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Visibility

Now that Tempt the Ocean is a published book, who will to read it?

For an author whose superpower is invisibility, marketing a new book that no one has heard about proves a serious challenge. I could panic, but all solid wisdom suggests that building a following takes time. There is no shortcut (short of pre-established fame). Hence, the only answer is to find a way to enjoy the building process, and embrace the adage of journey over destination.

Branding and social media are huge concepts that can’t be conquered overnight. However, I thought I would present a short whirlwind tour of where I have set foot on the information superhighway—aka the tubular express—as a map to others, and talk a little about how I am using those sites to spread the word. Some of the sites are still works in progress, so bear with me. All of the sites either come up frequently in marketing discussions or have been recommended by other authors. All of them offer some variation of cross-pollination.

WordPress

If you are reading this post you are probably familiar with WordPress. There are other great blogging sites as well, but WordPress is where I started and where I’m comfortable. I use my WordPress Blog as my official site. My biggest challenge is to post regularly and consistently, at which I am not always successful. I am now adding two dedicated author pages to my site, one for each of my writing identities. Since publishing, I have added visibility by including a direct link at the top of the sidebar to Tempt the Ocean (remember: PROMOTE YOUR BOOK wherever possible), and every new blog post shows up on both my Amazon author page (see below) and my Facebook author page (see below).

Facebook

Before publishing, I created an author page for Agnès de Savigny on Facebook.  I can post directly to the Facebook page, as with my personal Facebook page, while followers (readers!) and other guests can post to a visitor’s tab. I can pin any post to the top of the feed, which I have done with the announcement of Tempt the Ocean‘s release (remember: make your book as EASY TO FIND as possible). The site includes a bio, and a link back to my WordPress blog as my “official” site. Through Facebook I created and shared my Tempt the Ocean launch event. All of my WordPress posts and Twitter tweets (see below) show up in my feed as well. Facebook has now added a Goodreads tab for those who have a Goodreads account (see below).

Twitter

I swore the attraction of the 140 character post would fizzle out. In a sense I was right, but my own determination to not be a party to it fizzled out, too. As Agnès de Savigny, I posted my first tweet this year, and unlike my nasty blogging habits, I continue to tweet almost daily. Twitter is a perfect avenue for following and conversing with other authors on the fly, as well as publicizing little moments to readers. My Twitter page features a mini bio and a link to my home page (for now, my author page on Amazon, where my book is listed). To boost my visibility, my Twitter feed appears on both my Facebook author page and my Amazon author page (see below).

Goodreads

Goodreads, a popular site built for and fuelled by readers, has become an essential site for independent authors. The site provides a great place for authors to connect directly with readers, and to share ideas with other writers (via forums and groups). Only published authors are eligible to create an author page on Goodreads—and now that Tempt the Ocean has published, Agnès de Savigny is a Goodreads author. The Agnès de Savigny Goodreads author page includes a forum to respond to reader questions, a blog, a link to all editions of all my published book(s), and a link back to my WordPress site. My author photo remains a white silhouette for now. The unstifled howls of laughter from the boyfriend at seeing the photo I used on Amazon have inspired me to hold off until I acquire a better image of myself as Agnès. Goodreads also hosts a dedicated page for Tempt the Ocean, inviting Goodreads users to post their own ratings and reviews.

Amazon

Amazon, through which I chose to publish, offers a home page to each of its authors on each of its mothership sites (i.e. UK, US, Japan, Germany, etc). The author pages are not linked to each other, making it necessary to build a new page for each host site. I built an author page for Agnès de Savigny on both Amazon.com and Amazon UK. (The Canadian branch of Amazon does not host author pages.) Besides a bio, a link to Tempt the Ocean, and a forum for reader discussions, the American site includes the feed from my WordPress blog, plus my Twitter feed.

Whew! That encompasses a lot of internet and social media flow, with the goal of picking up traffic at each site like a lumbering stage coach. Time will tell as to its success as a strategy.

Sticking to online publicity alone is ill-advised all over. Authors, especially new ones, have to get out and meet people and do book signings and speaking engagements and book talks, etc to really build a following—a frightening prospect for those of us who suffer from stage fright and/or anxiety and/or depression. Ultimately any means of spreading the word is useful. Jane Friedman recently re-posted an interview with literary agent April Eberhardt that concludes with the above advice, noting that “authors carry copies of their books and show them to people.” What a novel idea.

Next week: An excerpt from my current work-in-progress, the sweeping 18th century melodramatic epic Servitude.

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The Publishing Plan

I have scoured self-publishing resources and advice blogs in detail for the past few weeks. I sifted through the information and put together a kind of business plan. I wanted to know the balance between what money I could expect to spend vs. what sort of return I can hope for. I also needed to learn the minimum amount of my own money required to publish a first novel by myself.

