Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Advice to a Self-Published Friend

So I have this friend (no, really....) Anyway, she e-mailed m on Facebook the other day asking for some advice. She's got a self-published poetry book and she wanted to know how to get people to buy it. What can she do?

Hmmmm.

I probably shouldn't have, but I ended up telling her the truth: I'm sorry. Not much.

Poetry is a tough sell even when it's published by a New York publishing house to rave reviews in the New Yorker. Heck, fiction books are a tough sells.... and publishers aren't always even sure themselves what sells a book (or an author, as it were.)

She'd asked about ideas for getting into those big box stores for signings, and I told her (again, I probably shouldn't have,) that signings don't actually sell tons of books. A good signing for me? About a dozen books. Big box stores aren't always even receptive to getting that cold call from someone like me, who is local and big press published -- unless I can guarantee them an audience. When I used to try to get into box stores, I'd always do a little research first, ie. "I see you have a science fiction book club and...." It's hard, discouraging work. And, even if you do land a signing gig at the big box stores it's still pretty likely you'll be sitting with crickets.

Plus, most big box stores won't even look twice at a self-published author.

The exception is the smaller, independently owned bookstores. I've had a lot better luck at places like Uncle Hugos, Dreamhaven or True Colors. But in each of those cases, I have a personal relationship with the owners and, particularly with Don at Uncles, I do my damnest to make sure everyone I've ever known gets an invitation to the signing. I can usually sell twenty or thirty books at Uncles, but I also no longer do more than one or two signings per debut... so people know they have to come to one of these if they want to get a personally signed book.

But, I'm not sure any of those would really entertain the idea of a self-published author signing. Small press, yes. Self? I don't know.

I suggested a "house party/signing." Something she could host herself and invite friends. But, she admited... she's already tapped all her friends, and most of them aren't biting either.

Hmmmmm.

This is the problem, I told her. It's a tough business even when you have all the advantages of a big publisher at your back. It kind of sucks when you've got the handicap of self-publishing to overcome.

All I could really say was: Good luck!

5 comments:

Michael Merriam said...

Her best bet is going to be finding open mic readings in coffeeshops or something like that. She might also be able to get a few independent coffeeshops to sell her book on commission.

Anton Gully said...

"Her best bet is going to be finding open mic readings in coffeeshops "

That sounds like a great idea!

If the idea is to become known rather than to actually make money, then it might be worth sending a copy to the local paper for review, but it would probably need to be a REALLY local paper, and have local interest.

You want a cynical idea? Offer to give half the profits to the local cat or dog shelter.
Well, cynical... evil...

Paul Lamb said...

Many university English departments have connections to open mike reading events around the town.

Many senior centers and assisted living centers will gladly have a poet give a reading to their members.

Libraries often host such events.

Is there a literacy organization in her town that would give her a forum?

lydamorehouse said...

Wow, what great advice! I'll pass it along. And, yes, she lives in Minneapolis. Tons of writing organizations here!

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