Okay, so I'm not exactly sure how to start this, so I'll just dive into it. Maybe I'll clean it up later, maybe I won't, we'll see how it goes. Keep in mind this is a blog that almost no body reads, and is updated even less that that.
We're going to be all over the place on this one, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so let's go.
I just published my ninth novel. It's the ninth in a series of works called 'Smokepit Fairytales.'
Spoiler warning for books that have been out for a few years.
This saga begins with a Lance Corporal, Hank, and Corpsman, Doc, who are stationed in Camp Pendleton who are sent to fight in Iraq to fight Iran who had just invaded the country. Now, I've never given any hard dates in the books themselves, but to put a date around it, the characters are excited to go to Iraq and finally fight ISIS, only to be disappointed when they find out it's Iran. So probably around 2015. In this story, Hank and Doc are dating strippers who work at the Purple Church outside of Pendleton, and Hank's lady of the night, Kennedy, is a first generation American from Iran. Anyway, the Marines head to Iraq, and hang out at an airport by the Euphrates for a few months before they get a chance to engage the enemy. I bit into the fight, while they're still in Iraq, Hank, Doc, and a few other Marines get trapped in an ancient Sumerian temple that's loaded with tricks, traps, and puzzles, and everyone dies, except for Hank and Doc, who accidentally become immortal, though they don't figure it out until much later. They eventually hook back up with friendly forces and keep fighting until they push into Iran where Hank and Doc are caught in a blast, and declared dead on a helicopter. A year later they wake up in military hospitals and besides some muscle atrophy, have made a full recovery. So much so that they still have their tattoos. While they were in their comas, a race of alien refugees arrived at Earth's doorstep seeking a new home. The aliens, which I called Virescent, which is a term for the word green, look just like humans, but they have green skin, vampire fangs, live for a thousand years, and photosynthesize. Since the Virescent's like the sun, a lot of the settles in Southern California, and Hank starts dating one of them, while he and Doc struggle with substance abuse, PTSD, and survivors guilt.
Five years after that, Hank's married to a Virescent named Penelope, and then Hank and Doc are sent to Latvia to train with NATO for a few months when Vladimir Putin decides that the rest of Europe should be part of Russia. The Russians, also had Virescents in their ranks and used their technology to make giant robots to use as super weapons. The Marines don't have these mechs and have to fight them on foot with the occasional help of close air support. After a bit of fighting in Latvia, the Marines conduct an amphibious assault on Saint Petersburg, in the winter. Yes, they invade Russia in winter. It goes as bad as you think it does, if not worse.
It goes so bad in fact that the Marines not only stop seeing the enemy, but loose radio communication with the outside world. A convoy is sent to NATO headquarters to figure out what's up, but that convoy comes back with radiation poisoning and all soon die. The Marines left decide to walk, sail, ride, back to California. On the way back, everyone dies or is lost besides Hank who discovers that in his absence Penelope had given birth to his son, but sent him to space with a friend so he didn't die when the bombs fell.
Thirty years later, Hank and Penelope's son, Thatch, is a sergeant in the Marines stationed on Mars. America, which is just Mars now, is still engaged in a naval war with the Russians on Venus. Earth had been declared a no-go zone due to the perceived high levels of radiation. Most of humanity is living in space colonies floating around the solar system. Thatch and his friends spend their time either on ship, doing shady things in port, fighting the Ruskies, or hanging out at the barracks mad at their boy or girlfriends. That is until word comes down that the Russians have a weapon that could destroy all life on Mars, and they're being called to go stop it. Spoiler alert, it's a zombie bioweapon.
Thatch and his friends did such a good job destroying the weapon that they're all promoted and send to Headquarters Marine Corps in New Annapolis. While they're there, the commandant (the general in charge of the whole of the Marine Corps) throws a silent coup by setting up the death of everyone in the line of succession above him. Thatch discovers what happened, and he and his friends have to go kill the president.
As you can imagine, killing the president doesn't make one too popular, so the gang runs away and become space pirates. This too is unpopular, and while a life on the run isn't glorious, it's still a life. A series of bad decisions lead to a series of even worse events, and Thatch's pirate fleet is enemy number one across the solar system. At the end of a monumental naval battle that leaves the near entirety of naval known naval forces in existence destroyed, two of the pirates escape and crash land on the only place where they wouldn't be hunted... Earth.
That's the first six novels in a nutshell. I'm not going to go too deep into the new ones right now, because people are still reading them and I want them to be able to do so with all the surprises that come with that. They've stuck with me this far, they deserve it.
