Authors of Shame (and how to avoid the branding!)

Myles Alexander

Helped Logen count his fingers
#1
((TomTB edit - I've moved all of these posts to a dedicated thread in the marketing section, as it seems to me that they're worthy of a new thread here which will prove useful!))


In defence of self-published authors, I don't think people realise how tough it is trying to get your book out there. It seems that everywhere you go people are trying to put you down or stop you from talking about your book. I would have thought that people would be encouraging you at every turn, but the very opposite seems true. Sure, it's great that on this website there is the forum for us to post, but outwith this site and a few others like it, it is so so difficult to promote when you are on a tight budget. And even when I do post here and in other sites, no one seems to take any notice at all. It's mind-bogglingly frustrating, it really is. Well, I just wanted to vent my frustrations.
 
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jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#2
In defence of self-published authors, I don't think people realise how tough it is trying to get your book out there. It seems that everywhere you go people are trying to put you down or stop you from talking about your book. I would have thought that people would be encouraging you at every turn, but the very opposite seems true. Sure, it's great that on this website there is the forum for us to post, but outwith this site and a few others like it, it is so so difficult to promote when you are on a tight budget. And even when I do post here and in other sites, no one seems to take any notice at all. It's mind-bogglingly frustrating, it really is. Well, I just wanted to vent my frustrations.
We all know it, we all feel it. There are too many authors and not enough readers, frankly. anyway - my advice is to give something back, everywhere you go. I got here after I was published and try to make sure most of my interactions are supportive of the community - and that my self promo its and bits are in the right place and reasonably well spaced out.

I'm in another online community where I have my own author's forum, which is handy but even there I try to ensure it's one promo post per twenty useful and I still critique and what not heavily over there to be helpful.

It is hard. But there you go. This game is hard. (and I'm sounding hard-bitten and weary there, which sums it all up, frankly.) But it's also a pain when every forum you try to go near is flooded with promo posts*

*On the other side of the coin: they don't work. Sorry. They're rubbish for getting your name out there. Chatting, engaging and joining in all work much better. :)
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#3
And even when I do post here and in other sites, no one seems to take any notice at all.
We notice. But that's not enough. To make people care enough to buy and spend their money on your product (book in this case), you got to make people care. Well established authors with trad publishing record have their previous work and fame to back them up. New authors (self-pub or trad) don't have that luxury, and they have to work to get every single reader and potential fan they can, in any way they can. Especially in the beginning.
Most other authors who spend time to get to know this community and participate as regular joes, not just authors, have their books read, reviewed and promoted by BFB staff and members.

If authors think that mere astroturfing or spaming by just bombing sites with their title and 'hey you should read this' type of posts is enough to garner interest and make people spend their money they are dead wrong.
Harsh reality is that marketing your book is maybe more work then writing it. And if people can't be good salesmen, they can't expect revenue on their product.

I've read somewhere post by Michael J. Sullivan, who can be seen as an example of someone who made it from self-publishing (even though I personally can't say I particularly like his work), that he would write his books in the morning till noon, and then he would do marketing and promoting from noon to 5-6 PM. I'm sure he has some posts on how to use social media and blogs to do that on his website.
The point is, it is not enough to write the book and expect people to spend money on what you made. No art works like that in this internet age we are living. If you wanna make money, you first have to make a fanbase. And you're not gonna do that by spaming, astroturfing and expecting people to read you, when there is so much more out there by people who have already proven themselves.

Basically what I'm saying is, venting your frustrations is not the correct approach. Treat your book as a business, swallow your frustrations (it's ok to have them) and learn how to appeal to people. Get connected to other authors, have your short fiction featured in many online fantasy/sci-fi magazines, establish a presence in social media and Goodreads, review other people's books. Do what you need to do, until you see some success. There's no use in whining (regardless if it's justified or not).
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#4
I've read somewhere post by Michael J. Sullivan
Michael joined the Amazon fantasy forum at about the time he had finished the Riyria trilogy, ten years after writing the first book and then not continuing. He credits his wife with making him return to the story and finishing it. He was a frequent poster on all threads, and the fact he had this series just came out with time. Same with Brian Anderson, an indie who did the same thing with us and now he's well established. People who stick with it seem to have success, and eventually a contract.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#5
Michael joined the Amazon fantasy forum at about the time he had finished the Riyria trilogy, ten years after writing the first book and then not continuing. He credits his wife with making him return to the story and finishing it. He was a frequent poster on all threads, and the fact he had this series just came out with time. Same with Brian Anderson, an indie who did the same thing with us and now he's well established. People who stick with it seem to have success, and eventually a contract.
It's a really, really slow build. I know Teresa Edgerton, my editor, reckons some of the best writers she knew gave up - and I already know some who just couldn't go on. Too much time, for very little reward.

