Tag Archives: marketing a book

Nice guys don’t finish last… they just finish slowly.

In the immediate world of the internet, it seems that many writers are getting disheartened when their works fail to go instantly viral. Sure, when a book with as few redeeming features as 50 Shades explodes the way it has, it’s a little galling but is ‘overnight success’ the be all and end all? Be honest with yourself, would you want that pressure? Well actually, if I was EL I’d never bother to write commercialy again but you get my drift, I’m sure.

For those of us who are normal and who have to balance their book marketing time with actual writing time and Real Life there’s no shame in building an audience slowly. Surely, if you get to the point where you’re selling truckloads of books, it doesn’t matter whether it’s taken you two days or ten years. After all, the end result is the same. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

Relentless marketing is all very well – if you have the time and the inclination – but then, while a bit of dynamism is commendable, pushiness and aggression will just turn off your audience. Surely you want readers, right? People who will buy all your books and stick with you through thick and thin. That takes time.

So. I have accepted that success will not come to me overnight and I thought I’d share my er… strategy with you.

It’s difficult to say how it’s panning out because I’m a stay at home Mum and it takes me 18 months (at least) to write each book. However there are 6 things I’ve noticed.

1. Being unashamed to mention your books – where relevant – works well but being aggressive and over saturating your audience with the same or similar plugs does not. Sure, you need to be organised, methodical and forward but most important of all you need to be charming. If your policy is the on-line equivilent of shouting your message in somebody’s face, the chances are they’ll endure the noise and ignore you. If they like you already and you mention your book in passing they might read it. Pushiness and aggression to people you don’t know just alienates them.

2. Soft on-line selling works. For me, participating in threads where I get to give feedback to other authors, or just passing the time of day with readers and authors, alike, makes sales. I enjoy it and there’s no awkward ‘buy my book’ type schpeil involved; win-win.

3. Be sure to remember the Real World. Never leave home without a copy of your book. You never know who you’ll run into. If people ask me, ‘what do you do?’ I tend to produce my book with a flourish and say, ‘I write these.’ Believe it or not, I sell more books doing that than anything else.

4. Social networking is not the golden bullet. If you do it, use it to actually interact. Use your imagination; share ideas, news, articles, your blog posts (and other people’s) or just chat. Posting marketing links; yours or other people’s – is fine every now and again, but your input will become little more than white noise if they are all you post.

5. Aim – or at least, hope – for fans rather than readers. Yeh, you want them to buy one of your books but what you really want is for them to buy all your books and everything you write the minute it comes out. A nice big sales spike at the start is what kicks off a bestseller. Somehow, you need to forge relationships with your readers. I don’t pretend to know how to do this, I just do the best I can. This means being courteous and charming when they contact you, even if it’s a bad time or they’re saying something you’d rather not hear.

Last week I tweeted that I’d finished a book and gave it 5 stars. The author is famous, his book was voted best travel book (or something like that) on Radio 4. It’s a best seller, he has 24,000 followers on Twitter. And he thanked me. And we had a chat. And I will definitely be buying his next book, and recommending the current one. That’s what I mean.

6. Write the best books you can. A quality product always sells in the end. Churning out hundreds of mediocre novels and selling them to people is not my goal. Writing a story that sells because it moves people, makes them laugh and makes them think is.

7. Hang in there. What really works is when your readers enjoy your books enough to sell them for you. Achieving book sales by word of mouth is the most effective but slowest moving form of marketing… It would be nice if my books went viral but in all likelihood, until I’ve finished the trilogy (I’m working on book 3 now) – or ever – the chances are they won’t.

In conclusion, a successful hard sell doesn’t always make for a fan base. A charm offensive is less aggressive but may well be more effective long term. And it’s worth remembering that ‘overnight success’ is usually founded on many years of hard work.

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Filed under General Wittering, Good Advice

I’ve got my mojo working baby and I’m gonna try it out on you…

Er… eventually.

I’ve been agonising about my career choice; mother versus writer. There are aspects to the two that clash (like all of them, mwah ha ha hargh). But the fact is, it’s not just finding the time to write that poses a problem. Being an Author is like any other job. There are bits you’re good at and bits you’re not so good at; aspects you love and aspects you dislike. But as an author I stake my professional integrity on the stuff I put out and getting the bits I’m not so good at wrong could be seriously risky.

