Despite the picture of Arlo (below), this post has nothing to do with cats.
I'm in the home stretch of finishing what I've come to call my never-ending-Appalachian-novel-in-perpetual-progress-toward-self-publication, so I'm starting to think of ways to promote it. If you're a writer who is thinking of self-publishing, you need to also think about how your book will be promoted. "If you build it, they will come" won't work. A lot of other ways won't work either.
I've learned from past experience with Patches on the Same Quilt that most ways of promoting a self-published book are pretty much exercises in futility. The best way to promote—at least in my case—is having the book with me when I do a speaking engagement. That's mainly what I'll do with the up-coming book, Them That Go.
Here are some promotions that I won't be using:
1. Chain Letter Forwarding
Recently I was forwarded an email chain letter that contained a poem (think doggerel, here) about what to do in winter (read).
2. An Author Page on Facebook
I had some FaceBook pages for earlier books, but I took them down. They didn't seem to do much. Besides, Facebook is where I keep in touch with a variety of friends—former students, people I don't see often, people who share the same likes as I do, other cat-lovers, people with a connection to Appalachia, other writers both well-known and unknown, etc.—people I find interesting. Yeah, I'll mention my book from time to time, but I'm more likely to share a picture of one of my cats.
I did a bit of research about the use of Author Pages and came to this conclusion: they're a waste of time. Here are some of the sites I looked at:
3. Twitter and Other Social Media
I rarely use my Twitter account anymore. I find a lot of the tweets I get are basically annoying. Except those from Arjun Basu. Those are usually entertaining. I've never even used Pintarest or Instagram. Janet Reid's posted about how not to use Twitter with suggestions on how to use it. It's worth a read.
A good blog-post that explains why social media doesn't work is Whimsydark's "Please shut Up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn't work."
4. Author Showcases or Samplers
Recently I've seen several online mentions about a "sampler" book that contains the first 2,500 words of fourteen authors who paid $25 (yes, PAID!!!!) to have their work included in a book that likely no one who doesn't know an included author will fork over $5 for the paperback or 99¢ for the Kindle version. However, the guy who published it also made a free download available, so that's how I happened to read some of it. (I assume he could afford to give it away free because advertisers paid $45 to have their ads included in the back.)
One thing I noticed about the "sampler" was that a variety of genres were represented—from horror to inspirational. And I noticed misspelled words and a few other problems that should have been fixed by editing. I doubt many potential readers will buy a sampler when they can just use Amazon's "look inside" feature for a title that might interest them.
I don't think being associated with an apparently unedited collection of assorted genres makes for effective promotion. I also think that if writers are not paid for a contribution to an anthology-type tome, they at least shouldn't be charged for inclusion. Anyhow—while I occasionally contribute to legit anthologies that are actually edited—I won't be paying my way into something like this.
5. Blatant Self-promotion
From Blogcritics' post, "Blatant Self-Promotion Syndrome":
Nothing makes my day more than opening an email from someone who I thought was a friend only to be faced with a generic greeting (if there is one at all), followed by information about them and their book that I already knew. Now I’m convinced that the last thing I want to do is to buy their book.
What I will be doing: I'll make some personal appearances at area libraries and other places that offer me a place to sign and sell books or that let me give a presentation. Because of my limited mobility, I won't be going very far, and I'll have to consider venues that have easy handicap access. But I'll be going out where I can meet readers face-to-face. I think that's the best way to promote.
I might use some of the suggestions Whimsydark discusses in "Wait, keep talking: Author Self-Promo That Actually Works."
And I'll exploit my cats. From time to time, I'll post pictures of my cats with the book. Arlo is already practicing.