Writing’s great – it’s being a writer which can be a bit of a nuisance. The part where you look at a blank page and make up stories is essentially a positive experience. It can be frustrating of course, if the stories do not come when bidden, but it is what writers choose to do, what they feel they need to do.
Writers these days need to care about more than just words on the page, they have to let the world know that their work exists if they don’t want it to disappear into the ether having been read only by their auntie Marge and their best mate Dave. And that means developing a presence on social media, which inevitably includes Facebook.
When my first book Song of the Sea God was published by Skylight Press I had the same level of presence on social media as a member of a remote, undiscovered tribe in the Amazon jungle – so at least I had he luxury of starting from scratch. I also had a reasonable knowledge of social media since part of my day job is creating and managing accounts for the organisation I work for.
Here’s the first in an occasional series where I answer questions on my blog about anything from my book, to writing, to book promotion – anything people want to ask me.
This first question comes from lovely Carol Hedges a very experienced author with a great blog you can see here. Her new book Diamonds and Dust is just out. Thank you for your question Carol!
I’d be interested in your marketing strategies?
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that these days when two or more authors get together they will talk not of plot devices or great works of fiction but of marketing strategies.
My simple answer to Carol’s question ‘what’s your marketing strategy?’ is ‘not as good as yours!’ but I suppose I have picked up a few notions since my book came out which, while they may be well-known to Carol, might help first time authors.
Before I was published I assumed my publisher would do all the marketing for my book and I suppose in an ideal world those who knew about writing would write and those who knew about marketing would market. Sadly, publishers have a zillion books to plug and no time to do it so it’s up to the author to get stuck in, if they don’t want their baby do disappear without trace.
My strategy, such as it is, has been simple – become visible.
When you start out you are invisible – you have no identity or brand, you probably have no social media presence to speak of, you have no blog. So a basic ‘author platform’ consisting of a blog like this one supported by Twitter and Facebook feeds is a good way to start letting people know you exist.
My strategy has been to build up my social media following as much as I am able as this provides a way of talking to the outside world. I now have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter @ChilledCH for example. I have also made a point of blogging regularly (once a week) on issues concerned with writing, reading and books, in the hope of attracting and engaging potential readers.
I would say I am good at interacting with people, but not so good at selling. There are some authors, particularly among the massed ranks of the self-published, who are brilliant at marketing. If it’s not too mean to say this I suspect that some (not all!) are better at selling than they are at writing.
I’m no salesman unfortunately. I don’t like, for example, to say to an individual person ‘buy my book’. I wouldn’t do it in person and I don’t do it online. Instead I try to engage people and include mentions of my book as a footnote to allow anyone who is interested to sample the book and buy it if they wish. This approach may seem unduly reticent but it also makes sense – nobody likes a hard sell.
It’s not good practice to constantly spam on Twitter every hour with the Amazon link to your book as some authors do. What I try to do instead is engage people. This can be through discussions on my blog, simply by retweeting any of my followers on Twitter who want me to do that for them or by asking light-hearted questions on Facebook and Twitter and having fun with the answers.
Does this sell me any books? I don’t know. It’s fun and it draws people in so I think the answer is yes – maybe not directly or straight away, but eventually yes.
Another part of being visible is appearing on other people’s websites and blogs. I have done quite a lot of that and I am always happy to do more. I’m also happy to promote other writers on my blog. Sometimes you find people have reviewed your book on their blog too – and I pick those up and let people know about them through social media.
Offline I’ve appeared in various newspapers, magazines and on radio talking about my book and about writing. These are mostly local to where I live or where I grew up. I do them whenever they are offered though I don’t necessarily think they put you in touch with potential readers as well as a targeted approach through social media does. I also do readings, when I am invited to, at literature festivals and the like.
But for me the big thing has been the world of social media – which has suddenly made it possible for an unknown first-time author like me, with a literary novel published by a small press, to reach people all over the world. That’s an amazing thing, and something which simply would not have been possible just a few short years ago.
Thanks very much to Carol for that question. If you would like to comment on the issues raised in this post of have a question for me please let me know in the comments below!
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.