Publishing Myths I Still Can’t Let Go

Yeah, I still have the dream of walking into a Barnes & Noble and seeing my name up on the shelf, with some of my sci-fi tribe standing around chatting it up. Awesome. Would be equally amazing to get an invite to Dragon-Con in Atlanta with a room full of cosplayers living out characters I dreamed up. My tribe again. Those guys are crazy. Anyway, that’s the sort of thing that prompts a guy like me to sit in his study or out on the lake and pound away on a keyboard, dreaming up outlandish tech-scapes and apocalyptic drama – or maybe more often chuckling at something I thought up for somebody in the story to say. The thing about reality though is it’s unforgiving and thrills at squashing the pictures you had in your head going into something like publishing. So here’s a few things I can’t turn loose, but probably need to:

3. Book reviews and big name author blurbs are reliable gauges of quality, and those guys are just out there waiting on you to publish so they can blanket bomb you with their verbiage. Book reviews and big name author blurbs are in fact, by majority, paid for or culled through big publishing house connections. They’re about as meaningful as the things people you didn’t like wrote in your high school yearbook. Trying to get real live people to log in to Amazon and enter a review is as fun and satisfying as passing a kidney stone. Yet you need them, so let the heavy work begin. Go to places like the following to send thoughtful, customized review requests of blogs in your genre. You should know though, if you’re one of those keyword and search engine geeks, the Amazon algorithms put a ton more weight on verified purchase reviews than they do other reviews.                                   

2. In order to get on the bookshelf at a big chain bookstore, you just have to have a great book and put the time in – pay your dues. It’s a process, open to everyone. Maybe that’s the case; but I’m not seeing it as worthwhile if you’re an indie publisher or self-publishing. Way too much effort and very low probably of success. Get yourself on Ingram if you like since so many of them order through that database. Get yourself a Kirkus or Midwest review, though you’ll pay through the nose for Kirkus (and may have to pay at Midwest). Look up the Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and Hudson buyers online and submit if you like. The American Bookseller’s Association has an Indie Advance Access program where you can try and approach their small-store membership. Honestly, though, your time is better spent dropping this one for now, especially if it’s your first book or so, and churn up a decent on-line presence to drive people to your sales page on Amazon.

1. No reason I can’t just make the cover myself. I’m a smart guy. Give me a trial membership of Photoshop and get out of my way! Stop. Go back. Here be dragons. I spent days on this, learned the software, got my stock photography, even learned how to do lens flares J. J. Abrams would be proud of. I put that bad boy together and was overjoyed at how it looked. Family folks agreed at how amazing it was. A good time was had by all. Then I found out how hideous it looked as a thumbnail on ebook sites, how little impact it made when on the page with a bunch of other books, and just how many freaking rules of marketing and book cover best practices I broke with it. A savvy marketing guy named, Derek Murphy made a comment that stuck with me here – he said your book cover shouldn’t reflect a scene from the book because that’s worthless. It should just look like it belongs on the shelf next to books similar to it. That’s important.

So I’m done with this train of thought. Good luck to you if this is the road you’re headed down. Let me know if I can help!