Self publishing and promotion

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John Dodds
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Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:07 am Post

Been a while since I've been on the forum (too busy writing!), but I thought it might be worth seeking, and sharing, ideas about promoting your work if you are self-published. To be fair, I have already been published by small presses (most recently, Melange Books, USA), but I also do my own thing. And while it's all very well big name authors saying ebooks are the way to go, they will be found because people are looking for their work.

Here are a few things I've tried, and what happened.

1) Posting on forums. Usually my postings were deleted by admins because I was seen as a business (hilarious!)

2) Posting on newsgroups. Somewhat easier, just begun this and haven't been kicked yet, though there is a spam button should anyone want to see me off.

3) Shared interest groups, such as crime fiction forums, etc - somewhat more success, though not financially.

4) Podcasting - my novel Bone Machines got 5 star ratings on itunes, some excellent reviews and great reader feedback. Didn't sell any books as a result, though.

5) Interviews. Done that, too. I've been interviewed on StarshipSofa, Podioracket and Get Behind Me, Now Stay There – all excellent podcasts. No sales as a result, however.

5) Give away free stuff. Yep - some of my short stories are out on reputable podcasts, and I've given away for free books and short stories. Again, some good reviews and reader feedback.

6) Write naughty stuff. Yes, I've written some erotica, too. Got some sales! Only a few however. We're talking $30 to date, after months and months of trying.

Smashwords is excellent at distributing work, and they get all their books on the Barnes and Noble Nook, and through other ebook sellers, but it's a drip feed.

Stats - one of my naughty books had a 10 per cent sale return on 200 views. But since they are ony $1.50 each, minus tax, negligible.

Anyone had any more success? If so, please do share your ideas! Or comment on what I've said.

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exegete77
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Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:46 am Post

I have a friend who is self-publishing a book. Together we have discovered this site The Book Designer for helpful tips and guidelines in all aspects of self-publishing... by those who have actually done it.

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John Dodds
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Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:06 pm Post

Thanks for that tip. An excellent site, and blog!

John

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Stevenfield
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Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:10 pm Post

Have you looked at your Amazon listing? The synopsis there is for the wrong book.

Your choice of title might also be a drawback, most people will search for an eBook by title and there are other books (and albums) with similar names which is confusing. Unless they're motivated to do other than a quick search people might give up.

Someone else recommended The Book Designer site/blog. Good choice. One of his bugbears is the use of fonts on covers and I think yours lets you down - it has a Victorian feel to it which isn't in keeping with a contemporary setting. Personally I would use the same image but rethink the overall design.

Have a look at the Cover Awards the The Book Designer runs every month. In the September 2011 Awards (http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/10/ ... mber-2011/) there's a brilliant cover for a book called 'Velvet Dogma' by Weston Ochse. The artist, Danielle Tunstall, has lots of off-the-peg cover material on her site you might find interesting (I'm not her by the way...honest).

The quote by Moorcock is gold-dust. But, he'll be more well known to a SF/Fantasy readership, which I don't think is the audience for this book. I'd make the quote a little bigger, and his name a little smaller.

Good luck.

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John Dodds
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Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:53 pm Post

Thanks, Steven. Well, I can't change the title, since Bone Machines was published that way originally, in print format. The new ebook is a bit different since it's been edited somewhat, but also it will be out as a commercial audio from Blackstone Audio later this year.

The fact that there is at least one other book with the same title is neither here nor there (I have seen many examples of this. But as far as I am aware, my Bone Machines predated the one with the similar title, which was published in the USA a few years after mine.

The rest of your tips are very useful, and I will look over all of them. Moorcock - yes, my next book will be a steampunk, so probably more appropriate.

Thanks for your considered response.

John

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robertdguthrie
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Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:17 pm Post

Have you tried publishing (for free) chapters from your book, possibly as blog entries? One of the major reasons that I don't buy a new book is the inability to read a good-sized sample (often Nook books include a bunch of front matter and then a couple hundred words of the actual story).

