How To Publish A Novel And Not Go A Little Bat-shit Crazy

In case you’re new to this blog, let me take a moment to catch you up. Last week I launched my debut novel, The Garden on Sunset. It’s the first of a series of planned novels telling the story of Hollywood as seen through the eyes of the residents of the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Boulevard from 1927 to 1956.

It took five years of researching and plotting out the whole nine books in the series. So, to finally arrive at the week when I was able to announce that the first book was released was every bit as exciting as I hoped it might be. It was a wonderful week in my life, telling people, relatives, friends and anyone with a working knowledge of English that my novel was out. What I hadn’t counted on was that it would also drive me just a little bat-shit crazy.

Once your novel is out, it’s time to establish your online presence. In truth, the time to do that is anything up to a year before your novel comes out, so that by the time it does get released, you have an eager audience ready to get their own copy. And, in anticipation of this blessed event, I have been doing that for most of last year. But when your novel comes out, it’s time to step it up and really let the world know you and your novel exist.

Martin Turnbull, with "The Garden on Sunset"

Martin Turnbull, with "The Garden on Sunset" (pre-bat-shit crazies)

Somewhere along the line, I’ve managed to subscribe to 56 blogs. Most of them are related to the golden years of Hollywood in some way or other. On Facebook, I follow 70 pages, most of whom are also Hollywood-related. Meanwhile over in Twitterville, I follow 206 people, and have 141 people following me.

This is where the bat-shit crazy comes in. The upside of all this social networking is that I have made myself a little bit known around the “old Hollywood” corner of the internet. I’ve been posting interesting stuff, commenting on people’s blogs, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets. The downside is that the majority of these people I follow in their various incarnations post something interesting at least once a day. One guy whose blog I subscribe to posts at least half a dozen things every single day. (Where does he find the time…???)

I hadn’t really noticed what a large and varied group I was following until I’d published my book and was keen to really get the word out. Suddenly it seemed oh-so-very important to keep up with what everyone was posting and blogging and tweeting so that I could join in on as many conversations as possible. The aim wasn’t so much to endlessly bleat “BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!” but in the hopes that I could establish that I do know what I’m talking about when it comes to this era and in doing so, it could pique someone’s interest and follow the links to my book which, if they were into old Hollywood, could find interesting. There’s not much point in publishing a book if you don’t establish an online presence and by following people’s blogs and pages and tweets, you connect with like-minded folk.

What hit me after publishing my book, was: Ye frickin’ gods! This is all SO SO SO time consuming! Between reading and commenting on blogs, emailing, writing my own blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, this stuff takes HOURS and HOURS and HOURS. Very quickly it felt like a tidal wave coming at me every day, and if I got behind, tomorrow’s tidal wave was going to completely swamp me. And then there’s the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that. When the hell was I going to find the time to start on book two? I’ve already had five people come to me saying, “Finished it! Loved it! When is book two coming out? I want to know what happens!” That’s the biggest compliment any reader could pay an author. It means they enjoyed it, they got involved and care about the characters. For an author to hear that, it’s MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

The thing is: I like the stuff that people post on Facebook, the old photos, film clips, stills, trivia, dispelling rumors, reminders of anniversaries. And I like the stuff people talk about on their blogs, whether it’s Carole Lombard’s final movie, or Jean Harlow’s first starring role, or the latest development to rock the world of eReaders. It’s all really, really interesting, but who the hell has time to write novels when another fourteen tweets have appeared since the time I started this goddamned sentence?

The bat-shit crazies were starting to swarm, and something had to give. Fortunately it wasn’t my sanity.

Savior came in the form of a blog posted by J. A. Konrath. Konrath is sort of the big kahuna of self-publishing. He was a traditionally-published author who made the switch to self-publishing a while back and has had phenomenal success. He recently posted a blog about how he made $100,000 in the three weeks over the Christmas/New Year period from his self-published books. It was a post that sort of went viral around the online self-publishing community and he must have received a barrage of queries about how he did it. So he posted a follow up explaining how.

