Now What? The Mystery of What to Do After Self-Publishing

A lifetime in the making, and my books are finally out there. The mystery of getting published has been solved, so we move to the next case. Now what?

Talk about a journey worthy of pages - there were days, weeks, and months when I thought we’d never get here (cue the violin). It wasn’t just the costs, but the wilderness of self-publishing that we had to figure out. It’s an industry with so many paths and trails that there’s no right or wrong way to go - there’s just a million ways to get to the same place. We may have gone the long way ‘round, but Joe and I toughed it out. And ta-da! We’re here.

And we’re learning. Writing life moves at a slower pace than normal life. It’s life, slow mo. Everything takes much longer than expected. Sea-Devil was released in 2012. Two years later, I took it back. I had Luna-Sea written by fall 2012, and hoped that it would be released early 2013. Well, that didn’t happen. So, along with Sea-Devil, I regained control of both books. It’s taken a year to get them both ready (at least, to our standard of readiness). While being the master of your own writing destiny is good, it’s hard to go it alone, especially the first time (times two). Now that we’re about to be “seasoned” self-publishers, surely the next time around will be a shorter, easier trail (I’m writing book three now).

The sigh of relief we both puttered out once the books showed up on Amazon was short-lived. Because now that they’re out there, we face a bigger challenge. Now what? How do we get our books into the hands of readers?

That might be the biggest mystery of all!

So, a new journey begins that’s frankly not as fun as planning murders or plot twists. Marketing. Ugh. The word may sound fun - like hipster shopping - but it isn’t. For creatives, being sentenced to a lifetime of aggressive marketing is like being thrown in a dank, dark prison. Our brains like to be free to think of butterflies and the way sand feels on skin and what words we can use to illicit the most suspense. You know, fun stuff. Not how to sell our babies. There’s no fun in that. Right?

Marketing is necessary (we must all learn to accept that), but it can be done creatively.

Here are some examples of creative stuff you could be doing now:

* Creating awesome book blurbs (and other promotional tidbits) that won’t just grab a potential reader’s attention, but hold it captive.

* Playing with categories and keywords on Amazon to find where your book fits and where it likes to snuggle.

* Juicing up your website/blog - sure, it’s fine now. but how can it be better? Re-examine your content. And if you don’t have those…. um, get a blog and a website, dummy.

* Do research. Sure, it doesn’t sound creative, but reading what’s out there, exploring others’ blogs, Twitter feeds, etc - all this sparks creativity. See how the good ones do things and learn from them.

* Host some giveaways in a clever way. Give potential readers a challenge like half a sentence they have to finish in the most outlandish way possible or share a cutest pet picture - something that relates to your brand.

* Connect with other bloggers. Read their stuff. Reach out.

* Do Goodreads.

But wait, there's more! Not as creative but still important, here's what we've been doing so far in case there are other starving, frustrated writers out there in the same (floating, but floundering) boat that we're in:

* We read and enjoyed Write. Publish. Repeat. by Platt, Truant, Wright. They provided very strong, practical advice that we could utilize immediately.

* We've read a few books and articles, and listened to many podcasts by Joanna Penn. She provides a lot of information no matter what stage of the process you're in.

* We've tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to map out a schedule that will help us work on writing stuff everyday. Still looking for the right plan for us as Joe and I both work and have many outside committments. How does anyone find balance?

* Whenever I need a kick in the writing pants, I love rereading these two books: On Writing by Stephen King and The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates.

* We subscribed to The Author Marketing Club and are working through the tutorials. So far, we've cleaned up our Amazon pages thanks to their help and we're using the review grabber tools.

* We're reading books in the mystery genre (or at least samples of books) to identify the categories we wish to utilize for our series. It's not as simple as MYSTERY.

* And finally, we are trying not to get too bogged down in all this stuff (easy to do since there's so much out there and so many ways to market).

The most important thing is to keep writing. When you have very limited time to commit to your writing life, it's crucial that you prioritize. Write. Write first. Write the most. And when you don't know what to do, just write.