‘I’m a writer, not a publicist!’ Have you ever said that when you found that your publisher – howsoever prestigious – expected you to do all the work of marketing? Of course, if you self-published your book, you knew from the start that you faced a long, weary campaign of self-promotion.
But does promoting a book have to be all hassle and hazard?
No! In this guest post, author Stuart Aken reveals a way to do it that’s both painless and fun. He also challenges the myth that you need a big 'platform' on social networks to sell your books!
Many writers feel a deep distrust of the commercial world of marketing and promotion. I’ve good reason for my dislike of sales. I’ve been a traveling salesman, shop manager, telesales operative and manager of a telesales team. So, I’ve experienced the sharp end of selling. And I never liked it.
Success was proportional to the number of lies and amount of cheating the salesman employed. I’m handicapped by honesty, so such activity came hard. Had I not needed the jobs to keep my family fed, I’d have left at once.
But… then I came to writing fiction. And I faced a dilemma. Like most writers, I wanted my work to be read.
Promotion and marketing are the only real roads to such ambition, I knew. Money for my labour is welcome, but I was born in a slum (now demolished) and have climbed materially further than my loving parents managed. So wealth isn’t my driver.
At first, I made a lot of mistakes.
My first books were self-published. I had no marketing plan, and my promotion took the form of blog posts, tweets and Facebook pieces. Over the years, I’ve built followings on various social networks, conforming to the ubiquitous advice that authors need a platform.
My platform to date:
FB author page
Impressive, isn't it? And all authors need a platform. Don’t we?
No. I now have grave doubts about the value of social marketing.
I know authors with far fewer connections who’ve sold more books. (For example, Kathy Shoop - who was interviewed here recently - sold 100,000 of her historical romance novels in 12 months without even a blog or mailing list.) Are my books rubbish, then? My reviews (from strangers) have generally been 4 or 5 stars with accompanying enthusiasm for the work, so probably not.
All modesty aside, my work is good! But how – after spending so much time at social networking and getting nowhere – could I sell it?
Here’s what I did:
My latest release Joinings is the first book in a fantasy series. I knew it would take targeted effort to get it launched. A member of my writing group has connections with a local independent publisher. So I approached Fantastic Books Publishing. Dan Grubb, the owner, snapped up my ms and so began a fascinating journey.
First came the editing (he claims to have a team of editors locked in his cellar). Next came the cover designs. I’ve always done my own, since I was a professional photographer and have some knowledge of design and typography, gleaned from my years as a graphics technician in an art school.
But when I saw the results of the professional artist I was blown away. Fantastic!
You must have a professionally designed cover.
Dan organised publication and we set a launch date. Now came the non-writing work.
Whilst the publisher was willing, not to say eager, to organise the necessary publicity, I was expected to play my part. The basic honesty with which it was done made it acceptable. No inflated claims, no hyperbole, no unfulfilled promises. Just a straightforward and truthful approach, describing the book to potential readers.
Dan videoed me in interviews, pressed me for scripts for ‘interviews’ with various key characters (played by actors), also produced as videos. He engaged a local artist to draw caricatures of these characters to be used in blog posts (as left). He produced a press release, which went to all those places it should.
Most importantly, he organised a launch party.
Because we published in both digital and print formats, and wanted to engage with as many readers as possible, he made this party a virtual hosting on Facebook. You can see the results here.
As part of the launch, he organised contests, quizzes, and produced giveaways. He had me sign copies of Joinings: A Seared Sky and we produced ‘specials’ as prizes for contestants.
Whether or not these events sold books directly, they did produce a lot of excellent reviews. And good reviews sell books!
The moral of this tale is: if self-promotion – or any other aspect of book publication - is not for you, find someone else to do it for you.
I posted on my blog, of course. At Dan’s suggestion, I also wrote posts for other blogs as a guest. This was a lot of work. But it was largely writing. And that’s one thing I don’t mind. I spent 12 hours online during the launch, so I was on hand to answer questions and interact with readers.
The print book is 690 pages – that’s a big novel! - so reviews have taken time to arrive. But they’re now coming in and, so far, they’ve been 4 and 5 star jobs. Mind you, I’m always happy to have more people express their opinion (contact me via my blog if you’d like a PDF copy for review and I’ll arrange it).
So, was this marketing and promotion experience to my liking?
You bet it was.
It took me away from my more normal writing, but it also involved producing pieces about the book, its characters and its structure and themes, so I wasn’t entirely prevented from creating. I found the whole thing positive and stimulating.
Of course, my next release will be with the same publisher. But, should I decide to self-publish, as I suspect I will, I’ll now be able to promote with a much easier heart.
Three 'rules' I've learned:
1. Don't expect your social 'platform' to bring you sales. Facebook, Google+, Twitter and the like are fine for meeting people, exchanging ideas and getting feedback. All excellent things, no doubt... but they don't sell books by themselves. What they can do is bring you great reviews. And reviews sell books.
2. Get others to do the work you don't like - or don't do well. For example, you can't design your own cover. You really can't! Freelance book editors, formatters and publicists need not be expensive. Do what you like doing and delegate everything else.
Note: From the very start, Kathy Shoop hired people to do her marketing for her. Bibliocrunch offers a ‘concierge’ service at a reasonable fee that will do as much, or as little, promotion for you as you wish. John.3. Have fun! For most of us, producing a book is not a road to riches but a joyful hobby. Focus on the pleasure, and all else is a bonus.
Whatever you’ve read before about the hassles and hazards of self-publishing, my experience shows that it can be a creative, positive and exciting experience. And I’m loving it!
What has been your experience of getting your book to market? Has social networking worked for you or is it a waste of effort? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!
Stuart Aken is three times prize-winner of the short story contest in UK national writing magazine, Writers’ Forum. His latest novel is the 1st in a fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky. Joinings was published at the end of March. His other 7 books were self-published and he’s compiled and edited an ebook anthology for his writing group. His work has also appeared in anthologies and magazines. His popular blog is home to reviews, posts on writing issues, language tips, links to writing contests, and, of course, information about all his books.
Find him at: Twitter; Facebook; Goodreads; Stumble; Pinterest; Smashwords and LinkedIn.
Posted by Stuart Aken. Posted In : Guest Posts