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.