AT LONG last, my debut novel Tank Water is in the world! After a decade’s hard slog on the manuscript, almost two years since I signed the book deal with MidnightSun Publishing, and with the final part of the mountain just ahead, I am approaching the summit.
Considering some of the stages of my journey as a writer, I’m in pretty good shape!
I’m often heard to make the observation that between ‘writing’ and ‘waiting’ there is just one vowel’s difference. This has been a very, very long climb for me, and regular readers of my posts will have experienced every step of the journey since I began this site in 2012 with little more than a hopeful dream of manifesting a writing career on the wrong side of forty.
There’s nothing left to express in words, apart from my heartfelt wish that you’ll take a risk and buy my book, then tell someone about it.
“Courageously generate your own media in order to cut through the prejudice.”
AS an independent publisher of your own books, you’ll quickly discover how marketing and promotion takes up as much time as writing. Don’t despair, just dive in and stay on track with these handy tips on planning and running an effective marketing strategy.
Get your timing right
No publisher in the world completes a book and then starts a marketing campaign for it. The promotion of a title begins long before it hits the online marketplace or the shelves in high-street bookshops. Whenever you need a break from complicated publishing processes, make a cuppa and turn your efforts to marketing for a while. By the time you’re ready to hit the publish button, your marketing plan will be well under way.
They said what about you?
One of the handiest marketing tools is a bunch of quotes about your book and about you as a writer. If you’ve benefitted from beta readers, it’s entirely appropriate to ask them to furnish you with a snappy promotional quote about the title, and to approach journalists you already know within your social media platform. Printed books are replete with testimonials about the writer’s previous or current work, they give readers confidence in the author’s abilities. Work some great quotes into your printed book’s cover design.
Coming to you this summer…
In order to roll out an effective marketing campaign, you’ll need plenty of support materials. Key to this will be your book trailer. In just the same way as movie trailers tease audiences with forthcoming films, effective book trailers provide a taste of a book’s content. Don’t think a book trailer needs to be a Hollywood epic – many of them are as simple and subtle as others are bold and brash. Check out my book trailer page for how I approach this challenge differently each time, using the basic video editing software that was included on my 2010-model desktop computer. Keep trailers short, simple and evocative, and upload them onto your YouTube account. From there, you can share them on your social media platform. Book trailer services can be accessed online, but, as always, agree on all the contract parameters before handing over any money.
Trailer for Closet His, Closet Hers by Michael Burge, utilising a slide show technique, titles and copyright-free music and images on Apple iMovie.
Who are you and what do you look like?
Readers love to know more about writers they admire. If you have not already included a biography on your website, publish one well in advance of your book with an honest photograph of yourself. Author biographies are required by almost every online book-selling and bibliographic platform, so keep it short and consistent. Have a high-resolution jpeg of your author photo handy, at least 500KB in size, for when you are asked to send one by a newspaper or an online publisher.
Let them know all about you
Online book industry sites offer free author pages to writer-publishers, allowing you to share your story with readers, upload book trailers and aggregate all your books in one easy-to-see place. Create an author page on Amazon and Goodreads. Other distribution and bibliographic sites will publish your biog from your print on demand service.
The world wants to know you too
The global book trade makes use of bibliographic databases to promote and distribute new and forthcoming titles to book-sellers internationally. One of the biggest is Nielsen, which has country-specific services in most publishing territories, but allows independent publishers to upload book entries for free via their international portal Nielsen Title Editor. As soon as your ISBN, book cover, author biography, blurb and social media platform is ready, upload an entry onto this service with your publishing date (ensuring you give yourself plenty of time – my advice would be to make it at least three months away).
Getting your great metadata
Nielsen will send details of your book into global book distribution networks, so make sure all information is definitive and accurate. You can edit your entries, but they take days to update. This process will add to the web of metadata on you and your published titles, and raise your online discoverability long before your book comes out. Occasionally, bibliographic services will offer you paid extras, but these are not compulsory. They’ve operated for decades with traditional publishers but only recently opened the gate to independents, so their interfaces can be hard to navigate. If in doubt, ask for support via their excellent online help services, which can take days to respond.
Your browsable online bookshop
Long before you publish, create an online bookshop on your website, with cover shots, advance quotes, and an idea about when interested buyers can expect your titles to be published. As material becomes available, such as your book trailer, or finished sections of your book, publish extracts that can be accessed via links from your bookshop to generate interest and build buyer expectation. When your book is available, change ‘coming soon’ to ‘out now’ with links through to your range of booksellers. Here’s my online bookshop.
“If you want complex and effective media on your book, you’re going to have to create and distribute it yourself.”
