Cyndy Aleo

Four Little Bees Writing & Editing

author, freelance writing, editing, and a little bit of web development, helping clients with content development, book editing, and blog set-up and customization

Self-publishing when you are broke, Part 4

Subtitle this one: A work in progress or OMG I have no idea here.

Okay, so obviously I’m lying about having no idea. I have a little bit of an idea. A tiny bit of one. Some little gems that hopefully sparkle for those of you, who, like me, have no money and a need to get your book into people’s hands.

1. Social media

I heard that groan! Stop it now!

Here’s the thing: if you aren’t participating in social media before you self-publish your book, you are probably already too late. It’s next to impossible to make up ground when you are simultaneously trying to build your audience and SELL to that audience.

So you should be doing your social media stuff from the second that plot bunny hops into your head.

a. THAT BEING SAID, there are ways to work this. Are you on email? THAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA. Sure, it’s old-school, but it WORKS. You just have to be genuine. Don’t email people with “here buy my book” and definitely don’t spam people (for instance, by emailing every single contact person, including those agents who rejected you). Email the people you think would seriously be interested. Take the tone of “Hey, I did this thing and would love it if you would check it out. NO PRESSURE.”

While obviously, I’d love it if every single person I know bought my book, that’s not realistic. But if every single person I know checks out my book? And maybe brags about it to friends even though they don’t want to read it? Boom. Marketing.

b. Use what you have.

In other words, don’t go out there and sign up for a bunch of things just to try to sell your book. You are going to end up spreading yourself too thin, and the time you spend won’t be justified in sales, in all likelihood. Odds are, if you’re reading this post, you’re either on tumblr or Goodreads (or know someone else who is). Or you found it through Twitter. USE THOSE, but don’t be spammy. Be yourself, and limit the number of times you post your pitch.

Facebook is the devil, but the cool thing is that the people on there are probably your actual friends and family. Who want you to succeed. Or they are people who hated your guts in high school but will be more than happy to pimp your book based on the “I know this person” idea if it takes off. Take advantage of that good will.

The other great part about those folks? They’ll often be honest about things. They’ll point out typos or complain you don’t have a dead-tree version of your book. Listen to them.

2. The dreaded review sites

We all live in fear of the review sites. Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. But here’s the thing: those reviews get your name out there, and get people to notice you.

Most important: take what you get there and be grateful people are reading it. DO NOT go off on people who give you a bad review, no matter how personal an attack it seems.

I’m a pretty blunt person, so I love arguing points, but if you do choose to go that route (and believe me, I don’t recommend it), be polite and respectful and thank the person for their insights. Sleep on it. They may have something valuable to say that you can’t see right away because it feels like someone attacking your babies.

Most of all, you are going to have to interact some to get the ball rolling. Tweet the best 4- and 5-star reviews OCCASIONALLY. Link them up on your Facebook. The reviewers like knowing they are appreciated, and if it gets you a little mojo in the meantime, yay!

3. Bloggers

Here’s where you need to pick your plan of action.

Let’s face it; there are some bad apples who spoiled some barrels for the rest of us. Acting in an unprofessional manner and ranting about horrible book bloggers does no one any favors, least of all yourself. There are a lot of bloggers who simply refuse to review self-published books at all these days.

My advice? WORK AROUND THAT. And the easiest way is going to involve some time and effort, because you need to do the always-hated: RESEARCH.

First, you need to find a blog that fits your book. Don’t spam every high-level book blogger there is. Look for blogs that focus on your genre, or if — like me — your book sort of avoids pigeonholing, look for blogs that handle that well. Definitely don’t pitch your space opera to a romance blog unless you know they also like space opera. Or there’s a serious romance in there. Tangential is not going to cut it here.

Second, see what that blog’s policies are regarding self-published books. Some won’t touch them. Others are more friendly. Obviously, go with the latter. Did I really need to explain that?

Third, look to friends/acquaintances with blogs who might be willing to review books. Or do an interview. Or let you guest post. Offer CONTENT here, not just a sales pitch.

Fourth, look for blogs you can help as well. Let’s face it; we’re all in this together. If you have a nice twitter following, and there’s a newer blog that doesn’t have the following of a bigger one, you can help them out with increased attention as well. This isn’t all about what people can do for you; look for opportunities you can help others out as well.

Fifth, GIVE REVIEWERS AN OFFER OF A FREE COPY. IN THEIR PREFERRED FORMAT. I cannot stress this enough. I’m a reviewer first, author second (no, please don’t send me your book right now; I’m already stressed to the max trying to review AND sell my book, but thank you). Reviewing a book takes HOURS, from reading the book to writing up the review. And whether you’re paid for that review or not, that’s an investment of time. Making it easy to read and handing it right over is KEY to establishing a great relationship with reviewers (who might then want to review subsequent books… keep in mind this is not a short-term goal here).

Moreover, TRUST THE REVIEWERS. Are there some book blogs where the reviewers share the PDFs they get? I’d be lying if I said there aren’t. Shoot, I know some of them by name. But you can’t start out a relationship with someone if you can’t trust them. Don’t watermark or try to force a reviewer to buy your book to protect yourself. It’s tacky. If you include a typo Easter egg or send different versions out so you later know if one turns up on a torrent site which person did it to you? That’s your business. But don’t paint all reviewers with the same brush. Most of us are FANATICALLY ethical about our ARCs. I even delete mine and re-buy the book if I loved it enough to want to reread. And usually at full retail.

4. Cultivate friends who will help you.

I can’t say this enough. And no, I don’t mean using people. This is the OPPOSITE of what I mean.

Don’t join those RT circles or groups who promise to buy each others’ books. Those are short-term goals. What you need to do is be a true friend to the real-life people who ARE your friends. Offer your support to them for things they need, even if it’s unasked for.

In other words? PAY IT FORWARD. Those people will be thrilled to help when it’s your turn, and will be your staunchest advocates when you’re trying to sell your book. But viewing social media as a marketing tool and not the social interactions it’s really designed for is a huge error, and will turn off the very people who could be telling every person they know about your fabulous book.