Promoting your self-published work: Be prepared to be trivialised and marginalised

January 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

. . . be prepared to be trivialised and marginalised . . These were amongst Carol Bunyan’s first words when speaking of being an unknown novelist trying to promote herself.

An unknown novelist is not important. No one knows about you or your book. When something important happens to us, for example we have a book (self) published, we almost expect such an astonishing fact to become common knowledge. However, it does not because you are not famous.

It would be so much easier if you were famous. So much easier because the doings of a famous person are much more interesting than the doings of an obscure person.

When you go to the Cheltenham Literary Festival, as a participating writer, don’t be surprised to discover that no parking space has been reserved for you, but eight have for JK Rowling.  When you go to give your talk at some local institution, don’t be surprised if no one has prepared a suitable place for you to deliver your talk. If someone does put up her hand to ask a question at the end of your talk, don’t be surprised if the question has nothing to do with you, your book or your talk.

Such were Carol Bunyan’s experiences. She wasn’t a novice either. Before she self-published her novel The Choir Mistress, she had worked as a script editor and playwright. However, that experience gave her no advantage when she came to establishing herself as a novelist. She had to take her place with all the other unknown novelists.

Thousands and thousands of books are published in the UK every week, more per individual than in any other country in the world. It can be very hard to make anyone take notice of yours. But it is not impossible either. You must see where the opportunities are. Now is the time, as never before, to be creative.

Radios, Carol advised, have many hours of airtime to fill up. However, marketing yourself as just another newly-published novelist will not do. You must find your USP (unique selling point).  ‘First Novel at Sixty’ was Carol’s, and was enough to secure her an interview on local radio. Your USP does not have to be unique in the strict sense of the word but it must be enough to distinguish you from those hundreds of thousands of other writers.

Carol talked to book clubs, to libraries, and to branches of the Women’s Institute. In this way, she promoted herself and sold books. In 28 locations, Carol sold 400 books. She was told it was good going. I have no doubt that it was very good going. And I feel her achievement can be largely credited to her presenting herself in an entertaining way.

Being an unknown novelist, promoting your unknown book can be hard and lonely work. It may seem almost impossible not to feel negative when you have been marginalised and trivialised, but you better make light of your experiences as Carol did. However much people will sympathise with your difficulties, they will not feel drawn to you. One of life’s sad ironies is that the less help you seem to need, the more people will want to help you.

Laugh and the world laughs with you, / Weep and you weep alone, / For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, / it has trouble enough of its own. (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

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