A friend sent me an announcement, recently, about a lecture on self-publishing offered by two women purported to be experts. One of the speakers wrote “epic” medieval fantasies and the other had authored tips for selling used books on Amazon. The latter claimed to have earned six figures for her title which, like the “epic” medieval fantasies, had been self-published with Amazon. No fee for the event was necessary though donations were encouraged.
Normally, I would have deleted the information, as I don’t self-publish but work with a small company. My colleague, Susan Stoner, does self-publish, however, and when I shared the information, she was interested. As a courtesy, I agreed to keep her company. Susan is about to bring out her fifth turn-of-the-twentieth century mystery set in the Pacific Northwest, Dead Line. Her series has gained critical recognition and Timber Beasts, her first novel, was awarded a gold medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She knows so much about the self-publishing industry, she could probably make a living giving lectures herself.
About 15 people of various ages turned out on the appointed evening and, happily, the program began on time. The woman who wrote the non-fiction book was the first to speak. For 10 minutes she covered Amazon in praise, assuring all of us that publishing with the company was easy and affordable. Frankly, I felt as if I was trapped in an infomercial with no means of escape. When she did finish her paean to the company, however, and ventured beyond her experience, her information was faulty and twice Susan, though kindly, had to correct her.
The fiction writer stood up next. She began with a long complaint against Harper Collins, the company that almost published her first book. The experience, she assured us, was so harrowing that she was driven to self-publishing, and again, Amazon was her rescuer. After more praise for the outfit, and in a moment of candor, she did admit that self-publishing was easier than marketing. My interest peaked. Did she know a thing or two about flogging her books and was she going to share the information?
She didn’t. She croaked on with no clear agenda until, tiring, she called for questions. I followed up on her passing remark about marketing. When I did, she blinked as if she couldn’t recall what she’d said. I rephrased the question. Would she tell us what marketing tools worked for her and which didn’t? This time she flushed with remembrance. “Oh. Well… I’m working on that.”
When the evening came to an end, the audience sauntered from the room, looking glassy-eyed as they passed stacks of self-published books on offer — men and women with hands in their pockets and their notebooks empty. The only one to benefit that night was the CEO of Amazon whose company had been lauded. If the event was meant to be an infomercial, I hoped to two speakers had been paid well. If not, then what I learned about marketing that night was that a poor lecture is a bust.