This weekend begins my Big Event Marketing Push, not only for my new Deadtown Abbey and Reviva Las Vegas!, but for my backlist as well. But saying “Big Event” is almost useless these days, since every shit writer in the world is doing worthless, annoying “events.”
So after many, many hours reading some truly awful self-pubbed books (and also many great ones, but those aren’t relevant here) and also looking at how their authors chose to publicize them, I think you should avoid doing any of the actions below.
1. Write and publish an unoriginal, shitass, unedited, or never-proofread book. Zombies, vampires, “shifters” of whatever species? No, David Blaine. That isn’t going to work anymore. Actually, that’s not quite true—go forth and write about zombies, but make it entirely new (check out my Reviva Las Vegas! and see how I work to shine a new light on Romero-esque zombie tropes). Write about werewolves and vampires in a surprising, even amusing, setting (check out my Deadtown Abbey—you’ll see that I practice what I preach.) Whatever you do, don’t do exactly what’s been done before you, and probably better.
Get someone who will tell you the truth—and knows what he or she is talking about—to edit and proofread your second draft. No one should see your first draft, EVAR.
What’s interesting is that the Lovercraftian community of writers long ago moved away from pastiche and lack of fresh ideas and you will find mind-shattering originality in many of this subgenre’s stories. If you want to read pastiche that would make fanfic sensation E.L. James weep, check out the work of August Derleth (or, seriously, don’t). Just do something new. If you can’t think of anything new, write the unoriginal stuff to get limbered up and then stick it in a drawer, never to be seen again. Then write books that the world might actually want.
2. Mistake quantity for quality. In this, I don’t mean longer books versus somewhat shorter books. (“Somewhat shorter” weighing in at 50,000 words or so.) Time and time again I have seen writers trying to make a splash in the self-publishing (or even small-press publishing) pond by writing and publishing a bunch of VERY short books—maybe technically “novellas,” but usually just longish short stories printed in larger type and with lots of white space—to make their backlist catalog look impressive. “Wow, this guy (or gal) has written thirty books! He must really have it together. I’ll order one and dive in,” a prospective buyer (I fell for this myself) may say to hisself or herself.
The problem is that when they get this $12 glorified short story, they are most likely going to be a bit steamed and feel like a sucker and—this is the important part—never buy one of this author’s books again. S/he may never even buy anything put out by that small press again. And friends will be told, believe me. Friends will be told.
If your book happens to be short, call it a novella and let the reader know what to expect. There are some damn fine novellas out there. But to write a bunch of short stuff just so you can look like you’re a veteran novelist (not “novella-ist,” you’ll notice) with a huge backlist is, like the next mistake on this roundup, disingenuous at best and outright dishonest at worst.
3. Stretch the terms “best-seller” and/or “award-winning” into your marketing. Unless your book has graced the lists of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, or some other major or even second-tier newspaper like the Miami Herald or Cleveland Plain Dealer, you are improperly using the term “best-seller.” Although it may technically be a best-seller in that it’s the most books you’ve ever sold of any of your titles, or it’s a relatively best-selling book in that it’s No. 490,000 on Amazon so it’s technically selling better than books like at 600,000, we both know that’s not what you’re trying to convey to a prospective reader.
Same thing with “award-winning.” Did your book win (or short-list) for the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Man Booker Prize, or any other well-known or respected book award? Winning the Indiana University South Bend Lester M. Wolfson Award for fiction (which I did, thank you) means nothing to anyone but (and possibly not even including) yourself and other writers at IUSB. That’s not to say winning any award isn’t an important achievement, but again, winning a small local or regional award is not the “award-winning” that you are trying to make potential readers think of when they see that, even if it is technically true.
And about the Pulitzer: You can nominate yourself for this prestigious prize, meaning that anyone who does so can slap “Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize” across their book’s cover, even though the chance of their winning one is less than that of being hit by a meteor that has also been struck by lightning. It looks really cool and may move a few copies, but again, it’s not conveying to the Powell’s or Amazon browser what they think is being conveyed. A black-hat tactic at best, and sleazy as hell.
4. Hold an online “Release Party” and invite everyone who you know on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or whatever other social media you can spam people with. Because, face it—your quasi-stranger Facebook peeps, those ones you have never interacted with, ever, except to invite them to this “party”—mayyyyy click on “Going” to be polite and supportive, but in fact not only are they not going, they may unfriend this stranger who is offering a free eBook as a raffle prize. Whee.
The real thing to do is have an actual release party in the physical world, one with some cheese trays, maybe at an indie bookstore close to home, and invite people whom you actually know (as well as their friends—always include the friends if you can get their info from your actual friend). Send real invitations. Show that you put some effort into it, and people might actually buy and talk about your book(s), which is the reason for doing such an event in the first place, right?
And you can have the best of both worlds: Get a friend with a memory-rich iPhone or maybe a straight-up digital video camera to record the event. Have your videographer talk to attendees about what they think of the book even if they haven’t read it yet. Capture their excitement, capture your author speech to them, show people buying the book. And then post it all over your website, on social media including YouTube, and then invite people all over the world to watch the video. Tack your URL on at the end so they can buy copies. BOOM, my friend, you just started some buzz.
5. Don’t hold back AT ALL on social media. We know you’re excited about your book. You can even make others excited about your book if you go about it the right way. But the surest way to drive possible buyers away in droves is to saturate your (and their) social media accounts with “announcements” about your book that announce nothing except here’s my book and “reminders” that your book is available, which no shit, you’re only bombarding me with repetitive Tweets about it every 15 minutes.
Here’s how to do it right: Make a Web page or Facebook page for yourself as an author and/or one for each of your books. (WordPress, people, WordPress.) Invite people to “like” (on Facebook) or “favorite” your “official” site (as opposed to just your personal one) or whatever the kids are doing these days instead of
mowing my lawn respecting their elders. THEN announce and remind and all of that stuff on your author and/or book page, which people can take or leave.
But don’t then fuck it up by sending announcements more than once per day, and for God’s sake put actual content on your page that these same people can see, content that will interest them, content which will, ideally, relate to your book’s subject in some interesting way. For example Gail Carriger, who is the greatest at everything, does this perfectly. She writes steampunk-esque novels and stories, but—remember No. 1 on this list—she does it in entirely unexpected ways. Check out her very active and charming Facebook page.
Also, if I see Tweets about your book and they are not interspersed with (a) interesting thoughts on writing or publishing or other authors; (b) retweets of same by other writers; or (c) anything not shilling your fucking book, I will personally come over and kick you in the keister for losing a great opportunity to make both sales and new literary friends.
And it goes without saying (except I’m, um, saying it) that thou shalt not Tweet nor post more than one item that is pretty much an ad for your book per 24-hour period. Don’t abuse these wonderful social media tools. Your unkicked keister is depending on you.
The main takeaways from all of this should be:
- Don’t write unoriginal crap. (Even original crap is better.)
- Don’t misrepresent or lie to possible book buyers.
- Do social media, from “release parties” to Twitter and Facebook posts, lightly and in a way that enhances your potential book buyer’s experience.
- Ignore what others are faddishly doing in marketing. Make your own, better way.
Readers are to be respected and cultivated. They deserve the best books you can write and not to be pestered constantly while they’re thinking about it. We create offerings, not demands. Behave yourselves out there, fellow wordsmiths, and watch the magic happen.
(By the way, read the first half of any of my novels at SeanHoade.com. Just a single reminder, see?)