In Your Corner: Know Thyself (& Thy Genre)

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time looking a few of the many choices authors have to make during the self-publication and marketing processes, starting with the Big Whopper (“Choosing a Self-Publishing Company“) and then moving into choices regarding the text itself (“Choosing a Trim Size for Your Book“).  This Thursday, however, I’m writing less about making a choice than I am about detecting past choices you may not have been aware you were making … and then totally exploiting them for marketing purposes.

Let me explain.

You Don’t Choose A Genre So Much As Discover It:

It Probably Only Matters for Marketing Anyway

Thinking back over the history of publishing, I can’t begin to count the number of times a book has been rejected as “too weird” or “too out-there” when really, the issue at hand was the fact that the book in question didn’t fit neatly into one of the prescribed genres (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Western, Biography, etc).  And the marketing folks at a traditional publisher know: it’s hard to market something that doesn’t fit neatly into a category, because doing so requires flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking.  Hybrid thinking.  Opinions are changing, slowly, but not fast enough within the Big Five traditional publishing houses.

Self-publishing gives you a third way. You don’t have to pick a genre while writing, but you can take advantage of a book’s genre or genres plural by approaching genre as a diagnosis after the fact, and an expedition in search of what the Atlantic’s Noah Berlatsky calls “a ‘web of resemblances’ created by intertexual references” that are “constituted basically by social and cultural agreement,” quoting John Rieder and Jason Mittel.  It’s a hunt for markers that point you toward certain resemblances … resemblances you can capitalize on for their social currency.

genre

The diagnosis process is simple:

  1. What books have you read that influenced your work in a measurable way?
  2. What books on the shelves in bookstores now bear resemblance to yours in style and content?

Once you sketch out a couple of lists to answer this question, it’s time to hit the bookstore and your library.  Libraries tend to scale the number of genre sections they stock according to how much shelf space they have, so bigger libraries will have finer distinctions between genres, while bookstores tend to pick the genres they’re going to stock according to what’s popular.  If you survey both your local Barnes & Noble, Tattered Cover, or (*gasp*) actual real-life physical Amazon Bookstore as well as your local public library, you’ll pick up on some of the more common genres out there, including:

  • Action/Adventure
  • Biography
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi
  • Horror
  • “Literary” Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Thriller/Suspense
  • Romance
  • Self-Help
  • Westerns
  • Women’s fiction

But the list could be a lot, lot longer.  I haven’t, for instance, mentioned more obscure genres like Steampunk and Grimoire.

Once you’ve found the shelf or shelves on which you could picture your book sitting in a bookstore or library, you’re ready to start integrating genre into your publishing and marketing processes.  Now, your book may have “resemblances” to any number of genres, but for simplicity’s sake it’s a good idea to pick just one or two that have left very clear thumbprints on your text.  You can take a quick poll of your early readers, or consult the professionals, for what they find most striking about the style and tone and voice of your book if you end up stuck for answers.  And before committing to your genre or genres, you’ll want to consider your readership.  What are they likely to connect to the most in terms of language?

Genre safely discovered and stowed away for future use, it’s time to start putting it to work.  The language of genre is rich with possibility in terms of “buzzwords” for marketing purposes, so sow them liberally amongst your back-cover blurbs, your press releases, your Amazon and Goodreads listings, your website and blog posts, as well as your social media interactions.  (Genres like #biopunk and #horrorlit make for great hashtags, don’t you think?)

There are lots of ways to use genre once your book is already written and ready to meet the world…but remember, it’s all a matter of timing.  You don’t need to write your entire book to meet a genre’s proscriptive requirements…just your promotional materials.  Genre can be confining, so it’s best to bring it into play only after the creative work is already done.  In my opinion.

You are not alone. ♣︎

*  And when Thomas himself took the poem seriously and made some rather intense life choices–for example, going off to WWI–Frost was devastated.  He was even more devastated when Thomas died in Arras.  The moral of this story being, it would seem, to make major life decisions upon thorough research and consideration, not the (misread) interpretation of a poem.

