Saturday, December 6, 2014

Marketing: The Author's Strange Double-Life

Wanted to offer the curious a few updates on my quest to properly market The Magistricide. Self-publishing, it seems, is not the instantaneous pot of gold that it is often advertised to be...thankfully this comes as little surprise to me. I was expecting strenuous work and years of self-promotion before (if ever) striking my collective audience. As I have been numinously advised by both my editor and various self-publishing websites, the important thing to do is to continue working. This I am ready and able to do. Of course, the ideal situation would include me eventually being supported by my art (sounds like such a pipe dream, but it shouldn't); in quest of this I've worked on a range of self-promotion, submitting my book to online review journals, hosting giveaways, taking out freebooksy features, trying to sink into communities on goodreads, fiddling with search terms and backcopy and author bio etc. The permutations of self promotion are many, and they can take up a good many hours. I'm currently working on submitting free files of Tamrel to all prominent ebook hosting sites on the internet; with any luck the right people will find it, download it, enjoy it, tell their friends. The overwhelmingly positive response I've gotten to The Mask of Tamrel has been both humbling and reinforcing. I am confident that it is, if nothing else, an entertaining read.

So how have all these methods panned out? I submitted Tamrel to several hundred online review journals and received only two responses in the affirmative. To date neither of the journals have written reviews. I hate to say that this mode is a dead end, but the vast number of sites were either closed due to overwhelming submissions or carried a disclaimer saying that their backlogs were massive and nigh-indigestible. So who knows? Perhaps a year from now a bunch of reviews will suddenly pop up; all you can do is sow the seeds.

As for giveaways and freebooksy ads, I can't recommend them highly enough. Most of the copies of The Mask of Tamrel that I've moved in the last half-year have been dispensed for free, and it has proven a solid means of both sharing my work and building up reviews, though BE WARNED: this process occurs like gum running from a tree. Patience is definitely required, and not letting the review-trickle get you down is a major part of surviving creatively. I'm excited that The Mask of Tamrel will soon be available for free across a wide spectrum of distribution channels, accompanied by a series of freebooksy ads - freebooksy is a great way to put your work in the limelight and share thousands of copies in a mere matter of days. Again, can't recommend their services highly enough, though their ads do come with the not-inconsiderable expense of $100 each.

As for goodreads, I'll be honest. I've often found cultivating connections in online communities a somewhat daunting affair. The site could definitely work as a potent promotion tool for the writer willing to put in the time and energy (read other author's books and review them, forge a collective, find various groups that reflect your interests and post often), but generally if I'm writing I'm either working on a book or this blog. I have undertaken to read some of the fantasy currently getting self-published, and was surprised and pleased by the quality. There is definitely a churning genre market in existence, and it seems that authors intent on writing fantasy not concerned with urban environments, vampires or Harry Potteresque tropes are finding a vibrant home in the self-publishing world. This is heartening, and I maintain hope that a bunch of us will eventually band together and form an intellectual commune of the fantastic and bizarre, though I unfortunately lack HP Lovecraft's networking ability. So goodreads = definitely good, but its usefulness varies depending on your personality type and time constraints.

As for tinkering with backcopy, author bio, keywords all seems so open to interpretation that I'm never certain if I'm advancing my cause or shooting myself in the foot. Should I use 'wizard,' 'dystopia,' 'magic,' what? Does the backcopy tell too much or too little, or is it just the right level of enticing? What the heck constitutes a 'relateable' author bio, anyways? All these things swirl in my head, and it took me several months of modifications before I arrived at backcopy that pleased me. All I can say is that shifting up your approaches and mutating seems to be a viable course, though who knows? The thing that you're altering might be the thing that would have connected you to your audience. In the utterly subjective realm of such things, the artist can only be precise and beguiling. Whether the artist's idea of precise and beguiling manages to arouse any kind of mass interest, well.....again, it's a subjective world always.

One final thing I can strongly suggest: get physical copies of your book in any bookstore near you. Have an author signing. Carry around business cards and dispense them. Talk to people and try to get a story about yourself in the paper. Interest is interest, whether local or in some remote village in Belgium. Keep in mind that people do truly love physical objects, despite the constant mournful tolling of the bells marking the death of the printed page. If all else fails, dress up as a high elf, drop acid and attack cars with a broadsword. It worked for a guy in Portland and it can work for you.

High Elf, High on Acid, Attacks Woman's BMW With a Sword!

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