In quest of the great white whale*

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The new book, “Telluride Blood: I, Vampire,” has been out a few weeks now, and the learning process continues.

By way of context, I quit writing fiction 10 years or so back when the book business got difficult. Publishers — and bookstores — we’re beginning to feel the great digital squeeze. Suddenly, writing was not so fun.

The book business isn’t actually a business; it’s gambling. Publishers ante up to buy a certain number of books and throw them out there, like spaghetti against the wall, without promotion or support, to see what sticks. Though big sellers like Anne Rice do — or at least used to — get a marketing push, those mired in the mid-lists fend for themselves.

Be that as it may, it worked out pretty well, sometimes.

After my vacation from writing, I was looking forward to availing myself of Amazon’s self-publishing service. I would write the book I wanted to write, and then handle the marketing myself. I would be my own captain. If it sold, the glory would be mine. If it didn’t, there would be nobody else to blame.

Thus I embarked on earning my unofficial MBA degree in publishing. Some of the lessons have been a little harsh, but what the hell. If you’re going to pay the tuition, you might as well get the education.

My first lesson was that just because there are millions upon millions of people around the globe downloading Kindles from Amazon doesn’t mean some small fraction of them will automatically as a matter of course happen onto my book and snap it up. Hopefully that eventually will happen, but as till now, alas, no. I have not been forced to order any new Porsches.

I thought my name and previous — cough, cough — reputation would have positive impact on selling a new title, now that I finally have something new out. I run into people on a fairly regular basis, believe it or not, who have read my books and love them. Maybe all those fans will come back over the long haul. They are out there, but getting to them is another matter. The lesson here is plain: When you have momentum in a business, band, political movement or whatever, giving up that momentum comes with a price.

What about social media? The experts never cease recommending authors use social media to promote books. I started an author Facebook page and Twitter account. I’ve made an effort to post on Facebook and write blog posts that end up there. I’ve paid FB to “boost” posts. No visible results from that effort so far but I trust the result is not merely Mark Zuckerberg boosting funds from my bank account. Not that he needs the money.

I’ve put quite a bit more effort into Twitter, probably because I like the interaction there. For whatever reason, there seems to be a richer stream of people with brief, substantive, interesting opinions on Twitter. I enjoy reading Twitter posts, and posting my own. I end posting sometimes about books and writhing but more often about politics, which is probably a fatal error. Oh well.

There is no end to services and offers and consultants and facilitators pitching to help authors promote self-published books. That makes me skeptical that many of these services are effective. I’ve been around long enough to know when there’s something relatively new that people don’t know much about but are hot to get in on — in this case, self-publishing via Amazon — it attracts swarms of self-proclaimed experts who, for a price, will help put you over the top.

Not that that’s stopped me from trying some of these avenues.

In addition to the aforementioned paid FB ads, I participated in Amazon’s free self-promotional effort that involves giving your book away for free for a few days. I must say that did spur people to download my book. Hopefully word of mouth will translate to some of their friends deciding to buy a copy of “Telluride Blood” to read for themselves.

I’ve dedicated a small amount of money to have my book title pop up when people on Amazon a searching for books about vampires, horror, supernatural romance or urban fantasy. I probably need to spend more money than I budgeted for it to work. Still, my thinking is to try a bunch of different things and see which ones work before diving in deeper.

I also signed up with BooksGoSocial, a Twitter service that promotes book to many thousands of assuredly avid boook-buyers. It’s kind of a nice blurb they’re circulation: Bram Stoker Award-nominated @MichaelRomkey returns with another intelligent #horror story

My conclusion at this point — with my degree course work still in the early stages — is that this is a lot like going to Hollywood back in the day hoping to break into movies. An infinitesimally small number of people get discovered and become instant stars. For everybody else, “overnight success” comes after a long period of intense and dogged effort.

Grist for the mill.

*Amazon book sales

Telluride Blood, the book, @ Amazon