So, I’ll preface this by saying that I hate self-promotion and I’ve got a long way to go to be good at it. That said, it is an essential part of being successful as an author. There are two important things to remember, however. The first is that you will only ever sell books to your mom and your best friend if you don’t find some way to reach a larger audience. The second is that if you alienate that larger audience, you’ll still only sell books to your mom and your best friend.
Successful authors, both independent and those who write for a big publishing house, have to self promote. The publishing houses can put some effort into it, but it falls back to an author to make time to push their book, and to do it in a fashion that doesn’t come across as crass or whiny.
Self promotion is an art as much as writing. Successful authors do it well, and the job of any aspiring author is to sell themselves as much as they sell their books. What I’ve seen, however is two extremes. Some authors hesitate to even mention that they write, to name their books, or tell you anything about their characters or stories. This makes it hard for someone to take them seriously as a professional. If you’re going to write, you have to have a sense of self confidence about that.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. The desperate, pleading, buy-my-book barragers. You sometimes see them at conventions, when they step out of the audience to ask the panel a ‘question’ which comes across as a shameless whine for attention. These authors are online as well, and let me confess, when I’m bombarded by nothing but demands to buy their book or accolades of how wonderful one of their friends think their writing is… well, I either tune them out or shut them off.
So where does that leave an independant author? There’s a variety of ways to get attention without being, well, annoying. Establish yourself, write interesting articles, do interviews, go to conventions and get on panels (do not attempt to hijack panels from the audience, please). Network, get to know other authors, editors, agents, and publishers. Talk to people, not about your book, necessarily, but normal talk. As people get to know who you are, they start to care that you wrote a book. They might not be the target audience, but they’ll remember your name. Word of mouth sells more books than flash banners on a website or advertising flyers in mailboxes. Build your audience of readers, maintain your writing standards, and be sure that your writing is professional enough that you feel confident in promoting it.
Self promotion is a lot of work. At the end of the day, whether that work pays off is as much down to you, the author, as it is to luck, or fate, or what have you. Still, since the only other option is to establish world domination and to force people to read your books, you probably better get after it, eh?