I found I was managing the time fine until Inish Carraig came out and I had two lots of books to manage, promote and two more coming out to be edited. how I'll do this summer with another out (so that'll be five, plus an antho of all the Abendau stuff this month) and the deadline looming for another to be completed, I don't know.
I'm also running a course in writing spec fiction, starting next week, and three coaching workshops, plus two book group nights and an event in March for local women writers. On top of my actual job, my family and it's all just chaos.

So, yes, those who stay the distance are to be admired and, if they get success (and that is always the minority) they deserve it.

Anyhow, let me be inspirational. This from the Belfast Telegraph today: How I gave up my corporate job to become a starving sf writer. (No books are mentioned, so I think it's not really self promo. Hopefully it inspires and gives hope.)

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/l...e-writing-science-fiction-books-35338922.html
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#6
but even there I try to ensure it's one promo post per twenty useful and I still critique and what not heavily over there to be helpful.
and then he would do marketing and promoting from noon to 5-6 PM. I'm sure he has some posts on how to use social media and blogs to do that on his website.
I have an acquaintance in social media promotion and she said the general rule of thumb for promotion is 30%. Which is to say that for every ten posts/ comments, only three should be directly about your own stuff. Everything else should be reposting or commenting/ complimenting others' work or creating tangential content (blogs/ book reviews/ etc.).

She also said that, despite always being looked down upon by the other generations, today's kids are pretty savvy about spotting self promotion and immediately discount it for what it is.
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#7
Also, put yourself in the position of the reader - or customer.

They say that you need to see a person's name seven times before you remember it - for good or for ill. But...

Why do you buy a thing? Personally, I buy a thing:
  • Because I already know about the thing and I want the thing.
  • Because somebody whose opinion I respect has recommended the thing.
  • Because I have seen some sort of publicity that gives me enough detail while not annoying me to make me want the thing. (Note: if the publicity annoys me, I go out of my way not to have the thing. Cutting off my nose to spite my face, moi?)
  • I really like the person who's selling the thing, and I want to help them even if I don't necessarily want the thing (providing it's not an expensive thing: if you're selling gold cigarette-holders, I don't care how nice you are, I don't need one. But thanks for asking).
Why do I not buy a thing? I won't buy a thing:
  • Because I bought a thing off that source before, and got burned.
  • The thing isn't my sort of thing under pretty much any circumstances (see above re gold cigarette-holders).
  • The publicity for the thing is annoying (although I have a high capacity for ignoring publicity completely).
  • I dislike the person selling the thing more than I like the thing (see annoying publicity).
Also, I tend to ignore advertising. Facebook apparently has advertising, but you couldn't prove it by me because I just don't see it. My eyes just skate over it and my brain doesn't get involved. On internet fora, I tend to ignore any post that is just "buy my book" unless it's someone I already know.

Jo Zebedee's approach works. She's got a fantasy novel about fairies, set in Ireland, coming up (plus some hard sci-fi already out). I know this because Jo seems like a nice person and she says interesting things, so I pay attention. She also sounds like the kind of person who would write the kind of book I might like, so I'll give her new book (Waters and the Wild) a whirl when it comes out, even though a book about fairies where the MC is an eighteen-year-old girl isn't usually the sort of thing that would ping my radar. But, if Jo wrote it, maybe it will be (since what the author does with a concept is far more important than what the concept actually is). But the only reason I can make that judgement is because she's around a lot, talking about things that aren't her books...

And, of course, if I like Waters and the Wild, that might persuade me to have a look at her Abendau books...

It works - but I think it's useful to think of selling yourself (in a good way!) rather than selling your books.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#8
@Theophania *you should buy All the books. All the books.* :D

Anyhow, apparently what I do is passive marketing. I'd argue I don't market but turn up on forums that I like and talk to people who I like. I enjoy it. It can't be faked. I chatted on forums before I released books and still do pretty well the same way now. Occasionally people buy my book because of something I say.

But, actually, it is the only thing I do that ever sells books.

My books are not easily marketable. They don't complement each other (if I had a pound for everyone who loved Inish and not Abendau, and vice versa, I'd be a rich woman.) They often don't sound the way they are (Waters and the Wild is actually slow and literary and dark - and not New Adult in the least. But it has an 18 year old protagonist and is about fairies....)

So I talk and chat and my enthusiasm for them spills over and sometimes people are kind enough to support me. But, mostly, I'm here, there, in various places, for the craic.

