The Self-Published Author and Marketing

It’s Monday morning and I’m beginning the day with coffee and blogging. I tap away on my little Linux-powered netbook and I squint at my cell phone as I use these tools to shape my social media presence. Facebook, Twitter, this blog and several profiles on some self-publishing forums constitute my marketing department. This is the life of a self-published author. The big publishing houses have dedicated staff for what I am doing on my own. I am in business for myself. The moment I made the decision to publish my novel, I entered into the business of publishing. This is a much different pursuit than writing.

Twitter is my newspaper ad. Facebook is my billboard. This blog is my magazine article. Media of the previous generation can be roughly analogized by these online tools. The difference between new and old media is the level of access and control available to the individual. I am both a consumer and producer of value on social networks. Call me late to the game, but I am realizing how much power these tools offer for simply the cost of an internet connection and a computing device. I can create and harvest massive amounts of data. The challenge now is to turn that data into information I can use to promote my book.

While access to the basic forms of these tools are offered free of charge, they are really massive pots of raw material sitting just inside the corporate door. Users of the social media can dip into that pot. We are exchanging data for access to these social networks and all participants can benefit. The thoughts we deposit into social media become marketable data to the companies that run these networks. The alchemy everyone is hoping for should turn that data into gold. This is what everyone is trying to do. My challenge is finding the right social media formula to promote my book.

I’m just getting started with Facebook. To be forthcoming, I should confess that I left Facebook three years ago because I got tired of pictures of tanned legs at the beach, images of Thai meals, inane political arguments and general tripe. But now that I am going into business as a DIY publisher, Facebook makes much more sense. It is a tool to harvest attention. The value of Facebook and Twitter is derived from the information they provide. So, to channel Colbert; I am social media and so can you.

When my WordPress plugin makes a scheduled tweet, I can look at my Twitter feed to see how many impressions are made with that tweet. I can see how many responses there were and I can fire up TweetDeck to filter tweets by conversation. I can measure the attention I’m getting and take appropriate action. Now I have to figure out what the appropriate action should be. It is dawning on my that I may have to spend a bit of money to get thing started.

I could let all this happen organically. As I gain followers on Twitter, my tweets are noticed more. This is happening slowly, and I can see my tweets are gradually gaining more impressions as the follower count grows. But why wait? I am uncertain whether or not there is an expiry date on the little bit of traction my book has gained in the three weeks since it hit the Amazon market. Rankings and ratings on Amazon matter. So my solution is to pay for the attention.

Quite a few other people have figured this all out before me. I will gratefully pay some of them to promote my book. Right now, I am breaking even. I am taking all the money earned from royalties and spending it on promotion. The next phase of this grand experiment is to attach my social media presence to others that are more developed. One of the primary goals of self-publishing is to bypass the gatekeepers. For better or worse, there are new gatekeepers.

I am an author because I wrote a book and published that book. My goal, which was once simply a dream, is to become a working author who makes a living from writing science fiction. The bridge from dream to goal involves marketing and promotion and this is a business. It is now up to me to learn how to use a vast array of social media tools to earn an audience. If this means spending a bit of money for placement on a blog or for a mention on a Facebook page, so be it.

The experiment continues. Stay tuned . . .