Tractor Big Year: Self-publishing means acting like a publisher

Studying how best to self publish involves a repeated cycle of reading and absorbing. I’m much more familiar now on how to make a book, either ebook or pbook (aka paperback). Unsurprisingly the more daunting aspect is figuring out how best to get noticed. BookBub, an ebook marketing group with great clout and a superb business model, just issued its teaser “how to,” namely a blog post titled “Why (and How!) to Reach the Right Readers [Book Marketing 101].”

What strikes me right away is that a self-published author is now expected to act like a mini corporation or business. BookBub’s advice can be summed up as follows: define a narrow target audience by researching the most suitable reader profile; research how such a reader searches for books; nut out comparable authors; identify my book’s most appropriate categorisation on sites such as Amazon; optimise my “metadata” to aid discovery of my book; run ads (of coursing including on BookBub) often with price promos; find and pitch to the bloggers who might best review or feature my book; and pursue free PR (paid PR is too expensive and mostly useless).

Each of these steps involves work. Each involves time away from the pen. Each is scary.

Freshness Big Year: Reboot, again and again

Some people have the most admirable exercising mentality. You all know quiet achievers who train for marathons or Iron Mans, and who, seemingly without mental strain, fit in extreme effort every day amidst life’s hurly-burly. I have Strava friends who are less rigidly systematic but who possess such strong motivation that they offset down times with regular massive efforts.

Regrettably I find myself more mortal and halting. Every week of my jogging/cycling/gym goals of 30 kms/50 kms/3 session is different to every other week. My motivation and fortitude plummets and I relaunch effort, time and time again. Sometimes all that spurs me to head outside is the Big Year annual goals and the panicky sensation of “what if I fail?” In Darwin since the start of the month, I ran a few times – 5 kms, 8kms, 5 kms – but all the outings were crap (I stopped). Then yesterday I managed to rise earlier and in the cool did 5 kms without stopping. Then today, up early enough again, I tricked myself into jogging outward for 5 kms, so that I had to jog 10 kms in all, and I only walked a couple of times.

I feel transformed – tomorrow I can aim for 10 kms without a stop. Why can’t every day be like this? Why can’t every week be “regular”?

The best of Melbourne winter

Saturday. The riverside and creek-side trails are bathed by warm sun. I haven’t cycled in a fortnight and my legs don’t want to. So I set off slow, and I stay sedate, and I take photos. Every local parent with cycling kids is out to enjoy the day as well, and I’m accommodating. A Coot squawks and on an empty football field the Willie Wagtail flits again. I steer round a bulldog, glancing back to confirm that yes, his owner looks like him. I nod at Droopy, the older man I always see going the opposite way, his long face impassive, impressed by his red-and-black lycra and his shoulder length curly tresses. The blazing carrot top of a speeding runner in black, under sun-drenched gums. Strollers with linked arms, lean identikit road racers, middle-aged riding couples with yellow see-me-don’t-kill me jackets, joggers so slow even I would blitz them . . . I see them all. Slow suits me fine, slow leaves me settled.

The Freshness Big Year pays its way, kinda

This week saw me resisting my daily exercise strictures. Melbourne was dismal and I prioritised work over fitness. I know, I know, the whole idea of the Big Year is that I inculcate a habit of everyday jogging, cycling, or gym, but the habit is not ingrained yet (will it ever be), so I missed a day, grumbled to the gym, grumbled again to the gym, and missed a day. By the end of Day 4, my Thursday, I had precious little to show over the half week.

Instead of clocking in to a habit, what ended up working was shame. I might not be fulfilling the Big Year, but it was in my mind, and over four days, a sense of regret filled me. So on Friday, unable to stand the ignominy any longer, I woke early and jogged in the dark, 5 kms through my streets. I didn’t feel cold at all, my lungs filled with air, and my pace of 6:35 brought a smile to my face.

Days 6 and 7? I cycled, not quite my weekly target, but hey, I tell myself, I managed five of the seven days during an off week. Not too shabby, I tell myself.

1,000 Big Year: The cosmos beats

One of those sun-blessed Melbourne winter morns. I cancel on a hike. I feel Lumberjack Cafe fill up around me. In 1967, Glenn Seaborg, Nobel prize winner and head of the Atomic Energy Commission, muses in his diary that perhaps it’s time for them to “develop a national policy” on radioactive waste. I scribble across my document of notes: “Wow, in 67, FINALLY, Seaborg tries to centralize handling of spent nuclear fuel.” I’m there, back then. The cosmos beats urgently in my chest.

Tractor Big Year: The chaos I need to extract order from

This Big Year – spending an hour or so every day puzzling out the new world of publishing – is working in spades. How fascinating but oh how complex! In the old world, you could never get noticed by publishers but if luck came your way, your publisher would just grab your Word file and go from there.

No longer do you need to beg for publishers’ attention but there are so many options in self-publishing! Just to give you a glimpse, here are a list of names one might look at (and this is not all by any means), taken from an online course I’ve been working through since May:

Mailchimp, Aweber, Mailerlite, ConvertKit, Ontraport, Infusionsoft, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vellum, Jutoh, Calibre, Scrivener, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Reedsy, Polgarus, Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Nook, LeadPages, Thrive Leads, Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, Bookbub, Freebooksy, Goodreads, Reading Deals, Bookrazor, etc., etc., etc.

My next task: a publication project plan. I can’t wait!

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

1,000 Big Year: Let me admit that I’m vanquished

This photo could only have been snapped if I rose late, at sunrise. With heavy heart, I surrender: Melbourne’s winter has, this winter, roundly defeated me. And when I write “with heavy heart,” I lie: I’m treasuring every moment of sleeping or dozing after the alarm has blared.

The 1,000 Big Year makes 2018 simple: rise early, work the morning (6 hours), shun Facebook/emails, plan/monitor, and, as a consequence, churn out 1,000 words a day. Simple 2018 might be, but right now this Big Year is a flop. I’m trying hard to compensate – aiming for six hours uninterrupted – but life’s vicissitudes ensure most days are a failure (sometimes a glorious failure, sometimes not).

What next? Will sunny Spring turn me round? If not, what next?