Marketing: Thoughts and Lessons from Harry Steinman and Readful Things

  So, you wrote a book huh? Yep. Me too. So did a few million other folks.

That is what you call healthy competition. Some of them will succeed and see the day when they are able to support themselves with their writing. Some will give it up after a few months of not selling many books, and some will never even bother to publish the book at all due to their misunderstanding of how publishing works.

If you have been thinking about marketing, think about the photo to the left. Does your effort to get your book noticed and garner attention for your work ever stop? The definitive answer: not if you really want to succeed. There are never enough people talking about your work–and no matter who you are–whatsisname from some place or Stephen King, you want them talking, for better or worse.

I have been very lucky in my career as a reviewer to meet A Lot of very talented, determined authors that value the hard work it takes to promote their writing. While I do not distinguish much between self publishing and traditional publishing when it comes to how I regard a book for review, I certainly do when it comes to the marketing efforts of the author. When you have no publishing house, PR department etc. backing you up, you had better be equipped with determination and drive to succeed.

I am very proud to present Mr. Harry Steinman, and his perspective on this matter. Harry has walked the walk before he talked the talk and is one of the most intelligent, well-spoken individuals I have had the pleasure of working with. He has graciously agreed to a series of Thursday guest posts about marketing, writing and this wonderfully (and sometimes frustrating) business we writers refer to as daily life. Feel free to pick his brain and ask him tough questions. If anyone can answer them with gusto–it is Harry.

Wet Paint and Hot Stoves: What I Learned About Self-Publishing
First in a series of essays for independent writers

 

            I make a crummy employee. “You’re a talented guy, Harry, and your work is good,” the termination meetings begin, “but you can’t do things your own way here.”

            Sorry, but I’m incapable of anything else. I carry the iconoclast gene in my DNA, and it’s a dominant trait. If it ain’t broke…I’ll break it. “Wet Paint” signs beckon with siren irresistibility. I’ve never walked away from a hot stove, despite burns and blisters. And I’ll do it my own way when it comes to publishing.

            After I wrote Little Deadly Things, I attended workshops on query letters. I met with agents and editors at writers’ forums. They dispensed good advice—consistent advice, anyway. I collected business cards galore and practiced my elevator speech. I pitched my novel again and again.

            A few months later, I attended a workshop on self-publishing. Bring on the wet paint and hot stoves.

            In August, 2012, I published Little Deadly Things through my own publishing house, Alloy Press. The book’s been on and off the Kindle best-seller list in a few categories. One weekend, 22,133 readers downloaded the book when it was a Kindle freebie. The book earned back all of the self-publishing expenses by Thanksgiving, and even showed up on my tax return in the profit column.

            I made some smart moves when I published Little Deadly Things. I made some colossal blunders, too. Case in point: I revised several chapters after my copy editor finished her task. Read the reviews on Amazon: readers spotted every typo I missed and trumpeted the mistakes with a Jehovah’s Witness’s zeal.

            Ionia Martin asked me to chronicle what I learned for Readful Things and for the next few months, you can read my account. In the virtual world, an expert is someone who’s done something once, so take my advice with a grain of salt—hell, use a salt lick for that matter.  

I’m not going to promote self-publishing. Better writers have done so with eloquence that comes from experience that I lack. What I offer is a template for the inexperienced. (For my money, the best is argument for self-publishing is, “Eisler & Konrath v. Hanchette” in A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, December 7, 2011. That’s Eisler, as in Barry Eisler, who rejected a $500,000 advance from Hanchette in favor of self-publishing.) http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/12/eisler-konrath-vs-hachette.html

            Three principles guided me during the self-publishing process:

1.      It’s hard to self-publish. It’s even harder to sell your book, no matter how well-written.

2.      Marketing is the backbone of publishing. You publish because you want others to read your writing. Marketing connects you to your readers.

3.      Marketing is the writer’s responsibility, whether she self-publishes or is picked up by one of the legacy houses.

