How To Self Publish And Promote A (Cannabis) Ebook
A general to do list, put together as I launch my second eBook
I come from a publishing family, among other things. Because of my own bizarre personal story, however, I was never able to capitalize on my family’s connections. Otherwise I would have gotten help in getting a more traditional publishing deal a lot sooner.
Don’t kid yourself. Outside of having celebrity gained in other fields, getting an agent and then a book deal via traditional means is tough. I have tried all my life.
However, after I got here to Germany, and realized that in some ways the barriers to getting published would be even tougher (including submitting manuscripts to agents in German or with a pre-existing book deal in another territory), not to mention the shifts in the “traditional” publishing itself, I turned my thoughts seriously to self publishing.
It is not for the faint of heart — but if you are like me, a writer with things to say, and the discipline to write a book, here is a general outline of a plan that has also been in the works for several years at this point.
Remember, there is no quick path to riches this way, no matter what you might read on the internet. But if your goal is to publish a book and get it out there, and then get on to the next one, learning as you go, this post is for you.
My new book, Green II: Spreading Like Kudzu, will be available, from many digital channels, as of December 1, 2020.
Pick A Good Subject And Write Well
This may sound like an obvious, but if you don’t write a good book, whether fiction or otherwise, why would anyone want to spend any time with you? But beyond good writing, try to find a topic to write about where there is a dearth of good information, or readers will be naturally curious. It is just like anything else in sales. Why would people fork over money and or give you time? Especially if they do not know your name.
That is also why, as a journalist, I do have a bit of an advantage. I cover a fascinating industry (cannabis) in Europe, where reform looks a bit different from any English speaking territory. I know what is going on. I also write for various publications about the industry. Which gets me to the next point.
Finding an editor is not always a guaranteed (whether it is time, circumstance or budget). When you can, you should try to get one. If not, do not let this slow you down. You can always reissue the edited version. By preferably, someone else.
Try along the way to get review blurbs, even from “average” readers. They will help sales, eventually, whether blurbed in the book revisions, reviews, or book website (also a must). Or at least a site where people can find out about you.
Even if this is “just” at first, your LinkedIn or other profile.
Be Prepared To Write. Alot. Beyond The Book
Writing the book is one thing. Editing and proofing as well as the many prep steps on the road to self publishing are others. For that very reason, it is easy to run out of time to continue to do the other thing you must discipline yourself to do. Keep writing.
Having a social media presence, somewhere, is critical to your path of sales as an indie author. It does not matter where you have one, and on how many channels, but you must develop a following. Otherwise, how on earth will people know you have something to say?
Waiting to develop this kind of following also does not work for the simple reason that it does not happen overnight. Or, even for the average person, over a much longer period of time.
I have many channels, and have experimented a great deal with this. I found one where I seemed to do well and stuck with it. Over the course of the last couple of years, between the publication of my first and second book, I have also continued to grow my presence and channels online.
There are many ways to develop followers, as well as strategies that probably look self obvious after you have amassed a following. I struggled with this for a long time and on various channels. No matter how “easy” it is for some people to attract attention, remember that the kind of attention you are able to attract over the longer term is what you want.
However, generally, pick a channel where you might be able to quickly distinguish yourself. And post content that is meaningful. Preferably that you have produced. Reposting other people’s content is one strategy to gain followers and readers, but relying solely on this will not only eventually bore your readers — unless you are offering a curated service feed. Prepare to spend time writing and otherwise creating content, in other words, way before and long after your book is published.
Most people cannot rely on “the media” to promote their book. You have to generate interest in it, any way you can.
Steps So Far — A Personal Journey
In 2015, I published a book I had spent a year writing. That sounds like a lot of time except for the fact that I deliberately structured my book around the events of a calendar year, so writing was a matter of making time to write an overview of each month’s events every other weekend or so around my other life. That was also relatively easy to do as I do cover the industry as a journalist, and at the time, 2014, was writing about the American cannabis market when very few people were covering the issue.
That helped me begin to develop a social media following on a couple of channels.
It also helped educate me about the technical process. I found a great online publisher, called Smashwords, where producing a book is a matter of being a bit patient with word codes, applying for an ISBN number (painlessly and automatically), and voila, you get global distribution via most of the major online publishers globally, from Amazon to Apple and Kobo.
I did make a few bucks on the first book. It is still on sale. But as I began to write the next book in the series at the beginning of 2019, I consciously began to up my development of the next piece of all of this that I did not have as developed for the first book.
Starting with the fact that I will have a series. That is a very good way to begin to attract people to your audience reach too. Even if readers discover the first book only after they have read your second.
