No matter what anyone says, being a novelist is a social act. At any given place in the novel writing or publishing process, you’re going to encounter other people. When you sit down to write, you consider your audience. (If you’re not, you really should.) Does this make sense? Is this believable? When you start putting it together, you consider what will be most pleasing to the eye. Things like cover art, font size, line spacing, and pagination all affect the reader. If you’re going the traditional route, you write query letters to agents. However, promotion is undoubtedly the most social step in the novel process. The most important part of publishing is getting the word out. Contrary to popular belief, these no item ever just sells itself. That means going out into the world and making other people see you and care about you and your work. If you’re an introvert like me (I hear that most authors are introverts), that makes promotion the most difficult step.
I have never been good at human interaction, especially in large groups. It was never that I wasn’t socialized; I have two siblings, and I was in a lot of daycares growing up. I went to public school. There were plenty of opportunities for me to socialize with the other kids my age. However, as young as three, I was notorious for getting into trouble just so that I could go on time out. Time out was never a punishment. Time out was great. I got to sit for extended periods of time alone in peace. It’s not that I didn’t like everyone; it’s just that they were exhausting.
So, when that logical part of myself asks me to go out and talk to a whole bunch of people about my book, it takes a LOT of discipline in order to make myself do it. I had once been under the impression that, if I went the traditional publishing route, I wouldn’t have to self-promote, but I’ve been assured that isn’t the case. So what’s an introverted author to do? Get out of my comfort zone or hide away in obscurity? If neither of those things sound appealing to you, there are a few things that you can do that both promote and allow yourself the space that you desire.
Write – Waiting for your first work to take off is a complete waste of your time. I’m sorry, that was blunt. Let me try again. Waiting for your first work to take off is a complete waste of your time. Okay, never mind, that’s just the truth. From personal experience, I lost four or five years, focusing on trying to get my one novel seen. I didn’t write anything new, I just waited. And what did I have to show for it? A huge box of unsold novels that mocked me every time I looked at it. Instead, I should have spent at least some of that time working on something new. And actually, those who had purchased my book had to wait four years for me to get my head out of my butt. Not only did I not get any new readers, I alienated my current ones by not giving them what they wanted, which was more. Keep writing. Your current readers, no matter how few, are your bread and butter. Every time that you announce something new, it’s more likely that your first work will be seen as well. Remember: novels, like dominoes, aren’t as much fun if you have only one.
Blog – I have had my private blog for much longer than this public one. It has taken me nearly a decade to build my current network of friends, but blogging does provide the introvert with a few things. It allows you to the luxury of mentally preparing yourself to interact or interacting in short bursts, and as the case was for me, it allowed others to get to know me on my time and on my terms and vise versa. If I had nothing to say, that was okay. I never had the stress of having to think on my feet or risk not being able to say something how I wanted to say it. You can search for like-minded people as actively or as inactively as you feel comfortable. Of course, the more active you are, the more that other people will see you, but it’s not a requirement. When you network is big enough, you can even go on blog tours. This is where you make guest appearances in someone else’s blog. I haven’t tried this on my private blog, and I’m not active enough to WordPress to try it, but if I ever am, I’ll tell you how it goes. So, if word of mouth isn’t your style, maybe word of fingers is.
Reviews – One of the ways that a novel can be seen is if it’s been read and gets a good review. There are three ways to get reviews: family and friends, bloggers, and professional reviewers. You can start by getting friends and family, but for better results, make sure they don’t indicate that they know you to prevent other potential buyers for perceiving bias.
Notifying bloggers falls nearly under the same category as going on a blog tour. In addition to doing guest spots on another’s blog, once your novel is out, contacting popular reviewers can be very helpful. Be aware that you may have to email dozens of bloggers before receiving a single answer, and of course, there is no guarantee that every review you receive is going to be positive or as positive as you want it.
The final way to receive reviews it to send them to professional reviewers. These include but are certainly not limited to: Kirkus Indie Reviews, Midwest Book Review, Foreword Reviews, Bloomsbury, The San Francisco Book Review, The Sacramento Book Review, the Portland Book Review. Since they’re professional, most of these cost. (Some of them don’t, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually be reviewed.) The Kirkus Indie Review $475 for standard service. However, depending on the review, it could be a real asset. CreateSpace currently offers a discount at $379 and the option to “kill” the review if it’s poor. You might think that paying that much for a review is ridiculous, but what you’re really paying for is authority. And if it’s a great review, you’re much more likely to recoup your initial investment. These reviews can also be sent to and printed by local newspapers.
And the best part is you can contact them all by email if you wish (and a lot of them actually prefer it that way).
Kindle Direct Publishing Select – I haven’t mentioned KDP Select on here before, so I’ll quickly summarize what it is. Kindle Direct Publishing is an affiliate of Amazon.com and CreateSpace and is the program you go through to sell ebooks on Amazon. Enrolling your ebook into Select gives you two things: 1) It puts it into the Kindle Lending Library. Every time your novel is borrowed, you receive royalties. 2) It allows you to make your novel free for five days during a ninety day period (the amount of time for each enrollment). These can be consecutive or single. You don’t even have to use them. It’s all up to you. However, there are conditions. In order to enroll in Select, you must sell on your novel on Amazon exclusively for these ninety days. This means you cannot sell on any other site including your own during that time. Like anything, it’s a trade off.
I’ve heard mixed things about KDP Select. While many authors say that they’re pleased with the experience, I have read a few blogs that say you shouldn’t have to resort to giving your novel away for free to drum up business. I’m on the fence. On the one hand, I did get a few sales as a result of my free weekend, and I realized that there was a demand for what I was offering. I made it up to #9 on the epic fantasy free list. It was visible. Was it worth it? I’m not 100% sure yet. Yes, I made money off of the offer, and I gained a lot of confidence from it. However, I don’t know if there was a better way to get my novel seen. Maybe these people would have purchased it if it wasn’t free, maybe not. The important thing here is that it’s an option. And an option where you don’t have to talk to a single soul. That’s always a plus.
Whether in your head, or on the street, you’re going to end up encountering the public in one way or another. I know how difficult it can be to venture outside your comfort zone when it comes to dealing with the outside world. Hopefully, this article provided you with some options to start promote your novel. We’ll work on being more outgoing later… Much later.