Tag Archives: Book marketing

Confessions of an Indie Publisher – was it all worth it?

I meant to post this last week, but was struck down by some nasty germs. I had to spend several days in bed, which is very unlike me.

Indie publishing, was it all worth it? Anyone who regularly reads my blog will know I still feel ambivalent about being an indie publisher-writer. So ambivalent, I’m not even sure what to call myself. I am a writer, not a publisher. I’d prefer not to have to think about everything from editing, proof reading, through to design and marketing. I’d prefer to be able to put all my energies into the story-telling and making. On the other hand, I do feel proud of the novel I have created and I am very, very pleased that it is in the hands of readers. 

I believe I have a rather rosy view of what it would be like to have an agent/publisher. I have certainly heard from other writers about poor experiences. I have heard about books which have languished in an agent’s hands, never to find a home with a publisher. Or writers who have been encouraged to re-write and re-write for successive publishers until they don’t recognise the book as their own, and still the publishing contract doesn’t arrive. Or then there’s the book which is traditionally published but isn’t given the publicity meaning it doesn’t reach the audience in any numbers. 

I took the path of indie publishing because: I turned fifty; after an apprenticeship of thirty years I felt I had written a novel which readers would want to read; I did not want to subject myself to more rejection from literary agents; and it was within my capabilities to go it alone. I know I will – as long as I am able – be a writer, I don’t know for how long I will continue to indie publish. I imagine I will be an ‘also ran’ within the current world of writing/publishing, what I want is to grasp – really know deep within myself – is that this is not a reflection on my writing.

Judge for yourself – do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv



Confessions of an Indie Publisher – marketing (4)

As part of my marketing campaign, I did an event for Scarborough Flare – the REAL Scarborough literature festival celebrating local talent. Held in a local cafe, I presented a saunter through seven elements which make up a modern crime novel. It was illustrated with extracts from my novel plus others dating back to the nineteenth century being brought alive by my friends Felix Hodcroft and Kate Boddy. www.scarboroughflare.co.uk.

It was great fun and the audience was appreciative, though it did not yield sales, mainly 11AprilPPbecause most of the people who came already knew me and had bought a copy. I will be repeating it, however, at other venues around the town (and maybe further afield if I can get any interest) and this was an excellent confidence-boosting first run.

Marketing lore states that promotions need to be timely and relevant and that we need to know who are audience is. So are there any hooks in current affairs or any anniversaries which you could hitch your novel to? With my theme of psychotherapy and mental illness/health, I’ve made an effort to contact therapy training organisations, offering one free book to a trainee from each. Again it’s not yielded a lot of interest as yet, but maybe it is a slow burner.

It’s hard for an ‘indie’ to emulate the big organisations in collecting reader/audience information. I have an idea in my head about who my novel would appeal to: probably at least middle aged, probably a woman (though I hope not necessarily), probably someone who wants a bit of a challenging read. It’s not a bad demographic since most books are bought by middle-aged women. However, without the PR and advertising power of the traditional publishers, for an ‘indie’ to reach this audience might not be easy as they may not be as plugged into social media as a younger readership.

I have people who follow my blog – thank you to all of them. I know other bloggers who have a newsletter people can sign up to. This could be a way of finding out more about your readership, though I have not tried it. I do welcome feedback and there is an email contact asking people to get in touch at the end of my novel. No-one, so far, has done so via this method.

Freebies & give-aways
Everyone loves a freebie, don’t they? I paid to have some bookmarks made which I give away liberally, they advertise my current novel and also the series which is yet to come, so they have some longevity. On Wold Book Day I left copies of my novel around town on benches and at the railway station. They all disappeared from where they had been left. Once again, I invited anyone who picked one up to get in touch. No-one has as yet.

I joined Goodreads. I have an author page although, unless you’re famous, there appears to be some prejudice against writers who are on Goodreads. One person I sent a friend request to said she doesn’t normally respond to authors because they’re all about selling their own books. I try to be a reader on Goodreads, sharing what I think about books by other people. I’ve enjoyed some of the exchanges and I hope, maybe, some people will be drawn to my page via these conversations.

Goodreads have ‘giveaways’ and Kindle has ‘countdowns’ when you’re basically giving your book away for free. You can only do a ‘countdown’ for so many days, so many times a year. I have decided to do both a ‘giveaway’ and a ‘countdown’ on my first novel when I am ready to launch my second novel in the series later this year. From what I’ve heard on the indie network, neither ‘giveaways’ nor ‘countdowns’ necessarily translate into actual sales as people take the freebie but it doesn’t encourage others to buy it later. But since I’m more interested in finding readers than making money, this doesn’t bother me overly. Giving away via Amazon or Goodreads means that my book will probably cross the North Yorkshire border and that’s good enough for me.

