Marketing Yourself

Article describes ways for the self-published author to market using a website and newsletter.
Writing without an agent and publisher can be a daunting task. By far, the easiest part of the writing experience for me is just that--writing. I enjoy the creative process, as images and thoughts merge with dialogue and I become part of each character. The next step can be grueling but fun--the endless rewrites based on constructive criticism from trusted people in the field. I personally do not use critique groups because I have not found them to be useful or time-efficient. I do send my rewrite to 3-4 people who I trust will give me their honest opinions. For my last novel, The Kauai Connection, much of the storyline takes place in Geneva across many timezones from Washington, London, Geneva, and Japan. Julian and Sandra Lamborne have travelled extensively in Europe, having grown up in England and now living in Houston. Another reviewer, Kevin Dice, is keenly aware of timing, character traits, grammar, and the "nitty-gritty details" of any mystery novel. His services have been invaluable to me.

The last phase is the most challenging for me--that of marketing your book once it is published. Without a big, NY Publisher behind me with the big bucks, one cannot find my books on display in your local B&N. I have to rely on websites and word of mouth. Booksignings are more helpful in becoming known to the bookstore managers and community relation reps who once or twice a year set up signings for new, local authors. At most I've sold 12 books at a booksigning--not a great return on your time and money, but they're fun and you get to talk to people and other writers.

No one likes selling (did I say hawking?) their books. It's nerve-racking for me to sit at a table and politely smile as people file by, most ignoring you as they head to the lastest NY Times bestsellers, others stopping by to browse, with a perfunctory nod, and those few who stop and ask questions and eventually buy a copy. I've met some interesting folks in Houston, Austin, and Saint Simons. Some are would-be writers, others interested in the local connection, still others genuinely interested in supporting new authors. I've found the Barnes & Noble community reps incredibly helpful and value their input. Independent booksellers are another breed, because they cannot afford to buy your book from Ingram or Bokkers with only a five percent discount to them. B&N typically takes a 30% discount, pocketing 20% and saving the reader 10% of the listed price. Royalties are paid on net proceeds (after discounts) and generally range from 10 to 25%, depending on the self-publishing company. This is not the way to get rich, but who really does this for the money? Besides, I've got a full-time job that I enjoy and writing will always remain an avocation for me.

Those who have the time, attend workshops, writing conferences locally, regionally, and nationally. Entering contests is another excellent opportunity to become known, especially if one wins a publishing contract. It is important to belong to a writing organization (I belong to Mystery Writers of America) to learn about conferences, writing, networking with agents and publishers. It's fun and educational. One can always learn something new and it's gives me the chance to meet and learn from those more successful writers who market well.

The last thing is to have your own website to promote your books. I'm lucky to have the services of Neal Campbell who caters to authors. His fees are reasonable ($35/hr) and he is reliable and efficent. The site should be clean, with links to major booksellers. Avoid banners, pop-ups, and self-aggrandizement. Just tell a little about yourself, describe your book, offer an on-line preview, and most importantly, a link to buy your book. I utilize Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and websites for my book purchases. Other authors market their books directly from their URL using "paypal" with credit card purchases deposited directly into a local bank account. Another good website for authors is which links readers and authors. Still another is and for marketing links to your URL from other booksites.

I hope I've given you a sense of the "David and Goliath" dichotomy in marketing. Your bestselling authors have a cadre of marketing folks and large budgets to bring visibility to their books: announcements are made months in advance, store displays almost hit you in the face as you walk through the front door of your local B&N. Advance sales are set up with national wholesalers. No wonder, it can be frustrating trying to compete with the Madison Avenue glitz, glossies, and slick reviews. One final story. A now famous author, when starting out ten years ago, sat in front of the local mall bookstore in a folding chair, small table and stack of his books. Inside, people were shopping the bestseller counter. After 2-3 hours, he would pack up his display and books and move to another mall. This author today has become the largest grossing author--making over $32 million dollars last year. Everyone starts at the bottom and perseverance, luck, and timing will take care of the struggling first-time author. The would-be national bestselling author can persevere, but cannot control luck and timing. For the true writer, it's the writing that motivates and inspires. The best advice I can give other first-time authors is "keep the dream alive and keep writing."

About the Author

The Creative Process of Writing is a Creative and Therapeutic Experience!

keith barton