Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Motivated Multi-Tasker: Peter Johnson

My novel Grant's Indian appeared October 11, 2009 in three formats: audiobook, print-on-demand (POD) paperback and Kindle. The audiobook was published by audible (, the download-only audiobook publisher, and the POD and Kindle versions by Amazon (which, happily, owns audible, so I have a nice 3-format listing on Amazon, with a link to audible:

The steps I've taken to promote the book are no different from what I would have done had it been traditionally published. In fact, I've got various "Advice to our Authors" guidelines from traditional publishers, which I've followed pretty closely. These include:

A website

Facebook group and page!/pages/Grants-Indian-Peter-Johnson/137304910171


Pages on RedRoom, Shelfari, LibraryThing, WeRead, etc.

Joining various discussion groups on relevant topics, like Civil War, American Indians, Ulysses Grant, Historical Fiction, etc.

Sending review copies to likely publications, both offline and on (including, whose kind reviewer Gemi Sasson introduced me to you and is joining me on this gang-blog).

Personal and media appearances. I joined, but haven't yet used it. Being in New York City gives me a huge advantage, because there are so many forums that crave authors: private clubs, book clubs, cultural organizations, city agencies, etc. Whenever I appear at one venue I usually get an invitation to another.

Personal e-mail list of about 500, culled from my various careers as an actor, lawyer and teacher. About once a month I e-blast the group with a review, appearance, blurb or something and ask them to pass it on. They do.

Bookmarks, which turn out to be a great publicity-tool-cum-business-card.

I've talked with authors who have traditional publishers, and they mostly tell me that, aside from a few initial bookstore readings, their publishers don't do much publicity. The only difference, really, is the wider distribution, both of books and of information, that a traditional publisher can offer. Also, it is hard for self-published authors to get reviewed in significant publications. (Although my audiobook is traditionally published, not many outfits review audiobooks. AudioFile Magazine is one, and they've got a copy.) I was delighted to read, shortly after publication of Grant's Indian, a neat New Yorker parody of a publisher's "Advice to Authors" ("Subject: Our Marketing Plan," by Ellis Weiner, Oct. 19, 2009) which I've been told is uncomfortably close to the truth. It includes nuggets like:

"If you already have a blog, make sure you spray-feed your URL in niblets open-face to the skein. We like Reddit bites (they’re better than Delicious), because they max out the wiki snarls of RSS feeds, which means less jamming at the Google scaffold. Then just Digg your uploads in a viral spiral to your social networks via an FB/MS interlink torrent. You may have gotten the blast e-mail from Jason Zepp, your acquiring editor, saying that people who do this sort of thing will go to Hell, but just ignore it."

Read more:

Reactions from readers have been positive. My favorites are "customer reviews" on Amazon and audible from people I don't know. (Like everyone else, I've solicited reviews from family, friends and colleagues, who have obliged.) When someone contacts me through my website with a positive comment, I ask them to post it, and they often do.

Since I've worked freelance most of my life (actor, lawyer), I don't find the demands of publicizing the book very arduous, although I'd rather be writing something new. Except for teaching a Communications Law course at New York Law School in the fall semester, my schedule is my own. I've got another historical novel being circulated by a very reputable agency, so I hope soon to be able to compare the demands of publishing traditionally versus POD. One thing that's great, however, is, after years spent alone writing a novel, to have people actually asking me about it! I'm surprised how much I enjoy that.

Thank you, Peter.


N. Gemini Sasson said...

It's great to hear your take on things, Peter. And I must say your book totally changed my perspective on 19th century America. It's a bonus to learn AND be entertained at the same time.

Michelle Gregory said...

Peter, wow. i admire your "get up and go." thanks for sharing.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

This is really awesome information, thank you! You definitely know what you're doing. I look forward to checking out your book. :)

Lisa Yarde said...

Peter, guess who also went to New York Law School? I smiled when I saw that in your author bio, but I'm sure your experience was much better than mine. What is it about lawyers who turn to writing fiction? I look forward to reading Grant's Indian over the summer and wish you success.

Anita Davison said...

Peter, your book deserves to be a success base on the sheer energy you have put into promotion. The bestof luck with it.
And gang-blog eh? Hmmm never heard it called that before.

Peter Johnson said...

Hi Everyone!
Forgive my absence from these posts for awhile, but it's been great to follow your experiences while I was away. Like all of us, I'm careful to draw the line between the craft of fiction and the business of publishing. Writing is writing and always mysterious - we all go at it different ways (like, say, cooking or, um, sex(???)). Publishing is different - there are only a few ways of doing it. One of the few ways I differ with Michelle Gregory is that I have no desire to buck the publishing establishment or join any kind of "self-publishing/indie author movement." To me, traditional, mass-market publishing is always the goal, because no independent publisher can match a traditional publisher's reach. (I don't regard acceptance or rejection by a traditional publisher as any kind of artistic judgment - it's just a market judgment.) That said, the communications revolution has created so many self-publishing options at such low cost that there's almost no reason that a fiction-writer with $2000-or-so to invest can't get a book out there with a reasonable expectation of recouping the publishing costs.
To Gemi and Lisa, I love your experience with blogging. I particularly like your blogs because you've invited me to appear on them! But I know I couldn't do it myself. When I try to talk about writing I get tongue-tied. For me, it'e easier to do than to talk about (like, say, cooking or, um, sex.) Hearts to all of you!

Kristina Emmons said...

Peter, I look forward to reading your book. I remember when it came up for review on :)

FLASH SALE - Free on Kindle today: Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree

For the first time! Download for free and save $3.99; this weekend only.  ENDED MAY 13.  Check out other promos on my website . Bo...