According to him, none of the publicity he’s received at being who he is or what he’s achieved has helped his book sales. None of the TV appearances or the newspaper interviews have done his sales figures a lick of good. He maintains it’s all about your profile on Amazon. He admits that yeah, yeah, yeah, you have to have a website, and it helps if you have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, and all that stuff. But he maintains, as an author, the vast majority of your efforts should be directed towards raising and enhancing your presence on Amazon. That’s how people shop, it’s how people browse, it’s how people discover new books and new authors, and it’s how people buy, nowadays, especially with the three million Kindles that Amazon sold in the three weeks leading up to Christmas.

Suddenly I felt like Wylie E. Coyote after he’s lifted one of Roadrunner’s Acme Co. anvils off his head. You can’t–and shouldn’t–neglect your part in whatever community you’ve built for yourself, and I won’t, nor do I want to. But as a writer, you should go where the action is. You need to let your readers find you, and if the Amazonian behemoth is where they’re most likely to find you, then that’s where you need to spend the majority of your efforts.

And as my blogging buddy, the ever-wise Jaye Manus told me, the best thing you can do for your readers is to write, and let The Garden on Sunset find its own legs.

~oOo~

The Garden on Sunset is available in all formats – both ebook and paperback:

~oOo~

www.MartinTurnbull.com

 

About martinturnbull

The "Garden of Allah novels" blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author writing about the golden era of Hollywood in his series of novels set at the Garden of Allah hotel which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at www.martinturnbull.com and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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9 Responses to How To Publish A Novel And Not Go A Little Bat-shit Crazy

  1. Jaye says:

    Wonderful post, Martin. It’s one I hope every indie writer caught in the crazies or is on the brink of the crazies will read.

    Thank you for this post. Now, please, my darling, go write the next book so I can find out what Marcus, Kathryn and Gwendolyn are up to.

  2. Pingback: Self-Publishers: Is Promotion Making You Crazy? | J W Manus

  3. I left you a comment over at Jaye’s site – came to the same conclusion myself. It does get insane, huh.

  4. I’m suffering similarly, though I don’t have a following like yours. So what do you mean by “your efforts” when you say, “…and if the Amazonian behemoth is where they’re most likely to find you, then that’s where you need to spend the majority of your efforts.”?

    • Hi Marie. My “efforts” have been largely focused on blogs and Facebook, and to a lesser extent, Twitter. I use Google Reader to follow blogs that deal with, in some way, the same thing that my novels deal with: the golden years of Hollywood. I read them and comment on them whenever I feel I have something interesting or funny to add. Ditto Facebook – there are tons of people to have FB pages about some aspect or other of old Hollywood. I try to add something to my FB page every day and comment on things that other pages who I follow have posted. FB has really been useful for that. Twitter less so because I use it more to connect with writers and the writing/publishing community, rather than with people who might be interested in what I’m writing about. All this has been interesting and worthwhile, but time consuming. And then when I launched my novel, it all seemed to ratchet up a HUGE notch and I lost all perspective. This whole thing has taught me that whatever you’re writing about, there’s bound to be an online community that you can become involved in. Through it all, I’ve met some really wonderful, interesting, interested, supportive people, and I have no doubt that you can too.

      • Ah, thanks for the clarification. :) I’m doing some of this. I guess it really just takes time.

      • Yes, it does take time but my experience has shown that if you keep at it, all your efforts will have a cumulative effect. For months, I’d post a photo on my FB page and it *might* attract a handful of “like”s – yesterday’s photo of an old semaphore traffic signal attracted 26 likes and 10 comments. Keep at it!

  5. Linda Mansouria says:

    Ah, my God what a learning experience!
    So much to do with so little time. Glad you found a focus. I cannot wait to read it 100 pages to go on my current book and then onto yours.

    Love linda

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