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Conversations: 8/16/2016

THE MANUSCRIPT IS JUST ABOUT FINISHED

It’s Time to Think About adding the Frosting!

cake with frosting

Just last week I went to a writers’ workshop and within the first two minutes of the speaker’s presentation she said, “From the minute you sit down to begin your first book, you need to be thinking about marketing.” OH, my! I printed my first book in 2004, self-published my second book in 2015, and have a good start on book number three. With the help of several very creative friends, I’ve dipped my toes into the marketing river, but it’s not a comfortable place for me. I really don’t know many writers who are (honestly) comfortable wearing marketing shoes.

So, today, I’m encouraging every writer I know to think about the book you’re beginning—or about to finish—as if it were a delicious cake just waiting to be tasted and enjoyed. If it were sitting in the bakery with no frosting covering it, how many people would buy it? All the other frosted and decorated cakes would appeal to buyers first. Your cake/book would sit there for a long time—maybe not be selected at all.

If you’re a self-published author you may be familiar with the concept of “optional assistance” publishing companies offer to help launch our books into the world. One such option for most of my clients has been the Professionally Designed Book Cover. This is really the frosting-on-the-cake! I remember working with a client who knew the image she wanted to present on her book cover. We spent hours discussing it. She wanted to have it ready to submit with the manuscript, and did not want to add the expense of using the publisher’s Designer. So, she had me “spend” hours researching potential images—multiple illustrations—and finally selected two possibilities. When her manuscript was sent in, with the cover images, the Designer showed her the two she’d selected. He also showed her a proposed option—his interpretation of what she wanted. WOW! That book cover “popped!” It was immediately clear to both of us that when her book was placed on a shelf, it would be quickly noticed.

We both learned a valuable lesson that day—to consider what the publisher can offer us in the areas where we are weak. Our time is a valuable commodity, as is our brain-power which we need to begin the next book(s). If we need editing assistance (see last week’s blog), marketing inspiration or help with developing a video trailer that will catch the attention of today’s Readers who search the Internet before making the book-purchase selections, then that’s what we must do.

Even if you have a contract with a traditional publisher, you may need to seek out assistance in the marketing arena. These publishing houses may introduce the book and give authors a nudge into the world of book-promotion, but they rarely offer additional help beyond that. Their book will go out of print after only a few years if the sales don’t keep it alive.  (This is not the case with self-publishing companies. For a very modest yearly “storage fee” your book will be available as long as you want it to be.)

So it is that I encourage you to build up that layer of frosting/visibility as thick as you can for the book you’ve worked so hard to deliver. ⚓︎


Royalene

ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

The Book Beautiful: Front & Back Matter (It Matters!)

So you’ve written a manuscript, thus the ‘meat’ of your book is complete. However, you want to happily sandwich that meat between what we call ‘front matter’ and ‘back matter.’ Front matter includes things like the half-title, the title page, the copyright page, a dedication, acknowledgements, a table of contents, and perhaps other things such as an epigraph, a preface, an introduction, or a prologue. The back matter can include an index, an appendix, and other material that doesn’t belong in the meat of the book, but that you’d like to include to feel you have a complete book.

First, let’s break down what front and back matter should include and how to make them look professional and appropriate. We’ll begin by tackling the different types of front matter you can choose to include.

 

  • Half Title –  As writers, you’re probably (and hopefully!) avid readers yourself, so you know that typically the first page of a book tends to just contain the title of the book. No author name, no other clutter, just a straightforward, bold texted title.
  • Title Page – The title page will also include the title of the book, but it will also include a subtitle (if you have one), the author’s name, as well as the name of the publishing company of the book. Other details that are often found on this page would be the location of the publishing house, the year the book was published, and perhaps even an illustration.
  • Copyright Page – You’ll usually find the copyright page by simply flipping the title page, and it will have a copyright notice, edition information, cataloging data, publication information, legal notices, and your book’s ISBN.
  • Dedication Page – This page will typically follow your copyright page and can be as simple as…

 

For my dearest mother Mary: R.I.P.