That being said, I worked for a few years to hammer out the next trilogy of books to drop all at once. Book 7 released on Nov 10th, 8 on Dec 1, and 9 on Dec 15th...
and if you're an underground author like myself, you know how busy and frustrating releases can be. Marketing and advertisement are 100% in my hands; that's making social media connections, arranging podcast appearances, reaching out to media outlets, et cetera. It's enough to want to climb a building and scream until your lungs bleed. I just wrote a book, isn't that enough of an endeavor? Why do I have to do my marketing myself too! Oh what a cruel world! Well, I'm not a marketing expert, but I have been doing it anyway for a number of years, and I'd like to share with you some of my experiences of what works and what doesn't, and hopefully that can help you out a bit if you share my dilemma.
Talking about how cool you are only seems to be a reasonably perusable method of expansion if:
A: The public at large has already deemed you cool enough to talk about yourself like that.
or B: You're extremely fuckable and you're marketing strategy is going to evolve around sex appeal.
The point is, someone else has to assign coolness to you. You're not Napoleon, and as such, you can't crown yourself emperor. When I see people hyping themselves up, I'm happy for them for having that level of confidence, but when I check their Amazon reviews and the only five star one is one they wrote themselves, and other two are negative reviews, that all but guarantees that I won't be reading their work. Reality has to be faced. You can only toot your own horn so much before people stop listening to you. Ask yourself, do you believe any creator when they talk up their product? How about when a nonaffiliated party does it? You're a lot more likely to be intrigued by something if someone who has nothing to gain from advertising it is the one talking. If you haven't guessed yet, part of your strategy NEEDS to be getting other people to talk about your work.
One of your first thoughts may be just giving away your book to people in hopes that they'll talk about it. It could be to friends, family, the couple of f-list celebrity "friends" that you have, or influencers who may rally around your cause.
I'm not going to tell you that this is a waste of both time and money, but I will say that your contacts have to be better than mine.
Outside of a small group of close personal friends, no one I've given my books to has even cracked them open, and the few that have, aren't on social media, so while you still may want to do this because you want them to read your story, from a marketing standpoint, this is all but futile. This leads us to strangers on the internet, and thank GOD for them. Indie authors on social media are the leading champions of propping up other small press writers. We know what it's like to not be able to get attention for our work and will relentlessly get word out for other writers. Granted this is tiered like anything else, but it's better than nothing. One trick that is somewhat effective is reading and reviewing other people's books so that they might do it in return. Now, this isn't a sure fire method. Most people will block you if you ask them to read your book in exchange for reading theirs, so you have to just read and review their book in hopes that they'll do it for you in exchange. That tends to work better for people who have around the same size following as you, so if you review someone else's book, they may or may not reshare your post, or shoot it to their stories, that's 50/50. Even less so will they return the favor, and that's a lot less likely to happen if they have a significantly larger following than you. No matter what you do, this method's a long shot. But for your best chanced of success, find another author who is about as active on the platform as you, is in the same genre, writes at the same level, writes with the same intensity, shares a lot of other people's works, and for absolute best chances, someone who has less than half the amount of followers as you. You can shoot for the stars on this all the way up the chain, but let's be honest about the human condition, you need to make someone else feel important for them to be about your work (Which is why that magazine or newspaper isn't answering your emails, you're not important to them.) Then, don't tell them that you're going to get their book, just buy it, then read it, then leave them a five star review on both Amazon and Goodreads (No one's going to reciprocate this action if you tell their their book sucks), then make a post about their book telling everyone how much you liked it and make sure to tag them. That's your dice roll there.
Since I mentioned newspapers, local newspapers are looking for things to write about that happen in the community. Have you ever picked up a newspaper.... Oh I'm sorry, I forgot it's the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty One...
Well, papers still publish online and their articles can be read there, and sometimes they'll have slow work weeks like anyone else and need something to write about. That's where you come in Mr or Mrs nobody. Go to the paper's website, don't click "Contact us," find a journalist and send them an email directly. Tell them a bit about yourself, what your books are about, and low key hint that you're God's gift to mankind, just don't say that verbatim. If you're lucky, they'll get you a spot in the community section, and your 60 year old neighbor, who still reads a physical newspaper will say something to you while you're at the post office. Now this one does fall into the clout category, because while you were featured in a paper, it's still the paper for podunk nowhere USA where you live and few if any sales are going to be generated from that unless your book takes place in the local area.
You can also reach out to bigger print media outlets, but unless you already have some level of notoriety, you're probably going to get left on read. A tactic you might employ is finding journalists that would write about the things you're trying to promote, and adding them as friends on facebook or instagram or wherever, then woo them for a couple of years with memes and cheerful comments on there posts, and if you're REALLY lucky, they'll not respond whenever you say anything about your books. I know that seems bleak, but seeing the little "read" note under a message and KNOWING they have no intent on throwing you a bone is SO much more satisfying than firing off an email to a stranger and wondering if it even got delivered. The good news is, you're not guaranteed to completely fall on your face with that one. Personally I did manage to make a friend of an editor at Coffee or Die magazine, and he threw me a bone and put my book Smokepit Fairytales in their 2020 holiday gift guide, which might not sound like a whole lot to you, but I appreciated it.
Moving on, in this endeavor to grow your contacts list you may be temped to participate in follow loops on instagram. Don't. If you don't know what a follow loops is, that's when a bunch of people who have no interest in each other arbitrarily follow each other so they'll get followers, then they put each other on mute and never again interact with said people, or buy, read, and review their books. This is ultimately harmful for the creator as while it may boost your follower count, your overall interaction will go down. And that again may result in all the people who followed you to unfollow you as soon as you follow them back.
There's also other people's podcasts that you can go on. Most podcasters are looking for guests and all you really need to do is contact them about coming on and they'll set it up... provided that they're on your popularity level, and like most casts, have 10 repeat listeners. Most podcasts of consequence are invite only, and unless you have an IN, well, good luck getting a foot in the door unless you have a COMPELLING personal story, which circumvents the reason you'd want to go on the show in the first place because they'll want to talk about YOU, not your book. My own personal side tangent here:
I started my podcast Tripp's Smokepit so that I could talk to writers about their books and not just their personal gimmick. And though my show's long form, I DO make an effort to either talk about the author's story, or writing process, or talk shop if I'm talking to an author that episode. And I do that because almost every other author I've heard on another podcast, or most of the one's I've been on myself (Which isn't THAT many, and is more often than not someone who stops making shows shortly after I'm on) are talked to by a host who hasn't even read the book in question and the host is more interested in talking about WHY the book was written, and the author's exploits as a human. Personal examples would be me talking about being in the Marines for 11 years, fighting in Afghanistan, drinking too much, and pounding quiff. Like, yeah, I know that I'm the best space shuttle door gunner on the planet and I got that position because I single handedly saved America from Godzillabinladen, but I'm here to talk about the book. Can we talk about the fucking book? Damn this blog is getting pessimistic.
Let's move on to something that does actually work, but only if you've got more than one book published, and the first one was GOOD. Enroll your book in Kindle unlimited, and set up a week where the ebook is free, preferably a few months out. You may or may not post about it on social media, but let's be honest, if anyone who follows you on instagram actually gave a shit, they'd have already bought your book, reviewed it, and told all their friends about it. You've got those people in the bag, you're looking for spreading the word here. But instead IG or facebook, find a newsletter that promotes books. Book Rebel is one of my primaries. It costs about 20$ for them to feature your book, but they DO put that book in front of people who will actually read it. Now some of these people will go and buy the physical book instead of getting for free, but the ones who do get it for free, will still have to purchase the rest of your series if they enjoyed the first one. It's kinda what your teachers said drug dealers would act like. That first bit's free, you gotta pay for the rest.
That free little bit is where you hook people.
That's why you need to take the podcast and guest spots where you can, because a lot of the time, people aren't going to go straight for your book. They're going to find you interesting in some way shape or form and then they'll head towards your work because of who wrote it. This comes in especially handy if you've got well presentable tits and like to show them off on the internet. Notice I didn't say big, or even nice, just well presentable. It might also benefit you if you're Spec Ops and you can get someone to ghost write a book on your behalf. Seriously, I don't think I've seen a single memoir by a special forces dude who actually wrote the book themselves. Like, seriously. They'll say they wrote it, but that part that says "With the help of" or just "And" under the writing credit means the "author" just slapped their name on it.
There's also tons of online writing conferences that you can attend, and pick the brains of smarter people than I on how to market yourself, and endless vlogs, blogs ran by people who are just full of rainbows and sunshine. Sure, they might write generic tripe with the appeal of a vampire obsessed, know it all, nineteen year old girl who won't shut up long enough for me rub my genie lamp and wish to replace her with a sleep paralysis demon, but they have presentable tits, and therefore if you can woo them into looking at your book, you might get a few sales out of it.
Anyway, dear reader, I hope this helped out a bit. How? fuck if I know. I'm just ranting, and kind of writing for the sake of writing. If you've made it to the end of this tirade, thank's for being here. If you've got something you want me to talk about, either shoot me an email, or DM me on something and I'll get to it.
And remember that you're not alone in this WTF of a situation trying to get your work out there. Failure isn't the end, it's only over when you give up, so don't give up, keep pushing, and maybe you'll get that stroke of luck you need to branch out.
And for you disliking that last sentence because you've made it and you think that it takes more than luck to get ahead, well, first off, shove a cinderblock in your dick hole, then blow your fucking dad. Hard work and dedication will absolutely buy you a ticket, but luck wins the lottery. Some people just need to keep buying tickets, and you're a fucking cock sucker for speaking down to people who are trying to learn the game while you guessed (Yes, GUESSED, or maybe even were GIVEN) the winning numbers.
To my other indie, underground, and small press authors who weren't lucky enough to benefit from nepotism; I wish you the best in every aspect of your life. May fortune and mercy grace your soul. And I'm going to try to keep up with this blog better, so ask me something, or tell me a story in the box below and let's get this rolling.
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Author of Smokepit Fairytales.