Tuesday, September 13, 2011

So I'm Published: Now What?

The Nativity of St. Genevieve was published in August via Smashwords. I paid attention and did the formatting correctly on the first try, so I got into the Apple and Barnes & Noble listings within a week or two. Since then I've sold maybe 4 or 5 books. Pretty soon though, I'm going to run out of close friends and aunts and uncles. So the question is, what now?

I've been reading all the advice about self-pubbing for the last six months or so, ever since my boyfriend saw an article about Konrath on slashdot and said, "Hey, you remember that novel you were writing?". So I have something of an idea of what I should be doing. Let's look at the list of recommendations, and see what I have done, what I haven't done, and what I think about it all.

First of all, the publishing itself. I used Smashwords, and I have to say I'm pretty happy with it so far. Somehow, I had missed the fact that they don't have a deal with Amazon yet, which I'll admit I'm slightly miffed about. On the other hand, given the ridiculous ease of use, I'm pretty glad I didn't actually pay someone $300 to format my book. In the future I might go that route, since Smashwords does take royalties, but paying up front for the conversion wouldn't have been a winning proposition until I've sold a lot more books than I have so far. Quite honestly, I think they're a great starter place, especially for people in a situation like the one I'm in: I work for (not very much of a) living, and I don't have the time or money to deal with this stuff. Writing is a de-stresser, something I do in my spare time. If I can make money from it, great. If I can make lots of money from it and quit my job, even better. But things are going to have to go in that order - writing can't be my primary job until I'm making enough at it to quit my actual job. I know that some people would argue that an attitude like that means I'll never make it, but it's just the way the truth stands at the moment.

Now that my books are at two of the three major retailers though, what I really need are some reviews to draw readers in. My sure-fire plan for accomplishing this is to offer review copies on twitter to try and get people to read and post their opinions. We'll see how well this works, though most of my ~200 followers are other authors, most of whom seem to be a really nice bunch when it comes to donating time to other indies.

Speaking of Twitter.  200 followers isn't nearly enough, from what I understand. I know some of the steps I need to take, it's just more time consuming than I realized it would be. I need follow a lot more people, in all of my primary interest communities: writing, steampunk, and crafts. I need to divide these people up into lists and actually take the time to read what they're saying and reply, get involved in conversations, make myself part of the community. Wonderful part about this? I'm chronically shy. Blogs are fine, because there's an anonymity to the reader - I don't have to actually approach someone and push myself at them, I just write things and put them out there for people to happen by if they decide to. Using Twitter effectively is going to take a lot of effort on my part, but it's something I need to put the effort into.

The one thing that does bother me about Twitter is the tendency of some authors to turn their accounts into little more than spam bots that spew out Amazon URLs every few hours. I honestly find that kind of thing vaguely offensive, and while I do follow a few groups that are specifically for that sort of promotion, I tend not to pay very much attention to them, which makes me wonder about their efficacy. I have mixed feelings about joining networks like that, but I expect I may find myself more and more drawn to them as time goes by. If anyone has specific groups that they've had good experiences with, feel free to leave notes in the comments.

Twitter isn't the only way to make oneself visible in the social media spectrum; there's also blogger and facebook. I intend to start writing in this blog more often (work and editing kind of ate my life in July and August), though that may mean that the topics get more and more eclectic as I look for things to write. On the one hand, that may be to the good, as I might attract more varied readership. On the other hand, I might have trouble maintaining a regular readerbase if I'm only writing about something that interests any given person every three weeks or so. We'll have to see how that works out. I've actually seen recommendations that writers not write blogs about writing, but it's on our brains so much I'm not sure how we can avoid it. Facebook... well. I made the mistake of making both a private page and an author page, and now it seems that most people (including myself) can't really tell the difference. Not that I ever intended for the personal page to be really private, but it's a bit frustrating having to double-post to make sure everyone gets information, while knowing that it means some people will get double the spam. This is something I'm going to have to look into how to fix in the future.

The one final thing that I'm doing is spreading my work far and wide. Although I put most of my effort into finishing Genevieve over the last few months, I've also been submitting short stories to various sites, contests, and collections. My hope is that (if accepted) this will help to get my name out there, especially with some of the larger collections I submitted to, like the second Machine of Death compilation from Dinosaur Comics (and dorkily enough, Blizzard Entertainment's annual fanfic contest). If people like those stories, they might look for more that I've written, and they ought to find Genevieve.

As for where I'm going from here? I've noticed on Twitter that people seem much more interested in my Appalachian Steampunk concept than in another alternate history fantasy world. So my next self-publication is going to be a collection of four steampunk short stories, which should be available by Halloween. After that, I'm beginning work on my next novel, which won't be the sequel to Genevieve, but rather the first (as yet untitled) novel in the Mountaineer Free State series, a steampunk concoction set in Civil War Chattanooga. That's the last important thing to remember for bolstering ebook sales: if you haven't got stuff for sale, people can't buy it. So I'm gonna keep on writing.