There are more ways than one to publish a book. Obviously, the bigger the scope, the more expensive the prospect. A straight upload to Kindle using Amazon’s own cover artwork can cost nothing. Going to print, even on demand, ups the cost (if one follows the most common piece of advice out there—hire a professional to tackle the cover work and layout). Several more articles suggested that any book worth buying must also have an audio book component. An audio book requires booking a recording studio for the time it takes to read one’s own manuscript without errors, then pay for the mixing and editing and final audio file formatting. I’m not going to attempt that. At least not at this moment.

A print edition would be satisfying, but to do professionally does come at a cost. I broke down the costs for the minimum quality of print edition I would be willing to offer, and reached an amount of $1700. That’s not unreasonable, and I’d only need to sell 215 copies at $12 to make that back. But what if no one wanted to buy a print edition? I love the promise of holding a tangible printed softcover in my hands, breathing in that sweet smell of freshly printed ink on paper, and being able to say, “I wrote this!” But… I’m not willing to burn that money before I know I have a chance to earn it back. I’ve gone that route before with a short film I made. That film cost much more than $2000 and I never earned a cent of it back. So I’m a little gun-shy with investing in myself, however much I believe.

I have determined that the best approach is to publish in phases, the way a real estate project unfolds. I have the means and the resources to publish electronically now. That puts the novel out there immediately and available for sale. I have to market the book (and myself) properly, but if I do it right and manage to achieve even limited book sales, I can put the proceeds towards phase 2: Print on Demand.

If the book sales achieve dream phase, I will take the other piece of wise advice and put the money towards an audio-book edition.

The conclusion: Approach everything professionally. You are the publisher, and you want to earn the respect of the book buying public on the same level that you want to earn the respect of the reader as an author. This means taking as much time as is necessary to polish what you are offering and how you are offering it. And expect the process to take some time.

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A Resolution

The most common writer’s advice out there seems to be “Write. Write every day. Write about anything.”

Despite this being January, my latest resolve comes not as a New Year’s joke on myself but as a result of demanding an hour of writing every day via my calendar’s task list. Of course, because I am lazy and forgetful, I don’t always look at my task list. Or worse, I skip the part about writing for an hour because it scares me. What if I fail to write anything? What if I succeed? My writing task ranks first on my list of things to do—right at the top where I can easily ignore it every day.

Only lately I haven’t been ignoring it.

The practice of writing every day has crept up on me without my being conscious of it—not because I’ve embraced working on a manuscript every day or added to my writing blog, but because more often than not I have something to write about somewhere. I am learning that writing every day is not only possible but actually enjoyable. I post regularly to my photo journal. I finished a fifth draft of my romance novel and handed it off to a writer friend to read and an editing friend to do a quick review. It feels great to have something that’s ready to share and to get some serious feedback. Another friend’s recommendation to submit to a local magazine contest inspired me to pull a story I liked from a travel journal of mine and give it a fresh spin. A year ago I started a dream journal, partly due to curiosity about what the tag cloud would reveal of my subconscious. The biggest theme tag word so far? Danger.

My writing blog meanwhile, meant to reflect my experiences on the path to publication (no one can accuse being of not being optimistic), remains untouched for the past eighteen months. I can blame the lack of contributions on the pressures of life, but part of the blame must go to the apathy of disappointment: I never heard back from the agent; my writer’s group disbanded; I resigned from Torontoist (reluctantly) due to the constraints of studying at the time; my sweet short story suffered rejection at the hands of an activist rag. I stopped actively trying to publish. I stopped writing about trying to publish. I stopped writing.

Recently, two sources of inspiration reignited the desire to return to my writing blog. The first happened when I meandered through the projects folder on my laptop and rediscovered my “blog ideas” folder. I had intended at one time to develop different blogs, each dedicated to their own themes like “Subway Stories” or “Things I Can’t Have.” I pondered whether or not WordPress limited the number of blogs instead of asking a better question: Am I spreading myself too thin? The answer of course is yes. It’s one of my biggest problems. The second source of inspiration came from the discovery of Flash Fiction. Flash Fiction has been around for years, but being introduced to the challenge of crafting a complete and tight story in very short form has been liberating, especially when those stories can embrace any genre of fiction and erupt from so many varieties of brilliant prompts.

I have resolved to incorporate all my writing blog ideas into one writing blog. I may write about seeking a more appropriate avenue for my travel story. I may write a piece of short fiction. Or I may write about Helper Monkeys. But I will write. And if anyone is actually reading this, feel free to add your comments of encouragement.

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