Anti Socials - Hello Obscurity my old friend
So I am now a published author. This year I decided to swallow my principles and pay to self-publish with Kindle Direct. A steal at just £800! And what did I get for this fee?
Firstly, a glowing review from one of their agents, telling me this book can “legitimately appear in at least two sub-categories of fiction, doubling its potential appeal and readership” – music to my ears, but enough of money talk, what about my craft?… “the style has a rich, contemporary feel and the emotional narrative hooks the reader instantly. It is notoriously difficult to write a novel with as many fascinating layers as this, but you have made it look simple. This fact alone places the book head and shoulders above others of the same type” oh please – you’re too kind. Surely there has to be a but? She sums up, “particularly strong in the Kindle marketplace simply because it is difficult to find fault with.” After 15 years of rejections, this is catnip to my author ego. I fall for it hook line and sinker. I am told the process will take ‘up to 8 weeks’ and cough up half the fee in advance. Ten weeks later I receive my cover design and formatted text. The graphic designer must have been working to a brief to ‘sex it up’ because my perfectly good version that I got as part of a package deal on fivrr has been changed beyond recognition and beyond any relationship to the narrative. While my actual story is set in a small British town, this cover seems to depict an exotic shoreline; while my protagonist’s abode is a mobile caravan, this cover features a Miami beach house; and while my protagonist is non-binary and pushing 50, this cover has a silhouette of a cheerleader cycling in a push up bra. To add insult to injury, I am sent the formatted, edited manuscript to proof read and find 20 mistakes. After editing!
Anyway, the big day arrives and I finally see my first ever novel in print. I run from my desk to find someone, anyone, to tell. After a few excited exchanges and my first sale, I return to my classroom and reality to teach my Year 10’s.
I spend the next seven
days trying to gain some traction online: I follow Kindle’s ’12 Tips How To Promote Your Book’; I update my website to include the Amazon link; I shamelessly contact old acquaintances I haven’t seen or heard from in years asking them to share posts with their friends and followers. It was bad enough when I only had to endure the NO-tifications on Twitter and being ghosted by my boss on email. Now I’m supposed to use every platform known to man to self-promote; the lack of response is limitless. Not to mention having access to my Amazon ‘report’ page which seems to have frozen on eleven copies. Surely, this must be a mistake for a book so well placed to take the Kindle marketplace by storm, I tell the dog, logging back in to my account, despite promising to spare myself the humiliation just yesterday.
When I do get the occasional reply, it will be to tell me that I am basically ‘unclean’; I have condemned myself to the Amazon Colonies by selling out to the corporate behemoth. It’s a catch 22 situation – the independent publishers won’t take a chance on a complete unknown writer, they then stand in judgement when said writer decides to self-publish and don’t even think about asking for shares / RT’s.
I recently borrowed my dad’s laptop and was horrified by the amount of bookmarked links he had – 126! Clearly he has no clue what the function is really for; he seemed to have saved every single song he’d played guitar along to in the last five years. Still, compared to my mother, who HAS NEVER BEEN ON THE INTERNET! he’s a bona fide silver surfer. I Like to think I’m so much more advanced, but in truth, when it comes to socials, I’m flailing about from platform to platform – I have no ticket, my train’s about to leave, and the tannoy announcements are in Malbolge. Does your social life online reflect your personal life? I can’t help but wonder. I spend my evenings and weekends talking to the dog, the walls, the TV; I am just not equipped to network and connect online. I’ve been on Twitter for 5 years and have only managed to gain twenty-something followers. One of who, despite his entire online persona being about kindness and paying it forward, just will not give my book a simple RT. Why are you following me then? You double-barrel bullshit merchant.
The problem with Twitter is that I cannot figure how to send a post to my followers. It seems to want me to search them all up individually. Surely the likes of Stephen King aren’t individually searching every one of their millions of followers every time they post. And on Facebook I’m basically posting in a vacuum because I have no friends. Story. Of. My. Life. There were suggestions a plenty when I first set up the account. And I deliberated over whether or not I should accept them. How did this machine know that I know or knew all these people? And wasn’t it different for an author account? I only set the page up to promote my writing; the last thing I wanted was to be bombarded with ‘stories’ about what so-and-so who I took a spinning class with seven years ago had for their tea last night.
Then there’s Good Reads. No, it’s not enough to hold down a full time job, write novels in my spare time and then find more time to promote them. Now I’m supposed to post reviews of other people’s books as well!
So, I’ve come up with a few marketing strategies of my own. Please do leave a comment below and let me know your favourite.
1. Stalking Paris Lees: obsessively check for anything posted on her account and reply to it asking her to RT link to my book on the grounds that a) she’s from a small Midlands town near where I live, and b) we’re both trans.
Pro’s – she has 80+K followers / Cons – she probably doesn’t even manage her own account.
2. Kidnap Richard & Judy: hold them to ransom with one simple demand – that they get me a proper book deal with Penguin or Faber, non of this Amazon exclusive shite.
Pro’s – the Richard and Judy book club is the biggest in the UK and if you make their list you have basically made it / Cons – the crime of kidnapping carries a maximum sentence of 12 years.
3. Hold up my local library: think Dog Day Afternoon, but replace Al Pacino and John Cazale with me and my dog.
Pro’s – it would get me out of the house and I could take back my overdue loans without paying the fines / Cons – my dog gets very over stimulated when she meets new people and might do an excitement induced wee on the library carpet which would incur cleaning costs that would cut into the already meager budget.
4. Paste doors of WH Smith and Waterstones in posters: wait until dark and sticker bomb the entrances preventing staff and customers access at opening time.
Pro’s: the temporary market disruption may divert shoppers to alternative book buying options / Cons: I don’t have any posters or resources to make any.
5. Controversy: find a woke post and reply to it with a deliberately offensive comment or just post an ambiguous Tweet using bomb / kill / death hashtags.
Pro’s – they say no publicity is bad publicity; Katie Hopkins has made a career of this / Cons – Katie Hopkins has made a career of this.