It does take up a lot of my time, though. I have a patient husband. :)
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#9
@Theophania *you should buy All the books. All the books.*
I'm feeling sleepy... very sleepy... :wacky:

There's an interesting article here about how people discover books, done by the Goodreads CEO. On the one hand, this is all based around Goodreads, and people who aren't on Goodreads don't use Goodreads to discover books at all... on the other hand, Goodreads is full of voracious readers, so probably they're a good population to study if you want to know how to sell books. Because really, you want to sell to people who will read all your books, not just maybe one... if they've got nothing better to do. Selling to vast numbers of people who don't read very many books is great if you've got a marketing department and lots of money - if you're a bit strapped for cash/time, go for fewer but potentially higher-value customers.

So, what these guys say is that:
  • Book discovery via Goodreads is heavily biased towards 'search' (i.e., people already knew about the book) and 'recommendation'. They can tell this from the data they collect about people shelving books.
  • When they surveyed 3,200 Goodreads members, the top ways of discovering a book were 1) Known author [so they liked a previous book enough to go back]; 2) Friend recommendation (offline); 3) Goodreads friends; 4) Goodreads recommendations... and so on. Interestingly, Facebook and Twitter are right down near the bottom of the list - Twitter is right at the bottom.
What this says to me is that Jo is doing it right: she hits both the Top Choice (Known author - even if I haven't read any of her books yet, I know she exists [in a good way]), and Second-Choice (friend - i.e., someone whose opinion on books I listen to).

I think it's interesting to look at a survey of how real readers find books, and the difference between that and what authors get told. I wasn't surprised that Twitter came out so low - I don't use Twitter to discover books because it's hopeless. In order to discover a book, you have to know exactly how to search and then you have to be lucky. At least Amazon (another important means of book discovery) has browsing capability.

(I just noticed the new title of this thread. Authors of shame don't actually get branded do they? It seems a bit... excessive....:wideyed:)
 

Derk of Derkholm

Journeyed there and back again
#12
I personally find that the "example" functionality of Amazon is amazing for that.

When Jo Zebedee mentioned that she has written the first "Abendau" book, I downloaded the free sample on my Kindle and found it well worth buying and continuing to read.

The other 2 books in the trilogy have not disappointed me, either, and I would definitely say they are WAY above the average of self published books I have encountered so far and do not need to fear getting compared to established works like "Dune".

I have, at other times, also downloaded other Kindle samples that were advertised here, and decided after reading the free sample that my time is better spent otherwise.
 

Nuomer1

Journeyed there and back again
#13
I have, at other times, also downloaded other Kindle samples that were advertised here, and decided after reading the free sample that my time is better spent otherwise.
I have a folder on my Kindle titled "Rejected Samples". There are over 100 items in it (accumulated over 3 years) and every single one of them has been heavily advertised and/or favourably reviewed, either here or at Goodreads.
Even so - I still pick up samples from indies, and occasionally hit a gem! Now I have a heavy backlog of reviews I feel obliged to write (but I admit I am taking a long time to get round to them - sorry, guys)
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#14
I personally find that the "example" functionality of Amazon is amazing for that.

When Jo Zebedee mentioned that she has written the first "Abendau" book, I downloaded the free sample on my Kindle and found it well worth buying and continuing to read.

The other 2 books in the trilogy have not disappointed me, either, and I would definitely say they are WAY above the average of self published books I have encountered so far and do not need to fear getting compared to established works like "Dune".

I have, at other times, also downloaded other Kindle samples that were advertised here, and decided after reading the free sample that my time is better spent otherwise.
I have a pretty simple view on this (actually, the Abendau books are through a small publisher and Inish Carraig is self published). Because I currently publish both ways - and intend to again, in the future, for specific projects - I basically go about the publishing process the same way. I use an editor and a copy editor for my sp works (actually the same copy editor who did Abendau, although Teresa Edgerton, my editor on those, wasn't my editor for IC - that was Jeff Richardds - but I'd hook up with her, for sure, for the right sp project, her time allowing) . I get them beta read, critiqued, proofed, exactly as my published work is.

My name is on the cover. It doesn't matter what way I publish, I don't want to be looking at typos and terrible grammar and regretting it.

And thank you for the kind words. They're what keep writers writing, frankly. :)
 

Derk of Derkholm

Journeyed there and back again
#15
#17
I found this forum by searching for ways to promote my book. The trouble for me, is that I don't have a budget, or rather, I don't have the money in which to promote my book through ads, so it's all word of mouth. I'm finding it extremely difficult as I am introverted and have very little friends and family. I'm wandering around this forum trying to find some advice on promoting on a budget. Yikes! Haha. I've signed up for twitter and started a blog but that's about it, aside from posting on forums, making friends and reading advice.
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#18
I found this forum by searching for ways to promote my book. The trouble for me, is that I don't have a budget, or rather, I don't have the money in which to promote my book through ads, so it's all word of mouth. I'm finding it extremely difficult as I am introverted and have very little friends and family. I'm wandering around this forum trying to find some advice on promoting on a budget. Yikes! Haha. I've signed up for twitter and started a blog but that's about it, aside from posting on forums, making friends and reading advice.
As long you go about promotion in a respectful, personable way, then you won't have a problem! It's when you start pretending to be a fan of your book and spamming the board, is when the troubles ensue.

