Marketing. The bane of most writers existence. Some of us are great at it. Most of us, however, spend our days hiding behind keyboards and imaginary characters. Pounding the pavement and knocking on doors sounds like a real job. Fictional work, no more.
But if you have chosen the self publishing route, or even if you go traditional publishing nowadays, you need to do this stuff. As painful as it might sound.
I’ve been self-employed for six years now and while I’ve met some measure of success, it hasn’t ever risen to the level I want it to be. Mostly, this has been due to my terribleness (how did spell check not just flag that…is that really a word?) at marketing. Well, since I’m on this Hero’s Journey, I’m aiming to change that. It will be the biggest part of my transformation and most likely the deciding factor of success.
I started by completing my One Page Marketing Plan. And that alone was an eye-opener. The most helpful thing so far was a big dose of validation.
To fill out the Top 3 Competitors section, I ran a search on Amazon Kindle ebooks for “superhero” and sorted by “New and Popular”. I came up with 6000 results, but focused on the top ten. Now, throughout this process, I’ve heard at least three people tell me that superhero books don’t sell or that they haven’t had much luck with them. An agent, an author and finally, a well known publisher.
The second book on the list, self-published by an independent author like myself, reportedly sold 10,000 copies in the first month. A superhero book about a 16 year old boy. A demographic I was steered away from.
Okay, I’m sure there are some serious tricks I need to learn before I can pull that off. Really, crazy, Amazon algorithm defying stuff. But the bottom line is yes, there is a market for superhero fiction. 10,000 copies may not be much for a big New York publisher. For an author getting big New York publisher style royalties, it may not even make a dent in their advance. But for someone like me, that would be a huge deal.
While filling out the rest of my Marketing Plan, I ran across a number of websites which I’m adding to my links section for anyone else interested in going on this journey with me. They are:
And a great little self pub survey link from my friend, Regina Richards:
Hopefully you find these links helpful. I’m soaring back into the fray with the goal of wrapping up draft three edits in the next couple of days.
It’s tenacious writers like you that give me the resolve to flip yet another short story when it gets rejected (just got a form letter today from Asimov). I intend to post these links on my crit groups Self Help pages and bring them up at the meeting tomorrow. Also, I’m very glad to see that super-hero stories do sell (really, what is sci fi if not super?). I suspected they would. I agree with your logic that 10,000 copies is better than 0. I have faith in your story and can’t wait for an autographed copy. Do you have something else in store?
Well, I can only hope my muddling through this process helps other writers. I think the landscape has changed for publishing and will continue to change. As far as the book, you’ll get the first signed copy for sure (well, maybe second…)! My next novel is a fantasy story but not your typical fantasy – about a character from a bug-humanoid race who isn’t really supposed to save the world. Not sure why I’m on an insect kick, but hey, they’re so NOT human, which makes them more interesting than short humans, or humans with pointy ears. I’ve got other short stories still making the rounds as well and a few ideas that have finally started to thaw.
My not-so-secret secret is that for the past 5 years I’ve co-hosted a comedy podcast called The Complete Guide to Everything that I’ve been lucky enough to gained an awesome, loyal audience through. Having basically “given away” content for close to 5 years, a lot of people were really receptive when I said “Hey, I wrote a book. I’m making it cheap because you might like this podcast, think I’m funny, or a nice guy, etc. but you have no idea if I can write or not, BUT if you like the show I’d be thrilled if you checked it out.”
To be honest, not as many people bought it initially as I had hoped, but it was enough to grab hold in Amazon’s rankings and algorithms. From there enough people took a chance on a cheap book that had a great looking cover to try it out. They started giving positive reviews, and it sorta snow-balled from there.
I was barely even aware that “superhero” was a novel genre, and once I found out it was I purposefully avoided reading anything out there so I wouldn’t be influenced towards what was already out there. I can tell you however, that I’ve heard from a lot of people who have told me that they read tons of “these kinds of books”, so there’s definitely an audience. It might not be as big as “teen dystopian” or whatever, but there’s also not as much competition.
At the end of the day I wrote the novel I’d have read as a young adult and awesomely it worked out, but making free content for years and years and connecting with people through that medium was definitely the only way anyone saw it in the first place. I only mentioned the novel about 2 weeks before it was released (I didn’t want to “hype” it, then have a last minute problem cause a delay) and I did a few interviews with people who asked after learning about it on the podcast. That was about it marketing-wise, aside from trying to follow-up with everyone who emailed/tweeted/facebooked me about the book, which I’m sure helped word-of-mouth.
Anyway, hope that helps fill in some of the blanks about my marketing. Best of luck and congrats on your blog. This is definitely making me feel like I’m being way too lazy with mine.
Thanks so much for taking the time to unearth my blog and respond. That’s all valuable info and while I don’t have a podcast with loyal listeners, it gives myself and my readers some idea of the groundwork you laid. The reviews all seem genuine so beyond simply having loyal fans, you’ve written a good book as well! I read the sample chapters and put it on the top of my reading list.
I had a similar experience writing Collateral Damage. The idea was hatched based on a short story prompt. I’d never read any superhero fiction either and it had been years since I’d picked up a comic book. After my second draft, I started cramming – spoke to a couple authors of superhero novels and read a half dozen of the more notable releases. I agree with you – the market space has less competition as a smaller niche. That makes traditional publishers a bit leery to taken on those projects, however, for self-pub, I think it’s perfect.
Don’t even say you took the lazy way out – producing a podcast for years and then selling 10k + copies of a book sounds anything but lazy. Great lesson in building a platform. We’ll see how it goes, hopefully I can mimic even a small portion of your success. Good luck with your career, hope to see more of your work!