The Indie Wars – Now What?

The stack of folders on my desk with notes documenting the trials and tribulations of my venture into indie publishing has all but disappeared into the filing cabinet. What remains is as important as the archive, but from a totally different perspective.

When I glance back at where I started this in early May of 2011, the amount of effort it took to produce six different manuscripts and two covers seems almost like a bad dream. And yet here I am once again, staring at a list of things to do and not knowing where to begin. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that just like producing the book, marketing it to potential readers is under my control if I want it to be. Dean Wesley Smith encourages authors to Think Like a Publisher, and it’s easy to look at the task ahead as a horrifying nightmare to anyone who is most comfortable in the writer’s cocoon, that magical world of storytelling in which the mind is released from everyday reality and given free rein into a universe of your own making.

I’m not like that, actually. It doesn’t bother me to get out there with my novel and promote it. But as a latecomer to social networking, I feel woefully inadequate in the practical aspects of how to manipulate the available links to readers.

One of the best examples is Twitter. Mark Coker of Smashwords says in his marketing guide that of the 25 tools he presents there, Twitter is the most important. Supposedly his background is far more in publicity than selling books, and that should give his ideas some credibility, but at this moment I’m baffled by the utility of Tweeting.

JT Conroe, author of Blue Hotel, suggested (and I paraphrase) that Tweeting isn’t so much about the Tweeting as the connections, the doors it opens, the ability to discover within the world of writers kindred spirits who can join with you in a collaborative publicity effort.

A few months ago before I published Pilot Error, I took Conroe’s advice and joined the Twitter community. Over the course of a few weeks, I did some Tweeting, which felt then as it does now, like tossing a drop of water into Niagara Falls, especially after following some folks and being followed in return. In the time it takes to compose a Tweet of 140 characters or less, a dozen or more new ones have arrived, and more are right behind to sweep my contribution off the page and out of sight in less time than it takes to blink. If I took the time to stare at the stream for hours on end, I might feel like a participant. Absent that, how can I best use it?

I decided to find a writer to connect with using more than 140 characters. Scanning Tweep profiles soon delivered me to the website of a guy who has published a couple of thrillers, won an award or two (I didn’t recognize them, but that means nothing of importance), and he had a few very nice reviews. They weren’t from any big names, but unless the writer made them up, someone read his books and liked them. Or maybe they traded reviews, all in the name of collaboration.

In any event, the writer has a nice blog. I read some of his posts, and his profile contained a few points of connection to me: career in aviation, graduate of Auburn University (I’m not, but my stepson is and my wife’s former husband coached there). And here’s the real eye opener: the hero of his novels is, you guessed it, an NTSB investigator.

So I emailed the guy, complimented him on his blog, told him a little about myself, and wished him the best of luck with his next novel. Maybe I should have sent him a donation or something, because he never even acknowledged the contact. Okay, so that’s one possibility in thousands. Forget it and go on.

But since then, I’ve been swamped with the details of publishing my novel and have only dabbled in Tweeting. It’s time to venture once again into a world that remains a mysterious place of special terms, abbreviations, symbols, and, let’s face it, to those of a certain age, an incomprehensible language.

And that’s just one item on a long list. I need a Facebook fan page, right? And an active presence on Goodreads, a blog tour, and shared interviews with other book bloggers, just to name a few of the things I need to do. Next comes the “how to do it.”

I’d better get started . . .

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