What can a self-published writer do to get noticed? Tips from from PenLane's Peter Shapiro

Creating one's own imprint is often a dream for many writers, so I was excited to interview Peter David Shapiro, a Boston writer and creator of PenLane Press. He and I connected through Twitter because of our interests in writing, and he provided a very informative interview, detailing how to create an imprint and how to get noticed by retailers and readers.

TL: Thanks for stopping by this blog. First off, please tell my readers a little bit about your background.
PDS: I’m from Montreal, Canada, and I currently live in the Boston area. I’ve always wanted to write novels. After college, I carried a small typewriter to Europe to realize my dream. After that didn’t work out, I toiled for several decades as a management consultant. Then I took it up again. Inspiration came to me for Ghosts on the Red Line when the title floated into my mind during one of my early morning walks. What would happen, I wondered, if commuters saw their Departed on Boston’s Red Line subway trains? After Ghosts on the Red Line was published and received gratifyingly good reviews, I wrote The Trail of Money, an international suspense novel about intrigue and revenge in Hong Kong, which also has been well received. Both novels feature Harry Forrest West, who by amazing coincidence is a management consultant. Currently I’m working on my third novel and trying to improve my flute playing.

TL: You created your own imprint, PenLane Press, to publish your novels. What motivated you to do so?
PDS: I believe that readers would notice if no publisher were identified on a book’s cover or if a publisher’s name were absent from the information provided by online retailers. Readers may not care who the publisher is, but they expect to see one identified. Also, a publisher’s name is requested when you register a book’s ISBN and when you upload a book file to a printer/distributor such as CreateSpace. So, out of necessity, lacking a legacy publisher, I created PenLane Press. 

TL: What do you think is the number one struggle that self-publishers face and what can they do to overcome that problem?
PDS: Getting your book noticed by readers.

This is a challenge for published but not-yet-famous writers whose publishers ignore them. And it’s even more of a challenge for self-published writers. As you quickly discover, there is a club, a legacy publishing ecosystem, and you’re not a member. Big newspaper reviewers refuse to read self-published books; Chain bookstores won’t stock them; Indie bookstores that do accept self-published books generally decline to promote them; Literary agents, bookseller event organizers, and others involved in the trade turn up their noses.

What to do?

I paid the MBTA (Boston transit authority) to carry a poster for Ghosts on the Red Line on Red Line subway trains, and I’ve placed ads for both of my novels on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Goodreads, and Bing. I’ve posted my books on an eBook promotional site. I’ve done book signings. I’ve given copies of my books to online reviewers who’ve written glowing reviews and to several very famous people who might (if they enjoy the books and if lightning strikes) share their delight with the world. Shameless opportunistic promotion is the name of the game (see my response to Question #6).
"Getting your book noticed by readers. This is a challenge for published but not-yet-famous writers whose publishers ignore them."
TL: What are you working on now?
PDS: A novel about a painting that was found after being lost for more than 100 years. Characters include psychics, con men, and as the main protagonist, Dr. Frances Gourmelon, a Boston psychic who is featured in Ghosts on the Red Line. It’s title, for now: Portrait of Ignatius Jones.

TL: Great information, and thank you for stopping by. Anything you would like to add?
PDS: Yes! Check out Ghosts on the Red Line to find out what happens when commuters see their Departed on the Boston subway. According to reviewers, it’s a “fascinating multi-level novel” and “altogether wonderful.”  If revenge and intrigue in Hong Kong would interest you, take a look at The Trail of Money, which one reviewer calls a “marvelously twisty thriller.” You can get more info about both novels, and about my modest self, at www.peterdshapiro.com.

Also, if you’re the actor/director known as Ben Affleck, you’d be excellent as Harry Forrest West. Have your people call my people about optioning movie rights for Ghosts on the Red Line (Ben, please note, it takes place in Boston) and for its prequel, The Trail of Money.


Should I self-publish?

I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog!