While I was riding my camel in Egypt this morning, a blinding white light beamed down from the heavens and tossed me straight into a mirage. As I had never been in a mirage before, I was naturally taken aback by the whole thing, especially the part when a magnificent being (who appeared to be of Swedish origin) appeared through the stratocumuli and flipped open a glimmering, iridescent book. He then proceeded to proclaim these miraculous words of wisdom to me, which I shall now share share with you!
Put Down Thy Pen! - I suppose what the grand old cloud fellow meant by this was if you're working on your next book and have under a thousand "real" followers and even less than that in sales, you're being rather ill-advised about the requirements of your new profession! As a self-published author, as lovely as it may be to sit around and write all day, if this were a normal 9-5 job, the bulk of your day would be spent thinking up ways to grow your readership, entertaining and/or informing your current reader base about more ways to tap into your book while eagerly encouraging them to share it with their family and friends, engaging with anyone and everyone who has read it to see what is or isn't working for them in order to produce a better book two...and so forth. The writing part is merely one's coffee break! So, if you're sitting around hoping that success will magically find you after you've published your second or third or fourth installment, you really need to put away that fairytale pen and get back to what you're supposed to be doing: trabajo! As a self-published author, you're your own fairy-godmother. No one else can make that sparkling dress of success for you: You've got to embellish it by yourself!
Promote Thy Book! - Even if you're 100% certain that your book won't win any awards or make it onto any fancy notable lists, as your book's sole champion, you owe it every chance there is to get it into the hands of readers. In an insanely oversaturated market, the self-published author can't afford prolonged friendships with Herr Pessimism or Frau Overprotective. Trust me, your book's feelings won't get hurt if it doesn't win a Newberry. But, if it does, goodness me! you're giving the people who do follow such awards the opportunity to take notice of your book, which may lead to them purchasing it, which may lead to them posting a grand review about it, which may lead to even more souls learning and purchasing and reviewing your production. In short, send your book to as many award competitions as you can afford. And, if it's the thought of winning that makes you feel uncomfortable, try not to think about awards as embarrassing "Hey-Look-at-Me!" ordeals, because, really, they're not actually for you. Awards act more as an impressive notice system for groups of highly selective readers who otherwise wouldn't care about your masterpiece's existence!
Trim Thy Weeds! - No, no! Not those weeds! (Though a good trim-up wouldn't do you any harm!) This is in regards to the weeds of your actual life. Okay, so maybe that needs some expanding upon. Think of it like this: If you give your book—your little piece of heart and mind (and whatever ounce of your soul you put into it)—to anyone, especially a family member or friend, and they are, for whatever reason, unable to return a word like "thanks" or give you general encouragement for your new author endeavor, then, frankly, they are weeds who don't deserve to be in your garden. Sounds harsh, I know, but it's just as crucial in your new business venture to edit your real-life relationships as it is to edit those of your fictional characters. So—mind you don't go out doing anything too drastic to weed toxic and faux relationships from your bountiful flower bed—try sending out some "book gifts" to those closest to you to better understand where your true support really is.
Don't Flog Book Blogs! - Book blogs are to bookish people what shopping malls are to teenagers: terribly invigorating places to hang-out, make-out, and talk about which books they love and hate (and to learn about which steamy pager-tuner their best friend Suzan is hooking-up with!). But instead of reaching out to the gods and goddess of these amazing online rambling spots demanding of them to promote your work, try to find out what you can do to assist them. (A revolutionary idea, isn't it?) Offer bloggers a guest post or a fun giveaway for their readers. Practice being a useful-being and not a demanding author pest! These bloggers are doing a tremendous amount of work—most for free—so label them as holy and treat them as such until they don't reply to your email or refuse to blog about your work, and then you can freely label them servants of darkness and flog their blogs until your heart's content! ;-D
Respect Thy Reviewer! - Unless you're somehow living in the Dark Ages and the current year all at the same time, you should perfectly know that everyone is free to think whatever they want about your work and that each of those "everyones" is equally entitled to voicing whatever rubbish and completely asinine opinions they have about your work. And guess what? It has nothing to do with you! Yes, even when some clearly intelligent individual goes off bashing your name or feels so compelled to give your book a good thrashing, it generally stems from negative feelings that person is harboring for themselves. So let the poor dears be...You can't expect your work to appease everybody. No book ever has or will! Additionally, there's no point in getting worked up about what you can't control. Did you write the best story you could? Great! Get on with next. Did learn later on that you missed some things and had room to improve? Good! Learn from whatever that is and make a better second book! Congratulations, you're human! Find strength in those who did enjoy reading what you wrote; be grateful and mindful of any constructive criticism you receive (even if it rubs off negatively tinged at first read); but feel free and confident to ignore anything and everything that doesn't come from a place of positivity or attempts to pull you into someone else's pile of dirt. An author's mind is far too precious a thing for trollish mental treason!
Network Continuously! - This may seem obvious, but there's really no point in going through all the effort of publishing your book if you're not seriously going to attempt to get it into the hands of everyone under the moon! So do yourself a favor and get your book to as many book fairs and trade shows as you possibly can. Start networking. Go to publishing conferences. Set up your little lemonade stand anywhere lemonade sales are allowed! Make yourself known to each and every bookstore owner and librarian that you can find (in a cordial, non-stalking manner). And don't let anyone forget about you or your book! Send thank you cards and reminder emails to anyone who puts up listening to you blab about your work. And, if you're unable to attend major events in person, buddy up with a group that will represent your work on your behalf, like Foreword Reviews or Publishers Spotlight.
Budget! Budget! Fudget! - Alright, so maybe "fudget" isn't a word—yet!—but as tempting as it may be to dump all of your resources into your super-duper Book Launch, it really is a better idea to devise a plan to stretch your resources—much like a runner would do with their energy reserves during a marathon—instead of approaching your launch like a mad, now-or-never sprint! Getting people to become aware of your work—let alone, join your book's bandwagon—is going to take time. It's simply the nature of the game. So on to the "fudget" part, which I'm going to define as: "making something look more alluring than it actually is," (as is the case with fudge!); don't let flashy marketing and PR firms fool you about what your role is—no matter how many helpful and amazing services they offer, at the end of the day, you're the sole runner in this race! And no one but YOU can make your book a success.
Grow Thy Blog! - If you're anything like me and are coming from a place where blogging seems incredibly dull and insipid, you must suck it up and quickly figure out a way to make it appeal to your brain's pleasure receptors. It can be a "Here's-What-I-Did-and-Now-You-Can-Too!" sort of blog (that can grow to be a whole other business in its own), or it can be a "Look-At-Moi-Eating-and-Drinking-and-Traveling-to-France-and-Birthing-Beautiful-Bébés-All-While-Writing-A-Bestseller" sort of blog; or it can be none of those things. Point is, your blog is free to evolve. But the sooner you realize that people want to hear your voice beyond your crisply sculpted pages, the sooner you'll grow yourself a cushion of real-life supporters who will happily line up to buy your next book. Potential book buyers want to know what they're supporting: who you are and what you do or don't stand for, just as voters want to know all the scandalous information they can on their soon-to-be-voted for politician. And being a quiet, tea-drinking hobbit—as nice as that may be—simply won't get your book anywhere beyond your own little Shire. So be bold. Be courageous. And be blogish!
Seize Social Media! - This was another one I had a hard time coming to terms with as I wasn't on social media before, purposely. I viewed it as a bizarre place for teenagers to post embarrassing photos of themselves at underage parties and where parents secretly spied on them and diary-logged ever second of baby showers and boring family reunions. It then morphed into a place where businessmen could instantly shove ads into your face about their new highly-processed "food" products you'd never ever eat, and where you could read about news happening in far away land that in no way could effect you (except for now that you've read the article, you feel suddenly apprehensive about your health status and travel plans to a completely separate foreign country!). Anywhooo, despite Social Media's function as a massive junk attack and diary log of all of your "friends", as a self-published author, you are now, akin to that businessman. So the sooner you become acquainted with how Social Media can act as a professional billboard for your book and brand message, the sooner you'll be able to reach out to new people and communities who would love to learn about your book! So try your best to make friends with it, even if you've shared disagreements with it in the past, and attempt to view Social Media more as a gallery for your art instead of a total dismantling of your artistic-essence.
Be Kind to Thyself! - Finally, as our dear Swedish-looking fellow in the clouds proclaimed, becoming an author is not an overnight process. Success is never freely served to anyone (even those whose lives seem more comfortably lead!). There will always be a mountain to climb. There will always be some form of struggle, even at the top. There will always be "I-wish-I-hads" and "I-shouldn't-have-dones"....But there will never, ever, be another book like your book! There will never be another [insert your prestigious author name here] (unless there actually is some bizarre parallel world that has insisted on hosting your replica!). As long as you're stepping forward and can maintain a generally optimistic mindset about the direction you're headed, throw away your qualms, my friend, because you're headed down the right path! :)