Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Now what?

So, you've written that novel you've always wanted to write and even that one friend of yours who you can always count on to be honest (sometimes to a fault) has certified that it is indeed quite good.  What now?  With the new trend in independent and self publishing, the options for the budding novelist, or writer of any genre for that matter, are so open it can be almost as daunting as the countless rejection letters waiting for them only several years ago.  In the past, as is quite evident in the number of rejections even sure things like J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Myer, and James Patterson received (whoops, bet there are some publishing houses and agents kicking themselves now), there was a large degree of luck, who you know and certainly persistence involved in getting a publishing house to put your book in print.  Being a good writer and writing a great novel were not, by any stretch, guarantees that a novelist would be recognized.  I often imagine how many Rowling's there are who have eventually given up or are still desperately trying to get someone in the industry to notice them whose books we might never see.
To a certain extent, the indie movement, e-books and print on demand publishers have changed that.  With a little bit of work (not including the immense amount of effort and dedication that went into writing a novel to begin with) a book can be published in both electronic and paper form, complete with an isbn, barcode, price tag and ready for the public to purchase and hopefully enjoy.  But it is not quite that easy.  For most authors, seeing their work in print with a shiny cover and a shelf on Amazon is not exactly the end of the dream.  Taking money out of the equation, we all wouldn't mind the money that comes with bestselling author status and a movie deal, the real measure is to have readers.  Call them fans, readers, devotees, what every writer needs in order to tell their stories is an audience.  Although the indie movement may have enabled authors to skip over the sometimes arbitrary rejection stage and get their books published, they now face an equally and sometimes more arduous task.  Leading the masses to their work and getting them to drink, or read, as it were. 
Unless you are independently wealthy and have plenty of money to throw at your dream, this is going to be tricky.  Big house publishers have got connections and money the indie author is just not going to have access too.  Publishers Weekly and the New York Times aren't just going to take you calls and feature you in their next new and notable authors section.  You could try sending your book to some famous authors to get their endorsements of the cover of your book, but I would wait to long for a response.  So, what do you do now?
There is of course some of the more written about steps to take.  I suggest Ashley Barron's blog at for some great advice from more experienced authors if your looking for sound practical steps.  Assuming then, you have a facebook profile (check), a fanpage (check), a blog (check), a twitter account (check).  You joined Goodreads (check).  You offer free promotions and tweet, message and post away.  Now what?  Sales...your mom, a couple friends and a few people, bless 'em, you have no idea where they came from.  
Well, I have two suggestions and I make no claim to their novelty, but they have really started to make the difference for me and so I'm going to mention them.  First and foremost, ENGAGE.  Yes, it is easy to get a couple hundred people to follow you on twitter and even easier to post the website where your book is available with a 'buy my book' several times in under 140 characters.  No one is going to care and less are going to listen.  Take the time to read what others are writing, find things that interest you and start small conversations.  While it may seem trivial, it's not.  Two things will come out of this interaction.  One, people will actually get to know you a bit and in turn be much more likely to explore your websites and books.  Two, you will actually begin to enjoy using the social media tools as opposed to looking at them as a necessary evil.
The next suggestion is straight out of the bible.  The whole 'do unto others' bit.  Become the sort of reader you are looking to entice into reading your books.  Take the time to explore the indie content that's out there.  Find books that interest you and read them.  You will find a great deal of worthwhile and engaging material.  The type of books, for instance, you yourself have written.  Write reviews.  Believe it or not, they mean a great deal to the author and help get them and yourself much needed attention.  People are much more likely to purchase a book they know others have read and if your review is well written, they very well might find their way over to your material.
You can't expect things to just fall into place.  They didn't when your only option for publication was So and so and so and so Inc, they aren't now that you are the master of your publishing fate.  Many of the same rules apply and the game is still a bit rigged.  But try to take a less cynical approach, because you can't change the rules.  Sure, at this point it doesn't matter what James Patterson writes, people are going to buy it, but it's because people have gotten to know him through his writing.  To a certain extend they trust him.  You, and I, must build that trust if we hope to have success.  It is possible and a word I sort of brushed over earlier is still the key.  Persistence.  Not annoying...persistent.  Engage the people you hope to one day be your fans.  Give new authors a chance to earn you as theirs.  Who knows, with a bit of luck, you and that author might just be sitting across from one another at a convention for best selling authors laughing over who was whose fan first.    
Well, that's what I've got for now.  Thank you all again, for reading, for writing and for sharing.  I love to read as much as I love to write and I wish you the best of luck.  BUY MY BOOK!!! 

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