Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A mish-mash of insecurities


I'm writing this on Sunday, because I'm away for a couple of days with my sister. I'm really looking forward to spending time beside the sea, and writing. So, by the time you read this post, and I get home and start reading your posts, I probably won't be feeling insecure at all... unless I get blocked while I'm away, of course...

But today - Sunday - I am wondering whether self-publishing was the right way for me to go. At the time it seemed perfect for That Sadie Thing, a collection of stories that had been lurking between the pages of unread literary journals, for years in some cases. But now, looking at the figures with somewhat obsessive compulsion, I note that sales are not as good as I was hoping. The easiest solution to this is to not check those stats. I know, I know... but in reality, not so easy for me!

Part of the problem is my lack of marketing, which is almost a conscious decision. I gloss over the blatant marketing of other self-publishers because if I haven't bought their book the first ten times they told me about it, it's unlikely I will at all. I do not want to be the person who gets unfollowed because they only ever talk about their book. I do not want to be the person who is hidden from your Facebook feed so you don't get pestered to buy, buy, buy.

I want to be rounded and witty and informative, because that's what I look for in the people I like and follow and friend. I'd quite like to be the writer who's featured on the Guardian's book pages because I'm an overnight sensation (highly unlikely, but a girl can dream), or earns enough to pay tax on! And I'm dying to be sat on a bus and see at least two people reading my latest properly-in-print book.

Perhaps, in light of those wishes, That Sadie Thing will be my first and only venture into self-publishing. My dreams and the reality are at odds with each other.

What about you? Traditional, indie or self-published?
Happy or regretting the decision?
What are your plans for your next book?

55 comments:

  1. Have a lovely time by the sea. I live by the sea and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

    Yvonne.

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    1. I live a 20 minute bus journey away from the sea, but there's nothing quite like opening your curtains and seeing it, or leaning on the balcony with a mug of tea. Ah, now I miss it and wish I was back there!

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  2. Hi AnnaLisa, I think marketing is something we all have to do these days, it's not just the self-published. The trend seems to be that publishers are trying to spend less time on each book and with the accessibility of the internet, it's incumbent on all us authors to do our own marketing or else the sales slide downwards! It's something I'm new to. I've joined a lot of book websites but I'm also thinking about targeting IT websites - my book is set in the IT world. I hope your weekend away was fruitful! :)

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    1. Oh yes, I understand that, but I see people who seem to be marketing badly and I don't want to emulate them. It's cool you have an obvious target with the IT setting :-)

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  3. I think you might be being a little hard on yourself. I'm self-published since my small press went bust. It took me way over a year to start becoming recognized. I think it's a little early to be expecting lots of sales. Also, I didn't actually start selling lot of books until I had a substantial backlist. I think the key is to write write write, get those books out there, so your name is everywhere, and then someone is bound to show interest. Most of all, I think it takes patience. Which is very hard, I know. It took ME a long time to learn that. I fretted and regretted just like you are doing now. But in the end I persevered, and finally, I'm getting result. I know it's hard work. But so is life. :-) Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for sharing. Having read that, I agree, I probably am expecting far too much and being hard on myself. I'm sometimes patient, other times not so much :-/

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  4. I think you must give it some time. It's too soon to be fretting over sales figures. But that's just my opinion.
    I've been toying around with the idea of self-publishing a collection of short pieces... but your post has made me wonder about the wisdom of doing so... though I'll still probably go the self-pub route... I'll see...

    Writer In Transit

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    1. No, don't wonder about the wisdom because of my ramblings. Read what Jessica wrote just above - and probably what everyone else has written below and I haven't gotten to yet! The problem with the sales figures is that I like numbers and charts and graphs, and you get to see so many when you're self-publishing :-)

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  5. I know how this feels - my sales for my debut novel have been so low that I actually can't afford the financial risk of self-publishing again for a long time... But publishing more books is definitely the best way to make yourself known, and it's best not to dwell on sales figures. Blog tours are a great way to get your book noticed without feeling like you're aggressively marketing, and I'd definitely recommend them as a good way to get reviews. Approaching book bloggers who specialise in your genre is another great idea. Other than that, just keep writing! Best of luck! :)

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    1. I actually haven't done a blog tour for this book. I published it so soon after an anniversary tour for my last book that I didn't... D'oh! Thanks for this comment!!

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  6. I worry about the same thing for when I set my story collection free. I'm looking at it as sort of an experiment in self publishing and marketing, so I'll see how it goes. Thanks for sharing your insights and insecurities.

