Warning: this is a long post with many words.
I’ve read a number of books, ebooks and blog posts on how to promote your writing on the Internet. I’ve also looked at the summaries of the self-publishing survey from Taleist and had a tiny bit of experience on this myself.
First, the general consensus seems to be that a self-publishing writer must have a platform. They should Tweet, use Facebook, blog, and have a website with the basic information on their books/stories. While all the information I’ve gleaned makes it clear that you need a good product, most of them stress social networking as the means to letting others know about your product. More on this in a minute.
However, what I’m actually seeing, and I want to stress that this is just my view of things so far, is that social networking isn’t a very powerful way of getting information across for someone without a name, meaning, if you aren’t already well-known it’s not going to work as well. Taleist points out that the top earners in the self-publishing field don’t focus on social networking as much and I can see why. Twitter is best for following news in the field (publishing, writing, authors, etc.) with occasional updates from writers you already know and trust. I’ve only purchased one indie book from someone I found on Twitter and it took reading several of their blog posts, as well as a joint love of Norse Myths before I was willing to try. The other authors I watch have been traditionally published. I know I’m going to read quality when I read something of theirs.
Facebook still seems, to me, to be a place where people who have already read your stories and love them can gather to show the love.
A blog is a good way to update others who are already interested in following, and with the way blogs are designed nowadays, they can double as a website. If you have a name, you can treat it more like a journal (see Neil Gaiman’s Journal or John Scalzi’s blog).
Unless, of course, you provide a related service, like writing advice, none of the above will matter without that strong fan base. I don’t see where it has a very strong return on investment for most self-published writers. Therefore, it seems a little backward to me for a person with no name and no time to invest a lot of that precious time on those tools.
Obviously, if you already have a name, either through some other venture or because you’ve already had some books published through a commercial publisher, social networking is going to become much more important. It’s a way to connect with those who already love you and are looking for you.
For those without a name, I still think it’s a good idea to have things like a Twitter account, a Facebook presence, and a blog. They can be fun in and of themselves, plus, you already have something set up for fan interaction, which can be really nice, especially if you hit the writing lottery and find your numbers climbing.
However, I think, for those without a name, it’s a mistake to focus a lot of time on social networking. Here’s why.
Taleist points out that the top earners spent more time writing and contacting top reviewers to review their books. This is a very important point. Time is valuable to a reader. Any time spent reading a badly-written book is time they could have been reading something better. So, people swap info on good books, look at the Recommended shelf at the library, read reviews, etc. In other words, all the traditional tools are still being used.
Already, gatekeepers are appearing in the self-publishing world. InD’Tale Magazine is a prime example of this, with excellent reviews of self-published work. More than this, it is possible to find reviewers to spread the word. Amanda Hocking herself says that once she submitted her stories to book bloggers, her numbers (which weren’t too bad to start with) really began to rise (mentioned in her post “an epic tale of how it all happened“).
Notice the plural in “stories”. That’s the most important part, from what I see. Amanda Hocking, and other self-publishers who are successful, didn’t put out one or two stories and then market the heck out of them. I’m not saying don’t market the only book you’ve published, by the way. Catherine Ryan Howard wrote an excellent article on that topic a while back, with advice on how to do it, too. In fact, everything I’m saying is borderline rambling, a hypothesis that’s still pretty fresh in my brain but that refuses to go away. However, I think it’s wrong of self-publishing writers just starting out to spend more time on social networks than writing, especially if they do this part-time.
That said, there are bills to pay and I, Amy, have to find the money for copy editing somehow. How else will I pay for this?
I could try Kickstarter. The problem is that, again, I’ll need either a name, or a really fantastic project that others can connect with.
In the “old days”, a writer would support him/herself through short stories. One strategy I’ve read (and I can’t remember who said it so if it’s you, please say so) is to publish short stories through commercial/traditional e-zines, then self-publish them as soon as you legally/contractually can. This approach shows you can write publishable fiction, builds a readerbase, and still allows for self-publishing on the “long tail”.
Now, obviously this isn’t ideal. But it’s worth a thought.
With all that in mind, here’s my current plan:
* Write more. First thing in the morning if I can do it, and at least three pages every day if I can. (I’m a mom of many. This has to be flexible.)
* Hang out with other writers more. I’ve always liked this and it keeps me humble.
* Keep the social media presence, have fun with it, but don’t worry too much about building an enormous following, or getting a lot of likes. Writing is the important thing.
* Write. Send stories to magazines and e-zines, publish free shorts here on my blog, keep working on my novel, once I finish that, start another one, rinse, repeat.
* Focus less on social media to get the word out, and more on getting good reviewers in my genre to read my novels.
* Participate more on Goodreads, though I’d prefer to do this as a reader, not a writer. Not sure how much I want to say though, since I tend to be a pretty opinionated reader and will probably come out sounding like a hypocrite.
So, there you have it. I’ll be testing this hypothesis over the next year. I’ll let you know how it works.