The adventure of promoting my book, that is: now that it is out on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and so on. The best thing about self-publishing, is you retain all author copyrights, thus can release the same book through a wide variety of distributors.
But the hardest work is still ahead of me: self promotion. The learning curve has begun, so let me share what I’ve garnered in this matter in just one short week, that it may help other struggling authors:
- Best for an unknown author to start off with ebooks only, via Amazon.com’s Kindle outlet…for they are the largest distributor of ebooks by far. Avoid the hassle and expense of paper production for the time being. Wish I had known that before I invested in the whole enchilada! (Though the reason my book is now on sale at the numerous venues listed above, is because I paid a self-publishing service, Friesen Press, to handle all that, and more. But you can do that yourself; read on.) If your book is any good, you will make quicker and bigger royalties on ebooks, despite their much lower cost.
- Do it all yourself, for free. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has all the tools and tutorials you need, to pump out a perfectly formatted ebook. Just sign up with Amazon.com, and you’re good to go!
- On beyond Kindle: register with Smashwords, one of the largest promoters and distributors of ebook publications focused on new and upcoming authors…and is likewise free. They will distribute your ebooks to all other major sellers except Kindle: Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony Reader Store, Kobo, Flipkart, Oyster, the Diesel eBook Store, Baker & Taylor’s Blio, Axis360, and more. Smashwords also offers three excellent (and free) ebooks to help the novice: The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, and Smashwords Style Guide. Very useful information applicable to any ebook author, even if he or she doesn’t subscribe to Smashwords itself. They will at the very least give you an excellent idea of what’s involved with ebook self-publishing. Better yet: Smashwords handles all the adjustments required for the various ebook formats out there, via their innovative, online “meatgrinder.” All you need do is compose your ebook in MS Word document mode. (On the downside, read “The Fight Against Smashwords’ Meatgrinder.”)
- A top notch book cover is an utter requirement if you want sales to take off. No way around this. Smashwords provides a list of artists that will handle this for a nominal fee. In fact, if you are a struggling artist, this is a great way to start off! Get yourself on that list, and provide a web page featuring samples of your work. (Note: there are free ebook cover designs out there, using templates and public domain images. I have yet to really look into this, but a web search for such items is a good start. Just be sure you get quality results.)
- Avoid DRM like the e-plague! Or so some say, such as Smashwords’ founder Mark Coker and celebrated cyberpunk author Cory Doctorow. Their claims are that DRM inconveniences your customers by limiting the number of devices set up to read the ebook, and that underground proliferation of non-DRM (or pirated) ebooks actually can boost sales drastically. Especially if the book is a well-written and hot-button topic. But there are dissenters of the anti-DRM crowd, as well. (Also read “ Question on Digital Rights Management or DRM.” Oh, and this intriguing article: “Why e-books will soon be obsolete (and no, it’s not just because of DRM).”) As for me, I requested my publisher to /not/ use DRM, but they went ahead anywayz, and secure-coded my ebook. I’ve decided not to fight them, seeing as I’m giving away a DRM-free version of “Free Me From This Bond” to hundreds of contacts I’m emailing as a promotional tool. I may even intentionally upload this free edition to torrent and pirate sites, just to get the ball rolling.
- Social media sucks! But I guess ya gotta deal with it anywayz. Maximize those opportunities and all that rot. I’ve read various authors’ attempts at self promotion through Facebook, Twitter, blogging, LinkedIn and the like. And most conclude that it’s a big friggin’ waste o’ time. Those who do claim great success via social media seem to be affluent, and toss their capital into the ring of professional agents, promoters, advertisers and distributors. They purchase Google ads, pay through the arse for tailored videos, hire consultants, give away free books and gifts, rub shoulders (and more intimate parts I suspect) with media celebrities, ad nauseum. Nonetheless, I held my nose and dived right in. Gussied up my long-nascent Facebook page, and interfaced it with my Twitter site and WordPress. Both FB and WP display my book’s cover right at the top, w/description and purchase link. So bang! the moment anyone lands on either site, that’s the first thing their LCD-jaded orbs will behold. Now, all I need do is diligently post a blog once per week, and participate in a few tweets and likes in kind. (Any more than that, and I’d keel over in cyber-narcosis…aargh!)
- When you’re ready for paperback and/or hardcover: Amazon’s “Createspace” is definitely the way to go, especially when you’re broke…as you can DIAY (do it all yourself). Natch, there’s a major learning curve re. formatting, but I find virtual poverty a great motivator.Especially if you believe what you have to tell the world is of utmost import. There is absolutely no cost in publishing your hardcover or paperback via Createspace, but one: purchasing a galley proof before you actually release your literary demon. The cost is trivial, well under $10 in most cases.
For a disillusioned penniless gadfly like myself, I have to think outta the box. Because thinking costs nada…except perhaps to purchase a bottle of ibuprofen to quell concomitant headaches.Thus, my brainstorm:
Contact via email, gay friendly campuses across America (and then, other nations). Lo and behold, in a short time searching such places, I discovered “campuspride.org“: a site solely dedicated to annually rating US campuses based on LGBT inclusion and hospitality. Highest rating: 5 stars. So I decided to post announcement of my novel to those rated 5, 4.5 and 4…totalling 208 campuses in all! Of course, I personalized each email by inserting each salutation with the name of the LGBT (or “Gay/Lesbian,” “Sexual Diversity,” “Equality for All,” “Safe Zone” or whatever they chose for a title) department listed for each campus. Here is one email I posted (for example);
Date: Tue, 3 Dec 2013 14:56:49
Subject: New LGBT Novel Gives Voice to Our Own Homeless & Disenfranchised
From: Zeke Krahlin
To: Diversity UCLA
Greetings Diversity UCLA LGBTQ friends and allies!
