Sunday, May 5, 2013

Publishing Fiction and Crossing Your Fingers (Observations From the Trenches)

Writing really is only about 5% of the work, and it really is the only truly fun part. The rest is all work.

I’ve been mulling over ideas for marketing lately, trying to find what I’m missing in my attempts to get my books in the hands of readers… and thus accomplish the elusive goal of “finding its audience”.

When the rubber hits the road that’s what every writer wants, right? I mean, of course, they want to get their work finished… and after that get it edited into its best possible form… and most want to see their work published… but what does any of that mean if it isn’t picked up and read by the audience it was written for?

I’ve spoken to Rachel Thompson, a verified social media success story with the publishing of her last three books, and from her I’ve gotten tips on how to streamline my approaches to social media in my (all important) “Author Platform”. Overall, what I’ve learned is that I am a creative writer and not a marketing wiz. These days authors are required to be both. It’s really not an option. Such is the way of the industry.

I had a conversation with a fellow writer, and friend, S.K. Whiteside recently that went like this:


S.K. : I'll be honest. The only reason you are not (with 'Blood & Spirits') a bestseller is because of the MILLIONS of "authors" out there right now. You are just getting overlooked. Hang in there. Persevere! It took J.K. (Rowling) nearly 20 years.

Me : I'm not a bestseller because I tell average stories... in a small sliver, of an over-saturated genre... I have poor cover art, and I use my own name (not a female pen name).

S.K. : Female pen names don’t sell unless you are doing romance. I agree about over-saturated, but it’s not the genre. It's the scene period.

Me : Female pen names sell in paranormal. Fact.

S.K. : EVERYONE is an "author".


This led me to further examine what I thought was simply an issue of marketing. Perhaps it’s just as much an issue of trying to stand out as that one awesome grain of sand on the beach; a daunting prospect to be sure.  

Do I still need a great paced story, well told, with fully fleshed out and original characters that speak in their own distinct voices? Yes. Do I still need good editing, and an eye catching cover that not only fits in on the shelf with other books of my genre but really pops as something a reader can’t pass by? Yes. Do I still need to market myself and my work, getting the word out about my release, my promotions, and make sure book bloggers and reviews have my work in hand to rate or recommend? Yes. 

The issue… the big, fat, punch-me-in-the-face issue is that all of that isn’t enough.

I also have to find a way, after doing all that (which thousands – if not millions – of other people are doing, and doing it just as well as I am) to stand out. I have to get noticed to get read. I have to get read to build my audience. I have to build my audience to get recommended to friends (and strangers) by readers who will want to come back and see what other tales I have to tell them.

What does all this mean to you, my faithful reader?

It means you’ve been warned. You’ve been informed, and therefore you’ve been armed with this knowledge.

The market for books, and eBooks for that matter, is densely packed. It’s not enough to be imaginative and talented anymore. From what I can understand it hasn’t been enough for a long, long time… but it’s harder today, and it’s going to be harder as every day passes.

Keep that in mind when jumping into publishing with both feet. People will tell you to expect rejection… but what they usually don’t tell you (that is just as true) is to expect to work yourself into exhaustion to earn your sales.

Don’t get discouraged by having to slowly grow your readership.  It’s a relationship you have to build… one person at a time. It’s not easy, but it doesn’t have to painful or make you crazy. 

Look at it like a crowded dance floor in the most enormous school in the world, packed with millions of 10-year-olds who want to dance with the popular kid and really fear rejection…  your book is a 10-year-old and the popular kid is the all-important reader.  How are you going to make sure your 10-year-old stands out, and gets noticed by that popular kid?

I'd also be able to read minds and see the future.
There is no universal answer. When and if you find the answer, rest assured that it will only work for you. Moreover, it may well only work for the current project you are marketing. But once you find it… and with it you find your audience… and you start to get the feedback that your work has earned from readers who understand and are moved to respond to it…  then all of that mind-numbing, backbreaking, tedious, awful , unforgiving work will pale in comparison. 

If you can stick it out and you find your formula to locate your readers… your people... it is so very worth it.

Places I recommend to help you along your way: - Editor and writing coach. - Graphics and cover design. - Social media and author marketing/branding consultant.


  1. Excellent blog Dennis! :) Good luck!

  2. Thanks so much S.K. and Elizabeth!

  3. Thanks for including me. I'm honored, cool dude.

    I share many tips on my blog -- free for anyone who wants to read them. And what works for some may not work for others, though for the main, a platform works across the board if it's interactive and active.

    :) You'll get there. Talent wins out every time and that you have, my friend.

  4. Inspiring blog, Dennis.

    I wanted to quit writing recently when I happened upon my "sales" graph. It popped out at me (in attack mode, I'm sure) on my Author Central amazon page(I inadvertantly clicked onto the tabbie).

    What I saw there left me feeling utterly defeated. Of the 5 sales in the last month, I had given four out as gifts for reviews.

    I wanted to curl up and cry. Honestly, I did shed a few tears but avoided the fetal position.

    I went crying to my bestfriend and he encouraged me NOT to quit. After about 30 minutes of whining, I remembered that I started writing because it was fun and exciting. NOT for the money and definitely NOT for any expected fame.

    So, I seem to be back on track again. I'm not going to depend on reviews or anything. I'm just going to write and enjoy it.

    thank you again, Dennis. Sorry I wrote a book here(comic tragedy, kekeke).