I moved recently, and that's put me behind in my blogging. Sorry! The good news: I'm now in my new place on the Oregon coast, trying to get my office organized, and I'm back to your questions about writing and publishing. We've got a backlog, so let me get cracking…
Darlene asked in a comment on a recent post, "In marketing my books, what's the most effective use of my time and money? I'm planning to market my work, but… I'm not sure what to do first."
The answer is going to be different for each author, of course. However, keep in mind that the basics of marketing your book are simple: Figure out who your readers out, find out where they're going, then try to get in front of them. Researching those basic questions will probably help you figure out what to do next. The internet has made marketing MUCH more accessible for every novelist. You can blog, write articles, participate in a discussion, and become an expert in an area without leaving the comfort of your writing space. So I think many novelists need to think through how they can use the web to get their name and their book titles in front of readers. That's the first place I'd explore, Darlene.
Dan said, "I want to be able to show my novel to production companies, but my publisher says I have to pay them $500 to get a PDF file with the edited, formatted version of my own book. Is that fair? Is there anything I can do?"
Charging authors for a PDF file or Word doc of their edited manuscript is something that's come up in the past few years. Authors want the file in case the book goes our of print, so they've got an edited version on their hard drive. But publishers are wary of giving it to the author, for fear it will get distributed and they'll lose sales. The solution? Ask for this in your contract negotiations, and explain to the publisher that you will not be selling the digital version of your book while it's still in print with the publisher. (An alternative: If your publisher creates a digital version of your book, simply purchase a copy for your Kindle or Sony reader. Then you've got the finished version in an e-file.)
Jason wrote to say, "I really want to be published, and friends of mine suggested I try self-publishing. One suggested publishing a mediocre work, just to get my name associated with published material. I was thinking I'd be better off submitting to literary journals and commercial magazines to establish some legitimate publishing credits. Your thoughts?"
I'm glad you wrote, Jason, since you are clearly hanging around with idiots. Publishing a mediocre work that doesn't sell is a great way to kill your career, since it lets everyone know you can't write. (Your idea of submitting to literary and commercial sources is a much better plan.) You could also start submitting to online 'zines and publishing online articles — both have the potential to garner you some readers. Self-publishing is only good for one type of author — the one who can sell a bunch of copies. So if you're doing seminars where you can do book sales in the back-of-the-room, it's a fine option. But if you're writing literary works and are hoping to get noticed as a novelist, it's usually a terrible choice. Nobody notices it. Nobody read is. So it's only good for leaving out on the counter, in hopes that your friends will notice when they come over for dinner ("Set your coffee cup right on the…oh, excuse me, let me move MY BOOK!").
My buddy James Scott Bell had some good things to say about fiction marketing on a recent blog. Check out his thoughts at:
Got a question about writing and publishing? Send it in and we'll get you an answer. -Chip