Adventures in Self-Publishing: Promotion, or No One Cares About Your Damn Book!

From Life in Quebec magazine, September 2016

From Life in Quebec magazine, September 2016

An occasional and mostly self-serving record of self-publishing my debut novel, A Hole in the Ground, with possible tips (or warnings) for others thinking of doing the same. 

The good news is that it’s never been easier to self-publish. The bad news is that it’s never been easier to self-publish.

The world was already awash with books, even prior to online printing and ebooks. It’s tough enough to get a reader to choose one particular book out of the thousands produced annually by major publishers let alone your small, self-published venture with virtually zero reputation. As legitimate as self-publishing has become, there is always the nagging question: “Well, if it’s any good, why don’t you have a publisher?”

(You can read about my reasoning, mostly having to do with impatience, here.)

With so many options out there, you’re asking a lot of someone to pick up your particular novel. Any novel is a commitment, and time is limited. So a self-published novel? Hmmm…

This is why it’s important to keep your expectations reasonable. I’ve printed only 300 copies, which seemed ridiculously low at the time, though I’m already starting to hate walking into that spare room and seeing all those boxes. The stock is going down a lot slower than I anticipated. But I’m confident that if I keep plugging away at it, keep doing events and markets, they will eventually all sell.

But promoting your book runs into the same problem as getting people to read it: people have limited time. To you, your book is the most important thing in the world. Other people, not so much. Even your friends and colleagues, all who support you, they have a lot going on. They won’t be able to attend every event you hold. They might not even attend one. Try not to take it personally.

But of course you do! This is your baby! How could they not buy your book and come to every reading? Yes, inertia is implacable when it comes to leaving the house on a Sunday afternoon to come to a book store to listen to you read, but… but… but… your baby!

Again, manage your expectations, otherwise you’ll be disappointed every time. This is easier said than done. No matter what the rational brain says, the daydreaming brain has you sitting in an interview with Oprah. Just try to keep some perspective.

Here are some examples of plans vs reality for me over the past two months.

  • Plan: Use my position as a regular contributor to our regional CBC Radio network to promote my book, score an interview, etc.
  • Reality: The producer, who had championed me over the years, retired. New producer, new host, new direction. I am no longer a contributor, and CBC did not pick up on the interview offer.
  • Plan: Launch my book at something called Townshippers’ Day, an annual festival with a guaranteed crowd at an area fairground.
  • Reality: The event itself took place in a hall at the furthest edge of the grounds, a veritable commute. Attendance was sparse at best.
  • Plan: Be a guest at one of our local house concerts, which usually draws a crowd of 40 or so. I was to share the bill with a banjo/folk artist, and the venue for this occasion would be a recently closed local bar. I invited all my co-workers and put up a poster in our staff room.
  • Reality: The attendance on this Sunday evening consisted of the bar owner, his wife, the promoter and his wife, the banjo player, me, and my wife. Honestly, I felt worse for the musician. He played three songs for us. I did not read. But I did sell a book to the bar owner!
  • Plan: Get books into people’s hands so they could write reviews on Goodreads and spread the word.
  • Reality: It’s quiet… too quiet.

Like I wrote last time, things don’t always go as planned. Thankfully, there have been lots of positives: a fine magazine review, some wonderful readings, and just having the opportunity to get my work out there, which was the point all along. If you manage your expectations, any disappointments are offset by moments when you truly engage with readers.

So keep promoting, keep promoting, keep promoting. Keep promoting your book and events on your social media platforms even if you think your friends must be sick of you. You’re probably more sick of yourself than they are. Remember: you’re less important than you think. So hit ’em again!

I have two book store readings in November, a seniors luncheon, a Christmas craft fair. Hopefully more reviews and interviews. Those books aren’t going to sell themselves.

Nobody cares about your damn book. But you do. You just have to convince others it’s worth caring about. Even if it’s just to shut you up.


You can order A Hole in the Ground through, or or contact the author.

Posted in It Really Did Happen!, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Why book lovers are the best

I think someone is tickling my feet at the Lennoxville Library.

I think someone is tickling my feet at the Lennoxville Library.

For the last several months I’ve been enjoying house concerts in Stanstead. I get to go into someone’s living room and listen to performers as they stand in front of me playing intricate arrangements on instruments that I could never begin to master.

I, on the other hand, read out loud to people.

This is a strange custom that goes along with releasing a book. You go to a public place and do a thing that most people are quite capable of doing themselves. It’s not even as though the author uses funny voices, though he may. I don’t – except, of course, my natural funny voice.

Yet people love to hear authors read their work. Perhaps it’s the possibility of seeing the author squirm when his material tanks, like watching NASCAR for the fiery wrecks. Serious authors, of course, have the luxury of interpreting the awkward silence as deep concentration. For a humorist like me, though, silence is death.

