Monday, October 3, 2011


The classic arc for a newly published books is months of waiting until the pub date set by the publisher, a flurry of activity at that time with book shipments, author appearances, and a smattering of reviews -- and then the book drops into the sinkhole of obscurity, often as though it never existed.

It may live on in libraries, college syllabuses, even a backlist for a while. It may get a second bump when the paperback version comes out. But eventually -- we're talking months, not years -- the publisher will tire of inventorying it and will remainder it or just pulp it, offering to sell the author as many copies as he or she will buy at bargain basement prices. A book will then be out of print, though somewhat more accessible now because the Internet market in used books.

The arc of a self-published book, I think, is radically different. It starts in the sinkhole of obscurity and must climb out of it. It can be a slow and painful process. The good news is there is no rush. You are not going to remainder your book and declare it out of print.

But it is tempting to follow the model established by the classic book publication. Omigod, my pub date is here. Must get reviews (reviewers don't like books that aren't newly published, why, really?). Must have events, book parties. Must make the most of my 15 minutes of not fame, but just notice in the glow of a new publication.

Every self-publishing success story I've heard, however, is a tale of patient promotion by word of mouth, slowly discovering and building an audience or fan base. One self-published friend has been at it for four or five years. He now has three titles out and is starting to see some significant sales -- not of his latest book necessarily -- but of the first two released years ago but slowly finding readers.

I've just been dipping into some writers' forums and the common complaint is why do I have to spend so much time on marketing? It distracts from writing. The good news, again, is that you can spend as much time as you like, depending on how fast you want this process to go. But I think no matter how intensely you pursue it, or how hectic you get, it will simply take time for news of a self-published book to percolate through the various networking vehicles that now exist.

I'm discovering, happily, books that were published months or years ago. I don't have to worry whether they were published last month or last year, whether they're about to go into paperback or are available as remainders. I can buy them or not and read them at my leisure.

All this is a long lecture to myself to be patient about building a market for The Grand Mirage. It took a long time to get here, and it will certainly take a long time to get to the next step.


  1. Um, did we miss the book party? :)

  2. No, it's tentatively scheduled for first Sunday in November. Any chance you'll still be around (silly question I guess)? Invitations have not gone out yet...