Thoughts on marketing

So, you know how I was joking about procrastinating by working on the house? Well, apparently my hot-water heater is not to be trifled with, because it was sufficiently enraged by that joke and by my working on other parts of the house that it shorted out. It's dead, and judging from the scorch marks, it did its level best to burn the rest of the house down with it. Lovely.

Real life sucks! On to marketing! That's an issue with self-published books, because a major marketing tool for books is reviews, and most reviewers won't touch books that don't come from a publishing house. I have found three Web sites that review SF and that apparently do accept self-published books for review, although they're pretty up-front that your chances of actually getting reviewed are not high. (That's true any place--that journal I interned at did reviews, and they probably received 20 books for each one they reviewed. Of course, some of the books were laughably inappropriate: If you have a book on Marilyn Monroe's "murder" that was written by a team of psychics, it's probably not going to be reviewed by a hoity-toity journal, OK?) That's fine--I'm willing to pony up to buy and mail out three copies of Trang for a chance at a review, because if I get one I can excerpt it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The other traditional marketing thing that I have done is buy an ad. Yes, I've bought an ad--I feel like such an entrepreneur. We shall see how this works, because ad buys can get very expensive very quickly. I started small, with an ad in the program of Norwescon, because it 1. is a large con, 2. is a more-literary con, 3. had pricing information on its Web site, and 4. wasn't that expensive ($100). The con takes place April 21-24, so I'll see then if there's a bump in Web traffic and sales. If it gets reasonably close to paying for itself, I'll try other con programs, plus I'm thinking of doing an on-line ad at Locus magazine's Web site. (If I'm just dying to spend more money, I could buy sponsored results on Amazon, although it doesn't sound that promising for a novel. OTOH, that guy did go for very general search terms: "communism"? "Reagan"? How many people searching those terms are looking for a vampire novel? "Brian Lumley" worked better--I'd probably do "Vorkosigan" and "Bujold," since I think those books are closest in spirit to Trang.) (ETA: It turns out you can't do this anymore anyway.)

Obviously I am hoping that sites like Amazon will basically market Trang for me. That approach has the considerable advantage of being free, although I do wonder how much "you get what you pay for" applies. Smashwords has a really annoying marketing guide (it should be titled, Promote Smashwords!), but the site does recommend something that I at first thought was crazy but now think is a good idea for a novel: Make the first 50% of your book available as a free sample. That's pretty savvy (although I don't think I'd do it for nonfiction, where people are more likely to just look up what they want and then go on their way), because someone who makes it halfway through a narrative story is probably really hooked. In fact, I may add more chapters to the Trang excerpt on my Web site, although that page is pretty damned unwieldy as it is.

Anyway, after I approve the hard copy I think I'm going to sign on to Google Books. That's something I've kind of gone back and forth on: I thought that signing up for that would put you on the Espresso Book Machine, but it won't, and it turns out that there just aren't that many of those machines, so I probably shouldn't worry about it anyway. There are some issues with Google Books: They don't list what your royalty rate will be if you sell e-books on their site, which isn't promising, and if you want to link to a site where people can buy the book, you can't link to a site like Amazon--you have to be selling your book on your site, which I don't. But I don't actually have to sell through them or link to a sale site: Just partnering with them will likely boost your Google page ranking (nice and incestuous, that), and you can offer free sample chapters of your book...say, the first 50% of it? Hopefully anyone who reads all the way through the first half of Trang is someone who likes it enough to actually look up where to buy it. Either that, or they are someone who seriously needs to work on their time-management skills.

The last freebie-marketing thing I was thinking about doing was going on Twitter. Twitter has never had any real appeal for me, and I'm not crazy about the 140-character limit. But I could essentially Twitter-fy this blog--in fact, right off the bat I could just tweet a bunch of links to specific blog entries and hash-tag them as #self-publishing or something. (ETA: OK, I'm on there as mary_sisson--that didn't take long. I think I'll tweet an old entry a day for a bit.)

So, am I ever going to get off my ass and start working on Trust? Honestly, probably not until later this week, at which point I hopefully will have hot water and be able to wash my (increasingly gross) hair. Fingers crossed....