I’ll add meat and milk to these postulates over the course of ten installments. The first three posts— “The Babel Effect”, “The Writer’s Dirty Secret”, and “What the Caveman Saw”—describe essential marketing activities that you must do before you prepare your book for publication. Ignore the preliminaries and I predict that your book will not sell. Follow them and you’ll have a fighting chance for success.

            You’ll find the nuts and bolts in, “Ten Steps to Build Your Self-Publishing Empire”. I’ll lay these out in the fourth and fifth installments.

             “Two Seconds to a Sale or to Fail” covers…well, covers. People do judge a book by its cover and back-cover copy. You’ll learn what to look for in book cover and how to get blurbs from other writers. “Books Don’t Grow on Trees” shows you how to have a successful Kickstarter project to fund your publishing. “Vendors I’ve Known and Loved (and How to spot the Good Ones)” helps you find reliable professionals.

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. “How to Survive a Five-Star Review on Amazon” starts with the account of a faux reviewer who used some nasty tactics in an attempt to torpedo my novel, and the simple technique I used to protect Little Deadly Things. That’s entertainment. More important, you’ll learn the best ways to get honest reviews, and why planted reviews will catch up with you.

            I hope you can benefit from my many missteps and occasional successes. Please tell Ionia if these periodic posts are not valuable, and I’ll stop. If they’re invaluable, I’ll keep on. And if you find some small merit in them, please: buy my book, read it, and write an honest review.

 cover

If you would like to learn more about Harry’s experiences you can click here: http://grubdaily.org/what-the-caveman-saw%e2%80%94lessons-from-a-17000-year-old-blog/

or here http://grubdaily.org/the-kindness-of-strangers-how-i-funded-my-self-published-novel-with-kickstarter/

I look forward to reading the next installment Harry, and thank you so much for agreeing to let us pick your brain!

95 thoughts on “Marketing: Thoughts and Lessons from Harry Steinman and Readful Things”

  1. Wow, your post has some great points. Writing a book is only the start..you have to be prepared to work hard to get it out there to the public! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Cranky! (I’ll bet you’re really a softie!) Thanks for your kind words–and permit me to build on your point, “be prepared to work hard to get it out there to the public”. One of the main points that I’ll make is that the hard work starts *before* you publish. More to follow…

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      1. In ghostwriting, I’ve done fantasy, romance and crime. What I love to write (and write under a pen name) though, is romance and crime fiction!

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  2. Brilliant! A great idea and I look forward to reading your posts. Quick question – will you be discussing editors? As in, how to find them and how to tell the good from the bad?

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    1. Hi Beautiful Orange (do your friends call you, “Beautiful” or “Orange”?) Can’t claim even a bit of originality for the idea. Seems like there’s an army of writers giving advice…or, more likely, selling it. My advice is free! And worth every penny!

      What’s different, is that this is more of a first-person account of how I hacked a trail through the wilderness, so to speak. Hope you continue to be excited.

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      1. Thanks, John! Positive reinforcement works for dogs…and writers and I like getting strokes. Glad you liked the page…wait’ll you read the book! Hope my posts are helpful to you. HJS

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  3. I’ve also just read the article that Harry linked to. It’s fairly long but a brilliant read. Highly recommended…

    “For my money, the best is argument for self-publishing is, “Eisler & Konrath v. Hanchette” in A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, December 7, 2011. That’s Eisler, as in Barry Eisler, who rejected a $500,000 advance from Hanchette in favor of self-publishing.

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/12/eisler-konrath-vs-hachette.html

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    1. I agree. It is brilliant. I wish that more people who think “they can’t possibly go anywhere” with self publishing would consider the stories of others.

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    1. Hi Kate, Delicious? Wow. But, after I read your comment, I tried licking my computer screen and, honestly, it was sort of like lint and plastic. “It’s a naive domestic display without any breeding, but I am impressed by it’s impetuosity” (to paraphrase the caption of one of James Thurber’s famous cartoons).

      PS: Wait’ll you try my casserole.

