The more I utilize Twitter to reach out and connect with potential readers and other fellow writers, the more I realize how powerful this social media outlet can truly be. I was prompted to write a blog post about this after one of my Tw’eeps, or followers, on Twitter reached out to me to offer support on my recent state-to-state move, to offer words of encouragement regarding my writing and, most recently, to start considering parterning up on a ghost-writing project.
This weekend as I have been feeling a bit lost in my new state of Arizona, my Twitter friend’s email couldn’t have come at a better time:
“What a fun read [re: Queer Greer]. To me, as a former high school teacher, it was so much more than a story of a young lady coming to grips with her own sexuality. The theme was universal in my opinion. It is a book for parents as well as young people. There are so many issues young people have to deal with. The book was honest and direct. Truth is something that people honor and respect and young people need. This is particularly true with young people and their relationships with their parents. Oh well, that’s what I think anyway.”
Thank you, @Sup1950!
I also received a comment on my blog from an up-and-coming writer:
“hey, a.j. I recently saw your interview with rex pickett and i was intrigued about what you said about self publishing. I am an aspiring author at the moment who is considering self publishing my recently completed novel. What are your thoughts on that? Should i chase an agent or should i self publish even though no one knows me yet. Any nuggets of advice would be great. I liked your book Choice. Thanks.”
I wanted to take some time to really answer his questions, so here’s the response I sent back:
In general, I would say that self-publishing authors tend to have different goals that authors who attempt the traditional route. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I’ve felt that authors who self-publish really want to start getting their words out there for more specific, niche audiences. For instance, my first novel, Queer Greer, was written for a more niche audience – young adults in the LGBT community. I felt like I had an opportunity to reach out to that community online and get my book into those hands. To an extent, this proved true. When it first came out, I was able to secure interviews with an LGBT online magazine, as well as a Bisexual Radio Show; I was invited to speak at the largest LGBT conference in the nation, True Colors, last year. The sales haven’t been tremendous, but I feel like this first self-publishing attempt did reach many of the target audience I was looking to reach. I am now preparing to release a second edition through an indie publisher who was impressed with what I alone had accomplished with Queer Greer.
I have had less success in some ways with the self-publication of Choice, even though I actually invested more money to do so. Being about abortion, a more universal topic than minority sexualities, I had trouble marketing the book myself. I ended up paying more money to the self-publishing company I chose in order to send out press releases to thousands of periodicals across the country – and I saw nothing for it. I did win the Barnes and Noble Rising Star Award for this book, but never saw a significant boost in sales as a result.
My experience in self-publishing has been varied, to say the least. Your decision to self-publish or not to self-publish will come down to a few specifics: how much money you have to invest, the type of book you’ve written and who you want to reach with it, primarily.
I will say that it is EXTREMELY difficult, if not near impossible, to secure an agent and/or a traditional publishing company as a first-time author with nothing to show other than an unpublished manuscript. My third book that I’m currently editing will have the added bonus of having a couple of titles behind it, albeit self-published, that have had measurable success in different ways. When I send out query letters to agents/publishers later this year for this next book, I will have a much stronger footing when I propose why they should take me on as an author.
I do think there are many pros in going the self-publishing route your first time out, if only to try to get your name out there and start building a following online. Like I said on my “This Week in Social Media” interview with Rex Pickett, these days many publishers will ask about your social media presence and how you will be able to market yourself should they publish your book. If you have a self-published book or e-book that you can promote and start gaining interest in, the more likely your second or third books will be read and considered by a traditional publisher, in my opinion.