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.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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31 Responses to Adventures in Self-Publishing: Promotion, or No One Cares About Your Damn Book!

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    The book is marvelous, and I’m not just saying that. Damn, this traffic jam. Hurts my motor to go so slow. Damn, this traffic jam. — Bill

  2. Elyse says:

    I have it on my list to buy. Promise!

  3. Amanda Fox says:

    Sad fact: As I am learning from my business and from my children, the product – or in this case, the art – is almost secondary to the marketing. It’s a tough world, but those who succeed are those who are persistent. Keep going Ross. The world needs to experience your talent. 🙂

  4. List of X says:

    Speaking of “your baby”, Internet has created an oversaturation of baby imagery, so that people don’t really care of other people’s babies either.

  5. Oy. I can relate. But you have to keep your chin up and … oh, never mind.

  6. Nice review, pallie. Of course you’re going to keep promoting. What’s the alternative, I’d like to know? I don’t have the guts for what you’re doing. I’m sure I would take it too personally.

  7. Reblogged this on S C Richmond and commented:
    Everyone who needs a reality check about self promotion should read this great post.

  8. Reblogged on great post. I can relate. Yet on we go.

  9. At least you’re trying – I have a book that I’ve been sitting on for a long time. It was rejected a number of times a few years ago and then my confidence took a dive.

    Your book is on my list, too. Promise.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with this. Good luck!

  10. Ugh, so true. I’m knee deep in personal edits and re-writes before I send my baby off for professional editing. The things you don’t know until you know! I’m going to be lucky if I come close to breaking even financially even without printed copies. But… I’m still so excited! I guess that’s how you know you’ve got the writing bug: complete loss of rationality.

  11. I have been doing this three years, have 5 books, and still sold less than 100 copies. Sales have gradually got better each year. It takes time to get noticed.

  12. Ahdad says:

    Good luck and I say this because I’m still stuck on the fact that some of you are able to write novels…who knew?

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