Today we’re fortunate to have a guest post by Carol P. Roman, who primarily writes children’s books. She also has a “must-read” guide to self-publishing that I highly recommend to anyone deciding between being an indie writer and traditional publishing.
Many people have read that I started writing late in life. It began with a dare from my sons. I produced my first book, not knowing what to expect. It was a great experience, choosing the artist, putting the book together. Writing the dedication, knowing it will be there forever for my grandchildren to see and understand how special was our playtime. I wanted them to know how much they influenced me. Captain No Beard An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life was named to Kirkus Best for 2012. I didn’t even know what that meant until my publishing consultant at Createspace called to congratulate me. It sold pretty well too, staying in the top of its genre for well over a year.
So, I now had an award-winning as well as best-selling book. Where do we go from there?
I looked at other authors. You know them all, you read their books to your children. They give rodents cookies, kiss dinosaurs and llamas goodnight, prevent pigeons eating hotdogs, and dance with flamingos. Everybody is familiar with them. They give them as gifts at parties, stuff stockings at Christmas with them, and read them at story time in school. How did those authors reach that status, I wondered? How come they didn’t vanish into the belly of high ratings like other books I’d read from Amazon? While I’m sure being published by one of the big five drove that particular bus, could I do it as an indie writer?
Every book I looked at was bigger than the individual story, they were brands. You only have to say Dr. Seuss and you’ll have everybody picturing green and eggs and the stuff that goes with it. J.K. Rowling doesn’t have to use her first name to be famous. These people have become icons, their brand sell books.
I pumped out four more books, so quickly people complained they didn’t have a time to review them. My son had three books out, I had five, and we still struggled to keep our products in the forefront without a storefront. What were we doing wrong?
I bought a mailing list from Createspace, writing to each contact, asking them to read and review. There were some reviews, little burps on social media, but nothing with staying power.
One contact yielded results. Julie Gerber from Away We Go Media wrote back asking about my Facebook page. My what? I asked. Facebook, Twitter, social media, she rolled off half a dozen sites I had no idea about. She offered to help me set up different sites. She explained that there were ways to keep your brand fresh and lively and in front of people’s faces. She told me about the various ways to promote yourself.
Within a few days there was a blog, Facebook, Twitter, PinInterest, Instagram, as well as a spate of blog tours and articles all bubbling up when one of our names were googled.
I worried I would not be able to keep the blog fresh, but somehow Julie culled information that brought interested readers.
We wrote and wrote, and wrote, my son and I. Even my grandson and younger son managed to squeeze out a book or two. We won numerous awards, the books have stayed in reasonably interesting ratings for close to four years. I was chosen for a KDP Roundtable and video, touted as a successful example of indie publishing. Movie and television studios have called. We both have lawyers, my son has an agent. If writing books was like climbing Mt. Everest, I had to yodel our message. We are scaling the top. Almost there! We marveled at how easy it all was, then I asked Julie to write a book with me.
I had such a wonderful experience writing and marketing my own books, I wanted to share it all with my fellow authors. Within a week we were finished. It reads as if we are on the phone, some people have said as if we are having coffee together. It’s a catalogue of our journey, the winners and losers, what worked and what didn’t. It lists sites that are useful.
When I look back on this wild ride of creation, publication, and marketing, I remember my mistakes, my own naivety, lack of confidence, and fear of failure. What I learned is that if you’ve written a book there is no failure. You’ve created something for someone who may not even know they are looking for it. You’ve left a piece of yourself behind. If your words and thoughts impact just one person, the concentric circles of it’s influence can reach so many others. Marketing your book is like knowing the forest from the trees. Once you can see clearly, the sky’s the limit.
Named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012 for her first book, Captain No Beard, award-winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Her new nonfiction series, “If You Were Me and Lived in…” combines her teaching past with her love of exploration and interest in the world around us. Writing for children has opened up a whole second act for her. While she is still working in her family business, this has enabled her to share her sense of humor as well as a love for history and culture with the audience she adores. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children.