Self-publishing and the challenge of ‘marketing yourself’

One of the hardest things about writing is that it inevitably leads you to bare some small part of your soul to the world. This is particularly true of fiction as the world you create is wholly your own. If someone doesn’t like your characters, then they don’t like the characters you created. Similarly, if they have a problem with the politics, or the themes of your work, then again, they have a problem with your politics, and your themes. This is quite different from other types of writing where more often than not you will be working to a set of guidelines that may constrain your work, for in this case, the work you produce is all down to you, and there is simply no place to hide.

This challenge becomes even more difficult when it comes to self-publishing. Unlike regular publishing, where you might have an editor and production team working with you to oversee the process, when it comes to self-publishing, the power is wholly in your hands. This can be a remarkably liberating step, and certainly has a number of advantages; however, it can also pose great challenges when it comes to marketing and self-promotion. On the one hand, naturally, you want to sell your work, and put it out there, but at the same time, there is a sense that absolutely everything to do rests on your shoulders, and if someone doesn’t like it, then it’s completely down to you.

This is something I’ve had to confront recently myself, as I seek to market my novel The Darkest Hour. While on the whole, I am fairly happy with the book as a work of young adult fiction, I find myself constantly battling against the nagging doubt that what I’m doing is in some way silly, or not worthwhile. Strangely, I find this particularly challenging in a university environment as it feels like the academic setting puts an additional pressure on the quality of the work, and the way its marketed. It feels in some ways as if the level of judgement is that much higher than it might be at a normal workplace, or in the local pub. Of course, this is all absolutely ridiculous – but there is a sort of perverse logic to how these feelings come about, and I’m doing my absolute best to try and overcome them.

Marketing plans for 2019

As part of my New Year marketing plan, I’ve just embarked on a series of mini-sprints to promote my work across the University and try and raise my profile on Amazon. In the first instance, I’ve today launched a book giveaway, with ten free copies of my paperback novel hidden across campus. The aim here is to get some social media exposure, while also getting people actively reading and talking about my book. On each of the gift tags I’ve written a personalised messages asking the lucky winners to review the book on Amazon and share it with their friends. The giveaway has only just started, so we shall have to see how it goes.

Free book, Learning Zone, Lancaster University, January 2019

The next part of my marketing strategy has been to reach out to the student newspaper SCAN, and the Enterprise Team, offering myself for interviews and/or feature opportunities to see if I can get a bit of exposure and raise the profile of my project. In each case, I’ve adjusted my approach to meet the needs and expectations of the audience I’m addressing. In the case of SCAN, I’ve focussed on my student credentials and the more glamorous aspects of the project, while my contact with the Enterprise Team has focussed on my career journey, and the entrepreneurial elements of the projects, and elements such as my website and book trailers. Again, I’ve only just recently started out on these two leads, and I will keep you updated as and when I know more.

Free book, Management School Hub, Lancaster University, January 2019

Libraries, stores and book reviews

Besides the Lancaster University-focussed element of my marketing strategy, I’m also looking to reach out into the local community. Libraries are an important resource, and I hope to approach several that I’ve scoped out already to see if I can a) get my books on their shelves and b) offer readings and/or book signing sessions. I’m also then hoping to enquire with several local book stores along the same lines, though with the big chains, this is harder than it seems as their stock is often dictated centrally. One step I have made in this area is to get The Darkest Hour listed in an upcoming edition of Ingram Spark’s Advance magazine for book retailers. The magazine goes out some time in January, so I’m hoping I might notice some more orders in February/March time.

Finally, I’m also on the look out for book reviewers, who may be willing to review The Darkest Hour online in exchange for a free print or digital copy of my book. This is a slightly harder challenge in the sense that it requires far more work on my part to research respectable book review blogs and reach out each one individually, posting the book(s), and the chasing up for reviews. Though it will be quite a time-consuming task, it’s one that’s fairly high on my list of marketing priorities for the new year as I fight to get my book noticed among the hundreds of thousands of other books that are published each year.

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