July 2nd loomed large in my mind for months as I counted the days until Lagging Indicators would be released. When that fateful date arrived, I was nervous but at peace: I had done my best. After years of research, writing, and rejections from traditional publishers, my decision to self-publish was the closure I’d been seeking. I’d been posting teasers on Instagram and this blog for several weeks, generating some curiosity among my friends. Many had pre-ordered the book and showed me a level of support and encouragement that still warms my heart. Once the print and e-book became available on book-buying sites, the waiting game began.
Of course, I was eager to see what readers would think, but hadn’t expected all the valuable intelligence and insight I would gain in the process! I’d shifted gears from a dreamy creative journey to a wild ride through the contemporary book world, picking up a crash course on promotions, marketing, social media, and influential literary websites along the way. A whole new universe had opened up; one that I had shied away from because of my own struggles as a writer. Rather than be daunted, it only reaffirmed that I want to do this. Here’s what I’ve learned in these last two months:
The reading public is alive and well. With hectic schedules, we have so little discretionary time and how we choose to spend it is precious. I was worried that in this Age of Netflix and the surrealness of current events (facts being stranger than fiction), people would be less likely to pick up a book for entertainment. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The literary community is thriving. One only has to look at social media to find book lovers who gleefully post their current reads, reviews, and #TBR lists (a hashtag acronym for “to-be-read” that I just learned). In spite of all the screens and images to distract, people are still craving the written word. This has been the most gratifying realization.
A community of family, friends, and well-wishers goes a long way. Even small words of pep made a huge difference in settling my publishing nerves. As a result, I’ve learned to pay it forward by not only supporting other writers but also artists, designers, entrepreneurs, Ph.D. candidates… I try to lift up anyone working hard and pursuing a dream!
Writing may be my passion but self-promotion is my job. I have to get Lagging Indicators and myself out there. While I’m a writer first and foremost, I’m also an entrepreneur building a brand, especially as a self-published, indie author. No one will know about my book unless I make it visible.
Engaging with social media is important. I’m a big fan of Instagram (you can follow me at https://www.instagram.com/jennifer.anglade.dahlberg), but it can be tricky. You don’t want to appear braggy, pushy or inauthentic, so it’s important to find that balance between marketing and authenticity. Be yourself! On Instagram, I can feature all the different things that I enjoy and from which I draw inspiration. Followers are potential readers too. Interact with them and ask questions in some posts to create a dialogue. I follow other established writers to see how they present themselves and even New York Times best-selling authors pursue a strategy of connecting with their audience via Instagram. If Tayari Jones, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Emily Giffin, can do it, then so can I!
Don’t be afraid to hustle. This can be intimidating if you’re not naturally wired that way. I’m more of a soft-sell type, but it’s a very competitive landscape and I have to work hard to find a niche. What makes Lagging Indicators unique? Why should a reader buy it or a bookseller stock it in their store? I have my selling points and, luckily, my pitch only gets better with time as the feedback comes in. While it’s important to understand my demographic, I also don’t want to limit myself. I’m continuously brainstorming for new, interesting activities and events that I can tie-in with the book. Giveaways are a great tool to create buzz. Reposting pictures of real people reading my book has also been alot of fun. I love getting pictures of the #bookinthewild (another new Instagram expression/hashtag for me). Ask friends to leave reviews on book-buying sites. Book clubs and panels are also excellent ways to increase one’s author profile. For example, my own Book Group event in May has led to inclusion at the Stockholm Writers Festival next spring. I’ve also sent books to media personalities, influencers and thought leaders whom I admire. I don’t know if they’ll even open their copy of Lagging Indicators, but I had nothing to lose by reaching out to them!
Keep abreast of the industry. I’ve been educating myself on the contemporary female fiction/women’s fiction genre as well as comparable authors. It’s crucial to remain up-to-date about other writers, trends, best-seller lists, deals, events, marketing strategies, etc. It’s a lot to manage at times, but an hour or two each day can yield useful actionable information. Plus, I love doing this, so I never consider it tedious work!
Talk about your work with pride. Don’t be shy! This can seem awkward in certain situations but usually leads to really interesting discussions.
Carry the book with you at all times. You never know if someone will ask to see it or want to buy a copy from you. I love taking pictures of the book in different cities, countries, and settings. Having it with me like an extra limb has become a welcome habit.
My skin is thicker than I thought. I assumed I would fall to pieces over a lukewarm review, but I took it in stride. It was more like “Hmmmm…” rather than “Ugh!” I see (constructive) criticism as learning opportunities and try not to take it personally. I won’t become discouraged and will keep writing for my own development. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t please everyone…
I’ve already started to think about my next book. Given the thirteen years between Uptown and Down and Lagging Indicators, this is big news for me indeed! But the past year of putting a laser-like focus on my writing, immersing myself in the self-publishing process, and following the book world has given me so much joy and purpose. Yes, it’s a slog sometimes, but this is where I want to be. I want to keep this momentum going so that I don’t fall into a slump.
Finally, I’ve drawn so much energy and motivation from the feedback I’ve received. I’m floored by some of the in-depth analysis that pointed things out I hadn’t fully contemplated, opening my eyes to additional themes and issues. Many readers could relate to Mia’s struggles and were rooting for her. Others told me that she stayed in their minds long after they’d finished the book. Some have even suggested Lagging Indicators should be a miniseries and that I should write a sequel. Stay tuned…