Or they can be witty…

“I dedicate this book to George W. Bush, my Commander-in-Chief, whose impressive career advancement despite remedial language skills inspired me to believe that I was capable of authoring a book.”

Pedram Amini, ‘Fuzzing: Brute Force Vulnerability Discovery’

Or they can be touching…

“Dear Pat,

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”

I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”

“What for?”

“To put things in.”

“What kind of things?”

“Whatever you have,” you said.

Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts- the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.

And still the box is not full.”

–John Steinbeck, ‘East of Eden

 

  • Acknowledgements Page – This is where you can express your appreciation for all of those who helped you create the book.
  • Table of Contents – The table of contents is where you list all the major divisions within your book, more often than not in the form of chapters. The length of your book will determine how detailed your table of contents will need to be–a longer book will typically require a more detailed table of contents to assist your reader in navigating the piece.
  • Epigraph – An epigraph is a quotation that you can choose to devote an entire page to (usually facing the table of contents), or that you can choose to put at the start of the first chapter.
  • Preface – A preface is place for the author to explain how the book came into being and is often signed and dated by the author.
  • Introduction – Here the author can explain the goals of the work, place the work in context, or explain the organization and scope of the work.
  • Prologue – A prologue is told from the voice of a character in the book, and not the author’s own. It is typically used in a piece of fiction to set the scene for the story that is about to unfold.

As for the back matter of your book,

  • Index – An index will act as a guide to the book itself; it provides an alphabetized list of terms in the text and will indicate where in the text these terms were used.
  • Appendix – An appendix will provide supplementary details about your book such as corrections, updates, and details.

 

Now these are merely suggestions for what you can choose to include in the front and back matter of your book. What is most important is that what you do include looks professional and is well formatted. Pick up multiple books from your shelf and take a look at the front and back matter for a point of reference. While you’ve probably skipped over it on most books you’ve read, think how much more legitimate books with these sections look than books without them. These parts of publishing may seem tedious, but as I’ve said before, they are what will transform your manuscript into a book.


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 selfpublishingadvice@gmail.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. ♠


Kelly

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

From the Archives: “Self-Publishing Ripple Effect Marketing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

∗∗∗∗∗

[ Originally posted: May 27th, 2010 ]

Think of self-publishing book marketing as a marathon, not a sprint. Plan the journey, prepare to work, pace yourself, and not become discouraged when you the bear jumps on your back. Your second wind is right around the corner.

Unlike blockbuster books like Harry Potter, which sell 90% of their copies in the first 90 days of release, an independently published book is often the opposite – not surprising since titles like Harry Potter make up a percent of a percent of all books published. It takes time to build awareness. Sales may start slowly, but can climb over time if you persistently market your book.

If you’ve yet to nail down a specific marketing plan, I suggest starting in your own hometown. Build a Tribe. Attract the interest and readers of people in your inner circle before you focus on your neighborhood. Then, focus on your neighborhood before concentrating on your city. Next your state and region, etc. This is known as the ripple effect.

It applies to both online and traditional marketing tactics.

“The history of the ripple effect, or butterfly effect,” writes Brian Bass of the Houston Chronicle, “precedes the modern forms of technology that today commonly utilize this phenomenon. The theory essentially represents the idea that what happens in one place at one time can have effects on another place at a later time.”  According to Bass, when applied to the world of marketing, the ripple effect is taken to mean “subtly plac[ing] a brand or product front and center in the minds of consumers. A company can achieve this ripple effect through hype, dialog or opinions that the company creates about its products. The ripple effect of marketing states that this attention will generate more attention, benefiting the company.”  The emphasis may be mine, but the words really do speak for themselves. Ripple effect marketing is marketing that builds on itself.

ripple effect

But what about in the context of self-publishing?  Our original post back in 2010 wasn’t far off when it proposed Harry Potter as an exercise in the exact opposite–particularly if we’re talking about the later books in the franchise, once the series had picked up steam.  Nobody needed to generate interest in those books–the interest was already there, built-in, and marketing was simply a way to activate it.  The ripple effect was completely unnecessary.

