Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Published? Now It's Time to Market

More from Bob Sanchez about Selling after Writing and Publishing

I thought I would share some of my experiences in marketing my self-published novel, When Pigs Fly (aka WPF or "The li'l porker").

In choosing a particular iUniverse program, one of my main concerns was to maximize the potential exposure for the book. A friend of mine says he'd be happy to simply publish enough copies of his novel to sell a few to friends and have one left over for his bookshelf. Others publish in the hope of making money or getting noticed by an agent.

Before you go down the self-publishing path, you need to decide on your goals and evaluate companies with those goals in mind. My own goal is to gain a wide readership while earning back my investment. I no longer care about agents or traditional publishing houses, and will almost certainly self-publish any subsequent novels. On the other hand, credibility for my work is very important to me.

Oops. Do "credibility" and "self-publishing" belong in the same paragraph? A lot of people turn up their noses at the whole business as though they were passing a pig sty. Just try to get your book reviewed. Very few people will review your book. Kirkus Discoveries reviewed mine, but I paid them for it. Midwest Book Review specializes in reviewing self-published and small-press books, so they reviewed mine. (The reviewer was IWW's Carter Jefferson, in fact.) A couple of other reviews are in the works, and I have had to actively seek out all of them.

Anyway, when my book came out in November 2006 I sent an email to all of my friends and some of my old neighbors and acquaintances. I tried to use a light tone in keeping with that of the book, so I made silly but true statements along the lines of "It'll make you laugh, but won't improve your love life." It was a reasonably effective launch to my most likely market niche, and sales got off to a good start.

Also, I converted my personal website into a platform for promoting WPF, though driving traffic to that site is an ongoing conundrum. An ongoing Google ad seems to be making a small difference and isn't costing much.

It's not clear to me how much help the Amazon reviews are for sales, but I solicited friends to post reviews if they liked the book. Right now I have 14 reviews, 12 of which are there because I asked for them. Mind you, not everyone values Amazon reviews, because they are assumed to be biased.

It's hard for me to gauge online sales in the short term, as iUniverse reporting lags a good two months behind (they have to wait for reports from Amazon, etc.). So sales reporting is one area where I'm not completely satisfied with iUniverse.

Selling books directly is turning out to be quite satisfying. So far, my sales in signing events have averaged about five books-modest to be sure, but the interaction is fun. The other day I even turned down a sale, because a lady who hadn't heard me read wanted a copy for her 13-year-old granddaughter. I explained about the profanity ("only a little") and adult situations, and we both agreed my book was a bad choice for a child. The nice lady was probably thinking it was like Charlotte's Web. But then other customers will give me a big smile and say how much they're looking forward to the read, and that personal interaction I'd miss if only bookstores and websites carried the book.

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