WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Re #guerrillapublishing

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It behooves you to buy Fascination

One reason I decided to “publish” Fascination in this unorthodox way (selling it via my blog instead of Amazon) was to ask the question, “What is it to ‘publish’ anyway?” On the most basic level, it’s simply to “make available” or “distribute.” You can add “to sell at market,” I suppose, but technically no money has to change hands in a publishing arrangement with readers, as we indies show all the time with our giveaways.

It seems like that’s not quite enough to hang a hat on, though, since publishing seems to mean documenting a book, registering it, and making it searchable in subject categories, i.e., findable. Yet, there are so many indie books out there now that most of them are distinctly unfindable, except by direct recommendation or fluke. In that sense, “publishing” them by uploading them to Amazon and jumping through a few benign hoops doesn’t help the authors much, even if they can say, “My book was published in 2016.”

I wondered whether there were other ways to publish a book, in the “make available” sense, by which you could still sell it and make a little money. And I remembered, as I talked about in my essay, “Gatecrash,” the way samizdat worked in old Soviet Russia, with individual manuscripts of banned books circulating among interested readers, new typescripts popping up as needed. Volunteer readers retyped them so the book could keep going. (And, incidentally, the word samizdat translates almost directly to “self-published”!)

What we need now are volunteer marketers, and that’s what I’m experimenting with here. It’s getting harder and harder to find ways to promote our books, or I should say successful ways. I recently complained in a Twitter rant that if you can’t count on the popular bargain lists like BookBub and EReader News Today, there’s really no option that doesn’t cost more than is rational to spend. Advertising? Professional book trailers? A self-financed book tour? Publicists? Seriously. Not when most copies of your book sell for 99 cents.

But #guerrillapublishing will depend on the readers. If they like the book, they’ll have to tell someone about it, and how to get it. They’ll mention the photos. They’ll talk about the personalized inscription. And they’ll be happy to spread the word because the poor schmuck who wrote the book is depending on them!

I’ve had to come to the reluctant conclusion that publishing literary fiction on Amazon is like trying to sell jazz LPs at a NASCAR race. You might find a handful of eccentric NASCAR fans who also like Thelonious Monk on vinyl, but not many. Basically you bust your buns and come away with not much to show for it.

So, #guerrillapublishing.

And I’m using the hashtag because I hope the term becomes a thing. I hope that hashtag will become a bank of great ideas for selling innovation to readers who might not have known they were looking for it. A holding tank for creative approaches that haven’t been tried yet. We might as well try them, right? What’ve we got to lose?

If you’re thinking along the same lines, hit me with some ideas in the comments. Let’s brainstorm then barnstorm. For all we know, we’re on the vanguard of a new fad: bypass traditional publishers and Amazon and Barnes & Noble and buy books straight from the minds that thought them up. Why mess with a middle man?

In any event, Fascination, my first #guerrillapublishing project, is available here. Every penny goes to a starving artist.

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26 comments on “Re #guerrillapublishing

  1. kingmidget
    August 10, 2016

    As I’ve said before, you’ve come up with exactly the kind of idea I had been thinking about for the last year or two. So, new ideas? Hmmm… will have to think about that.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 10, 2016

      I’m trying to think of ways other than Twitter to let people know about the book. That’s the one really tricky thing here. It takes a reading village …

      • kingmidget
        August 10, 2016

        The biggest problem, which you have touched on before, is that to a large extent our social media circles are just other writers. We buy each other’s books, but we don’t break through that way. The key is to figure out how to get into the circles, both social media and traditional, where readers hang out and get their attention.

        I know that Susan Nicholls has somebody helping with the marketing of her new book coming out. I’ll be curious to see what approach they take and how successful it is.

        And I am still convinced that there has to be some way to establish some type of writer’s collective, where we pull our talents and resources and expand our reading universe that way. But it has to be an organized, collaborative effort that goes beyond reblogging and retweeting.

      • Kevin Brennan
        August 11, 2016

        Amen to everything you say here. It’s easy to bang around inside an echo chamber and feel like you’re reaching a lot of people, but the numbers don’t lie, eh?

        The only problem I have with the idea of a writers’ collective is that, as with all such things, it’s self-selective, you’re now associated with this group even if your genre is lightly represented, and you’ll wind up donating a lot of your time and skills rather than getting paid for them. Take care of those kinks and it might just work!

      • kingmidget
        August 11, 2016

        Completely agree that there has to be a balance of effort and responsibility among all participants and the ability to achieve that is a big hole in my idea. And if you contribute an idea that benefits the whole others better be making similar contributions.

  2. pinklightsabre
    August 10, 2016

    Good on you Kevin. We just bought our copy and I’m looking forward to your success, and getting some food on the table there for you…ha! I’m working on my jazz LP now too and not worrying yet about where I’ll sell it, it’s enough for now to just do it and know it will be done, and celebrate that, for something. Amen to that.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 10, 2016

      Just saw your buy, Bill! Thanks a lot for the burrito! Shall I make the book out to you and Dawn, The Pearses, or pinklightsabre? 😉

      • pinklightsabre
        August 10, 2016

        I like pinklightsabre, it has an unorthodox spelling 🙂 thanks buddy!

      • Kevin Brennan
        August 10, 2016

        You got it, man! Shipping presently …

      • pinklightsabre
        August 10, 2016

        Received, thanks !

  3. Pamela Beckford
    August 10, 2016

    Hey Kevin, did you get my email?

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 10, 2016

      No! Can you resend? kevinbrennan520(at)gmail(dot)com . Problems?

