Self-Printing Promotion: What Not To Do and Some Final Thoughts


June is coming to a close (thank God, because July means my birthday! Woo-hoo! I’m 21 again, thanks for asking) and with it, my series of posts telling you how I sold my self-published book, the same series of posts you’ll probably completely ignore when it comes to selling your self-published book, but hey, that’s okay. If you have any luck with any of them though, you might let me know.

To recap, we’ve covered:

I think that’s enough to be getting on with, don’t you? Although if you are out of ideas, I do love this post by David Louis Endelam that details all the weird and wonderful ways he promoted his book, Infoquake. It’s from 2006 but damn does that man have an imagination. I stumbled upon this post on Beth Morrissey’s Hell or High Water blog: Marsha Moore describes her plan of action for promoting her travel book, 24 Hours London. Moore has a background in PR so she knows what she’s talking about. I’ll also be reviewing The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (no relation!) next month. I wonder if her publisher won’t promote her books because she’s calls them names like that…

Before I leave you to fend for yourself or read one of the other 32,438,101 blog posts floating around the magical internet about promoting your book, let’s just quickly mention what NOT to do.

Enter Catherine’s 8 Potentially Useful Golden Rules for What Not To Do While Promoting Your Self-Published Book (patent pending):

  1. Don’t be annoying. If people start to welcome mentions of your book (Oh, yeah. I wrote a book. Have I mentioned that? It’s available on Amazon…) with the same feeling they do positive results on their test for syphilis then you know you’ve gone to far. Keep the desperation and repetition to a minimum, please thank you.
  2. Don’t be dishonest. Someone once told me that they’d made the decision to self-publish while an agent was considering the manuscript, i.e. the agent was in mid-read. This person sent a letter to the agent informing them of their change of heart – a kind of cease and desist, if you will – and subsequently the agent tried to talk them out of it, but they declined to listen. They were dead set on self-publishing because they wanted ‘higher royalties’, ‘creative control’ and ‘to put their degree in marketing to good use.’ GIVE ME A BREAK. Tell the truth: you published your book because no one else would. What’s the big deal with being honest?
  3. Don’t be crazy. A few weeks back I heard at The Twitter Water-cooler about a girl who self-published a book using a POD publisher of questionable integrity and photoshopped the logo of a well-known New York publishing house onto the spine of it. Found out, she tried to keep up the lie, claiming on her blog she had a contract with them, and then going not-just-a-little-mental when her blog commenters called her on it. This is not only crazy but illegal to boot. Also, don’t send The New York Times a copy of your novella about talking purple unicorns in the year 2042 for review, okay?
  4. Don’t be impatient. Don’t focus on your sales rank at 4.51 pm this afternoon. Think of the bigger picture. Set yourself realistic goals for sales after the first month, three months, six months and year. Remember that not everyone is going to run out and buy it on the day – or even the week – of its release, regardless of how many threats you made to them. Aaron Shepard, he of Aiming at Amazon fame, says self-published books that sell mainly online can take up to a year to reach their full potential.
  5. Don’t rely on friends and family. In terms of sales, the formula goes something like this: (no. of relatives + no. of friends + no. of co-workers + no. of writer-type friends + no. of Facebook friends + no. of Twitter followers + no. of acquaintances + your hairdresser) ÷ at least 100 = sales from people you know. This isn’t because they don’t like you. (Probably.) They might not like to read, families might buy one to share (Sharing books? Writers say nooooooooo!) and they might put it on their To Do list and then forget about it. Don’t count these as sales; think of any you get as bonuses.
  6. Don’t pay for book reviews and
  7. Don’t follow any ‘plan’ that encourages you to buy copies of your own book at retail price. (See also numbers 2 and 3).
  8. Don’t sit back and relax. As I type this, my book has been on sale for about 13 weeks. I keep an Excel spreadsheet of sales in all formats and from all locations week to week. I don’t have to look at the date to know which week I spent concentrating solely on finishing my novel, and so avoided blogging, Twitter or any kind of book promotion. No one has to buy your book. You’re not entitled to anything. So stop reading this post and get out there and promote it, baby!

(Well, in a second. Read until the end first.)

One final thought: if your book’s subject matter is a little weird, if its genre is so niche even the mighty Amazon doesn’t have a category for it, make its selling point you. I know this sounds like some awful cheesy marketing thing, but it’s true: what’s unique about your book is you, the person who wrote it. Your voice, your style, your outlook on life, your humor, etc. Many people who buy my book have no interest in Disney, NASA or humidity-challenged hair, but they follow me on Twitter or read my blog and want to read more of my writing. This is the single biggest lesson I’ve learned from this whole experience.

So there.

And so concludes my self-printing promotion posts (but not my self-printing promotion). Next month, I’ll have some How To Self-Publish a Book book reviews, August is for Self-Printing FAQ and then in September – dum, dum, DUM! – I’ll reveal all. Well, not all. I’ll tell you how many copies I sold, where I sold them and how much profit I made off them, and I think that’ll be more than enough for you.

See all Self-Printing posts.

Read more about Mousetrapped, the book I self-printed.

7 thoughts on “Self-Printing Promotion: What Not To Do and Some Final Thoughts

  1. Marsha Moore says:

    Thanks so much for the shout-out! 🙂

    These are great tips, Catherine! And what a good series you’ve put together. Whether authors are self-pubbed or not, it’s so important to know how to promote your book!

  2. dirtywhitecandy says:

    Cath, thank you for sharing your experiences and for giving us such a comprehensive guide to the ups and downs. I’m sure a lot of people will learn from your example.

  3. DSchmidt says:

    Thanks for the winsome chronicle of your experience! Great detail, plenty of reality and good encouragement along the way–your posts helped me with an independent publishing experience as well.
    Much obliged!
    PS preferred coffee: Cafe Britt (from Costa Rica).

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      You’re most welcome! Was in Costa Rica (Cahuita) in April 2008 – brought plenty of coffee home but can’t remember the name of it now. Could possibly have been that though! Best of luck and thanks for commenting,

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