Self-pub desperation

If you’re one of those fabulous people who always makes calculated, rational decisions, and doesn’t understand how sentiments and fears can lead a person to feel compelled to make questionable decisions, then don’t read this post. It won’t connect with you, unless you have at least an outsider’s understanding of the likes of me.

Driven by fears that I can sometimes name, and that other times are just nameless and formless, as if there’s this vaguely outlined miasma of fear drifting about and finding its way into my lungs from time to time, I nevertheless started my life as a self-pub with a big group hug called a Kickstarter. Apparently there was a lot of good will pointed in my direction, and I made my funding goal, and it would have been nice if the big group hug had afforded me some long-term self-confidence.

Instead, once the Kickstarter funds had already been properly accounted for, printing copies of the book and all the other services I accepted from Matador, I was on my own to cover most of the rest (i.e. anything else under the sun that I felt like doing) with credit. I didn’t have an active team, and I had already ignored people’s advice by not going straight to Amazon or something like that, so I wasn’t about to say, “Please give me more advice that I may just ignore.” I try to value people’s time, and I can count on many of them to give advice free over the course of our friendship, so asking doesn’t always have to happen first.

The next three quarters of a year I’ve swooned in and out of this gimmick and that, lists of Fiverr gigs, Twitter blasts, pre-compiled mailing lists, hundreds of dollars’ worth of Facebook ads, and one national-level book fair. Some of those things were way better ideas than others.

With the beginning of this website venture, my March focus has been gradually trimming the fat; forgetting about the gimmick gigs that could have hurt my brand without selling a single copy; cancelling questionable services that rely on recurring payments. Hopefully, I get accepted to a local author book fair at the end of May. That will be an honest-to-goodness outreach to people who have been my neighbours for the longest time without knowing I exist, because all my efforts were directed at that boundless throng, “The Internet”. And that wouldn’t have been a terrible direction if I had done so in more intelligent ways, most of the time. However, I don’t even want to spend more on somewhat-reliable Facebook Ads (where at least I know I’m creating the ad, and in better control of my destiny) without having a plan, or at least a vague idea of what I’m doing.

Whether or not I make the cut of the book fair, I’m printing a new run of cards. Those are yet another neutral tool, and I hope to reserve them for smarter use this time around. A couple of factors already make these cards more helpful when used wisely:

When the first cards were printed, there was only a TGKQ cover graphic. There was no text on it, no way to know what that image means without reading the back of the card. The new cards have the author name and book title, just as it appears on the cover of a paperback.

When the first cards were printed, there were no social media sites or URLs for this book at all because it had yet to be published. I had to hand-write things like “Available at” on the back of every card that I wanted to make more useful. Sometimes it was a list of ebook outlets, cluttering the back of what should be a reusable postcard. The new cards will have all the relevant information they need just by listing my URL on the back; all that other info can be located on this site. At least it’ll save me lots of fatigue in my writing hand.

And a final thing I’ve learned about cards: if I so much as set foot outside my home, there will be organically arising opportunities to put the cards where people actually welcome them. I don’t have to create opportunities to distribute them, and I suspect you don’t have to, either. Don’t get nervous if your print run of cards looks big and bottomless. If they run out, you just have to pay again to get more. Let them stick around a bit longer, it doesn’t hurt.

Some people are less prone to panic, and they’ll be better-organized self-pubs from the start. If you’re like me, it’s possible that the only way you’ll learn all this is to make the mistakes. Even reading this warning from someone who’s been there won’t necessarily stop you; after all, I’m not you, and maybe if you do it, it’ll somehow work better… I know that train of thought.

I suggest in the worst case, you get it out of your system as early as possible. All you have to do is manage a personal budget, keep an eye on your credit if you have any to work with, and know where to draw lines in the sand that you don’t want to cross. If you can manage that budget aspect, you’re already bound to survive your early “self-pub desperation” phase in way better shape than this blogger.

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