So I was a little nervous when I appeared at Brome Lake Books last Thursday to promote my novel A Hole in the Ground as part of the Knowlton Literary Festival. Let me say that again: as part of the Knowlton Literary Festival. The person who recently wrote about designing a nude calendar of himself appeared at a literary festival.

I shared the event with Danish-born North Hatley writer Anne Fortier, the bestselling international author of Juliet and The Lost Sisterhood. Anne is lovely, poised, elegant, well dressed and well Danished. She spoke eloquently without notes about the creative process, her travels, womanhood and the struggles of film adaptations.

I, on the other hand, was rumpled and stammering and pointed out that the cover of my book looks like pea soup vomit.

But as contrasts go, it worked. I had also fortunately chosen a passage from my book set at a council meeting, forgetting that the Town of Brome Lake is ground zero for municipal dissent. It struck a chord.

Were there literary car crashes? No. A couple of fender benders, maybe, a drunk NASCAR fan on the track, perhaps, but nothing serious. And this is normal. I’ve held quite a few readings over the years and have now participated in (say it with me one more time) a literary festival. I have not been heckled once. One time someone did get up and leave, but I chalk that up to gastric distress.

Even if the author is dull, stammers or makes generalizing and unflattering remarks about every French teacher he ever had (for which I apologize), the people will listen politely. Some of them will even buy your book.

People who come to book events are the nicest people in the world. And here’s why:

Books strive.

Books strive to make sense of what it is to be human. As we’re taught in school, every story needs a conflict. Life is nothing but conflict. It’s struggle. It’s confusion. It’s council meetings. Books strive to help us understand that struggle.

People who love books open themselves up to all that striving. They go even further and open themselves up to the makers of those attempts at understanding, the authors. Listening to authors speak, then, is an appreciation of this gift. All in all, it makes book lovers the nicest, most open people in the world.

In my notebook, I once wrote, “Why does reading get a free ride? It’s passive, it’s slothful, it’s unproductive.” My notebook is full of nonsense like this. The answer to my ridiculous question, though, can be found in the people who read. Any inwardness a book induces is eventually directed outward in generosity of spirit, in the knowledge of how humans do or should behave, in an appreciation for the power of creativity.

So I got to play my little instrument last week in Knowlton. I also played it out loud at the Lennoxville Library, and I’ll be reading at Black Cat Books on November 6 as well. Readers could play this tune for themselves, of course. But when I play it in front of them, I hope that this small little thing we do together – writing and reading, creating and thinking – makes the world a more liveable place.


You can order A Hole in the Ground through, or or contact the author. That’s me!

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , | 36 Comments

The Green Study’s “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest: 2nd Place

Thanks to Michelle at The Green Study for selecting my entry as a runner-up in her Positively Happy Nice Story Contest. I’ve been thinking of kindness lately, in my writing and my life and in the world, for that matter. A lot of that thinking was spurred by Michelle’s contest challenge. Did Michelle just make the world a wee bit better? I think she just did!

The Green Study

canstockphoto142844612nd Prize goes to Ross at Drinking Tips for Teens for “The Secret Side-Effect of Kindness”. His essay is a gentle reminder of how we impact each other with even the simplest of acts.

He was sent one Green Study Coffee Mug and an extraneous Minnesota postcard. I also made a $75 donation to the Canadian Red Cross.

The Secret Side-Effect of Kindness

By Ross Murray at Drinking Tips for Teens

I’m a big believer in balance: work-life balance, balanced diet, balance beams. There’s no cause without effect and no effect without a cause.

Consequently, I don’t expect people to be especially kind to me, because I generally feel I’ve done little to deserve it.

It’s not that I’m so filled with self-loathing and covert kitten-kicking that I think I’m unworthy of basic human decency. It’s that most of the time I feel I haven’t done anything exceptional to warrant…

View original post 783 more words

Posted in Reading? Ugh! | 7 Comments

Bend it like Bonehead


Photos: Guilherme Sperotto

Throughout the year at my school, the teachers take on the student-prefects in various sports. At stake are what we call “Free-Dress Days,” meaning no uniforms for students if the prefects win, jeans and T-shirts for the teachers if they win.

Over the years, I’ve mostly shied away from playing in these games due to my medical condition: I’m allergic to humiliation.

I leave it to the fleeter of foot and thicker of skin to carry the side for the teachers, while I, meanwhile, do what I’m good at: taking photos and generally lurking.

But a series of events took place last week that compelled me to join my colleagues in a game of soccer against the much more able-bodied students.

It started with a speech that morning by one of our prefects. Her theme was “The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things.” She concluded by announcing that she would be hanging a poster on which she encouraged students and teachers to write the best non-things in their lives.

