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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting to the Next Level

Tomorrow's my 39th birthday and I'm reflecting on all the hard work I've done on my self-publishing career. I've come  long way, but I've still got a long, long way to go.

I've made a lot of progress over the last three years promoting my self-published books. Over this year I've made more money selling eBooks than I’ve ever made on writing in my entire writing career.

But it’s still not enough money to live off of.

In the face of that slow progress, I’ve, had several family members tell me that I need to do more to promote my books. Now I’d love to do more to reach a larger audience of readers, o nly I don’t know what to do next. Every other promotional approach that reaches larger audiences is going to cost money. Serious money. Like a couple of thousand dollars.

I’d love to do a campaign where I post my book covers on MetroCards here in New York, but it’s something I can’t afford to do right now. Shawn’s money is at its lowest point. Nearing my fourth year of unemployment I only have a couple of hundred dollars left in the bank. With me being long-term unemployed, I need to find a way to make more sales and to make my books into a stronger, steady stream of revenue. 

Then there’s reaching out to create a larger audience of business contacts. Now I’ve been networking online with LinkedIN, Facebook, and Twitter and making connections with people.

Unfortunately here in the South Bronx I haven’t been able to reach many people face to-face. Trying to find people who are into books is like walking into a brick wall. Most people here speak Spanish and even more don’t know how to read. Worse, More people are into sneakers than literature around here. So selling books and building contacts here in the Bronx and in Harlem is next to impossible.

Because the South Bronx is so reader-unfriendly I’ve made more connections with readers on Facebook and Twitter than in my own neighborhood. It’s actually been easier to connect with readers in Australia, Grenada and Germany than here in New York. I really want to reach more African-American readers in the inner-city but I find myself running into so many obstacles and so much resistance. I'm still looking for a way to breakthrough and connect with my brothers and sisters It's sad that I can sell books all over the world but not to the people in my own community on a regular basis. 

In spite of all of the challenges in front of me, I have to remind myself that publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a race that takes strategy, endurance, paitience and skill. The goal of a running marathon is to work to is usually to complete the race and arrive at the finish line, not to win.

And a writer can’t compare their success to other people’s success. Shawn James can’t be the superstar E.L. James is or the superstar Amanda Hocking is. My audiences is totally different from theirs. 
The road to the next level is a long one. But I’m a little further than I was four years ago.

And much further than I was eight years ago when I was just living on $2 a day, hoping, wishing and praying for a way to get my remaining manuscripts published.

Will I get to that next level in the next couple of years? I’m taking it one day at a time. One step at a time. It can take years for readers to discover an author, and even more time for them to be found by large commercial audiences. I take steps every day towards that big break. It’s been one of the toughest fights of my life, but I’m not giving up. I know if I keep driving one day I’ll have that best-selling book. 


  1. Shawn, this is a quite moving epistle. I was surprised to reach the end and feel I'd just started. This has real emotion and it carries beautifully.

    Studies state that 83% of Americans want to write books. Pat yourself on the back for your God-given talent, perseverance and training. With this under your belt, I on't see how you can miss. You already have one of the major qualities: that of knowng and being yourself.

    Multiply the Bronx by so many others who think reading is a disease to flee.

    It's my feeling that if you just keep it up, you'll win bigtime! It's just a mnatter of time. And don't forget to never stop praying and believing in God and yourself.

  2. Have you ever thought of adapting your books into graphic novels? There has to be some young artists out there needing practice work to build up a portfolio.
    And if the Bronx doesn't want your book-you move to who is willing.
    One thing I have seen writers do was attend events that were unrelated to writing.
    I've seen writers set up tables at comic cons despite the fact their book had nothing to do with comics.
    Others went to openings, high school reunions (of schools they didn't attend), parades & festivals. All they had was their books and a shirt promoting the book.

  3. Anonymous,

    I have moved past the Bronx and the inaccesible customer base there. That's why I'm doing most of my promotion work online these days. I tend to reach more people online than with street promotion. Having a free eBook or two gets them to try other stuff especially when I tie it in to older existing titles.

    I always wanted to do a Graphic novel adaptation of some of my books like Isis or the Temptation of John Haynes. Originally both were planned as comics in my head.
    it's just a matter finding an artist. But here in the South Bronx artists are few and far between. But still I'd love to see it done one day.

    Maybe when i get another day job I'll do the comiccon thing. I think the fantasy titles like Isis and Temptation would spark a little interest there.

    Thanks for the suggestions it's given me something to think about.

  4. First I am not the guy who posted on 9-17-2012. Just for the record. I just watched a film called We Made This Film online (they had their premiere in New York and it just finished as I am typing this). It was a film about a bunch of kids making their own film.
    The guy s behind it were Bill Pullman and the creators of the tv show Ed. The only big name was Arjay Smith (of TNT's Perception).
    They made the film with hand held cameras only.
    I was thinking maybe you could document yourself-the process of doing a book, promotion and who knows finding those starving actors looking for demo reel material using scenes from your books?

  5. Sounds like something I'd like to try.