The average self-publishing author–and the average midlist traditionally-published author, for that matter, if we’re being honest–needs the ripple effect because the average self-publishing author is starting from the ground up.  With a limited budget, and a limited supply of time and energy to see them through.  So why ripple effect marketing?  Because its core principle is efficiency.  You simply can’t find any other marketing theory that so effectively and efficiently makes use of what has gone before, and incorporates all of your individual strengths while pruning away marketing strategies that don’t work for you.

Think of this diagram:

ripple effect

As this BrightEdge diagram demonstrates, your marketing performance (that is, how many books you sell) is the direct product of the convergence between what you yourself create in terms of digital presence (“owned” media) and what you pay for others to create (“paid” media).  The core content–your book–has a lot to do with your success, but so does your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), your finesse with social media, and your means of distribution (the diagram is referring to software, so its visual equivalent here is the Applied Program Interface, or “API”).  The marketing process is simultaneously both linear and circular, with self-referencing feedback.  And the key to making it work?  Optimizing, optimizing, optimizing.  Which essentially means backing up and posing the question “Is this helping?  Why or why not?  And how can I make it better?” at each and every step.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

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

The Book Beautiful: Illustrations

We all started out reading illustrated children’s books; perhaps your parents would read the words as your eyes were captivated by the images of a hungry caterpillar, the Berenstain bears, a Curious little George, etc. As we grow older, however, it’s probably not too often that the books we fill our time with have accompanying illustrations. Nevertheless, it has not always been the case that book for adults went unillustrated. Charles Dickens, for example, was known to have very close relationships with his illustrators, to whom he would give plot outlines before he’d even written the text itself. So while it’s easy to pull up references to colorful children’s books illustrations, that is not to say that they don’t have a valid and important place in other genres of books geared toward young adults and adults as well.

curious george illustration

So you want to write an illustrated book? First of all, don’t look at the illustrations to an illustrated book as supplemental, but as a crucial aspect to the themes you are trying to convey. Images help augment the reader’s imaginative experience, they make a book fun and easier to read, and they definitely help hold on to the reader’s attention.

There are certain genres that illustrations or photographs seem to be an obvious and necessary accompaniment–cookbooks, DIY-books, textbooks, autobiographies and biographies, and as we’ve previously mentioned, children’s books. The illustrations for a cookbook could simply be photographs of the final result of your recipe, and for a DIY-book they could be drawings or photographs of the different steps of the project your book conveys. If you’re writing an autobiography or a biography, photographs of the subject throughout their life or at pivotal moments in their life will help the reader further identify with the subject as a person rather than as a character in a story whom they have to fabricate an image of in their mind. As far as children’s books goes, the adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t really apply–kids will always judge a book by its cover and they will be inevitably more drawn to eye-catching, colorful illustrations.

Quantity is another important consideration to make as far as illustrations go. For a young-adult book, one illustration per chapter will usually suffice, while a children’s book should probably have one illustration per page. With a children’s book then, layout becomes another consideration–will your images be a full-page spread, or will they be next to, above, or below the text? If you’re writing a biography or an autobiography, you may want to have your photographs placed at the relevant points in your text–for example, your subject won the Olympic gold medal and here is a picture of her doing just that. OR, you could have a center panel with multiple pages of photographs and use footnotes in the text that will direct the reader to the relevant images that they can flip to easily.

Now, assuming that you yourself are not going to illustrate your own book (not to at all doubt your artistic abilities), the question of how to get your book illustrated become important. Outskirts Press offers custom, full-color illustrations for authors, even if they haven’t published through our company. By using this service, you can be sure that you’ll never have to split royalties with an artist, a cost that is always nice to avoid. Remember, no matter who you choose to illustrate your book, that quality illustrations are going to be a very important factor in the marketing value of your book.


