It's a term that's been bandied about in recent years, one that has instilled hope within aspiring writers. No longer must a writer receive another rejection letter from a big name publisher. No longer must a writer send out query letter after query letter to literary agents, only to have them sent back by a snot-nosed assistant who just had a fight with his high school girlfriend and isn't in the mood for such nonsense. But most importantly, no longer must a writer sit on an idea praying that it sees the light of day, robbing the general public of his or her masterpiece or entertaining fluff.
So you write a book. Get it published for the Kindle. Stick it on Smashwords, maybe Goodreads. And the money comes rolling in. Or does it?
The question of how to self-publish is an easy one. You just do it. You write the book, format it correctly, upload it to the site of your choice, and -- boom! -- you are a self published author. Time to break out the champagne. Or more likely, the bottle of wine you picked up at the 99 Cent Store.
What comes next is the hard part. Sure, writing itself can be an arduous task, one full of strife and misery. But history has shown that most writers are more akin to hermits than rock stars, so when it comes to selling yourself, many will simply ignore the marketing side of it and hope for the best. Do you think Amanda Hocking, star of the self-publishing world, just hoped for the best? Of course not.
To help you along, here are some quick tips to assist you in gaining exposure for your book:
1. Create a website. -- This is possibly the most important part, by far. Potential fans need a central place to visit in order to view your creative endeavors. It doesn't need to be anything fancy. Even newbies (or the more popular, video game-inspired moniker, "noob") can easily start up a website. GoDaddy, for example, is a great place for such beginners, especially with their new pre-made website templates. Or, if you're feeling a bit adventurous or already have the necessary knowledge, there are plenty of available programs to help you build a site from scratch. The most important thing to remember is to make sure it looks professional. Don't simply stick in a white background and add a few lines of blue or red text to make it "stand out." Look at successful writers' websites and try to emulate parts of those.
2. Blog. -- Utilizing a blog is a fantastic way to connect with your fans. Post announcements, plot synopses, sample chapters, even chat about the weather. You don't have to blog every day, but shoot for every week or so. And please, don't make it too political or post too many pictures of celebrities who have gained weight. There are plenty of sites for that kind of thing.
3. Network. -- In the past, a writer had to get dressed up in a sports jacket and moth-ridden tie, and crash a party. He had to rub elbows with people while his (or her) heart beat a million times a minute. That day of such vomit-inducing stress is over. Now, you can utilize sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Linked In to get the job done. And don't be shy. Talk to other writers. Chat it up.
4. Hire an artist. -- You'll want to create a professional looking logo for your website. Just having your name or a company name isn't enough. A book cover artist is also a good idea, as the cover is the first impression a potential reader will have in relation to your great American novel. If it looks cheap, a reader will think you didn't care enough to make the book look enticing. There is no reason to waste money on big companies or people who have websites and charge an exorbitant amount for their services. Post under the "gigs" section on Craigslist. Or visit Smashwords and ask them to send you a list of their reasonably-priced artists. There are a lot of hungry creative types out there.
5. Get an editor. -- It doesn't have to be an expensive editor. Even a relative will do. If you go the cheap route, select four or five people to give your book a once-over. Just make sure they know the difference between "your" and "you're."
6. Consider an online book tour. -- It gets a little pricey, but it's a solid option. They typically range from two weeks to two months, with 5-10 stops every couple weeks. This is a great way to gain a maximum amount of exposure in a minimum amount of time. Plus, they're fun because you get to talk about your book.
7. Utilize interviews. -- There are a number of podcasts and websites that offer author interviews. For example, The Author Show is a highly recognized, very professional site which features new writers every week and offers additional marketing services for a reasonable fee. They also connect you to a newsletter that will help with publishing and give marketing tips.
8. Ask for a review. -- Offer a free copy of your book in exchange for a review on a website or blog. Some websites are backed up for months, so don't hesitate and be patient. Eventually, they'll get to you, and if it helps add even a few fans, it's worth it. Don't pay for reviews. This trend is dying and it's not fooling anyone.
9. Think about crowd-funding. A somewhat new concept, sites like Kickstarter and Funder Thunder are leading the pack in assisting the creative community. You post your project. Set rewards. Ask for donations. It's simple. It's free. A monkey could do it. As long as that monkey has internet access, of course.
10. Give free copies and use Pay with a Tweet. -- Offer free copies from time to time. Run a promotion. Utilize the coupon system on Smashwords. A recent endeavor, Pay with a Tweet, allows you to offer your book in exchange for a tweet about it through a person's Twitter account. For your first novel, this can gain you quite a bit of exposure. If you have more than one book, a person who pays with a tweet might very well buy your others. So if an older book isn't selling, give it away for free and you'll gain exposure for your (hopefully reasonably priced) newer book.
11. Keep writing. -- This should go without saying, but many writers will focus so heavily on the marketing aspect once their first book is published, they don't write as much as before or forgo it all together, at least temporarily. Don't let this be you. Continue writing. It will keep your creative juices flowing and help the marketing appear more exciting than it really is. If at all possible, have two or more books ready to be published at the same time to avoid fans waiting for your second book or wondering if you might be a "one book wonder." Or, at the very least, have a page on your website dedicated to your next project, even if it's simply a googled "Coming Soon" image and synopsis.
12. Make a book trailer. -- This is the final recommendation, although there is a consideration of cost. Many writers cannot afford to pay for a professionally made book trailer with actors, lighting, sets, etc. A good book trailer can definitely help you get the word out, but it can hurt your budget. However, there are some relatively inexpensive packages available on the internet, which typically consist of a down and dirty trailer that will at least increase the book's presence.
Marketing is never fun, except maybe for the truly sadistic. It is a heart-wrenching, arduous task. But it is also a necessary evil. Being a self published author may sound cool, but it's only the beginning. So quit your writing program (for now), open up the internet, and begin selling yourself. Your book sales will thank you. And as a great man once said, "Never give up. Never surrender."