  4. islandeditions
    August 10, 2016

    I just explained your new method of #guerrillapublishing at park coffee to a voracious reader and what she and both I realized we liked most about this method of selling was you, the author, have direct contact with each and every reader … and, more importantly, all those readers have direct contact with you, the creator. Plus they share directly in making your book a success and, as a Reader, what’s not to love about that? Readers help their favourite authors to succeed and to keep writing! As you know, Kevin, I’ll be exploring my own method of #guerrillapublishing with regards to the “print” edition of my next novel. Will disclose full details on that at a later date, once I have figured out all the logistics. And I will be watching, and promoting, this great effort of yours to do things in a different way.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 10, 2016

      Thanks for spreading the word, Susan! I agree that rubbing elbows with the author is a real plus to this approach, and, of course, it doesn’t have to end with the purchase. I can do mini-interviews with individual readers, I can answer questions about where the story comes from, and I can talk about other aspects of my writing. All one-on-one.

      Looking forward to your reports on how the print project goes!

  5. John W. Howell
    August 10, 2016

    Hope for the best, Kevin.

  6. Audrey Driscoll
    August 10, 2016

    Reblogged this on Audrey Driscoll's Blog and commented:
    Here are some thoughts on #guerrillapublishing by the creative Kevin Brennan. And BTW, consider buying his latest book, Fascination. I did!

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 10, 2016

      Thanks for this, Audrey! I hope your readers are into primates … 😉

  7. Blaise Lucey
    August 11, 2016

    Love this idea, Kevin! Here’s the thing I’ve been thinking: what is a book going to look like in five or ten years? How can writers start adapting now?

    We can keep producing digital content, but there’s so much noise out there – as a lot of people have mentioned already – that it’s becoming nearly impossible to actually stand out. You can pay to market your book, but that’s almost always going to be a net negative return. Also, I noticed that even when Blest came out, there were already free versions of it seemingly automatically generated into easily searchable torrents you could download.

    I think the answer is short, bite-size content that writers create and then RETROACTIVELY publish into a physical product (via publisher or print on-demand).

    What I think is going to happen is that an audience-first approach will be critical.

    Again, I look at Humans of NY or the Instagram star Quarter Life Poetry. They started as shareable social content that became huge best sellers. Micro content first, built into a book later. The audience wants the physical product but this is a product that isn’t just text, it’s something that is visual, unique, compelling and ultimately better than experiencing it on your phone.

    The difference is that both of these mediums are highly visual, too, which makes me wonder if writers need to think in terms of a digital / visual / writing combo whenever trying out a new project.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 11, 2016

      Thanks, Blaise, and thanks for your thoughts on this. You’re so right about the trend toward micro content. It’s not unlike the old serialization of novels, followed by the bound book later.

      As novelists, it’s hard to accept that the audience isn’t necessarily looking for traditional novels anymore. They like bite-sized narratives that fit together in the end. And they like visual content.

      Feels like we’re in the midst of a transition, doesn’t it?

  8. Pingback: Kevin Brennan – update on a new novel and introducing a new way of publishing! | Reading Recommendations

  9. 1WriteWay
    August 21, 2016

    Ah, I wish I could contribute to this discussion, but I just feel like I’m too “old school.” I’m talking in reference to Blaise’s comments. Is the preference for micro content more an indication of our fragmented, short-attention-span psyches than a new art/literature trend? I understand the idea of trying different media. Years ago I followed a couple of newbie authors via their podcasts. One of them was Scott Sigler who posted chapters of his WIPs via podcast. They were very entertaining and free. And his novels have since gone into print and I’ve even seen copies at my local Barnes & Noble. Now, I’m one of those listeners who never bought any of his novels. My point is I believe he did build both a potential readership for his novels through his podcasts as well as a relationship with his listeners, many of whom probably bought his books in part because they liked him, the author, as well as what he wrote.
    In your case, it will be interesting to see if you sell more copies of Fascination this way, as an independent self-publisher, compared to your other novels that have gone through Amazon. Either way, marketing is key. Amazon may make it a bit more convenient for readers (simple download if the reader has a Kindle), but unless someone knows your book is out there, the convenience of Amazon doesn’t matter. That said, what about a print version? Just curious. Did you look into the economics of that, say, for a reader to choose a print version over an ebook? I can’t remember if you wrote about it. I know it would be more expensive but there are those of us willing to pay 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 21, 2016

      I do think attention span is part of the problem. People, especially younger people, are pulled in a million directions now, so that the idea of reading a novel in a few sittings must feel impossible. Plus they’re becoming unbelievably visual, which I find odd because I’d much rather read something than sit there and watch a video of the same content.

      So right about how the platform doesn’t matter if nobody knows the book is out there. And as far as a print copy goes, I don’t see it for Fascination, unless I decide to do a regular Amazon edition of it one day. My wife is still trying to get me to do a print version of Yesterday Road!

      • 1WriteWay
        August 22, 2016

        Your wife and I want a print version of Yesterday Road!! No pressure 😉
        Regarding tendencies toward the visual: I wonder if it’s a lack of imagination. With a book (particularly a novel), you have to use your imagination to fill in what you can’t see. With videos and movies, someone does that for you.

      • Kevin Brennan
        August 22, 2016

        Guess I’ll have to get good ol’ Max Scratchmann busy on that one …

  10. Mary P
    April 10, 2017

    !
    The difference is that both of these mediums are highly visual, too, which makes me wonder if writers need to think in terms of a digital / visual / writing combo whenever trying out a new project.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 10, 2017

      True, because readers seem to be more visual than they used to be. We need to work on easier ways to get visuals into ebooks so writers can start experimenting.

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