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 selfpublishingadvice@gmail.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. ♠


Kelly

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

In Your Corner: Partnering With Bloggers

Or, How to Find Others Who Care As Much As You Do

And therein lies the rub.  There will never be another person out there to whom your book will mean the same thing that it means to you, the self-publishing author–but as our current president is wont to say on tour in Australia, “we have faced our share of sticky wickets!” (Don’t worry if you haven’t watched a game of cricket in your life … this is where I end my allusions to that game.)  There will be other people out there–readers and other authors and self-publishing aficionados alike–to whom your book means a great deal.  Just, you know, in different ways.

And some of them will run blogs.

No, wait, that’s a very important detail!  Blogs sell books.  More specifically, blogs have collectively served as the underground advertising board (and yes, market) for self-published books since the dawn of the internet.  It has proven to be a mutually beneficial relationship, borne out of the early years of both blogging as a digital platform; think how LiveJournal and MySpace and, yes, WordPress were all coming into being around the same time as the modern incarnation of the self-published book–and the ebook.  Blogging was a celebration of the freedom of expression of the highest order, and self-publishing was a reaction against excessive control and gatekeeping by the traditional publishing institution.  Many bloggers became self-publishing authors, and vise versa.  They were made for each other.

blogging

The mutually beneficial relationship continues today, as lists like “52 Great Blogs for Self-Publishers” by Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer illustrate.  “Book bloggers love to read books and to recommend them to their own followers,” writes Alan Rinzler, a consulting editor with former entanglements at Harvard and The New York Times.  He takes an in-depth look at the story of self-publishing megastar Amanda Hocking, whose books sold in the millions, reminding his followers–in, yes, a blog post–that they “collectively build markets that can reach millions of potential readers and can turn books into bestsellers. As serious and discerning critics and social networkers, these book lovers have formed regional and national organizations and established huge databases, including this searchable list of more than 1,400 bloggers.”  It’s not ironic that Rinzler uses his own blog to discuss this; really, it’s incredibly easy to find bloggers who care about self-publishing enough to use their personal blogs to discuss it.

What’s hard is finding the right blog to help you sell your books.  And by “sell,” I mean the word in both a transactive and a persuasive sense.  You want someone who believes in your book–not just a passing mention or two.  To find your blogsoulmate, I recommend following a few simple steps.

  1. Dig a little.  If you’ve found us here at Self-Publishing Advisor, I’m going to go out on a limb and venture a guess that you’ve done your research.  At the very least, you’re handy with Google and WordPress.  That’s all you need to get started.  Dig around a bit and increase your exposure to the types of blogs out there.  We feature reviews of self-published books once a week, but we do a lot of other things, too, and many of our bloggers have close ties to one specific self-publishing company.  Other blogs might feature only one blogger with no ties to the industry itself, but who maybe posts multiple reviews a week.  Write yourself up a list of blog names that catch your interest, either in tone or reach.
  2. Take part in the conversation.  Every blog has a comments section, unless someone ran wild and posted something offensive in the past and thereby forced the blogrunner to disable this feature.  Whether the blog is on WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, or somewhere else, the whole point of its existance is to engender conversation.  Sign yourself up for a profile if you need to, or use the handy “Google Sign-In” or “Facebook Sign-In” options to comment.  As a blogger, I can tell you that replies are always awesome, and they are indicators of where real interest lies.  I guarantee a blogger will take note if you interact with their posts on a regular basis, unless they have something on the order of a trillion commenters already.  But that, too, is useful information.  You want to engage withy communities where you’ll be noticed–so if you feel overwhelmed or lost, that might be a sign to pick a different blog with a slightly more manageable following.
  3. Ask for things.  You know, once you’ve established a toe-hold in the community, don’t be afraid to ask for those things you really want–book reviews, interviews, the blog equivalent of a public service announcement.  Everything helps.  Don’t be afraid of rejection; the worst that can happen is the blogger says “no,” and there are plenty of bloggers out there, so it’s not the end of the road.  In fact, since you’re looking for a believer and not just any blogger, nos are simply the most efficient way to whittle down your options to the best ones.  Once you’ve got a couple of blogs interested in your work, step it up and ask for a blog tour.
  4. Don’t be afraid of the money question.  Sometimes, you might really need the boost that a paid service provides.  It’s a question of weighing the benefits against the expenditure, and determining whether A) you can afford it, and B) it fills a need.  In my personal experience, most indie authors don’t like to consider this option until they’ve run out of other options–and understandably.  I get it, I really do.  Self-publishing is one high-wire act after another, and money is always tight.  But I’ve seen a lot of authors who really could or even would have benefited from a promotional campaign like the one my company and many other companies offer–all of which come with promotion on the company’s official blog, with an extensive reach indeed–but who waited until they’d exhausted all other options.  Like a lot of other components to your marketing campaign, paid promotion should be on the table early and woven organically into the rest of your strategies.

