Waiting to Self-Publish

A couple of months ago I decided to accept that I needed an official cover artist, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Recently I also accepted that it was time to hire a professional editor as well. Coming to terms with spending the money was the first hurdle (along with accepting that I couldn’t do it all myself). But the second hurdle is the waiting.

The editor I’ve chosen is popular (with good reason) so I’ve had to put my plans for unrolling the rewritten first book in The Conjurors Series, along with the almost-finished second book until 2014. That means that the entire series might come out in the same year. It’s so hard to hold back my beautiful new cover and rewrites until I’m really ready to promote the series. It’s also hard to keep the momentum going to begin writing the third book in the series as well, which I planned to release in the late spring/early summer.

All newbie mistakes, I suspect. But it does leave me wondering what other surprises are in store for me in the beguiling world of self-publishing.

For those who have self-published a book, what unexpected hurdles did you run into?

5 Ways to Promote Your Self-Published Book Locally

shutterstock_156141578When researching how to market The Conjurors Series, I’ve read hundreds of articles on building a social media presence, leveraging Amazon, and where to list my novel as an e-book and a print book. But an excellent blog post by The Writing Teacher got me thinking about some local ways to get the word out when you self-publish. After all, you probably have an existing, strong network of people within their community who might be willing to help you promote your book if you ask. I did a little digging and found some useful ways to tap into your local community to market your book.

Talk to Nearby Libraries
Aside from agreeing to carry your book, many local libraries are eager to host readings by authors in the community. Many libraries welcome professional, high-quality books that are donated, and even have shelf space set aside for local authors. To increase your chances of being carried, have friends and family stop by the library and request your book. Libraries take requests seriously, and if your book is in demand they will be more likely to be open to displaying your book prominently. On a related note, I also read a recent blog post by Author Media that suggested having readings of your book at other places in your community, such as retirement communities, churches, and schools.

Pitch to Local Press
At first it seemed far-fetched to me that any local news channel, radio station or paper would consider covering a local writer. And it’s true that when you are completely unknown, it’s harder to get the attention of even your local media. But as you build buzz for your book by participating in events in your community, a well-crafted pitch may attract the attention of a reporter. Put together a high-quality media kit and you may be surprised by the response. For tips on what to include and how to put it together check out this post by The Alliance of Independent Authors.

Approach Local Businesses
Aside from independent bookstores in your community, many other businesses are open to selling books in a section of their store. Small grocers and magazine stands often have novels and other books available, and some even have sections for local authors. Consider offering these businesses a discount in order to entice them to carry your book. It is especially critical that your book be available at local vendors after promoting it with local press. You want people to see your book while it’s still top-of-mind for them.

Set Up a Booth at Local Events
Craft fairs, flea markets, county fairs and even farmer’s markets are all venues to get your face and book in the public eye. Don’t be afraid to list times for readings of excerpts of your story, or, if it’s nonfiction, possibly a demonstration or discussion on tips regarding a certain topic. Another option that is sure to attract crowds is a giveaway. Have potential readers put their name and contact information in a bowl, and having a drawing for free books at a designated time. That way, you can reach out to the entrants who didn’t win by offering an e-book version of your book at a reduced cost (or free).

Sponsor a Local Cause
Rather than teaming up with a random local cause, consider these two options. First, search for a cause that is related to your book. For example, I write YA fantasy, so I plan to look for organizations that support educating disadvantaged youth in the community. I can donate proceeds from my book to the cause and also give it away to the organization for the students they support to read. A second consideration is teaming up with another local group, like a band, who also support a cause. There is power in numbers, and by teaming up you’ll reach an expanded network of potential readers.

Have you ever promoted your book locally? If so, what techniques did you use and how successful were you?

The Curse of the Whiny Protagonist

shutterstock_148391531I’ll never forget reading book 5 of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Suddenly, sunny, kind little Harry was a brooding teenager. I remember thinking that I didn’t like him as much anymore. I understood that he was evolving as a character, and part of being a teenager is embracing angst – especially if you’ve just witnessed first-hand the death of a classmate. But his likeability factor plummeted. Of course, in spite of this change, this book is still incredible. I cried at the end. But it always stayed with me as the one book in the series where Harry didn’t feel like Harry.

So you’d think I learned a lesson from reading that, but after sending the second book in The Conjurors Series to beta readers, everyone said the same thing. My protagonist, Valerie, was too angst-ridden. And as I re-read and made edits, I realized they were right. Low self-esteem is part of her character, but it was over-the-top. Maybe massive low self-doubt is a natural part of being a teenage girl, but it didn’t read well in a heroine.

That’s when I realized that we don’t want to read about people who are exactly like everyone we meet in daily life. We want heroines who are exceptional, who, in spite of their flaws, rise above petty concerns and are capable of a depth of compassion or bravery or intelligence that we hope we are capable of, but we know most people aren’t. Maybe this isn’t true for every genre, but I truly believe the best YA fantasy books I’ve read all adhere to this idea in their protagonist. Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior – I could go on and on – all tap into the best versions of themselves under difficult circumstances.

That being said, I know this opinion isn’t one that everyone shares. The Twilight Series or even The Catcher in the Rye prove that you can be successful with a whiny protagonist who is written well. But I confess that these books are not on my favorites list. However, if you do love super-angsty protagonists, check out this Goodreads list on popular whiny protagonists – it gave me a good chuckle. It’s a definite counterpoint to the heroes I mentioned above, and proof that in the hands of a skilled writer, any protagonist can be compelling.

Of course, the danger is going to the opposite extreme and making protagonists too perfect – something that can be equally annoying. Finding that tricky balance with my own heroine is something that evolves with every chapter I write. Hopefully, after hundreds of hours of writing and edits, Valerie will come across as a real, but exceptional, teenage girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances who rises to the challenges she encounters.