Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Book Marketing for Dummies

As many of you will know, two week's ago saw the publication of my Christmas short story collection, Silent Night. It's been exciting seeing my third collection hitting the Amazon shelves but books don't sell themselves... oh no.

You can read about my launch here.

I knew that if I wanted to make Silent Night visible to readers, I would need to take action. That means using the M word. Yes, you know the one... marketing. As anyone who has tried to publicise their book knows, without it, you might as well just print the pages out and read them to yourself. Particularly if a) the book is self-published b) it's a collection of short stories c) your book baby is coming out in the two months before Christmas along with everyone else's!

I am by no means an expert in marketing (hence the title of the post) and it's difficult to know what things work without publishing a control book on the same day and doing no marketing, but I will try to help a little.

Below, are some suggestions for those starting out, based on what I've done and learnt so far.

1. Say "Pretty please" to book reviewers

A few weeks before publication day, I put out a request on the fabulous Book connectors Facebook group (if you don't belong to it, you're missing out) asking whether any lovely, kind book reviewers would be willing to take a look at Silent Night. It was a nail-biting wait after I'd clicked 'post' as I know that I'd left it very later to ask and most of the reviewers have a toppling pile of novels waiting to be read from traditionally published authors. Imagine then my delight when several reviewers said they'd be happy to have a read. Who knows, maybe they thought my thirteen short stories would be a quick and easy read after a 90,000 word manuscript. Whatever it was, I was very happy.

Of course the risk is that the reviewer might not like your book (that's the price you have to pay for requesting an honest review) but I'm delighted to say that the first reviewer, Rachel Gilbey from 'Rachel's Random Reads', really enjoyed my collection, commenting that Silent Night is 'a great showcase to Wendy Clarke's writing talents'. How lovely! You can read the rest of  Rachel's review here.

I've also had a review from across the pond. This time from Kathryn at Book Ink Reviews.
She said, 'Within a few pages, you become attached to each of her characters'. You can read the rest of her review here.

I'm looking forward to reading what the other book bloggers have to say when the reviews come in. Next time I won't leave it so close to publication date to ask (I'm aware that Christmas publications have a short shelf life).

2. Don't be afraid to ask to guest on someone's blog

Again on the Book Connectors Facebook group, I asked if anyone would like to interview me on their blog or have me write a guest post for them, linked to something in my story collection. Having hosted over fifty guests myself on Wendy's Writing Now, I didn't feel bad asking and it was lovely how many people were happy to oblige (especially authors and bloggers who have been guests on my own blog). What a lovely supportive bunch writers are.

Here's where I've been so far - many thanks to all of them. Why not pop over and have a read. I love the variety of questions I've been asked.

Brook Cottage Books  (interview)
Clare Flynn                  (interview)
Lynda Stacey               (guest post - Christmas through the eyes of different characters)
Angela Petch                (interview) 
Books and Wine Gums   (interview)

...and last but not least, a huge thank you to Jessie Cahalin from the amazing Books in My Handbag blog. Considering Jessie and I have never met either in real life or on social media before, she has given up an inordinate amount of time to voluntarily promote my book. 

First there was the picture of my collection in her handbag gallery linking to my Amazon page and then a short interview and extract from my book which can be read here. She has also tirelessly tweeted and promoted on Facebook and twitter, going above and beyond what I'd expect and I can't thank her enough.

Here's a picture of Silent Night in my handbag.

I have more guest posts lined up in the next weeks.

3. Learn how to do it properly

A bit late I know but a few days before publication, I went up to London to take part in the Neetsmarketing Social Media for Writers course, run by the fabulous Anita Chapman. Anita has got masses of great advice on her Neetsmarketing blog and you can read the guest post she wrote for me here. I'm pretty good with social media but there's always something new to learn. After attending this course, I came back determined to do numbers 4 and 5 below.

4. Set up a Facebook Author Page 

I've only ever had a Facebook profile page, as I joined Facebook after I started writing and the only 'friends' I had were other writers. However, with a new collection to publicise, I knew I was stepping on thin ice using my personal profile for marketing so decided to bite the bullet and set up an author page so I could put up an Amazon link every now and again without being thrown into Facebook gaol. What I've since learn, though, is that unless you pay to 'boost' your post, very few of the people who 'like' your page actually get to see your post. Grrrr.

If you wish, you can find and 'like' my author page here.