    Hope you have a great time by the sea. :)

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    1. You see, that's what this book was supposed to be... an experiment, a way of getting just one or two people to read stories that have probably only been read by competition judges. I should really just be grateful that people have bought it! The sea was gorgeous and green, the sky was cloudless :-)

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  7. I've read That Sadie Thing - I got it free, possibly from one of Alex's posts? Anyway, I loved it - there wasn't one story I disliked, and I got through it really quickly. I love your writing style :)

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  8. I know some folks who would never publish with a "traditional" publisher again. Obviously, the publishing world is upside down. You're mostly on your own even with a big publishing house. Take heart! <3 ~Tara

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    1. It does seem to be in flux. When I first started writing, there was a specific path... although I knew my books would never fit with a big publisher, so I've not been disheartened by that. Thanks for the follow too :-)

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  9. indie and mostly happy with the decision.

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    1. Isn't it great when things work out? :-)

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  10. As some have already said, it's not just self-publishing. I've been with three "traditional" publishers and left them behind to become indie.
    I love the control.

    And with marketing, even traditional publishers want the author to manage 95%. They don't do any more than you. They plop your book on a site and leave it there. It's up to you, the author, to sell it.

    So why give them the bulk of money, and you only get maybe 30% of an ebook 99 cent sale?

    First, before you worry about sales, get recognition. Appear on blogs, join Yahoo groups, interview other authors on your site/blog. Since we all can't be Nora Roberts, John Graham, or Margaret Mitchell, we just have to chug away at chugging away. :)

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    1. Yes, I know it isn't just the indies who have issues... I'd probably be just as bad atmarketing a new type of dog bed!

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  11. I understand your frustration. Self publishing is a tricky business. I've read several success stories, but like anything else in life it came with a lot of hard work. Like you, I'm not comfortable with the whole marketing and sales side of self-publishing. The last thing I want is to be perceived as pushy, etc. Yet, it is a necessary evil if that's the course I choose to pursue.

    I realize the worst advice is unsolicited advice, but here goes nothing. Perhaps you might consider printing a portion of your books. Books A Million has a section devoted specifically to local authors. This might be a subtle way to generate your work. Since word of mouth is the most important aspect of selling novels,once a few people read your books, they will pass on their feelings to others. Then they will do the same and so on. Also, you could attend a few writer's festivals and book conferences. A lot of self published authors set up tables and display printed versions of their novels. That would be another way to get the word out. Last but not least, you could contact some local book clubs and ask if they would consider reading your work and posting a review.

    I'm not sure if your book targets a specific population, but it wouldn't hurt to find a group willing to look at your work, if that makes sense. For example, the MC in my novel is a Hispanic female and much of the plot takes place in the Yucatan and include ancient Mayans. If I were to self publish, I would probably solicit some Hispanic groups to read my book. It they liked it, I'd request that they post reviews or provide support in any other manner they felt comfortable with. Here in WV we have tourist place called TAmarack. It only displays works from local artists. I've also seen several book from WV authors available for sale there. With so much tourist traffic going through that place, people are bound to pick one up. That's would be another way to get the word out. Before you know it, hundreds of people would hear about your story.

    Basically, what I'm trying to say is, you don't have to be pushy and annoying to get the word out about your book. Noted above are only a few ways to accomplish this. Keep your chin up and don't give up. Recognition will come. The hard part is already done. You've written the book. The rest is a cake walk. Best of luck on your journey to publication.

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    1. I love getting any type of advice, because there's always something that I haven't thought of. In this case, it's the local book clubs. I'm not sure if there are any, but I'm definitely going to check them out. I wish I had a specific target audience, but I don't... Thanks for taking the time to be so thorough :-)

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  12. You are the well-rounded and fun person! (Recall when I featured you last month.) We don't want to hear 'buy my book,' but we do want to connect with the writer. You do that very well. Just keep connecting.

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    1. Thanks Alex. I might just have to go back and favourite that post :-)

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  13. It can be discouraging. My first book sold well - very enthusiastic friends and family bought several copies each to give as gifts. Lots of love from FB friends,etc. It was the novelty of first book. Second book - not so much. Of course, I'm not writing a series - a friend who does cozy mysteries with the same characters is doing quite fine. I'm lucky in that I'm not counting on sales to be able to eat. It's a tough business and having sat at an author table for a day with one sale - that's sad. But I know I'm a fickle reader and get books from the library. Keep plugging away, but it is good to keep the day job.

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    1. Lol, yes... the day job isn't going anywhere! I love those enthusiastic friends and family, they certainly help in the beginning!

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  14. There's no way I can say anything more than what your lovely commenters have already said. I do unfollow people who spam me with offers to buy their books. And I can say that the only people who's books I've ever purchased over social media outlets are people I was already friends with, people who had something more to say than "Buy my book."

    That doesn't mean you can't announce it, through a party or a contest. It's not the same if you market for a few days and then stop. But you have to have real content as well.

    marketing is a super tricky business.

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    1. There does seem to be a balance that some people have figured out perfectly. I want to be like those guys :-)

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  15. Although I'm not at the book publishing stage of my career, it's good to read your insights and thoughts on the process and what you're learning. Thank you.

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    1. I'd love to think I was helping someone else with my insecure ramblings! I might even listen to my own advice one day, too :-)

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  16. It seems like you have some wonderful comments and advice here, Annalisa. As I don't yet have anything published either traditional or self pub I cannot comment on the best route. Traditional is the route I am currently pursuing but if that doesn't work out I would probably consider self publishing. As you know I have read your short stories and really enjoyed them. Keep going. Hope you enjoy your trip.

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    1. Thanks Suzanne, and best of luck with the querying.

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  17. I agree on the marketing thing, I skip over stuff a lot, too. I wish I had some wise words and sage advice, but I know zero about self-publishing. I do know that you are an awesome writer. Perhaps it will just take a bit more time for word to get around about That Sadie Thing. :)

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    1. Thanks Rachel :-) I'm warming to the idea of a slow-burn career, one that grows and grows until the books are selling well for my retirement!

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  18. Now you have some great experience, and that means when you try again you'll do even better:)

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    1. I'll try to learn from what I've done... but I'm a poor student and might keep making the same mistakes over and over. Watch out for an identical IWSG post around August :-D

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  19. There's a secret to self-pubbing that has nothing to do with marketing. It's proliferation. Not the nuclear kind, but the I-wrote-a-crapload-of-books kind. When people see an author with 4 or 5 books out, they think, "Look at all those books! This must be a real author!" Then they're more likely to read the blurbs and choose one to try out. It's extremely hard to self-pub (or small press pub) one book and do well with it. You just need to be tough and soldier on. Write another book or even a novella. Get together another collection of stories. Give the readers a choice and they'll be more likely to buy.
    Good luck! :-)

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    1. Thanks Lexa. Someone else said the same thing about the volume of books, and it makes sense... and I do want to be a 'real' author! :-)

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  20. I know exactly how you feel. I've self-published, and the choice to do so was made by the fact I have very little time to write so I wanted to make my own schedule. Plus, I do like having all the control. Yet marketing frustrates and intimidates me. I think a lot of it is just luck. What works for one writer doesn't work for another. There's no definite formula, and like you, I don't want to be shouting to buy my books constantly. If you ever find the magic formula, let me know! :)

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    1. I'll be sure to tell you all, for being so helpful to me!

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  21. Self-publishing for me. I know what you mean about sales and checking the numbers. I hate marketing too and decided the best way to market myself is to write more so that's what I'm concentrating on. People keep saying it's a marathon, it's a marathon - well it seems like the longest one in the world!
    But, I can't imagine not doing this and can only hope one day I'll be able to earn enough to support the family. Seeing a steady increase each month (not too big) should mean I'm going about it the right way.
    I don't think there's a magic ball for self-publishing, but some luck definitely plays into it.

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    1. Yes, luck is very important, I'd say. I only have a part time job, but it would be lovely one day to give it up and write. There's nothing worse than really getting into a scene and having to stop to go to work :-(

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  22. I suppose it's pretty hard to let people know about the book who aren't writers themselves or a FB friend - it kind of limits the audience! I think the advice to keep publishing so you have a collection makes sense - that way when someone's enjoyed one book, they'll try another and eventually more of everything should be selling. I had been wondering how sales were going - thanks for sharing!

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    1. I think I need to try thinking outside the box, Linda. I hadn't realised I was in a box, but I obviously am :-)

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  23. This is one of the fears that holds me back from self-publishing. I think it takes way more than an established platform when putting a book out yourself. There's only so much marketing that can make the rounds of a blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Best of luck with That Sadie Thing. And while I can't sit on a bus reading it in print for you to catch me, I do want you to know that I really enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed it. It always makes my insecurities disappear when someone tells me that! I think all forms of publishing are hard, just in slightly different ways.

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  24. I don't know what I will do with book two until I get there. I have issues with marketing my book and I've gone through a small press. There is a lot I could be doing, but there is a lot I don't know HOW to do. Meh. Someday I will figure it all out. Good luck to you on that front as well.

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    1. Thanks Mel. It seems to come so easily to some people, and they know exactly how to market their book, and then there are the rest of us...

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  25. I self publish and will continue to do so for my next book to complete my trilogy. But I have more coals in the fire that I will seek a tradtional publisher for next year.

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    1. Having a mixture of both seems to be a great option, the books can bounce off each other.

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  26. I think you need to give these kind of things some time. Just be patient.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes, time and patience have come through in quite a few of the comments here... I should probably listen to you all!

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  27. 'And I'm dying to be sat on a bus and see at least two people reading my latest properly-in-print book.'

    Aw, babe. My heart is one with yours.

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  28. This makes perfect sense to me. Writing is a lot more than putting words in a computer anymore. And being human, well that has to come first no matter what. Hope you have a great time with your sister!

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Please comment - I love a good chat!