Last week, I launched a new summer series on self-publishing, particularly as regards publishing and marketing your book during this busy time of year–and how to take advantage of our July theme of freedoms and independence while doing so!
Today, I want to talk about the flip side of freedom.
You might call it … UNFREEDOM*.
(*After all, there has to be some sort of language to describe the opposite of ‘freedom’ which isn’t problematically tied to this nation’s long and deeply troubling relationship to captivities of various kinds … right? I’ll make the attempt, while recognizing and honoring the tight spot into which the English language … and the history of American expansion … has put me. Here goes!)
Point: Self-publishing authors are constrained by their circumstances, and therefore limited as marketers of their works. Let’s slow down and look at some of the speed bumps in our way!
The first constraint you’re likely to hear about when talking with self-publishing authors about their marketing attempts is how difficult it is to find the time to market well! After all, most indie authors aren’t living lives of leisure; they’re working, sometimes multiple jobs, to pay the rent and bring in the groceries. They usually have families; often, young kids and sleepless nights are also on order. In this kind of typical environment, it’s hard enough to find time to sleep much less write much less market your books for sale to the general public! And this problem also often inspires a great deal of self-doubt and frustration, as the marketing goes on.
Why don’t people just buy my book already? Hint: if it were that easy to sell books, traditional publishing houses wouldn’t have dedicated marketing staff, either! As a self-publishing author, you’ve written and signed a contract with yourself to do whatever it takes to become a published author … and that includes signing away a large chunk of your time.
Suggestion #1: Protect your time by slowing down long enough to sort out your priorities, and set a schedule that is both ambitious … and attainable.
Here’s the other big speed bump, right? If you don’t have the time, energy, skills, or access to do what needs doing in order to market your book, you’re going to have to fork over some cash to make it happen! Of course, how much you spend is going to vary greatly depending on what path you take towards publication; vanity presses often tout their marketing successes, but often prove disappointing in results anyway, and the really good self-publishing companies–with dependable, expert staff who’ve been in the business long enough to give you a really good leg up–cost a pretty penny.
Spending some money is unavoidable. Breaking the bank … is.
Suggestion #2: Guard yourself against both amazement and disappointment by doing your research ahead of time. Don’t trust a company’s own press releases for your data, either! Do your due diligence and check out customer reviews, and as with my suggestion for time, go ahead and slow down long enough to plot out what services you can take care of effectively on your own … and which ones you really need help with!
Alright–it’s time to take a deep breath and feel your body for a moment. Are you sitting in a chair? Criss-cross-applesauce on the hardwood floor? Hanging from the rafters? Are you comfortable? Are you feeling … a little … sleepy?
We’ve mentioned this every now and again on SPA, but it’s always worth mentioning again: a person doesn’t wake up each morning with endless energy! Energy is a budgeted resource, and your body has no qualms about letting you know when you’re close to running the tank totally dry. Like, right now, my eyes are burning from having worn contacts all day, my knees are aching from walking in to work, and I can’t stop yawning no matter how hard I try–all of which are signs that I’m about a half hour from keeping the neighbors up with my zzzzs.
As a self-publishing author, you need to pay close attention to your energy level: it comes at a premium, and just like time, once it’s spent you’re done. There’s no writing when tired, and even coffee will only get you so far. Sleep, my friends, is inevitable!
Suggestion #3: Build some select mindfulness-based practices into your daily writing routine. Check in with your body when you sit down in your chair. Are you actually feeling good and comfortable–and energetic? If your body is screaming “NO MORE! I CHANGED THIRTY DIAPERS TODAY!” then it may be time to back off, allow yourself to get some sleep, eat the right kind of meal, and do a thing which brings you joy. Make a promise to yourself to come back the next day in a better frame of mind and body, and I guarantee you’ll produce better work–work you can be proud of!
Look … we’re not all born with a Wacom tablet or a Master of Business in our hands! It’s okay if you don’t know how to set up social media accounts … THIRTY DIFFERENT WAYS … or how to design your own book cover, including blurb, ISBN, LOC numbers, and so on and so forth.
Knowing what your skill set is, and how best to take advantage of what you already know how to do, is absolutely imperative! So, too, is knowing where your skill set runs out, and therefore when you ought to turn to established and verifiable experts–such as those employed at various self-publishing companies, or working on a freelance basis.
Suggestion #4: Before you sit down to submit your book for publication, sit down and sketch out all of the different little processes which go into making a book, from start to finish. EVERY SINGLE ONE. (There ought to be at least thirty!) Only then can you come back and say–“Ah, yes, I can easily take care of those, but not anything to do with Goodreads giveways or writing a press release!” Listing everything will feed straight back into allocating where you spend your time, money, and energy … so make sure you get it right before the wheels are in motion and momentum is pulling you in another direction!
Last but certainly not least, one of the most oft-mentioned barriers to self-publishing–an unfreedom–is the strictures placed upon indie authors by those with the knowledge and access to make things happen. Indie authors are often left out in the cold, with no recourse but to generate their own networks and influences from scratch … which, yes, can work but often doesn’t. Meanwhile, traditional publishing houses–who have, by the way, refused to evolve to fit the changed world around their signature markets!–snigger behind their hands and offer little or no help at all … because, I assume, they don’t want the competition.
Oh, if only you could imagine all the wonderful ways we might help each other!
But what a pipe dream. Traditional publishing houses have good reasons (from a business point of view) to try and uphold their monopolies by restricting access and denying support to indie authors looking to break out. I’m talking about everything from email lists of potential customers who they hold in reserve, contracts denying their authors from collaborating with self-publishing authors, and so on.
Access is a big problem for indie authors. If you don’t know who to get in touch with to get this certain thing done, it doesn’t get done.
Suggestion #5: Don’t despair. As I’ve mentioned, some authors have made it! There are some existing networks and resources in place to help you … but just don’t expect to find easy access to knowledge and the means to act upon that knowledge within more “mainstream” or “traditional” circles. I mean, take us for example. We’re here for you–every week!
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at email@example.com. And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠
ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com