5. Try out a new social media

After going on Anita's course, I decided to try a new social media - Instagram. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what it was or how to use it. I do now... and it's so simple! Basically, you post pretty pictures (after making them as good as you can by using the different filters) then adding relevant hashtags. That's it. Simples. So far I really love it but how does it work with book marketing? Every now and again, I've put up a picture of something book-related (my book cover, or the bookmarks my husband has made for me)

Then I've added appropriate hashtags and mentioned the link to Amazon that's in my bio (you can't add live links to your photo). It's too early to say whether this is working but it gets your book info in front of a new and diverse audience.

6. Make some good adverts

This is one I made earlier. It's my favourites and I think it deserves a Blue Peter Badge. It's a Twitter banner which I made on my ipad using Canva. I just love this site. The trick is to make several different ones and change them around frequently. I also try not to bombard people with 'buy me' posts but slip them in amongst other things.

7. Don't be scared to mention your book

I took my bookmarks and a sample copy of Silent Night to my choir practice. Many of the ladies are in the age bracket who read the magazines I write for and have bought my other collections. I've had several paperback sales already. These ladies may not be on social media and if I hadn't told them about Silent Night it would have been a market I'd missed. Think about who goes to your pilates/badminton/swimming club - might they like a book like yours?

And that's it... so far. 

The only marketing tip I've left to try is the Amazon Countdown price drop (I've used this promotion for my other collections with varying degrees of success). It will be happening very soon... watch out for it.

So, if you're a dummy at marketing like I was, why not try giving some of these things a go. They might not get you into the best-seller list but at least you'll have fun trying.

If you have any marketing ideas that have worked for you, please feel free to put them in the comments.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

An Insider's Guide to a Blog Tour - Guest Post Vivien Brown

Blog tours go hand in hand with publishing a book but what is it really like going on tour? I asked author Vivien Brown this question as Wendy's Writing Now is the final stop in Vivien's tour to promote the paperback publication of her novel, Lily Alone.

 Over to you, Vivien.

When I hear the words ‘going on tour’ I instantly think of rock bands and roadies, packed into a bus with a mound of guitars and being pursued by screaming groupies! I am glad to say that, when it comes to books, a tour is a very different thing altogether. I had heard a lot about blog tours over the last year or so, particularly since becoming a novelist myself, but I had very little idea of how they worked, so planning and promoting one of my own has been quite an experience!

There is a lot more to launching a novel than just writing it and then sitting back waiting for sales. From as soon as my book ‘Lily Alone’ was given an e-publication date, I have had to talk about it on social media and in every conceivable forum, until my potential readers are probably sick to death of the very sight of its (rather lovely) cover. But now it is has been published in paperback too, things seem to have stepped up another gear and the search is on for more readers and, crucially, more reviews.

The best way to make a real splash, I was told, was to organise a blog tour, whereby I and my book would feature on a series of bloggers’ sites, travelling from one to another during the days leading up to, and soon after, publication. At each stop, I would provide photos, answer interview questions, perhaps offer free copies as prizes, or write a post that in some way links to the book. If I was lucky, some of the bloggers might review and recommend the book too. But, where to begin?

I am a member of the fantastic Facebook group known as Book Connectors, a friendly and very active community of readers, writers and bloggers who enjoy talking about, promoting and reviewing books, and all without a penny changing hands! So, I boldly asked if anyone there might like to include me in a possible future tour, and I was flooded with enthusiastic replies. Having taken a look at all of their blogs and talked about what they would like me to supply, I was able to select the ones that I thought best suited my book, and after several emails passed back and forth as we juggled available dates, I ended up with eight who were happy to ‘host’ me, one each day (apart from Sunday), starting two days before publication and ending up right here, after a much needed day’s breather, with my friend Wendy’s super blog as my final stop. Then I designed a poster, put all the dates in my diary, and waited for it all to begin.

So, what was the hardest part? It had to be making sure that I didn’t give exactly the same information to each blogger. People interested in books may well read more than one of my interviews and will soon tire of reading the same replies. It helped that each blogger had their own unique way of doing things, varying the questions asked, trying to include more imaginative and unusual questions, and often providing a longer list than was needed, so I was able to pick and choose which ones to answer. I was also conscious of having too many identical photos of me floating about the internet, so I tried to send a different one each time. Okay, so in some I am probably five years younger than in others, but I think they are all just about recognisable as me!

And the best bit? Well, I have been overwhelmed by the level of response. Of course, I shared the blog posts on my own Facebook and twitter pages as each one appeared, but then friends, other reviewers and bloggers, and total strangers, started to like, share and comment on them too. It helped that a short story I had written to tie in with the book appeared in My Weekly magazine on the second day of the tour, so that generated a lot more interest and even more retweets. And then the RNIB tweeted on day three to announce that the book was now available as a talking book, which produced even more ‘traffic’ from its followers and beyond. I looked up the voice artist, Penelope Rawlins, and found she had also narrated books for such great writers as Jo Jo Moyes and Maggie O’Farrell. I tweeted a thank you and she replied that my novel had been ‘an absolute joy to narrate’ –Wow!