Clearly the happiest author is going to be the one who writes full time but unless you’re Sir Terence, with the might of Transworld behind you, that’s not realistically possible. Actually even Sir Terry has to do other stuff.

However, happiness really is a state of mind. And more to the point, none of the other scary stuff; the marketing, for example, and the grammar – or the grim business of reasearching and approaching the various gatekeepers who are going to throw your manuscript in the bin and tell you to piss off. None of that is going to go away.

So, I’ve been a bit blue lately. My perfectly acceptable (two years ago) punctuation is now unacceptable and because I’m a self published author it’s no good arguing – as both my editors do – that it’s consistent. Sure if you’ve a contract with Orion or somebody, the indie bashers will merely ‘disagree’ with your approach but if you’re M T McGuire, self-published nobody, they will consider it ‘wrong’ and review accordingly. So my book’s going in for a third edit.

That’s why I haven’t written anything on here. Because, I was beginning to wonder if I should try to continue being an author, or at least publishing my efforts. Yes, yes, I admit it, an artistic hissy fit, but it all felt very real to me – like I’d really lost my mojo – and what can you say about feeling like that? Nothing interesting or constructive that’s for sure.

Then I realised that anyone, in any job, is going to feel a bit pants about what they do from time to time. The trick is to ditch the negative aspect that’s bugging you for a day or two – even if you have a deadline – and concentrate on an aspect of your work that you’re good at.

So, in my case, that would be the actual nitty-gritty of writing the story. Except that it’s the end of term, there’s lots on and I’ve been rather strapped for time to write. So my usual negativity cancellation technique has been an epic fail.

While I was wondering what else I could do to get the feel good factor back, the answer cropped up totally unexpectedly; at toddler group. There I was, with McMini, and I ran into a fan. Someone who I didn’t know – one of the dads – who had read my books. And he sidled up to me, shyly, nervously even, took a deep breath and told me he’d loved my books and couldn’t wait until the third one came out. And he used things like my name and the word ‘talented’ in the same sentence. And I thanked him – from approximately 40,000 feet up because I was flying. And suddenly even though I was looking down the barrel of the summer holidays – which, while a delight in most ways, does present a daunting eight week moratorium on all writing – McWorld was McRight again.

It’s things like that which make all the scary I-could-get-this-so-wrong-and-destroy-my-reputation-for-ever side of publishing your own work worth it. And then I read this post and it got me thinking.

My cyber buddie Mr Will Macmillan Jones. It’s in his honour that I’ve used a jazz lyric for a post title… that and the fact it made me laugh. Mr Macmillan Jones is a fellow humorous fantasy author; Mancunian, exciled to Wales and driver of a slightly more plutochratic but similarly stupid car as myself, he does a lot of book signings. Now, OK he’s a proper author because he has a real live publisher, not one actually, two – I swear he’s made some kind of pact with the devil – but I digress.

Anyway, he does a lot of book signings. As I understand it, he rings a branch of Waterstones, introduces himself and blags them into letting him spend an afternoon in their shop, with a big pile of books, flogging them to unwary customers. I think it scared him quite badly at first but it’s abundantly clear that he’s become rapidly addicted. Like delivering a good stand up set, it clearly gives him a buzz.

Now, on the one hand, the idea of doing signings fills me with toe curling, buttock clenching fear – and I don’t have time to do more than about five a year anyway. On the other, I’m an ex stand up comedienne so I really should be able to handle it and anyway, it’s not so bad, is it? After all, I only have time to do about five a year.

Furthermore, I’ve sold 200 copies of Few Are Chosen over the past year simply by having a copy in my handbag so that if people ask me what I do I can say, ‘This.’ And show it to them.

In other words, though the prospect of doing signings scares me, the chances are I might enjoy it. I might even do it reasonably well – or, certainly, be better at it than I am at selling e-books. I may not have sold as many via the handbag as I have via the web but my handbag hit rate is a lot higher, I can tell you.

Signings also get you into the real world. OK, don’t tell anyone this but believe it or not, out there in the normal, non-scary world beyond Amazon, people still quite like authors.