We've gotten quite good at spotting the spammers ;)
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#19
I found this forum by searching for ways to promote my book. The trouble for me, is that I don't have a budget, or rather, I don't have the money in which to promote my book through ads, so it's all word of mouth. I'm finding it extremely difficult as I am introverted and have very little friends and family. I'm wandering around this forum trying to find some advice on promoting on a budget. Yikes! Haha. I've signed up for twitter and started a blog but that's about it, aside from posting on forums, making friends and reading advice.
The subreddit for fantasy (assuming you write fantasy), has a thread every two weeks for shameless self-promotion. Everyone is welcome to post about their books, blogs, or whatever they do that's fantasy-related. Your result depends on your ability to write a good blurb, I suppose, and the thread does get a lot of posts quite fast, but it's free to do, so nothing lost in doing it.
 

ExTended

Journeyed there and back again
#20
I think that the majority of struggles with which the less known trad and self-published authors come from the fact that even if readers aren't significantly restrained by lack of time or monetary means to fully immerse in their beloved hobby, the fact is that most people, or least me, are much more conscious about the real nature of they read, that about that of what they eat or drink for example.

You can half-ass your lunch and eat a bunch of chocolate covered pancakes, or a burger or two, you can drink whiskey if your friend haven't bought wine for the night, but have you ever shrugged off the possibility of reading anything not your alley as easily? I know I haven't.

So when it comes to books I prefer to base my decisions on word to mouth, trusted review sites( which means sites I trust, not necessarily the most popular ones - you have to take your taste into consideration after all) and in rarer cases - a genuine marketing effort bringing the book into my attention in a pleasant way. And in very few cases - I might go and buy a book from a forum fellow who I happen to like and want to support, but that's me being friendly, not me being fooled.

And fooling is exactly what most no-marketing-budget-I-am-an-author-now guys and gals happen to do in forums and social media groups as a whole. We all know cheap marketing, we all know a half-asses cover, or blurb or the weight of 3 lonely 5-star reviews.

And while I am willing to ignore the lack of glamour and flashiness in the presentation of a book, half-assed marketing is a sure way of losing my attention. Because there is a part of me well-aware of the many important fact, with probably the three most important ones being:
1. Readers are smarter demographic that your average Joe. I work in marketing - I know. There are certain crowds, demographics, certain interests, hobbies, and so on honing your "don't-bullshit-me" radar. Reading is one of those and there's nothing to be done. You cannot half-ass things when you are selling to smart folk.
2. If you have to brag for yourself, you probably know that no one else will. If you have 50 posts and 15 of them have a mention of your books - that's too much. If a thread has 50 posts and other people have mentioned your books 15 times - you have my attention.
2. Marketing is hard. And if you suck at it - expensive. But it's not rocket science. And if you've spent 100 hours writing your book baby and another 100 changing its diapers before it got published, then good for you. But writing 50 posts in a forum to mention your book 15 times would take you what - 10 hours? To reach 5 people? 50 people? Well, you could've spend those 10 hours getting an extra job, earning 20-50-100$ depending on your location and expertise. 20$ would buy you 2 000 - 40 000 reached people in websites like Facebook.

If you'd rather spam a forum every 3rd post and complain of lacking marketing funds while trying to spin every distant remark into a hallway to your book, then that's just sad and wasteful. If you are doing it as a way of complimenting your sound track-record of deliberate and successful marketing, evident by people leaving positive reviews for your book, or talking about it, or by the sheer quality of your preview pages, then that's another thing.

But lacking a marketing budget is not a valid excuse 90% of the time. There are really people with limited options to do things and earn money, but the same way most homeless guys are homeless because it suits their habits, the same way most authors are without a marketing budget and spamming forums because they've chosen this course above the ones with working extra hours and earning themselves one.

It sounds cynical, but the truth is most people could do more to be in less desperate circumstance, especially with things like writing careers and marketing budgets and reaching to more people via less annoying practices.

I don't condemn anyone - there are plenty of people in this forum who happen to be considerate enough in their self promos. When you make your peers happy for having a book out there - you are doing it right. You make them feel pride for your success, since they feel like you are one of them. Everything outside of this small utopia is just annoying fruitless behavior, wasting everyone's capacity of spending a more quality time in a forum or a place.