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September 30, 2012

Marketing is a Huge Challenge For Self-Published Novelists

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Promoting a self-published novel (whether e-book or paperback) is a grueling, 24-7 grind. There’s pitching to book editors of major newspapers, authoring relevant articles (like this one that I published on Iranian nukes), creating a Facebook page for the book and regularly posting on it, tweeting, creating a website like this one and blogging on it, seeking out and participating in author interviews, convincing book bloggers and top Amazon reviewers to review your novel, and on and on and on.

Unless you’re so passionate about your novel that you’re prepared to spend all of your available time trying to convince others to read it, you may quickly lose ground to the relentless threat of obscurity in a sea of other undiscovered books. Even if you drop everything (as I did) for the sake of your novel and therefore have no other income-producing activity, it’s still a discouragingly endless, uphill battle to get your book noticed (unless of course you’re already a famous personality).

A 24-7 effort is obviously unsustainable and, as I approached the burnout phase, I had to lower the intensity of my own efforts, only to discover how soon book sales drop in response to diminished marketing sweat. The idea that a novel by an unknown author will sell itself after a certain point is true only for a very lucky few titles that – for some fickle reason or another – catch on in the marketplace and snowball. For every “50 Shades of Grey” that rose to the top and stayed there (despite plenty of critics who panned the book), there are millions of novels that will simply languish in obscurity because the author, at some point, “ran out of gas” on the promotion front.

In my own case, I think I would have burned out a long time ago if my book weren’t so closely tied to a major foreign policy issue about which I’m so concerned. The bottom line: don’t self-publish your e-book novel unless you are truly passionate about it. If profit is your ultimate motivation, there are far faster and easier ways to make money. However, if you have a message to share with the world, e-book publishing has democratized the printing press by eliminating the traditional gatekeepers (agents and publishers) and allowing anyone to contribute to the marketplace of ideas.

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