There is one small problem. I’ve only written two books. It’s not enough, but come next year, when I’ll have written three… and it’ll be a trilogy… THAT’S when it might be smart to look at signings. In earnest.

Right, so, if any of you are still awake, the conclusions I’ve come to for happy authordom are as follows.

1. Write as many books as you can, GOOD BOOKS mind you, as fast as is humanely possible without letting your quality standards drop.
2. Do the Lightning Source thing and get them into the wholesalers or get a publisher so it’s really easy for both independents and chains to order them.
3. Do signings.
4. Publicise them. Do press releases and send them round to local newspapers where you’re going to appear – pimms media guide or similar in your local library will have a list with contacts. Or ask the manager of the shop you’re going to for any press contacts they have. Many will be happy to help – they’re as keen as you are to sell lots of books, after all.
5. Do schools events – I’m not sure how, as yet, but I’m sure it’s worth it.
6. Get in touch with your local literary/library officers if you can.
7. Make post cards and other promotional items and leave them wherever you go – here are some examples.
8. Take a copy of your book with you, wherever you go and if people ask you what you do, don’t be shy, whip it out and show them (phnark).

I’m not saying I’ve applied my plan – apart from the postcards and the taking my books about – but when book three is in the bag, I will have to seriously get my finger out. There’s no chance of intensive signings, not on Saturdays but I think I should be able to swing some. So I think I’ve found… well… if not my mojo then a plan and now that I have a plan, even if I have to wait 18 months or so – hnur hnur hnur hnurrrgh – I’m gonna try it out on you.

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Filed under General Wittering, Marketing Ideas, self publishing

Lorks!

Since yesterday evening, the download total for my second free e-short, Bog Man, on feedbooks has gone from 650 to 741… I dunno what’s going on but it’s brilliant! In the last hour 11 people have downloaded it… The other one’s still ticking along with 2 or 3 downloads a day, now, that’s what I consider to be a realistic expectation for both but this is… barking… in a very good and happy way!

The new e-short is in the pipeline and I hope to upload it in June… the actual book, Few Are Chosen is, I hope, going live in July… if I can manage it… so you all have something to read on holiday.

Smashwords have to do withholding tax now so I’m thinking I won’t sell my e-book, I’ll do the give it away free and hope some people will buy a paperback model… unless I can’t get a paperback printed cheaply enough to sell it to you all for £7.99 plus postage, in which case it’ll have to be a case of sod it, let them withhold it and do it anyway.

So… scores on the doors…

Is This Heaven? – 917 downloads since Christmas Day 09
Bog Man – 1,119 downloads since 12 March

Mmm…

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Filed under Author Updates, Blimey!, Encouragement, General Wittering, self publishing

Dammit…

I liked these people, MCA… but despite being listed on querytracker.net as looking for my genre, the agent mentioned in the listing is not actually looking for sci-fi or fantasy.

So… querytracker.net gets a big thumbs down from me… one to avoid unless you’re in the US I suspect.

Looking for a new agency to submit to but not doing too well… many, when asked, express an aversion to fantasy… maybe I should pitch it as a comedy and forget to add the word ‘fantasy’, that’s a bit cheeky though.  Better to be straight.  And although it’s crap that there are so few agents dealing with my genre in some respects, on the up side, the fewer there are, the sooner I’ll know if I’m stuffed.

I really would love to find an agent though.  You know, a real one.  Someone who could help me hone my work, somebody who could open my eyes and turn me from a reasonable writer into a really good one… But at the same time, I’m kind of intimidated… the more agency websites I research, the more Oxbridge  English graduates, with MAs I find… I can’t see these literary rocket scientists going for an eccentric middle-aged, middle-class Mum with a bad Art History degree and a huge pussy* cat.  Hmm… it’s going to be a long search.

Never mind.  My submission to Snow books is good to go… what a pity my book isn’t (guffaw).  No, I’m not that disorganised, I just need to finish the last chunk of editing which is marked up already.  Then I can send it.

Perhaps it’s time to write another free e-short.  I have had 39 downloads in a month… not going to set the world on fire but not bad and I suspect it won’t get much better unless I keep up some momentum… wondering if I can manage one a month… or perhaps I should do a reading and sell it as an aural book.  That would be a scream.  I am a massive ham!

