Tag Archives: author marketing

The Big (Tiny) Amazon Self-Publishing Experiment Begins! (+ Cover Reveal!)

I just learned an important and slightly disappointing lesson about putting a book up for Amazon pre-order. Logical in retrospect, though. But I should back up.

I’m finishing up a couple novels and plan to self-publish them when the time comes. I’m looking forward to sharing the process of completing them, getting them ready, publishing them, and getting the word out. Thing is, they’re both major projects—150k and projected 120k words—and I’d kind of like to have a little experience with the basics of self-publishing so that I can put them up without wasting time on errors or inefficiencies, especially when it’s a time sink that would scale up with the length of the novel.

Recently I remembered a fairy tale I wrote a few years ago. It’s early work but it’s actually quite beautiful and the ending still brought me to tears when I re-read it, and it’s a story that’s worth getting out there. Thus was born the Big (Tiny) Amazon Self-Publishing Experiment. The story is around 30 pages long and in mostly finished form.

I realized if I can put aside my perfectionistic tendencies I could put on a pre-made cover, convert it with minimal editing, and publish it on Amazon within weeks or less with very little effort.

Big if.

I ended up ordering a pre-made cover and, while the designer was incredibly friendly and responsive and did a beautiful job adjusting the background image for me, it turns out I have pretty strong views on matters of design (and I like getting my hands dirty and testing different options out), and the “make a suggestion, wait a day, make a suggestion, wait a day” cycle was killing me.

So—don’t try this at home—I basically took the second or third version he gave me, completely edited out the title in GIMP, and did my own typography for the main title. Here’s the result. I’m pretty excited.

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

And the disappointing lesson about pre-orders? I decided to put the book up for pre-order to give me a chance to make a few final edits and complete post-production while already having a legit Amazon product page I could direct people to.

The way this works is that you enter your book information and upload a cover and a content file (either draft or final—mine was a draft because the whole point is that I’m finishing it up while pre-orders are open).

Then you pick a future release date and Amazon generates a deadline by which you have to upload the final copy, about 10 days before the release date. This deadline is all very scary and official and bold and red, especially because before your final submit you have to confirm that if you don’t get your final version in before the deadline, you’ll lose access to pre-orders for a whole year.

That’s pretty serious stakes for what started out as essentially a lark.

I decided I needed a kick in the butt to short-circuit the perfectionism and ship the book. So I gave myself a nervous-makingly short deadline of about a week and carved it into stone. That’s when I learned that it doesn’t actually put up the product page until you submit the final draft anyway. So the whole pre-order thing is kind of moot. Either I get a few days to finish post-production or I get a few extra days with a legit Amazon pre-order page, not both.

Lesson learned. And really that’s what the experiment was for all along.

Have you guys done anything like this? Anything I should be aware of going into it?



1,000 True Fans in 150 Words

If you want to make a living from your art, you should be familiar with this.

1,000 True Fans: Artists can make a living by connecting with 1,000 true fans who spend $100/year on their creations. No need for runaway blockbuster success. Thanks, internet!

The Problem With 1,000 True Fans: But really, who’s going to spend $100 a year every year even on a favorite artist? And even if they did, how much of that money goes to the artist in practice?

5000 Fans: You can also do it with 5,000 fans who spend $20/year on you. And 5,000 still isn’t that many.

The Reality of Depending on True Fans: But it’s still pretty tricky to find and keep that many true fans.

The Case Against 1000 True Fans: Plus (as of 2008) not many people seem to be doing this successfully.

Write. Publish. Repeat.: But (as of 2014) these guys are and they can help you, too.



Non-Evil Marketing for Authors

I sense a deep tension in many of the writers I talk with, particularly those who aspire to make a living from their writing. You may be one of them.

Perhaps the idea of marketing your work seems distasteful, maybe even unethical. It’s not that you’re afraid of hard work or shy about telling people about your stories. It goes deeper than that. Marketing feels inherently un-artistic, maybe even anti-artistic. It’s like once you take the dive into marketing strategies and “building your author platform” and (ick) “growing your personal brand,” you’re going to shrivel into a soulless SEO linkbaiter and everything will be ruined forever.

I have a different way of looking at marketing, and it has pretty much changed my life. It has made me more generous, more excited, and more sincere. It gives me a filter for when and how and where to spread the word about my stories, so that I can get great readers without just being an annoying self-promoter. Best of all, it has aligned my goals so that I can throw all of my energy unhesitantly in one direction rather than feeling like I have to flip-flop between doing the good work of writing my stories and making the necessary compromise of marketing them.

From now on, when I say ‘marketing,’ I mean telling people a thing exists or helping them get it more easily or cheaply. (I think I may have stolen this from Write. Publish. Repeat. Maybe not. Either way, I recommend it.)

This gets really cool really fast. Here are three of my favorite angles on it.

No Tricking People

You’ll notice one part I left out of my marketing definition: making people think they want or need something. I think this is the heart of why so much traditional advertising feels so soulless. It’s intentionally planting dissatisfaction in people so that they’ll buy something they don’t need so that other people make money.

My job is to find the people who do want or would want my stories and get the word out to them.

Create and Spread Real Value

So if we’re not tricking people into wanting it, it has to be something genuinely valuable to them. (For the record, that also means valuable enough to make it worth paying what’s being asked.) This is the part that helps me align my energy, effort, and enthusiasm. If my book is going to make peoples’ lives better, it’s worth helping them get their hands on it. If it’s valuable to some people but not to others, I’ll tell the some but not bother the others. If it’s not going to make peoples’ lives better, I shouldn’t be writing it in the first place, much less marketing it.

This all seems simple in retrospect, but it’s been absolutely revolutionary for me. If I genuinely believe my stories are great and will make peoples’ lives better—and I do—I have permission to be truly enthusiastic about marketing my stories to them. You could even argue I have a duty to spread the word. If I have something that would make peoples’ lives better and I don’t exert my full energy, intelligence, and persistence in getting it to them, I’m not living as I should.

Generous Marketing

Now here’s where it gets especially cool. If someone would genuinely enjoy my stories, telling her they exist is doing her a favor. If my story will make her life better, helping her get it is a generous act.

Think about the books that have changed your life, that you’ve gone back to over and over. What if nobody had ever told you about them? Sad, right? But you did hear about it. Does it matter whether it was a friend or the author or a library sale that first drew your attention to it? Not at all. It’s not being creepy to help someone find or get something they’ll love.

So that’s it. Make sure you’re creating something valuable, find the people whose lives it would improve, and help them get their hands on it.

In that vein, I’d like to offer you a gift. The Dream World Collective is a novel about chasing what you love. It’s quirky and geeky and silly and sweet, and I think a lot of you will love it. It’s due for publication later this year, but in the meantime I’d like to give it to you for free. I’m pre-releasing it in sections as I work through the final edits.

1. Click here to download the first section. I’ll keep posting more at bit.ly/latestdwc.

2. I’d love your help getting the word out. Details here.

3. If you’re not into it, no worries. I’m grateful you read this far and I wish you all the best.