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.
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.
The Garden on Sunset is available in all formats – both ebook and paperback:
- Amazon Kindle ebook – http://amzn.to/s0Rkc1
- Paperback – http://amzn.to/xImA1O
- Barnes and Noble Nook ebook – http://bit.ly/xphEYx
- Apple iBook – Go to iTunes and search under “Martin Turnbull”
- Amazon UK Kindle ebook – http://amzn.to/sq0X0l