On that subject… the speaky thing, I mean not being a monster ham; since there’s a lot of speech in my novel ( “is it a play?” one agent asked me) I’m toying with adapting Few are Chosen for radio… just following the models of people who have succeeded at writing varietals of the stuff I do.

Well… it’s a thought.

* This joke was brought to you by the Mrs Slocombe appreciation society.

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Filed under Finding an agent, General Wittering, Marketing Ideas

A small hoorah and some handy info

Oh yes.  Finally, I have made the Smashwords Premium Catalogue… my freebie, pique-their-interest-story should now appear on Amazon and Barnes and Noble… eventually.

It went live on Smashwords on 8th December and so far, 19 people have downloaded it.  No reviews, though, which is a pity as I’m sure there’s nothing like a good review to drive it up the charts.  Then again, I fear this story may receive nothing like a good review.  There’s a reason I don’t usually write shorts and that reason is, I’m not very good at it.

On the search for unicorn poop er-hem, sorry, finding an agent front, I have been introduced to a couple of useful blogs.

The first, Queryshark answers the question, what do you write in your query letter when you approach an agent.  The answer is an elevator pitch.  A short sharp synopsis which (and I quote)

MUST contain:
1. Who is the protagonist?
2. What choice does s/he face?
3. What are the consequences of the choice?

It seems that’s pretty much all you need to do, you can add a bit about how you’ve done writing classes if it’s relevant but nothing I’ve done is relevant… well actually I suppose 12 years of corporate communications probably counts for something but not anything of potential use when writing a novel.

I’ve been reading queryshark for a while now and have submitted my own pitch for perusal.  I hope they tear it to bits because lord knows, I need to get it right.

And there I leave you.  More on useful blogs tomorrow.  Go check out the queryshark.  She’s great.

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Filed under e-publishing, Finding an agent, Useful Resources

Advice re agents…

Here’s an excellent piece of advice I was given about finding an agent, today.  Find the agents which fit your writing/genre, then look down your shortlist and apply to new agencies, ie anything under 5 years old.  The bonuses are clear…

Most new agencies are started up by experienced agents from larger agencies gone solo.  As an unknown, fledgling writer, you won’t get a graduate trainee or somebody with one year’s experience.  If they take you on, your agent is likely to be a great deal more knowledgeable than anyone you’d get at a larger agency.

They’ll try harder, they are out there to make a name for themselves as well as you.

They will be less well known so you may only be up against a thousand or so other writers pitching for that one slot rather than the two or three thousand you’ll be up against pitching to a larger agency.

This advice came from a London publisher – he publishes text books but he’s still a publisher.  He also recommends writing consultants, you pay but they, too, are often go-it-alone publishing professionals with excellent contacts among agents and publishers.

Food for thought, anyway.

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Marketing my book

Hmm… well on the advice of my sister in-law who is wise in the ways of publishing, I have set up a blog to go with my novel.

She also suggested myspace and facebook pages would be good and they would, my target audience is young adults and they love all that stuff.  However,  Myspace and Facebook are not intuitive things to me so will take hours I don’t have to set up.  A blog on the other hand… well, yeh, that comes naturally to me!

So… in order to cover as many aspects of the world in which my characters live as I possibly can, in one place, I have set up a blog as the Free Yarthian Broadcasting Corporation.  That allows plenty of scope for geography, history (an education area), religion, politics and even competitions.

I’m thinking maybe it should be Yarthan, now, after writing a book and calling it Yarthian to myself for about 10 years!  Never mind, this is an experiment, the blog was named in a hurry and it’s far too long winded to use long term.

So far you’ll find a handful of posts.  Pictures are tricky with a 10 month old I have very little of the right creative drive for art… never mind, it’ll come back eventually.  In the meantime the blog is there to do three things.

  1. Pique the interest of my target market in a Lilly Allen kind of way but without plot spoilers (yeh, I know but you know what they say about the lottery, you have to be in it to win it).
  2. Amuse me and keep my brain wired into my writing project and writing, even when it’s coddled like a hide n’ squeak egg.
  3. Show publishers that I am willing to put in work marketing my book.

Well there you go.  Let me know what you think.  You can find it here.

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