Thursday, January 5, 2012

There's Psychopathy then there's Marketing Apathy!

Norm Cowie w/Rob Walker conference

Thanks, Rob, Morgan, and everyone at ACME Authors Link for having me back here at youZ guyZes great blog where almost everything goes. I had once been one of youZ, a regular contributor with Acme until I was sucked into the black hole of author marketing apathy - as serious a disorder as writers block!                      

On that note, it’s time for me to come clean on something that I’ve been hiding from my friends, neighbors and publishers. Something so horrible and ... well... (sigh)... let me just come out and say it.

I was an advertising/marketing major back in college.

                             Joe Konrath w/Norm Cowie in Galena, IL 2009

There, I said it. And I was pretty good at it, too. I was even selected as one of the University’s five representatives for a national advertising competition. So wouldn’t you think I’d be pretty good at marketing my books?

Nope, I suck at it. And not just a normal suck, but more like the big magic, steroid-inflated Hoover vacuum cleaner of suckage. Even worse, my instincts for knowing which way the wind is blowing pales even compared to that of a naked mole rat.

In August 2009, I went to Galena, Illinois with several other authors including Joe Konrath, Henry Perez, Luisa Buehler and Margot Justes to market our new anthology Missing. We were hosted by fellow author Barbara Anino and her husband in their Bed and Breakfast.

One late evening after we wore everyone else out, it came down to just Konrath, Perez and me lounging in the living room, wearing courtesy b&b robes and bending elbows with liquid we’d liberated from one of Galena’s many wine outlets, and Joe started talking about something he called ebooks.


Joe (we know him now as the Pied Piper of this ebook revolution) said ebooks were going to be the wave of the future, and he was converting all of his previously unpublished work and releasing every title onto Amazon’s Kindle himself. I laughed (easy when you’ve been drinking) and told him he was crazy. Who’d want to read on a tablet?

The truth was I was a bit intimidated by the thought of wrestling with formatting a book to meet this new technology.

Joe wouldn't let it go; he insisted ebooks were about to explode in popularity, so I said, “Tell you what, Joe. How about I give you one of my unpublished books and you convert it to ebook, publish it, and we’ll split the profit?” He firmly and politely said, no, that he wouldn’t feel right, and insisted I consider doing so myself.

Well, we all know what happened with Joe and other of his friends who follwed the Pied Piper into ebooks, and I sure wish he’d have taken me up on my offer -- and/or that I'd gotten off my duff and looked into the possibilities.

Two years later, I belatedly began taking Joe's advice--as had many another 'smart' writer. My first try was with a non-fiction collection of humor essays called, The Guy’d Book, why we leave the seat up ... and other stuff. The Guy’d Book is a collection of humor essays I’d written over the years dealing with being a guy, father and ESPN addict, some parts of which had been published in the Chicago Tribune and Cynic Magazine.

I wrestled with the formatting for both ebook and printed book (using Create Space where I stumbled onto something they called their Cover Creator). With this nifty little tool, I was able to cobble together a usable cover, seeing as without a publisher, I was on my own for covers. Soon after, The Guy’d Book was available as an ebook.

Right around the same time, my contract was expiring with my publisher for my first book, The Adventures of Guy. They offered to renew, but flushed with enthusiasm I took back the rights. In hindsight, I think they were ticked off because citing a clause in our contract, they demanded I remove all images of the book cover from my sites. The clause wasn’t well written, and while I disagreed about the intent of the clause, I decided not to fight (mostly because I never liked the cover all that much in the first place). But it did teach me one important lesson: whenever possible, control your own covers.

Then I turned down my second publisher’s offer to publish WereWoof, the sequel to my first YA vampire book Fang Face, and released it myself on Kindle, followed shortly by my newest adult humor title, Bonk & Hedz, a caveman ... and woman... story. I took my own advice to design and do the artwork for both books.

I now had six books, four of which were self-published, and I sat back and waited for everyone to discover me.

I wasn’t active in forums, did no advertising, no blog tour and otherwise totally neglected my blog, and basically my marketing efforts consisted entirely of watching reruns of Big Bang Theory, doing angry political tweets and checking the ESPN website for news of Peyton Manning’s recovery from neck surgery.

You can probably guess what happened with my book sales. Though the Guy’d Book once nipped into the Top 100, my others were flotsam in the Amazon jet stream. Readers aren’t Christopher Columbus. You have to bring the New World to them, not vice versa.

So I’m finally stepping into the marketing pool encouraged by the seemingly idefatiguable Rob Walker and his results with Kindle Select and other authors who are carving a path to show how to get books out to readers. I'm following his methods along with Joe's these days. Another suggestion Konrath had made was to do short stories, so I’ve released a few onto Smashwords as companion pieces to my other books. Rob's been great at advising me on many otherlooked steps I should be taking as well.

In other words, I’m finally getting off my butt, climbing out of the black hole of marketing apathy and putting fur on my naked mole rat.

So, hi, it’s good to meet you all ...again, and I hope you will please leave a comment. Finally, thanks to all the Acme family here for having me back!

The Guy’d Book is available for free with Kindle Select lending. Here’s my Amazon page: ,



CA Verstraete said...

Way to go Norm. We'll soon say we knew you when. (Still love that pic I took of you two in Galena!)

Sabrina Sumsion said...

I feel your pain. I worked as a literary publicist and I'm twisting my own arm to do promotional work for myself. My parents taught me not to brag so telling someone they will like my writing fells so wrong. Without the publisher to do it for you, it's on you to make yourself a success. Ugh!

Morgan Mandel said...

Welcome back to Acme Author's Link, Norm! It's good to see your smiling face.

I'm afraid these days marketing is key to success, and lots of it. Also, lots of books helps also.

Good luck to you with promotion!

Morgan Mandel

norm cowie said...

Thanks all. And apologies to Chris. She was indeed at Galena with us.

Deb Larson said...

Good to hear from you, Norm. Yes, self-promotion is tough! I don't do well in that area either. I just want to write books and then let someone else promote them. Guess those days are over.
DL Larson

S. M. Boyce said...

Haha! Great post. It's definitely a rough road, but it's great that you're starting along it. Best of luck!

-S.M. Boyce
Author of The Grimoire: Lichgates
"Once you open the Grimoire, there is no going back. The adventure will be worth every hardship…if you survive.
Snag your copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

norm cowie said...

And I'm reading John Locke's book on how he did it. So far I'm 16% in and haven't hit any meat, but I'm hoping there will be something there.


essay online said...

great post! Thanks for it.

Margot Justes said...

Welcome back. Let me know how your marketing works out. I'm really, really not good at self promotion, but made my 2012 resolution to do exactly that. Best of luck to us all.

Norm Cowie said...

Hey, just an update. I took Rob's suggestion on Kindle lending, put my only non-fiction book on it (I have six overall), and it shot up to #1 within a day for Humor/Parenting/Relations.

Thanks for the great idea, Rob!