Your book is ready for launch
Book launches and author tours are traditional publishing tools that put writers in touch with their audiences. Form an ongoing relationship with one or more local bookshops – many of them will host a regular program of book events for their customer base, and usually charge authors a fee to staff the event, offering wine and light food for guests. Go to a bookshop’s event when deciding on how and where to run yours. The best book launches are not overly long or late, have a point of focus (such as the author in conversation with a relevant guest commentator, or a book reading) and a book signing. This is your chance to make a splash and sell a few copies of your book, but keep things achievable and realistic – it’s tough to get people out for any event these days, and give yourself plenty of lead time so that you are not rushing your book into print. To get more value out of your launch, have it recorded, even on your smartphone, and create an clip of it to share with your social media platform.
Audio clip of the launch for Michael Burge’s Questionable Deedsedited on GarageBand and uploaded on SoundCloud.
Your brilliant book media
Let’s be real for a moment. Really, really real. The media will take absolutely no interest in a new, independently-published writer’s book. The mainstream media has been blasted apart by the internet and social media and relies on free book-related content from traditional publishers to fill their pages. If there’s anyone left in the newsroom to see your press release, they’re likely to think it’s not a proper book if a publisher hasn’t picked it up. Getting coverage in national media is incredibly tough and may require paying a publicist, and even that is no guarantee. If you want complex and effective media on your book, you’re going to have to create and distribute it yourself.
Getting into your local paper
“Someone once said: ‘Send yourself roses’ and I have a similar take on interviews.”
A press release about you and your work, sent to your local newspaper, is likely to get a run, but ensure you include a call to action, such as asking people to your book launch, and at least one excellent high-resolution photograph. Don’t rely on journalists to create effective stories out of your press releases. Rather, build the story for them, based on a strong angle. The best way to create an angle is to write a headline – ‘Novelist turns tables on ageing process in new love story’ or ‘Writer’s stories not short on suspense’ – and then write a full article (around 800-1000 words) below it. A good journalist will build on your press release by extracting the series of quotes you have provided, talking about your book and your work. Double-check all details in a press release before sending it – you’ll only get one chance to have it noticed and picked up.
Your book featured in an article
There are masses of traditional and independent news sites hungry to publish content daily. Trouble is, they can’t afford to employ enough journalists to keep up with reader demand. This is where you come in, as a journalist for your own work (here’s a reminder about how you should get over your blocks and just start doing it). Create a full-length feature article (1000-1200 words) about the primary subject matter of your book, positioning yourself as an expert in the field, and offer it to the editors of related news sites and blogs in exchange for a plug for your book. Don’t rely on them to insert the plug – write a short paragraph about your book at the end and include a hyperlink to your online bookshop.
A guaranteed interview about you
Someone once said: “Send yourself roses” and I have a similar take on interviews. In today’s media, there is a tried-and-true, easy method of publishing interviews with a question and answer (Q&A) approach. Celebrities are often interviewed by email in this manner, with the questions published above each answer, and you can do something similar by interviewing yourself. You get to set the agenda, so make it relevant to your book and explore how and why you wrote it. Make sure you include a hyperlink back to your online bookshop, and send the entire interview and your author photo to blogs and sites that publish content about books, ensuring that you offer the content free in exchange for a plug for your book. Once it’s been published somewhere else, publish it to your own site with a link back to where it first appeared. Here’s one I did.
Your reviews are in
They’re highly effective word-of-mouth, but if you ever work out how to get readers to leave reviews, please let us all know. You’ll make a fortune.
Tell your tribe
Whenever you get an article or review published about you and your book, ensure you tell your social media followers by posting it on your Facebook page and the pages of any Facebook groups you’re a part of. Make it relevant to them with a short blurb above the post. Think about having a simple flyer or postcard printed with details about your book, upcoming and previous titles, and all your contact information, and hand it out to interested readers. I pop one into every paperback I sell from my home office.
Have you ever been in a bookshop when the salesperson recommends a title to a customer, and they buy it on the spot? That’s hand selling! Help your bookshop contacts do this for you by popping in, signing copies of your book, and posting pics to social media.
At least one place wants your book!
As a legal requirement of copyright law, most national and state libraries must be in receipt of free printed and electronic copies of your new book. Send and upload these to them, as their catalogue entries about your books make for great extra metadata on you and your work.
Marketing a book is an enormous task traditional publishers will spend plenty of money on, usually engaging a publicist to get the news about new books into the mainstream media. Independent publishers can have a very rough time of marketing, since our books are often stigmatised as somehow not good enough for coverage or support. Courageously generate your own media in order to cut through the prejudice, and start the process long before you hit the publish button on your book.
With his near-universal appeal, William Shakespeare was the start of Merely Players, but he’s by no means the finish.
I started writing this story in 2003, and it’s been a labour of love in the true sense of the word. I’ve even delved into the photo album to dig out some old shots of me playing Petruchio in an Acting Factory production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and thereby hangs a tale…
Merely Players: Acting like Shakespeare really matters is the story of two unconventional players whose lives are linked by the works of the world’s greatest playwright, in a story about acting, ageing, fame and forgetting… just in time for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April. Enjoy!