Self-publishing a mainstream novel – Q&A with Catherine Ryan Howard

Catherine, in her own words, is “a writer, self-publisher and caffeine enthusiast from Cork, Ireland.” THE SANE PERSON'S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING
I first saw Catherine’s blog, ‘Catherine, Caffeinated‘,
in the summer, when I was starting to explore the option of self publishing. To promote her new book,
Catherine invited bloggers, twitters, and Facebook page-owners to present her with a question about self-publishing, that she’d answer (along with an offer to receive a digital copy of Self-Printed 3.0). The following is my question, and Catherine’s answer.


Q: I intend to self-publish a mainstream contemporary novel. On the Internet, most of the information about discoverability of self-published books and e-books pertains to genre fiction (e.g. romance/thrillers/science-fiction/fantasy/YA). The rest falls under the large umbrella of ‘literary & fiction’, with subdivisions for historical/literary/women’s fiction. ‘Mainstream fiction’, however, falls between the cracks of this genre-oriented system.
What is your advice for making a self-published mainstream novel visible?

A: I have to be blunt and say I just don’t believe there’s any book that can’t be shoehorned into a category or genre for promotional sake, but that’s an argument for another day…

Your point is that most of the advice you find online is orientated towards genres of fiction that are not yours (and we’ll agree to disagree on why they’re not yours). But here’s all your have to do to start to promote your book online: find readers who are predisposed to liking it because they like something else that was similar. This “something else” doesn’t have to be a genre – it can be a single book. So let’s say you’ve written the next To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. That’s a book that’s difficult to categorize into a specific genre, and book bloggers who love crime and Goodreads groups dedicated to steampunk are going to be of no use to you. So I would think of another book that is (a) similar to yours, (b) was published recently and (c) sold well, ideally hit the bestseller lists. Let’s say sake of argument that we came up with The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

Now I would:

1. Look up The Bone Clocks on Amazon and make a list of the titles that appear in “Customers Also Bought”. Going forward we’re going to rely on as many of those titles as we think are relevant, plus The Bone Clocks

2. Find the book’s Goodreads page and contact the users who gave it 5* and are accepting messages. (You can send private messages to non-friends but they are limited to I think around 12 a day). Offer them a complimentary copy of your book to review. Set up a Goodreads giveaway while you’re at it.

3. Google the titles along with the word “review”. The first couple of pages of results will be newspapers and magazines, but keep going and you’ll get to the book bloggers who reviewed them. Contact them re: reviewing your book.

4. A KDP Select free promotion is a great way to get people to take a chance on your book AND to entice readers directly. Genre/category won’t matter here – the zero price will attract all.

5. Genre/category won’t matter on Twitter either. Use or to make up some attractive Twitter graphics (look in publishing houses’ Twitter feeds for great examples) and run a giveaway for a day where entry is by retweeting and following. Hopefully by now you have a nice quote from a blogger about your book to add to the graphic, and when people look up the book on Amazon they’ll see a great sales rank and reviews, or lots of 5* ratings on Goodreads. What little genre cubbyhole your book does or doesn’t fit into has ceased to matter.


This entry was posted in fiction, mainstream fiction, self-publishing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Self-publishing a mainstream novel – Q&A with Catherine Ryan Howard

  1. Pingback: Book reviews for self-published fiction | T. K. Flor's Blog

  2. Cindy Cotter says:

    Reblogged this on Writer's Business Kit and commented:
    Abandoning my mystery to write a mainstream novel scares the hell out of me, not the least because I have no idea how to market one. Here’s a plan that sounds like it could work.


  3. Pingback: First anniversary – what I learned from a year of blogging | T. K. Flor's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s