That’s it!  Four steps!  Each of them relies on you to take initiative, which may or may not prove exhausting, but I hope you know one simple thing:

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: The Voice in Your Ear

Or, When to Call for Help

“Your book isn’t just a product,” wrote my fellow Self-Publishing Advisor blogger Kelly back in February.  “It is, in every way and shape and form, an investment.”  She was in the middle of her Marketing B.A.S.I.C.S. series (which holds up well over time, I have to say) at the time, and put together an eloquent defense for those of us who feel the sting of the stigma wrapped around the whole notion of seeking help and advice within the self-publishing world.  We all have felt it, that little itch at the back of our mind, that but you were supposed to be D-I-Ying this! protest sparking our neurons into a frenzy of self-doubt.

There are a lot of myths about seeking help, which Kelly did a pretty good job of dispelling; I want to talk a little about what form that help might take, and specifically I want to talk about a little job title called “Personal Marketing Assistant.”  Or at least, that’s what they’re called by my employer, Outskirts Press (which I feel compelled to be transparent about).  I don’t know what some other companies like Dog Ear title this position, but they’re fundamental to our self-publishing model: in short, they’re the person you talk to on the phone when you’re trying to figure out which service bundle best fits your needs, and what the next steps are to put together a really kicking marketing campaign.  The difference is, perhaps, that at Outskirts we recognize just how vital this voice in your ear can be–so we offer 30-minute to 5-hour conversations with one of our Personal Marketing Assistants as a dedicated service.  There are a lot of reasons why this is a good thing, but ultimately they boil down to: it’s good for our PMAs themselves (to receive public recognition as integral parts of our work) and it’s good for our customers (who can be assured of reaching someone as committed to their project’s success as they are).

A Personal Marketing Assistant comes in most handy, you might have guessed, once you already have your book put together and ready to go.  They are the sort of person you want by your side when you’re putting together a marketing plan or arranging a book signing, developing your author platform or following up on marketing campaign leads.  But a good PMA–no matter which company you elect to self-publish with–will do far more for you than just talk.  A good PMA gets his or her hands dirty with your project, and does a lot of the heavy lifting for those of you who need and ask for the intervention.  This is because you don’t pay them for inspiring words or even just plain good advice.  You pay them to help, and sometimes helping looks like direct involvement.  They are your extra arms and legs, fan extension of your vision for your book.  For the most part, they’re truly gifted and empathetic individuals who got into this business because they thrive on coming alongside others and helping get the job done–helping others realize their dreams.

Q: So when do you call for this kind of help?

A: Whenever you need to.  Whenever you want to.  The stigma associated with asking for help makes it difficult for a lot of us to admit we need help, and it more or less silences those of us who simply want help.  Maybe we can do the job all by ourselves.  But maybe we don’t want to.  Maybe we have the skill set to market our book, technically, but we know we could get a lot more done–maybe around the house, maybe starting our next book–if we cede some of the workload to an expert who is paid to be an expert.  I don’t just want to kick the stigma of asking for help when we need it; I want to bring us back to that foundational self-publishing ethos that says ‘We’re here and self-publishing because we want the power to do exactly what we want without being policed by an agent or publisher.’ Want is as critical a component of self-publishing as need, and I think we forget that.

So: do a little research.  Does your self-publishing company offer the chance to talk to a Personal Marketing Assistant?  Good.  Now, do you want or need a little advice on what to do next?  You go and get it.  And I’ll be right here to cheer you on!

marketing assistant

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.