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  4. I’m so excited about these posts! I’ve been marketing my series for a little over a year now and it’s all been trial and error. I would love it if there was some sort of formula out there that we could all use to become successful. 🙂

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    1. Hi Shawn P. I’m looking forward to it too! I was hoping that the blogging fairies would do it for me. Alas. My heavy hand with garlic in the casserole I prepared for Kateemsparkes (see above) chased all the delicate critters away. Now I gotta write it all by myself…or invest in a gallon of Scope.

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    1. Hi Andra, Glad you’re excited. I aim to please! Actually, all I’m going to do is talk about my bonehead blunders and infrequent successes. “Experience is what you get when you make mistakes”. (That’s an original! You can use it!) And I’ve got experience up the wazoo.

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    1. Hi Tuan, Last person that told me to, “Bring it on” was an impatient diner when I was working as a waiter. True story: I was promoted from wait staff to bus boy. Not a joke. That was at Ralph Yaney’s Inn of the Seventh Ray just north of L.A. I helped open the place (and probably darned near closed it).

      I’ll do my best!

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  5. Thanks for sharing IONIAMARTIN! Harry sounds like one of the geniuses I have found since I started blogging (a few days ago). I already know that I need more professional cover art desperately. I love the pic but the art is sooooo Microsoft, and not even good. I just don’t know where to go to get it. So I’ll be following along.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, SK. I was lucky to run into an old friend, Roger Gefvert, a fellow I knew about 35 years ago. He did my cover and interior design. I think I can talk him into doing more, if folks are interested.

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      1. I would love to consider him. I have a photo that I especially want to use, but I need some creative artwork to incorporate that into. It can be cropped or whatever to make a better design. Send email. I will be out of town until May 8th, then I will be biting at the bit to get this done. It so needs to happen. I know it does. Thanks for your interest and assistance.

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    2. Hi SK, Genius? More like genus, “bumblus idiotus”. Am reading your blog and it is interesting! If you wait a few weeks, we’ll talk about cover art. If you absolutely can’t wait, email me and I’ll see if my cover guy is taking on projects. (*He’s* the genius) I’m at info@littledeadlythings.com

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      1. I am on the road in the rain in GA, will be back next Sunday. Will send email when I return to FL, thanks! Really looking forward to getting something going.

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      2. Cool! My wife & I started visiting Dunedin a few years ago. Took exactly one trip to decide to relocate. Now if we could just convince our kids to move down there with the granddaughter…

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      3. We are in Orlando. We get to Tampa area frequently and a lot of our friends are snowbirds. It must be nice to have a home away from home. we have a cabin cruiser that we use like that when we can find the time, but I would love a cabin in the Smoky Mountains or UP of Mich.

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  6. Looking forward to reading more… I picked up AiA’s new book on self-publishing last month, and am always on the look out for more info. I really enjoy your blog, Ionia. I’m glad I happened upon it!

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  7. Wow! There seems to be such a powerful stream of generosity that runs through and to your blog Ionia:-) I’m really looking forward to these posts, a pre-weekend treat – thank you so much both of you:-)

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  8. Looking forward to reading this series. I’ve surprised myself by enjoying the self publishing process so far.

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    1. Glad to hear your self-pub is going well. I found it exciting, frustrating, and, ultimately, rewarding experience. Hope I can tip you to some of my bone-head mistakes so you can get a chuckle and maybe a heads-up. Harry

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    1. Thanks, Felt. I was lucky. You know that infinitely-large pool of monkeys with typewriters? Well, they didn’t get to the complete works of Shakespeare yet, but, turns out, they’re not half bad with a blog. Stay tuned for more monkey chatter…

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Mr. Johnson. Next installment, “Know Thy Reader” will be part of Ionia’s wonderful blog on Thursday. You’ll find out how I almost killed my book and how to avoid one of my biggest bonehead blunders. 🙂

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  9. Another informative and incredibly well crafted post full of much needed and appreciated information!

    *Dances with you and a giant Teddy Bear* Time to do the Dougie Rumba Salsa waltz with a bit of Tango influences and some hardcore Street core stuffffffs, Sound good?

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