Anyone in the writing and publishing industry will attest to the fact that writing a book, investing all the agonising hours and stressing about everything else that has gone awry in your life as a direct consequence thereof, are the easiest part of the journey (just don’t tell the author this just as they have finished their first draft). Unknown debut authors will confirm wholeheartedly that the publication and marketing are the hardest part that nobody really prepares you for. It is all well and good if you have an agent and are under the wings of a traditional publisher, but for authors who chose to go with independent, hybrid or self publishing, it is an almost impossible task to break into a market that is overflowing with material with every possible variation.
Having chosen to go with hybrid publishing, I experienced a huge learning curve when it came to marketing, and not all of it successful. Nevertheless, for the next book I now know better and am not likely to make the same mistakes, all of which I wish someone had told me about beforehand. Since there is no point in crying over spilled milk, I might as well straighten those shoulders and march forward.
Shortcuts, illusions and delusions – they are all posted sentinels in this crazy world of writing, but will they be fruitful and successful? There is no magic formula to success, so allow me to demystify a three notions:
A huge social media following is the key to large sales: Sorry babe, it doesn’t work that way. Only the smallest fraction of your social media buddies will be willing to shell out for your book in spite of all the likes and praises on your posts, and I say this with bitterness because many authors will find that sometimes you won’t even be able to sell the book to family or close friends. Here’s the clincher: our society has devolved so much that social media activity takes precedence over reading books, even e-books. When was the last time you saw a Gen Z actually sit and read a book that wasn’t a mandatory text book or part of a book report? Anything that can’t be read in under three minutes and is part of a timeline will be discarded, and even the Millenials are falling into this category at an alarming rate. It is only the Xenials backwards that you will easily convince.
E-Books are the way to go: If personal branding and image promotion as an author is not a top priority and you are happy to simply hide behind the virtual reality of an ebook, then yes, but where is the fun in that and the sense of achievement? Take it from one who is a ghostwriter on the side, many of these ebooks are not even written by the so-called authors themselves. A solid tangible book to hold in your hand will always give you bragging rights, among the audience, readership, fellow authors, and most certainly the critics. I have encountered some who tried their luck with the ebook first and then ventured into a paperback or hardcover. Usually the publisher will release both at the same time if the author so wishes, at least for traditional, hybrid and independent publishing.
Paid reviews increase sales: this is a mixed bag. There are some big names in the industry that will certainly boost your visibility, but not necessarily sales. These reviews do not come cheap, so that calls for a pretty generous budget with a huge risk. Go with a test reader circle first, then seek out friends, colleagues, fellow authors, to give you an honest review and decide which ones to publish on your website. The reviews you get from book recommendation platforms has pretty much the same effect as social media. It may increase your visibility but rarely translates into sales.
Up until recently I bemoaned the difficulty of landing a literary agent. Then COVID-19 struck this year and all hell has broken loose in the industry. Sales of books are at their lowest worldwide, in spite of the fact that everyone was stuck at home, and all promotional events have been cancelled. Authors are turning to creative ways of promoting the book online with little hope of covering these efforts into sales towards the end of the year. Even my beloved Sunset Shadows has taken a bashing and will be moved to 2021, for a more realistic outcome. I don’t dare publish it this year at all, the Feng Shui is all wrong.