Hitches? There were one or two. One blogger lost my email replies, and the poster that my publishers made for me on day two to replace my home-made effort was great, but it was only after sharing it just about everywhere that I spotted it had an error in it (the date of this final blog was correct but it said it was a Wednesday instead of a Thursday!) But these were just minor blips in an otherwise hectic, but highly enjoyable, exercise.

But, after a week and a half ‘on the road’, has the blog tour actually resulted in extra sales or reviews? Well, my Amazon rankings certainly went up day by day. Not astronomically so, but then not all sales are via Amazon, and not everyone buys a book the moment they first hear about it. And reviews tend to follow some time later, as I have to give readers time to actually read what they have bought before they can voice an opinion. So, only time will tell. But, overall, I’m sure such intense promotion can’t have done any harm, and it was certainly fun!

Amazon paperback: http://amzn.to/2v2THAK

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/2nF1iDC

BLURB: What sort of mother would leave her daughter alone? Would you leave a very young child at home on their own – knowing that terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye? Lily, who is not yet three years old, wakes up alone with only her cuddly toy for company. She is hungry, afraid of the dark, can’t use the phone, and has been told never to open the door to strangers. In the flat downstairs, a lonely and elderly woman keeps herself to herself but wonders at the cries coming from upstairs. Lily’s grandmother frets that she can no longer see her granddaughter since the child’s parents separated. Lily’s father hasn’t seen her for a while. He’s been abroad, absorbed in his new job and his new girlfriend. A young woman lies in a coma in hospital – no one knows her name or who she is, but in her silent dreams, a little girl is crying for her mummy… And for Lily, time is running out.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Merry (Christmas) Publication Day to Me!

At last it's here! Publication day for my Christmas short story collection, Silent Night.

Yes, I know it's only October but unless I launch my collection into the wide world now, Christmas will have been and gone in the blink of an eye and no one will have read it.

Thinking about Christmas when it's not (if you see what I mean) is nothing new to me. All thirteen stories in this collection have been published in national women's magazines (The People's Friend and Take a Break Fiction Feast) so were written in the middle of summer - some as early as June!

So, how do I go about writing something Christmassy when the thermometer is showing 27 degrees, I'm skulking in the shade and the thought of a crackling log fire might just send me over the edge? Well, imagination is the key. I don't play Christmas songs, read A Christmas Carol or stare at Christmas cards hoping for inspiration. Instead, I close my eyes and take myself back to my childhood, remembering the excitement of waking up to a stocking on the end of a bed or the smell of a turkey in the oven. Don't get me wrong, not all my stories are written from a child's point of view - in fact, the stories are seen through the eyes of many different characters: male, female, young and old. It's just that this is my way of capturing that special Christmas feeling. A feeling that can be woven through every Christmas story I write, even if I know that very soon I'll be jetting off on my summer holidays.

Putting this collection together hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be. I wanted Silent Night to be around the same size as my other two story collections, Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose, which meant thirteen stories. It was trying to choose the thirteen from the thirty published that was the problem. In the end, my husband said, 'Why don't you just pick your favourites?'

So that's what I did. 

The next few weeks will be exciting - as you read this I shall be busy writing guest posts and answering interview questions. I'm very grateful to all the people who have invited me onto their blogs and I can't wait to start visiting. I've got so used to being the blog host that it makes a lovely change to be the guest.

Let's crack open the bubbly and I'll leave you with a short extract from the story, 'On My Own'.

I wake to a weak light filtering through the curtains. Looking at my watch, I’m surprised to find that it’s nearly ten. My morning is usually dictated by Ryan’s morning routine so to lie in bed and know that the day ahead is my own, gives me a delicious thrill. As I lean across and pull open the curtains, I gasp. The sky, yesterday a battle-ship grey, is now a clear winter blue and seems to go on for ever and, in the distance, is the sea view I had been promised.

Christmas Eve. The thought fills me with excitement as it did when I was a little girl. I run down the stairs two at a time to make a cup of tea to take up to bed. As I enter the living room, I see the half empty bottle of Chablis and the tree jauntily displaying its home-made decorations: silver fir cones, golden flower heads and white cut out snowflakes shimmering with glitter. It’s a far cry from the white and pink baubles we bought in Selfridges. It wouldn’t look out of place in a primary school but I love it.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of Silent Night, it is available on Amazon HERE as an ebook or
paperback (perfect for popping into a Christmas stocking)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

What NOT to Do When Self-Publishing - Guest Post Alison Morton

Interested in self-publishing? If you are, you might want to read this - a warts and all guest post from Alison Morton, writer of the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series. It's about what NOT to do if you are thinking of going down this route. In Alison's words, 'highlighting some of the difficulties brings a sense of reality to the whole business of self-publishing'.