Later, as I passed the poster, I saw the usual non-things: love, friendship, music, money. (There’s always a wise guy.) What could I add? I wondered.

I thought about missed opportunities, those things we avoid or put off because of fear, laziness, or lack of self-confidence. The best thing in life is having no regrets. So that’s what I wrote: “NO REGRETS.”

At the end of the afternoon, I ran across another of the prefects heading to the soccer field. “You playing, sir?” he asked.

“Nahhh. I’ll just take pictures.”

“You should play, sir. I’ll take pictures,” he said.

As I walked away, I thought, why shouldn’t I play? I’m in reasonable shape, if by “reasonable” you mean “upright.” Did I really want to look back on these times and think, “Why didn’t I play soccer when I could?” NO REGRETS!

So I drove home, changed, drove back  and bounded onto the field. Actually, I sheepishly skulked onto the field, but in my heart I was bounding.

The thing is, I’ve always secretly cheered for the students to win these contests. Morale-wise, they need the free-dress day more than the teachers. So it’s always somewhat bothered me that the teachers take these games so seriously. They really want to win. I’ve also joked that maybe I should play to ensure the prefects do win har-har!

But once I got on the field, I was okay. Winded, but okay. This was fun, and I started to get into it. I wanted to win balls. I wanted to push those prefects out of the way. I wanted to send the ball sailing across the field. I did none of those things, but the important thing is I wanted to!

Mostly, though, I wanted the teachers to win!

I went on for my second shift early in the second half, with the teachers leading 1-0. We could almost taste those jeans and T-shirts, which is a weird thing to taste.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t quite sure what position I was playing (midback? halfback? paddywack?) but I felt less comfortable on the field. Next thing I knew, I found myself dancing around near the defence, with the prefects charging our net. I ran to intervene. A perfect launched the ball. It was going in! The keeper dove. He wasn’t going to make it. I’m almost positive he wasn’t going to make it. I lunged. I stuck a foot out. I deflected the ball. It went right into my own net.

Two hundred students gasped, then howled, then cheered, while one grown man lay crumpled on the ground in shame.


I was only trying to help.

My first game in seven years and I scored on my own team. On the plus side, it was the first goal I’ve ever scored in my life.

The prefects went on to win 4-2. Thank goodness they didn’t win by 1.

“Nice goal, sir!” “Thank you, sir!”

Well, I always said the prefects should win har-har.

Later on, one of my colleagues tried to console me. “It happens,” she said. “I remember there was a professional player, I think it was a World Cup final or something, and he put the winning goal in his own net.” She paused. “When he went back to his country, they’d killed him.”

OK then.

At the end of the day, I walked back to the big poster in the hallway where I had written “NO REGRETS.” I took one of the markers, crossed out the “NO” and wrote “SOME.” Signed, Mr. Murray.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Why this isn’t funny

This isn’t the post I originally wrote for this week. It was a pretty good one, too. I spent hours writing it, then more time reviewing it. And then I woke up this morning and realized I couldn’t run it.

I decided I couldn’t run the piece not because of the topics it touched on – gender identity and how confusing it all is for us older folks – and not because I feared the subject might trigger outrage from people who can’t wait to feel outrage. And it wasn’t because I made fun of people dealing with gender identity issues, that wasn’t my point at all.

And, honestly, I think it was a funny piece.

But funny at whose expense? Continue reading

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Go Trump yourself



If there’s one thing that the U.S. federal election campaign has taught me and that Monday night’s debate in particular reinforced and that the mainstream media helpfully perpetuated and that my gut instinct kind of knew all along and that my mother warned me would probably happen, it’s that run-on sentences are no big deal.

But if there’s another thing I’ve learned, it’s that cohesive arguments and logic are never going to sway the opinion of someone whose mind is made up. People who already backed Hillary Clinton felt that she won Monday’s debate. People who already backed Donald Trump are idiots. But also they thought that he won Monday’s debate.

This is actually great news, especially for someone like me who has been in print media for nearly 25 years, communicating and establishing a reputation for myself through thousands and thousands of words. Not all the words, and certainly not the best words – Trump has the best words – but pretty decent words regardless. Continue reading

Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

My nude calendar

Earlier this year I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to help cover the cost of printing the debut novel that I will stop shamelessly referencing sometime in the middle-distant future. The campaign was a success, and the book is now for sale at better tanning salons near you.

In fact, it was so successful that it has inspired me to come up with other innovative fundraising ventures. What am I fundraising for? I’m retelling Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night using characters from “Happy Days.” It’s called Misery Loves Chachi.

But I don’t have any innovative fundraising ventures, so I’ve stolen one. Namely, I have decided to emulate the firefighters and the athletes and the writers and the senior citizens and the United Turnip Workers Ch. 64 by producing a tastefully nude calendar. Continue reading

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments