Publishing on the Web: Marketing Makes All the Difference by Cindy Laufenberg

Rose was a New York advertising executive with two unpublished novels under her belt, and had an agent actively shopping Lip Service. Every time a publisher expressed an interest, the marketing department would reject it because they found Rose’s smart mix of romance, erotica and suspense too hard to market. After a while, Rose decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. “I got frustrated,” she says, “and decided to write a nonfiction book and break through that way. The nonfiction book required Web research, and while doing research I realized that the Web was an incredible marketing tool.”

Rose decided to put Lip Service on the Web, with the goal of self-publishing and marketing it online, “and get maybe 2,000 copies,” she says. “Then my agent could go back to a publisher and say, ‘look, this is how to market her stuff. She’s showing you how to do it.’ So I got a website and I did a cover for the book.” She set it up as an electronic download along with a photocopied version of the book for sale. “I had the e-book and the print book on the website, but nobody was buying it because nobody knew it existed. It took me about six months to figure out how to market it. In the first six months I only sold about 150 copies. But once the marketing effort got underway, I sold 1,500 copies.”

To Rose’s surprise, for every one person who wanted to download the book, ten more wanted to buy the photocopied version. Since she couldn’t keep up with the demand, she had 3,000 copies of the book printed and sold them on the website. And soon after, Pocket Books came calling, offering Rose a deal to publish Lip Service in a traditional hardcover version.

After the publication of Lip Service, Rose was interviewed in business magazines such as Forbes and Business 2.0, as well as mainstream news magazines like Time, as being a poster child for the power of Internet publishing. And with the recent influx of new e-publishers all over the Web, her story could very well be any writer’s story. But Rose cautions writers not to think of the Internet as a sure way of getting published. “Getting your work up on the Internet is really easy,” she says, “But how you get people to the work is where the real challenge is. And unfortunately the challenge has gotten exponentially harder, because by the end of 2001, there will be more than 100,00 books available [on the Web]that were previously unpublished. If there are all those titles, how are you going to get readers to know you exist? So the marketing challenge becomes even greater. It will come down to how clever you can become at marketing your book.”

Rose is definitely talking from experience, and that experience has led her to write How to Publish and Promote Online, with Angela Adair-Hoy (who has written several how-to books for freelance writers and self-published authors herself), to be published by St. Martin’s, in both print and electronic versions, in January 2001. Self-published on the Web and then picked up by a major publisher, How to Publish and Promote Online covers all aspects of self-publishing on the Internet, with inside information on public relations and advertising, e-publishers, self-promotion, cover design — basically everything a writer needs to know to become self-published on the Internet.

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