up a Facebook page and a web site. I then began the arduous task of trying to get the word out. I started with friends and family. A few copies sold and then, one of the most powerful marketing tools, word of mouth, kicked in. I tried other tactics like free book days on Amazon, Facebook ads, and other advertising outlets. I then began to join as many book and author Facebook groups as possible. I also concentrated on Twitter by seeking out book groups and authors, following them, and tweeting them directly with news of my book. I sent out press releases to every newspaper that I could find. Over 100 press releases yielded a two sentence blurb in my hometown newspaper. I saw that as a success.
I soon found myself posting in Facebook groups and sending tweets for 2-3 hours per day when I could spare the time. Remember, I have a 50-60 hour per week day job, so the weekends, a time when I like to be with my family, started with posting to social media. Eventually, however, a light went off in my head regarding two aspects of the promotional predicament.
The first is, once your book is published, it is there for eternity or until you take it down. There is not an urgency to promote it within a certain period of time before it expires. You definitely want to build up as the release approaches and try to secure preorders, but once it’s there, it’s not going away and you can try new tactics periodically.
The second aspect is that there are ways to make the promotion tasks more efficient or outsource them altogether. I have found software packages that help me to post to social media in a semi-automated way that is more natural and will not land me in “Facebook Jail”, which I’m sure some of you are familiar with. I have also found a fantastic editor that I trust and that trusts me. I may not be able to pay her much at all right now, but she knows that if these books take off, she will be pulled along for the ride.
Additionally, I have found a promotion person with a proven track record working with independently published authors. He has taken many authors into the ranks of success and I am hoping that I join them. The best part about using these services is that they are cafeteria style. I can ramp up when I’m releasing a book. My judicious spending has resulted in podcast and radio interviews, reviews, and blog tours. There is also a sense of credibility in having my book promoted by a third party.
At this point, I still do a good bit of promotion on my own, but, as I mentioned in an earlier blog that centered on writing when you have a full-time day job, I organize my time spent on promotion. I dedicate blocks on certain days to post and do other promotional activities. The other designated time is reserved for writing and nothing else.
I hope this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions about the tools I use, my editor, or my promotion person, please reach out. I have no problem sharing their information. I’m sure they can help you as much as they have helped me and others.
As always, your comments and questions are welcome.
About Don Massenzio
Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.
Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.
His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.
The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available.
Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.
Find out more about Don at his web site: