What Do You Mean I Need To Market My Own Book?

by Abigail Carter

June 2013

A few years ago my memoir, The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation (McClelland and Stewart, 2008) was published. My Canadian publisher set up my book launch party, scheduled me for radio and TV interviews, and submitted my book to newspapers and contests for review. I felt like a real, bona fide author.

In contrast, my US publisher (HCI, 2008) did nothing to promote my book. When it dawned on me that I was on my own to publicize my book, I called a friend of a friend who worked at a local NPR station and managed to set up a radio interview. I called the three bookstores in town to organize readings and read to tiny audiences of my friends and family. I begged the publisher for $500 for something called a “blog tour” where my book was sent to a variety of bloggers who each posted a review of my book on their blog during a specific week. I was also lucky enough to find Author Magazine and did an interview with them as well.

I came to realize too late that marketing my book in the US was up to me and I had better figure it out, quick! To be honest, I did very little more to publicize my book, and thus it has languished in obscurity ever since.

Around the same time that my book launched, I joined a Seattle writing group through Meetup.com and met a bunch of local writers, a group that five years later I have come to cherish. Our group exchanged ideas about writing, offered critiques, and for those forging the self-publishing route, exchanged contacts for editors, designers and the like.

The founder of our writing group, Kelsye Nelson, saw a need. We talked about what a shame it was that there was no service out there to help writers find the people they needed, like editors and designers and, in my case, book publicists. Fast forward a couple of years to the day Kelsye approached me and told me that she had come up with an idea for a website that would connect writers with the experts they needed to publish successfully. When she asked me if I wanted to join her, I didn’t think twice. Having worked as a director for site management at Audible.com, I was well versed in website development, and as an author, I understood the pain of the writers we were trying to service. Serendipity seemed to be bringing my two worlds together and before long, Writer.ly was a reality.

As Kelsye says, “A book is a product. Any commercially successful product has the support of an entire team of experts and professional services. A writer can’t be expected to know and do everything on her own. Authors are learning that upfront investment in such things as professional editing and a cover designed by a graphic designer can go a very long way toward the future success of their book. Help should be easy to find, high quality and affordable. That’s where Writer.ly comes in.”

Kelsye and I spent close to eight months developing the site, which launched in January 2013. Writer.ly allows writers to post projects, such as having a manuscript edited or a cover designed, set a budget and a timeline. Skilled freelancers then bid on the project. Once accepted, the freelancer receives 25% of the project funding up front, and the other 75% upon completion of the project. Ten percent of each job goes to Writer.ly.

We sought to provide a better solution for freelancers than scouring Craigslist for jobs, or competing on sites like eLance or Odesk with offshore consultants that undercut prices considerably. On Writer.ly, freelancers can bid on jobs at their normal market rate. They can collect ratings and reviews on Writer.ly that will help them land new jobs. They can even link their clients to their Writer.ly portfolios instead of having to set up their own websites.

It’s no surprise that we were led to Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple executive and best-selling author, and who boasts 1.2 million followers on Twitter. He agrees, “Publishing isn’t dead. It’s just changing. And, as more authors self-publish their books, they will need to find editors, designers, and publicists. Writer.ly is a great solution for this need.” Kawasaki joined Writer.ly as an advisory board member and his latest book, APE: Author, Publishers, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book is an invaluable resource to all authors.

Abigail Carter is the Seattle-based author of The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation and Co-Founder of Writer.ly, an online marketplace where writers can find the people they need to publish successfully. She can be found on Facebook and on Twitter(@abigailcarter) and on her blog, alchemyofloss.com

Abigail CarterComment