There is a great deal of blog posts, independent articles, and social media regurgitation related to the methodologies of how to successfully market your newly finished bundle of joy. What further mires the decision-making process is how intertwined it is with the type of publishing you should consider; traditional, self-publish or hybrid. Toss in eBook Publishing and you have an industry appearing to not know what it wants to be when it grows up.
My intent in this post is to provide what my experience has been thus far since The Cradle of Destiny was published in July 2018. It has been sobering and educational, stirring up emotions I have not felt in a long time. Some were good while others were downright nasty; however, the bottom line is I am glad to be going through it.
Many of the discoveries I have made in the arena of marketing, especially when it came to marketing myself, revealed themselves once I firmly planted my feet back on the ground after the initial high of being published wore off. I already mentioned in my April 2019 post how impactful making less than $12.00 in book sales during one specific quarter really hit me in the breadbasket. Well, a similar realization and defeatist sensation struck me again when I began to analyze how many roadblocks have been put in place to impede one’s progress towards success. This is not me crying in my beer but simply pointing to the reality of what many face.
While I am at it, I want to drive home why I write in the first place, aside from the obvious enjoyment factor and the fact my characters will not shut-up; makes the head feel a bit crowded at times (smile…)
My intent is to give back to a genre and craft that inspired me to write. I want to share well-written and, hopefully, entertaining stories with as many people as possible. At present, my goal is not being reached, so now I am looking at the how.
My current publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press (RPP), is an eBook Publisher with a wide portfolio of genres, while romance tends to be the larger focus. What I did not initially pay attention to when I reviewed RPP’s website prior to submitting my book, was a very small percentage of their published authors are science fiction based. There is a smattering of fantasy and supernatural, but their main category of choice is quite evident. This is not a criticism but simply an observation.
One of the key elements I learned back in 2008 when I was attempting to obtain an agent to publish the first version of my story is to pay attention to the first and second lines of a publisher’s descriptor. I used a resource called, Writer’s Market which is a comprehensive list of publisher information along with tips and resources to help writer’s review the market to determine who they think would be the best publishing house for their particular story. What I learned, quite painfully I might add, is if a publisher lists your particular genre in the first one to two lines of their descriptor, then your genre is actually something they will actively promote. If you are in the middle or near the end, they more than likely have very few science fiction writers’ under their belt.
Many of the publishers listed in the Writer’s Market indicated science fiction as an accepted genre; however, their website would tell a much different story. Often, I would not even get a response from them and I found the same to be true when I approached potential agents.
Most author’s I have talked with or read about have indicated marketing is not their thing. Yet, no matter what publishing route you choose, an expectation exists you will do some form of self-marketing. My struggle throughout this whole process has been, if I have to do my own marketing, which takes away from my writing, why the hell do I need them? Especially in my case where the outcome is the same – your book receives little to no coverage.
Here are the distribution lists my publisher uses to market their authors and keep in mind this is not indicative of all the methodologies used by publishers; Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Google Play, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Inktera, txtr, Baker and Taylor, Library Direct, Overdrive, Yuzu, Tolino, Gardners, Flipkart, and Odilo and Scribd.
You know where I am going with this right? Yes, I went and visited each of these resources. What I discovered is only one-third work as intended. Here is what my publisher said when I brought my findings to their attention, they have access to our books and sometimes they pick up your book and sometimes they do not.
If the aforementioned statement does not make you stop, scratch your head and wonder how the hell does it help anyone trying to get their name out in a sea already chalked full of content, I do not know what will. Let me toss out a few more complimentary morsels to digest.
Although I can have my publisher change the price of my book at any time, I was told books more than $0.99 do not sell on Amazon unless you are a well-established writer. Listing sites can also add insult to injury by cutting book prices from time to time with little to no control in the publisher’s hands. When I instructed those who have read my book to write a review, Amazon did not allow it unless they had $50.00 or more in verifiable purchases, which they will check before a review can be written. Instead, I told everyone to write a review at Barnes and Noble even if they bought it on Amazon.
Do not mistake what I am attempting to point out here. I understand there are numerous reasons why it is difficult for content creators, especially new ones, to become visible. In an age where content is more readily available on multiple platforms and ravenously consumed in short periods of time, I am not surprised it takes a lot to keep consumers appeased and well fed. If you toss in the short attention span with the immediate gratification syndrome, writer’s like me who want to craft appropriately detailed narratives are doomed.
I have often been told; Do not get too detailed. Nowadays, the majority of readers do not have the attention span to stay on track when a lot of narrative is involved. Although I have learned how to say more with less, which is a cultivated skill you learn by doing, I am not going to compromise my style simply because people do not have the time.
One of the main purposes for sitting down to read in the first place is to relax, take your time and appreciate a good story, not guzzle it down like it is your last meal, then expect me to give away my life’s work for $0.99. If you have no problem doling out more than $5.00 on your beverage of choice at your favorite coffee place to have a casual conversation with friends, you can buy my book for $4.99.
Do not give me the I might not like it excuse. There are plenty of times we have bought something, discovered we did not like it and returned it. Put yourself in the shoes of someone attempting to get their name out there by giving them a chance and not expecting them to give away their creation for peanuts. This is not only directed at consumers. Publishers, no matter their style of distribution, need to do a better job at challenging industry norms and not allowing their authors to set a precedent of selling their intellectual property for less than $1.00.
Finally, another aspect I encountered while exploring options with my publisher served to mystify me even further. In my contract, it was suggested I create my own blog (cough, cough) and use social media. In the same breath, they have a blog post titled How to get noticed in 2019, where they list what does not sell books; Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google, Websites, and blogs. Not only does that eliminate almost all of the ways most people get recognized in the electronic age, it also contradicts the very tools they say to use in their contract. Again, this is not about assignment of blame; I just do not handle contradiction very well.
There you have it. My struggle thus far in a nutshell. Obviously, I understand my experience is not unique and others may have even harsher stories to tell. I am a writer. The only way I know how to keep everything straight and form rational insights is by spewing it on electronic paper.
I have never been one who simply goes along with the crowd or accepts a practice because it has always been done a certain way. My regular job, the one providing actual income, requires me to continually examine and make improvements to existing processes which may be antiquated or inefficient. In the same vein, I do not suggest or make changes just to make changes. If something needs to be reformed it should be after a thorough examination of all the pieces, it touches. Then, bring the right minds together to change it.
Based on what I just mentioned, it would appear the book publishing industry could stand to have its own thorough examination and, dare I say, be rewritten.
Information referenced in this article was obtained from the following sources and not considered exhaustive:
HUFF POST (three models of modern publishing): https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-3-models-of-modern-pu_b_12119712
Rogue Phoenix Press: https://roguephoenixpress.com/
Warren Publishing: https://www.warrenpublishing.net/types-of-publishing.html
Writer’s Market: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writer%27s_Market