Brand yourself for success in self-publishing
By Theresa Poalucci
Globe trotting for the past 30 years as a consultant wasn’t enough for Paul Dorset. In his fine English accent he explained, “We all have passions and they eat away at us, and finally you give in to them.”
His passion was writing and it took the form of a fantasy/adventure novel titled Xannu — The Prophecy, which Dorset shopped around to myriad publishers in 2003, before indie publishing (self-publishing) was trendy.
Dorset took the rejection letters in stride, found some more test readers to iron out some kinks, and then resent his freshly edited book out again — only to receive a fresh round of rejection letters.
Not willing to take no for an answer, the frustrated author found a “vanity printer” to print Xannu and get it distributed. He retained the rights and “knew the joy of having the physical book” in his hands, he said.
“I lost money on the book as I sold less than 100 copies,” said Dorset. “I had started a series [with Xannu] and those who liked it asked, ‘Where is the next book?’ So you think, ‘I guess I had better write the second book.’”
He did, taking about 18 months because he was also working on Xannu — The Healing, which sold even fewer copies.
“If you don’t sell the first one, you aren’t going to sell the second,” he said. However, he admits he did not put a lot of thought into marketing the books because he did it for his own satisfaction.
Xannu is based in the real world. The main character is a 12-year-old English boy who has dreams (which turn out not to be dreams) in which he is living the life of an 18-year-old soldier in a fantasy land. “The first book seems to have a Christian-based moral to the story,” explained Dorset. “The second book just blows all that away.”
You would think that the number of books sold would put an end to any self-publishing dreams for Dorset, but two rather random events took place that put him back on the rails. The first was befriending a master ventriloquist puppet maker who told him some great stories. Dorset felt compelled to turn these tales into a book for middle-graders. This project got him back to writing. The second was the growing popularity of e-books.
“With the way e-books are going, I decided ‘Hey, I have as much chance as anybody out there,’ so I came off a contract job and decided to write a book on project management,” he said.
Dorset wrote The 10 Hour Project Manager. It sold well, but there was a market already in place for this type of information and there was Dorset’s professional reputation to back it up. In the book’s first few weeks on the Amazon list it was in the top 100, which Dorset found quite amazing.
“Could I retire off of this success? Absolutely not,” he said. What he could do, however, was utilize the name he was making for himself with The 10 Hour Project Manager and use it to sell his other books.
“So I put all my other books on as e-copies and started cross-marketing them against each other because publishers are looking for someone who isn’t just a one hit wonder,” said Dorset. “It is slowly starting to pick up now and I have sold more of all my books in the last couple of months than I ever sold previously.”
He also made a personal commitment to put all his energy into “being out there” and now he is promoting his latest book, How to Write & Self-Publish Your First Novel. Just out, the book takes his experiences and funnels them into the do’s and don’ts for success. It also includes advice on how to create a plot, write dialogue, and whether to write in the first or third person.
“Everything today is about building a brand,” explained Dorset. “I am a big believer in social media and social marketing so I try to make everything part of my brand. I push everything through my blog and ultimately everything sells everything else. Publicity, good or bad, ends up being just publicity in the end.”
Dorset cites fellow self-publishing author Amanda Hocking as a good example of how to create a brand. Hocking made international headlines as the biggest e-book seller in the world. Since April 2010, she has sold more than 900,000 copies of her nine books about trolls, vampires and zombies. Now she has a $2 million contract with St. Martin’s press for a four-book series entitled Water-song, with the first installment scheduled for a fall 2012 release.
“You build the train up and keep pushing it out of the station. You cross reference everything and eventually things take off,” said Dorset. “Hocking has her own blog and she worked hard just getting the word out: encouraging people to read her books, giving free books away so they will be read and the readers will post reviews, and so on. Ultimately it is reviews that sell books.”
“I have been very fortunate because traveling has been a great boon to my writing,” Dorset said of his life experiences. “What you know ends up in your books, and the rest is what you make up.”
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