Missing the Kindle boat
I think the time when an unknown ‘indie’ can sell tens of thousands just by being on Kindle has probably gone. Those extraordinary sales were during a time when there was less choice on Kindle, now every publisher brings out a Kindle version, so it’s as hard as being found in a bookshop, a vast, international bookshop. However, this book is an interesting one, even given the different times: ‘How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle-An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook 2015 Edition’ by Martin Crosbie.

Talent, Hard Work, Luck
I believe to create a book and then find readers for it, you need a modicum of talent, a lot of hard work and shed loads of luck. I know I can provide the first two, how to create the latter is my conundrum. I think I can probably reach a few hundred readers doing what I’m doing, maybe even a thousand. What still confounds me is how to change that into a few thousand or (the dream) tens of thousands. I am not sure this is possible without a large pinch of luck. From all the stories I have heard/read, marketing is about hard graft, yes, but for a book to really take off, there is some kind of good fortune; particularly the book falling by happenchance into the hands of someone more famous than the author who will champion it. I am still waiting for that to happen!

Next week: ‘Indie’ publishing, was it all worth it?

Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv

Confessions of an Indie Publisher – marketing (3)

I’m beginning to worry that these posts on being an Indie Publisher and especially the ones on marketing might be getting a might too moany. To be clear, I know how lucky I am to be living in a situation and in a time when I have so much freedom to follow my writing passions and to put my writing out there. And I want to thank every single person who has read, bought and commented on my novel, every reader is precious and a little bud of joy in my garden. 

I guess I am trying to work out for myself what works and what doesn’t in terms of marketing. I hope my ramblings will also be of help to others. 

A brief update on last week’s post on social media
It is possible to use the ‘Twuffer’ app to send out automatic tweets which you can schedule for during the day and night over days at a time (other such apps are available). I have done this a few times to promote my book and, as far as I can judge, this has not resulted in more followers or more sales. Putting a cute photo of donkeys on Scarborough beach, did, however, result in around 30 re-tweets and a little flurry of new followers. Maybe there is a lesson for us all there.

Where to start?
One PR specialist I spoke to said start local and work outwards. So my first act was to send an email to everyone I had ever spoken to with a link to my Amazon page. This in itself was difficult. I was putting myself out there, I felt exposed, naked even. I was saying not only that my book is worth reading but it is worth spending money on! I felt (and still feel) uncomfortable making these claims. However, as an Indie publisher, I don’t see how this step can be avoided. Plus, I got some lovely responses, and some enthusiastic readers.

I also had to take a deep breath when I asked for reviews. I asked people I knew, of course. I also used the Book Reviewer’s Workshop group on Facebook, plus asked reviewers I came across on Twitter. Currently I have 18 reviews on Amazon, and I’ve had three reviews on blogs and one review in a local newsletter.

I think it does help to be part of a writing and arts-and-culture community. I think it is essential for any writer to be connected to other creative people anyway, but when you begin promoting your book, being part of a community and having contributed to that group in the past (‘paying it forward’ attitude) means opportunities are likely to open up to you. For instance, a local gallery prepared to stock my book and the chance to do a book event as part of Scarborough Flare, a local spoken word festival.

One of the things I enjoy doing is events and talks. So I have set up various local ones. I am now beginning to contact festivals around the country offering a workshop on indie publishing. I have one taker so far. Maybe others will come along.

Bookshops & Libraries
I have sold my soul to Amazon in terms of my e-book. To get the KDP select terms, I have to give them exclusive rights to the digital volume. For the paperback, however, I can sell through any channel I like. As I may have mentioned before, for my next novel, I am looking into printing some copies off locally in order to sell and give-away. As an author, I get copies from Createspace at cost price, but with the delivery from the US, it will probably work out better for me to go to a local printer for my own copies. It would also help me feel better, as I do believe in supporting local businesses when I can.

I love bookshops and libraries. It was relatively straightforward getting my book into my library as I already knew staff members and had worked with them on projects before (part of the ‘paying it forward’ attitude I think we indie publishers need). Similarly with local independent bookshops, galleries and cafes. Ask nicely and there’s rarely a problem.

Getting into the chain bookstores is another matter, however. I haven’t found a way to be stocked in my local Waterstones. My novel can be ordered by any bookshop as I have filled in the requisite forms for the book distributors Gardners (and got the ISBN sorted through Nielsen). Plus I have found WH Smith open to hosting a signing, even though, again, not keen to have my novel on their shelves. I’ve decided to give this a whirl when I bring out novel number two, ‘The Art of Survival’.