I am a gay street activist of many many years, here in San Francisco. And have just come out with my first novel, “Free Me From This Bond.” Described thusly:
Based on true events embellished with many Walter-Mitty type flights of fancy, it is mystical, hilarious and frightening all at once. What sets this book apart from most other GLBT tales, is that it is neither a heated love story to titillate one’s sexual yearnings, nor a tiresome imbroglio of middle class queers embroiled in soap-operish drama. Better yet: no AIDS tears!
This novel is a linked series of true tales anchored by two heroes in the author’s own life, thus biographical in nature. It is a love story about the downtrodden and homeless, the neglected and abused within the homophile community.
Though due to a scattering of erotic (albeit satirical) passages throughout the novel, this book is definitely for adults. Graced with exquisite illustrations (one for each of 16 chapters) by struggling artist S. Rohan.
I am hoping your organization will find my novel worthy of inclusion in your campus library, and perhaps even as part of a class syllabus re. Queer Theory, LGBT history/literature, or related genre.
I give you access to an ebook version in pdf format, for your eyes only. Here ’tis:
This is the complete novel (minus book cover) that I provide for promotional purposes only.
Otherwise, anyone can log onto my book page at:
to view the book cover and read the entire first chapter, as well as click on the purchase link, where they can buy my book in hardcover, paperback, or ebook…as well as read the description located on the back cover.
I have decided in addition to promoting my book via online social media, to reach out to campuses across the globe with a large LGBT presence. I hope you will take the time to check out my book, as I feel it is a seminal piece of writing that will do much to further our rights here in these disUnited States, as well as across our sorry little globe. Most sincerely,
Now, a mere two days ago, I’ve accomplished my mission to spread The Good-Gay News across the myriad queer friendly campuses here in “The Land of the Free (Hetero).” (Later, I will do same on a global level.)
So, I thought, what will be my next plan of attack?
Later that day I read an article from an RSS feed about how Pope Francis chastized the churches for their rampant spewing of anti-gay dogma. (He also condemned capitalism, ha! Makes me wanna revert to the Catholic faith whose cross I bore throughout childhood). So then it hit me like a cast iron crown of thorns (whack!):
Of course! I should now contact all the gay-friendly churches about my evangelical opus!
Wherewithal I duckduckgo’d “gay friendly churches”
and in a short time came upon a site that provides a list of all LGBT-inclusive churches, both statewide and international:
Hallelujah Gay Jebus, I am saved, I am saved (from a lot of time wasted searching pulpit-by-pulpit)! But as I scanned the list from hyper-populated states such as California, New York, Illinois and Texas, I realized I had my work cut out for me:
More than 800 gay friendly churches in California alone!
So I altered my strategy to just post to such churches in the largest city of each uber-crowded state. Even so, I’ll probably wind up posting to anywhere from 300 to 500 queer-sacred grounds. How exhausting.
But away I go, plodding through one state after another, each post a strike for homophile victory. I did alter my message a bit from what I sent to campuses. Specifically, the first, fifth and last paragraph:
I am a gay street activist of many years, here in San Francisco. And have just come out with my first novel, “Free Me From This Bond.” It is highly spiritual by design: a blend of Christian and Pagan morality in the fashion of C.S. Lewis (if I may be so brazen as to compare myself to this illustrious author). Described thusly:
I am hoping your church will find my novel worthy of inclusion in your library, and perhaps a passage therefrom as part of a sermon.
I have decided in addition to promoting my book via online social media, to reach out to gay-friendly churches across the globe. I hope you will take the time to check out my book, as I feel it is a seminal piece of writing that will do much to further LGBT rights here in these United States, as well as across our little blue ball.
So there you have it, mes petits tamias: busy as a bumblebee messing around w/social media, posting to hundreds of campuses, churches and who knows what other recipients I can make the unhappy victim of my megalogaymania. Of course, I will also broadcast my promotional emails to various gay magazines, newspapers and organizations around the world. As well as attempt to advertise my esoteric wares locally (bookstores, readings and whatnot). However, since I’ve suffered years of sabotage and wickedness by the SF queer community, I am not enthused about this particular approach. (Those who read my novel will understand perfectly.)
[ Perambulatory Reader: there is a young lady I featured many moons ago, for her website called “Laura’s NYC Tales.” Composed of entertaining and true tales of her escapades, paramours and insight on life in the Big Apple (and sometimes in Woodstock), I just kept returning to her site night after night, I was that captivated. That blog entry BTW is located here:
Since then (last month in fact) she has self-published her first ebook called: “I Beg to Differ: A Memoir of Bosses, Boyfriends & Mom’s Evil Lesbian Lover.” So I jotted off the following email to her, after more than a year’s passage since my last post.]
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2013
Subject: Hey from Zeke – I am now published, too!
From: Zeke Krahlin
To: Laura Maxwell
From one struggling author to another: thought you’d enjoy hearing that I have just completed my first self-published novel. I see /your/ book has finally come out, found it on Amazon. CONGRATS! Hope sales take off like a rocket; you certainly deserve it, you are a superb author.
Anywayz, my own novel “Free Me From This Bond” has just come out too…what parallel timing, eh? You can read the first chapter here, as well as link to the description and purchase page:
I am also listed at Amazon.com, just search for “zeke krahlin” or “free me from this bond.”
By any chance, was it Chris Rock that finally helped you get published, or did you have to strike out on your own? Either way, I am /so/ happy for you…as reading your tales on the web did /so/ much to lift my spirits through difficult days.