In Your Suggestions I Trust

By the end of the month I hope to have decided whether to self-publish one of my novels. I’m leaning toward doing so, as an e-book only. Granted, that means my family won’t be able to read it, as we don’t yet own an e-reader, but then again, it’s not as if they have the slightest inclination to anyway. (Last year, when we were donating a bunch of my daughter’s old books to her school library, I was going to include copies of two nonfiction kids’ books I’d written a dozen or so years ago. My daughter asked me not to, though: “What if one of my friends reads them and doesn’t like them? Then I’ll feel bad.” Yeah, my family’s supportive like that.)

Rather than buckle down and read all the necessary nitty-gritty about the self-publishing process, I’m leaping ahead and wondering how to market the book. I’ll get in touch with blogs that review e-books, of course, and with our local newspapers, and the newspapers in North Devon, England, where much of the book takes place. But then what?

I could make a book trailer, I suppose. I’ve written about book trailers in the past,  but I’m not yet convinced that they actually help sell books. One of the most entertaining trailers I’ve come across, for John Wray’s Lowboy (a fabulous novel I tout every chance I get, like now), featured comic actor Zach Galifianakis as Wray being interviewed by Wray himself. But while it was a hoot (“Do you consider—” “No not really”), it offered virtually no information about the book. Sure, it's had nearly 43,000 views on YouTube, but how many of those viewers—42,000 of whom were probably Galifianakis fans, subsequently read the book?

YouTube also has videos of Wray giving a reading on the New York subway, which makes perfect sense in that much of Lowboy takes place on the subway, and he in fact wrote much of it while riding the subway. I wrote much of my book, Trust, in a b-and-b in Ilfracombe, Devon, where I lived my first summer in England. Much as I’d love to go back to Devon to film for a trailer certain locales that figure in the book (the b-and-b, where the protagonists, a young schizophrenic and an expat writer, first meet; the restaurant where Steve tries to kill himself; the Pannier Market in Barnstaple), I don’t think my nonexistent budget can swing it. Then, too, there’s the fact that not only do I have a face for radio, but I also have a voice for the silent movies. (Exhibit A.)

This blog post is, I guess, a request for help: If you have any ideas for how I might spread the word about Trust, I’d love to hear them.

And in case you’re interested, here’s the elevator pitch (assuming it’s a long elevator ride) for Trust:

A young schizophrenic from rural Devon and an American expat writer of chick-lit would appear to have little, if anything, in common. When Steve and Cat meet, however, in a faded resort town on the Bristol Channel, it's because both have made an escape of sorts. Steve has slipped away from his sheltered accommodation in hopes of weaning himself off his antipsychotics, with their numbing side effects; Cat has moved from London, where she has lived for seven years, in the wake of a divorce and suffering from writer's block. They develop a tentative friendship that deepens even as Steve is hospitalized following a psychotic break and Cat begins dating Alex, a London radio producer. But will Cat's relationships with both Steve and Alex survive her decision to return to London and bring Steve with her? And will Steve have enough trust in Cat—and in himself—to move beyond the only life he's known? Steve and Cat narrate the story in alternating chapters, providing distinct views on their motivations and perceptions.

(The photo above is of a street in Barnstaple—or Boutport, as I call it in Trust—similar to the one where Steve's sheltered accommodation is located.)

1 comment:

  1. This is such a broad subject I hesitate to jump into the fray (Fray? What fray? Create the fray? Afraid of the fray? Fray'd I am...). Nevertheless, here's my three cents.

    I think you are spot on to jump to the marketing issues. The technical aspects are relatively trivial, I believe. What matters is promotion, publicity, and all the other marketing efforts required to spread the word about the book, and get it reviewed, featured, mentioned, etc.

    You know better than I what's required to get all of that machinery in motion. I think the key question is whether a traditional publisher can do it better than you can. I think there's a good chance the answer is No, based on the number of books on the market vs. the number that are promoted reasonably well. Seems like the trad publishing route is little different from the "vanity" press route, except you don't have to pay the trad pubs to print your work.

    On the other hand, I don't think it's fair to say that you can take the success of Amanda Hocking or J. A. Konrath and extrapolate to a general rule of automatic success with ebooks. I don't know enough about either to pinpoint why their success may have been exceptional, but it obviously is.

    Which takes me back to square one, and why I think I feared the fray to begin with: the quality of the book, regardless of publishing method, will probably be the largest determinant of success. A good book will find its market. But even still, the number of classically good books that received multiple rejections from trad pubs before finally getting into print is legion. As is the number of trashy books that top the best seller list.

    So my initial instinct was right: I really don't have anything helpful to say, and should probably delete this before epublishing it!