Over to you, Alison.

Self-publishing?  Please don’t do these things

I’ve published eight books – six novels, two non-fiction – via the indie route since 2012, but in the preceding three years I learnt writing techniques: structure, plot, dialogue; how to delete adverbs, adjectives and over-writing. Then came techniques needed in the publishing world: proposals, submission packages, approach letters and etiquette in approaching agents and publishers; and how the publishing industry worked, who was who and how to make and use opportunities.

I attended conferences, courses, fairs, seminars, I read how-to books, joined writers’ groups and associations and talked to other writers, tutors, assessors, publishing experts and mentors. I brought in my business skills: time management, networking, project management, accounting, cost analysis, pricing, marketing, PR and negotiating. And I listened.

Along the way, I’ve learnt a great deal including some essential dos and don’ts.
Contrary to the jolly cheerleader ‘you can have it all’ approach, I’m going to be negative, and possibly crushing, because there are a lot of things you shouldn’t do if you want to succeed as an indie author.

1. You are not entitled to inflict rubbish on readers just because you can
In this glorious age of democratisation of publishing anybody can publish a book. Being honest, 80% of them shouldn’t. Grammar, punctuation, gripping prose, a rattling good story edited by a competent experienced editor and a fabulous book jacket are minima. If you DIY publish, learn how to do it properly: read ‘how to’ books, go on courses, research online and read guides, join specialist forums, learn from the experts.

2. Don’t whinge
The world is unfair. You learnt that in the playground. If you have a plan, work hard, research thoroughly and cultivate people, you will increase your chances of success astronomically.

You will see others get breaks, seem to prosper, receive plaudits, win prizes. Admit it, you’re left feeling a little envious. A secret – they’ve been in exactly the same place, but they slogged on. If you need to whinge, talk to the cat/dog/your critique partner. But don’t do it in public or you’ll be seen as needy. And nobody likes to be seen supporting a needy whinger…

3. Don’t diss others in the food chain
True in life and true in writing and publishing; it’s a village. Be friendly to all whether they’re a stellar bestseller or the newbie in your writing group. Of course, there are people we don’t warm to – the bumptious, the snobby, the unctuous and the darnright obnoxious. They have their own problems and really, we have to feel sorry for them.

As an indie, you have the benefits of freedom, control and the ability to be fully flexible in your PR and marketing. But please don’t sneer at mainstream authors or regard them as ‘sold out.’ They have chosen their route to publishing as you have yours. Remember we are all writers, especially if we share a genre.
Alison with TV presenter Sue Cook at
the launch of INCEPTIO
4. Don’t be a pest 
It’s hard, really hard, when you’re clutching your sweated-over manuscript or self-published book to your chest and you see your dream publisher/agent/endorser twenty paces from you not to rush over and gabble about your treasure in a demented ├╝ber-pitch.

Nobody is more passionate about your book than you. That’s how it should be; you have immersed long hours in it and probably part of your soul. But rein it back and think strategically. Approach people in the terms they find acceptable, be gradual, wear your sensible hat and exert your brain, not your emotions. Publishers and agents outline their requirements on their websites – study them in detail and send what they ask not what you think.

Endorsers and reviewers are often very busy and/or fighting deadlines. Approach politely and if they don’t have time or don’t wish to read your book, thank them and withdraw gracefully. Ditto if you decide to approach agents and publishers and your book is rejected. And please don’t send unreadable files (silly fonts, midget type, badly formatted) to anybody at any stage.

5. Don’t expect to be the great breakthrough author, nor to be rich beyond dreams
More books = more income, but in the ferociously competitive book world, you’re statistically unlikely to become one of the ‘big beasts’. However, with hard work (that expression again), you can enjoy a supplementary, even comfortable income.

And as you mature as a writer, people will ask for your opinion, read your blog, ask you to speak and, as long as you produce good content and information, come to regard you as an expert in your field. You may not win the Booker Prize, but you’ll probably be eligible for, and even win, some well-regarded indie ones.

Harsh? Probably. Realistic, certainly.

But being a writer, although creative, is a job. As an indie writer, you just have to show you’re also a professional.

Alison Morton writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April 2017.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.

Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison_morton

Buying link for RETALIO (multiple retailers/formats):

RETALIO book trailer: https://youtu.be/Mql2Mm3ytJc 

Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.

Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.