Next week more on marketing …. how to keep going and how to get creative.

Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv



Confessions of an Indie Publisher – Marketing (2)

One confession I ought to make is that my marketing is oriented towards finding readers rather than towards selling books to make money. It is, of course, a fantasy of mine that one day I will be able to support myself through my writing, however, for now, my focus is on enticing readers aboard. It is possible the latter will lead to the former, but I am not convinced.

Out of interest, I’ve just done a ‘on the back of a fag packet’ calculation to see how many books I would have to sell to make a living wage. If I say a book takes me a year and a half at nine hours a week, and I want to be paid £15 an hour, then I need to earn £10,530. Add on £1000 for proof-reading and sundry resources/expenses, that’s £11,530. On average I earn about £2 per book I sell, so I have to sell 5765 for my fantasy to become true. It’s not going to happen any time soon.

So back to reality. I didn’t plan properly for the publication of my first novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect’. I intend to do a better job with novel two, ‘The Art of Survival’. I have discovered certain reviewers and websites want pre-publication copies and I will fold this into my strategy.  There is some excellent advice here: http://www.nomapnomad.com/ww/about-to-release-a-novel-dont-forget-to/

Social media, does it work as a marketing tool?
My honest answer is, I have no idea. One ‘indie’ author I met through Twitter answered one of my tweets with the rather sharp comment, ‘Twitter doesn’t sell books, Kindle does.’ I’m still trying to fathom out what she means. I can tell you that since posting my blog posts on Twitter and Facebook, the hits on my website have increased (from a low base) four-fold. Whether this has translated into sales, I do not know. My evidence is slight; the only thing I can say with certainty is that I have garnered several reviews through Twitter and Facebook (book provided for free) and one sale through Facebook.

There’s a lot of scare-mongering about social media. Personally, I have only ever met people who are generally sensible, polite and interesting. However, I am a very tiny tadpole in a very large pool, and I am sure the more well-known you are, the more likely you are to attract people who think it is clever or funny to be abusive or worse.

What to tweet/post? Be yourself, be authentic. I’m a firm believer in authenticity sells and if it doesn’t, well, maybe I don’t want to be a part of the market. And only reveal what you’d be happy to tell a coffee shop of strangers. Be bright, don’t moan too much, pass on information/tips in your chosen area, re-tweet/favourite and re-post/share.

Most importantly, don’t make your presence on social media be all about marketing. I have met some lovely people and gained some good advice from Twitter and Facebook. I try to make my posts interesting and useful to others rather than just about ‘look at me and what I’ve done’. On the whole, I have found it a positive experience even if I don’t gain any more readers through it. Though I think I probably will gain some.

Blog tour
One person I did meet through social media is the lovely Kate M Colby https://katemcolby.wordpress.com/ After reading a few of her blog posts and having a few exchanges, I suggested we embark on a blog tour together. She readily agreed and we put out a call for fellow ‘indie’ publishers to join us. There were 22 of us in the end. We all answered the same interview questions (set by me and Kate) and had the opportunity to promote one book. The resulting posts were posted on all our blogs according to a schedule drawn up by Kate C.

It was great fun and again I met some people who I know I will keep in contact with and learn from over time. I also got an enormous buzz from doing something with another Kate who hails from Kansas, plus others from around the world – that truly is the magic of the internet. Hits (especially from the US) and followers on my blog increased during the blog tour and some of that rise in readers has been retained. Did I sell any more books? Looking at the sales for that period, I would have to say, no, certainly not immediately.

Traditional media
In the hype around social media, it’s important not to forget traditional outlets: newspapers; radio; journals/magazines; TV. I paid a PR consultant to write a press release, send it out and follow-up. I did this mainly because I felt over-whelmed by the idea of marketing and this was something discrete I could hive off to someone else. I enjoyed the process and he wrote a press release I would probably never have written.

I did get articles in local papers and also an interview on the afternoon show of the BBC local radio. Given the therapy theme in my novel, I did contact some specialist journals. I’m still waiting to see if they will review it as they have a much longer lead-in time.

I am a bit disappointed not to get more coverage. But I do think I did well given I’m a complete unknown and it was from a standing start. I do think the media could be more innovative in its arts/culture offering. To me, it always seems to be the same people who get the coverage, the people who don’t actually need it. And if five minutes of that coverage was taken away from them and given to someone like me, then it would make no difference to them and it would make the world of difference to me.

Rant over!

Next week more on marketing …..

Meanwhile check out my novel at: Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv