Self-Publishing Ain't For Sissies!
During a period of unemployment in 2004, I did a lot of soul-searching about my career and a lot of reading for pure escapism. It was at this time that I read Nicholas Sparks’ Three Weeks with My Brother, and I tried to absorb the fact that he received a million-dollar advance for this book. After I got over the initial shock of that fact, I remember thinking, “Holy cow! He’s a good writer, but I know I can do this, too.” I’ve been writing since that day in 2004.
When I finished my first novel, my wife and I spent a great deal of time and money printing off complete manuscripts and mailing them to agents and publishers. This went on for months with no results. We struggled with the disappointment we felt from the countless rejection letters.
As this went on (and on and on), I began working on my second novel. I felt it was much better than the first, and I was very hopeful. We finally realized that it wasn’t necessary or practical to mail the entire manuscript to agents and publishers (in fact, most of them don’t want it as the initial contact), and we began querying and sending synopses, chapter outlines, and excerpts. Still no results. A few nibbles, but no bites. Again, much disappointment.
In the meantime, I had taken a job in another state, and we moved. I continued writing novels while working full-time, and my wife took over some of the marketing aspect of this endeavor. Nine novels later, we had nothing to show for our efforts with traditional agents and publishers but frustration.
Through some chance or perhaps through diligent research (I don’t remember which.), we discovered the world of self-publishing and Amazon’s self-publishing ebook program. We were so excited to have another avenue to explore, and we were sure that if we published the books ourselves, at no cost to us (thank you, Amazon), we would certainly sell books and become rich and famous. How naïve we were!
The one thing we have discovered about self-publishing, apart from the fact that getting the books formatted correctly to upload to Amazon’s program is very tricky, is that ALL the marketing is totally up to the author (and his trusty sidekick/spouse). We were stymied. How does one go about marketing one’s own book? What avenues are out there for this purpose?
Again, through trial and costly error, we discovered that advertising in national newspapers and on BookPage was an exercise in futility. We got NO sales from the several ads we placed in print. Likewise ads placed on Facebook and Google and bookmarks printed and passed out at bookstores and book festivals. By this time, we were beginning to make some contacts online with other authors, and we decided that having a website might be a good idea. It’s amazing how inept we were in trying to create our own “free” website; it really looked like an amateur had done it, and the sales results, again, were nil, even though we had a store right on the site.
It was not until we hired a web designer who also redesigned the cover of my first published book that we began to see sales. Just a few at first, of course, but by then we had begun to “work” the social media, created a blog, and tried to figure out just who the market for this book was and to send them announcements about the book’s release. We also discovered the value of reviews, we began contacting reviewers both on Amazon and on blog sites, and favorable reviews started coming in. This boosted sales, though they were still modest.
The benefits from creating a network of contacts (writers, readers, bloggers, reviewers) was so much more than getting good reviews or word-of-mouth advertisement. They supported and encouraged me to pursue this dream of writing and publishing my books.
I am now in my eighth year of writing, revising, editing, marketing, and selling novels. Progress has been slow but steady, and I am proud of the work we’ve done. I will continue to write and market my books, and one day, I know, we really will become rich and famous! That’s the dream, and I know it can come true.
Guest post By Joseph M. Rinaldo