Scurrying around the Internet and going over my favorite blogs, I found this call-to-arms by Mr. Feckless Goblin: "Why Writers should share their experiences and opinions." And in all honesty, he's right. Even though I shuffle my feet and stare at my hands while I admit it, but I also sometimes hold information back to my fellow authors, just to stay ahead of the game. Or at least that's what I tell myself.
But deep down we all know the sad, hard truth and that's that we're not going to make it, if we don't stick together. We have to look out for each other, tell each other what works and what doesn't, so that every new self-publishing young buck won't fall in the same pitfalls or invents the wheel all over again.
And so, here goes, my experiences in self-publishing, my 'best practice', if you will:
1) Write. First of all, you need a product to sell. Easy enough, eh?
2) Publish. Short stories, opinion pieces, rants, raves, articles, novels, everything, as long as you get your name out there. Publish them everywhere you can. Don't shy away from working for free, as long as it gets you some hits on your blog or site. Everybody started that way, believe me. People need to know you're good before they start paying you.
3) In that spirit, offer free stories on your site. Really people, don't start shuffling in your seats, now. It needs to be done. Not all of them, keep some under lock and key for the book, but it's a great service to provide, easily done and people get a good taste of what you're capable of. Coca Cola provides free samples, don't they?
4) Get on the social network train. Not just for your friends, but also to gather followers. Twitter is the most useful tool for me together with blogging. I have a proper site as well (www.floatingrobes.com), but it doesn't bring in nearly as much visitors and readers as my blog does. Somehow Google seems to favor Blogger (I wonder why...) over normal domains. For me, I feel more relaxed on my blog than on my site, which I feel is more for official announcements than for a what-the-f-blogpost.
5) Facebook is for friends. And they have friends that I don't know about and that might like horror. I have a steady stream of hits coming from my Facebook page with every post I publish. Connecting Blogger, Facebook and Twitter is Q.E.D. so you won't have to rewrite every post three times.
6) Issuu. I cannot begin to describe the impact this has had on the number of readers of my stories. Issuu is a free online publishing service, voted Best of the Web at some point. It seems to focus mostly on magazine publishers, but it has a big community of writers as well, with groups you can join and everything. Also, you can take the Embed-code and use it to publish your work all over the web (much like Youtube videos).
7) Contests. Just type in 'writing contests' in Google and you're all set. They come in all forms, shapes and sizes. They come with or without entry fees, just for fun or with big money prizes (the Bridport Prize offers 5000 GBP for the winner). Once again, this is mostly to get your name out there. It's also fun to see how you measure up to other writers. Be sure to read up on what they're actually looking for or you submit your best 5000-word horror story to a contest looking for general fiction.
8) Publish your credentials. If you won something, don't be shy about it! People love a winner. So once again, Tweet it, put it on Facebook, e-mail it to your friends and family. You never know who might be listening. In that spirit, I'm quite happy to announce that I got an honourable mention in the Lucid Hills Spring Contest recently.
9) Don't just write about your own stuff! It's fun to do, but boring to read! Retweet somebody who has a good idea, tweet about their blog posts, leave a comment here and there. Remember, it's a community. You're not alone out there.
10) Authors Den. This is, I guess, a relatively obscure community of writers and readers, but they are really interested in new work by upcoming authors. You can have your own page, book shop, etc. You'll be sure to get some hits on your FREE stories and a good deal of exposure on your book. Have I sold something through Authors Den yet? Honestly, no. But then again, there is a crisis on at the moment.
11) Offline marketing. A very old school approach, but it worked for me. I used Lulu to print my book, ordered a bunch of them and went round various bookshops, asking if they would carry my book. The big chain book stores won't, but the independent ones all did. I got a fair amount of sales out of them, so far, and I'm thinking of expending beyond my locale and into the bigger cities.
12) Think about the appearance of your book. Forget about artsy-fartsy B&W covers and stick a big skull on the front, possibly with some bright red blood on it. It gets people's attention. Believe me, I speak from experience.
A few things that didn't work for me.
1) Digg. Anyone figured this one out, yet? I do not understand what they expect me to do.
2) Forums. A lot of time invested, trying to get my name out there. A lot of discussions started, but none ended very satisfactory a.k.a. I'm still not seen as an 'authority in my field', or so the book on internet marketing had me belief. And forget about anyone clicking that link in your signature.
3) Link exchanges. Asking for a link exchange never worked for me. And really, really, REALLY forget about those reciprocal-link schemes. They're basically just a scam. When my blog posts were a little more interesting, people started to link to me of their own accord.
These are just a handful of things I tried and keep busy with on a daily basis. Of course, there's loads more ways to get your book out there and if you have any, please do not hesitate to tell me. We can all use some help and I'm no exception.
In the meantime, check out Mr. Feckless Goblin's blog. He was the inspiration for this post.