Sorry I'm in no position to offer advice based on experience from the author's side of the equation, but I do have a few reactions as a reader of books, blogs, twitter feeds, and a few forums such as this one. I hope they are at least a little helpful:

1. Self-promotion in forums not designated for that activity irritate me. I used to read boingboing.com, a nerdy news aggregator, but when one of the creators/editors of the site started promoting one of his books by posting new stories about frequently, I got so irritated that not only did I stop visiting the site, I lost all interest in reading his books. There are far too many books on my to-read list as it is, so I don't feel as if I'm losing out. With that said, if someone participating in a forum has a signature with a very brief link and blurb about their blog/book, I am inclined to view that promotion as benign. If their contribution to the subjects being discussed in that forum are interesting or helpful, I'm more inclined to click the link. That's no guarantee of increased sales, but it's what you should expect from any marketing campaign.

2, 3, 4, 5 - All of these approaches can get you noticed, but they won't often lead directly to sales. There are a lot of books out there vying for my attention; to get on my to-read list, not only does a book have to appeal to my tastes, but I have to have a sense of it's contents, or barring that, a sense of the author himself/herself. Case-in-point: I have been following the youtube videos of John and Hank Green, brothers who set out to have fun (not market themselves, mind you), and to get to know each other as adults while being entertaining to anyone who wanted to watch the videos. Several years later, having posted videos multiple times per week, John Green's book, The Fault In Our Stars is on the NYT best seller list ("children's" list) for 5 weeks so far. I started reading his books in part because he had been entertaining and genuine, as well as informative occasionally on subjects that mattered to him. The other part was that he did mention that his book was coming out, but did so in a very self-concious manner that one could sum up thusly: "You do not owe me (J. Green) anything just because you watch my videos. I'd love it if you checked out this book when it comes out, but that's not what these videos are for." While reader questions about the book and writing do come up , and he answers them in thoughtful and entertaining ways, he doesn't give the impression that he's being a salesman for himself. Granted, he's a traditionally published author, but there's not question that by gathering a following of people on the internet in a mostly unrelated sphere, he's been able to reach far more people than if that venue didn't exist. I certainly wouldn't have ventured into the Young Adult section of any book store without first discovering his (and his brother's) videos. I'm not part of his genre's target demographic by a long-shot, so there's no way I would have discovered him through traditional means.

I realize that my example isn't all that helpful to getting your book on the minds of thousands of people, but I hope that my perspective is in some small way helpful. Good luck!
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Time for a change... I'm now rdale; same dog-avatar, same dog... channel?

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John Dodds
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Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:44 am Post

Thanks, Robert, this looks very useful.

I haven't tried free samples on my blog (well, only once, for my anthology, Warriors and Wenches), but Bone Machines is entirely free in ebook format at this point.

I've dipped a toe in the water with video, and plan to do something with that in future.

I'll try to pick up on some of the helpful advice you and Steve have given - all good stuff. But it will be time permitting now.

Thanks
John

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Stevenfield
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Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:42 pm Post

I've downloaded Bone Machines from iTunes and look forward to reading it.

I think Robert's suggestion of providing samples is an excellent one.

Unfortunately much of the self-published material appearing on the intertubes is sub-standard (to put it mildly) and many readers now need reassurance that they're spending money on an author who can string a sentence together (or even spell words proply).

You mentioned that your next work is going to be a steampunk novel in which case, before it's released, it might be useful to send a review copy to any genre websites/magazines/individuals you think could generate some authoritative reviews. Readers are getting wise to the fact that many anonymous five-star reviews are simply bogus. I predict that genuine reviews from disinterested parties are going to become increasingly important in online promotion.

As an aside, another marketing ploy I've seen used is to write a short-story and sell it for nothing, the idea being that the freebie gets you higher in the Amazon download charts and draws customers to your other, paying, books. So I guess the trick is to develop your Amazon author site, lay out your wares and make sure that any freebies you produce reel customers towards it.

You've doubtless got most of this covered already, but just in case...

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John Dodds
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Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:21 pm Post

Thanks again, Steven. I take the point about 5 star reviews, though it's lovely that they come from general reading public. Bone Machines got a new review, though, on Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing, if you are interested, here:
http://www.adventuresinscifipublishing.com/.../bone-machines-by-john-dodds/