Free And Self Generated Media
Ask yourself why you buy something like a book or an ITunes, or even download a movie, presuming you do not subscribe to a service that allows you to have access to a broad range of content.
It is because you have heard something about it. From somewhere. Even if it is “just” an online search.
Obviously, writing about your own book, however, as I am also doing here, only takes you so far. The next step is getting other people to write about it and review it. If not become affiliates for sales.
This is, beyond a to-do list, rather obviously about my next book. If you are an interested Medium writer, contact me for the review preview copy.
Further, as you can see, this outreach is also occurring on a specialty channel I am in the process of building here on Medium.
Beyond this, of course, I have also sent preview books to several other cannabis zines, including a few I work with as a journalist, and have approached people about both doing a review, and participating as affiliates in the sales process.
Both are essential. You want people to hear about your book, beyond you. If you were organized enough (as I was this time) and or lucky (as I was also) timing your book around another event is also a great hook for a news story.
In this case, I figured that a book about cannabis, released right after the U.S. election where more states would pass cannabis legalization measures, plus on the day Israel is upping its import standards to EU-GMP, would be a great way to attract potential readers for my book. Or those looking for a canna-themed digital stocking stuffer for the upcoming holidays where the Pandemic is making holiday gifts of this nature a real “thing,” this year. Or even conference organizers who are looking for a little reminder of better things to come, just around a corner, hopefully, when people can travel and meet in person again.
Use Digital Media Beyond Just Blogging And Press
You will have to watch my digital footprint for the “other” material I have planned and coming, but don’t just rely on one kind of outreach. If you are “just” a writer, this might mean finding a partner willing to do some illustrations for you. Or maybe learning how to take pictures and microblog on (for example) Instagram. Particularly if you can find a way to encapsulate your book in events that are occurring around you.
I have also thought this would be a good way to promote fiction, but that is another blog or two.
Regardless, however, of the method, figure out a way to communicate with your potential customers and reading audience willing to spend money on you in a different medium. You will be glad you did.
If at loss for a new idea beyond traditional vlogging, as well as channels, think podcasting. It is a free zoom call away.
Try To Find Venues To Promote Your Digital Book Both Digitally and Non Digitally
There are several ways to go about this, usually all intimidating to a first time writer at least, who does not know how to find an audience.
In times of Covid this can be even more challenging, but here are several ideas.
1. Find a brick and mortar store who needs a seasonal “gift” to give to customers. I cannot reveal what I have cooking, but I have already gotten such a conversation going, which is exciting. More soon. However, offering your book to such entities — either free or for another way — is a great way to generate fast “sales” on any platform you also decide to promote or work with, which also creates the opportunity for more attention, generally. This could be (as one example) as simple as finding a desperate brick and mortar local bookstore who wants some stocking stuffer ideas for their readership, especially if you are willing to do a reading on a Zoom call with the store’s name in the background. Or even Twitter post. There are many ways to play with this. Do not let Covid stop you!
2. Find a way to promote your book in several languages. This is a toughie for most, but in my case, this is a planned strategy. The reason, of course, is that most cannabis press is in English so far, and I also live in Germany, but I am not a good enough writer in German yet. So I have had to find translators for a lot of things. In this case, my sponsoring brick and mortar (see above) is interested in this topic enough to want to pay to sponsor the translation. However, this is also a great way to stand out, not to mention get sales from different countries with other people (presumably) also interested in your subject matter. Particularly if non-fiction.
3. Work with non-profits and issue organizations. In my case, I am offering the book as a way for social justice and normalization non-profits, including patient collectives, to raise money for themselves by selling the book. This is a no-brainer, as the book is about reform, as well as its slow pace and the impact on patients. There is a natural fit. I also know a few of these non-profits personally (although please get in touch if interested and I do not).
Finding Your Audience Takes Time
As an author, it is safe to say that you wrote the book not only to say something, but to find an audience. This is the hardest thing to pin on any progress chart. But presumably one way to know you are finding one is book sales. And making enough from the same to keep going.
There are many maxims about why writers write. In my case, it is because I have to. There are many things that I have done in my life, and will continue to do to pay the rent. But the freedom of an open “page” with just my own voice narrating the way, is one that so far is hard won, and still practiced daily.
But generally? Beyond the general hacks and advice herein, or that you find elsewhere, the only other quick advice I can give is this. Your “voice” may take years to find, or you may become an overnight sensation. Regardless, along the way, during the process itself, the other many rewards, all individual, always become self evident.