Sunday, 28 December 2014

Promotion, promotion, promotion! by Mary Smith

Long gone are the days when an author wrote a book, it was published and the publisher took care of marketing and promotion while the author could concentrate on writing the next book. Perhaps the author would be expected to read at the launch, maybe even take part in a book tour organised by the publisher’s PR team.

Now, authors, whether traditionally or self-published, are expected to be experts in marketing, be social media savvy with Facebook pages (though this might be about to change when FB starts charging to promote anything other than cute kittens) Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and goodness knows how many other such sites. Book launches and tours are done online, organised by the author. Some publishers insist their authors have their own blog – and of course everyone has a website. Actually, a website is beginning to have a rather old-fashioned ring to it.

All of the above is by way of creating an author platform. The point is not to tweet about your own book or show your new publication on Facebook – well, it is and it isn’t. Creating your author platform is about building relationships, making friends with thousands of people, entertaining them with your witty tweets and hoping they might, one day, buy a book.

Oh, and then there are promos to consider – when to discount your book (or give it away for free) for a limited sales period, and which sites should you use to spread the word to readers? I have lists of promo sites but it becomes complicated when you have to book slots weeks in advance – and some sites only let you know a few days before the promotion starts that they have rejected your book – for reasons known only to them.

It’s exhausting. It’s like being on a treadmill. From time to time I question just why I do it. Then, I look at some of the publishing statistics. For instance UK publishers released more than 20 new titles every hour over the course of 2014.

The International Publishers Association (IPA) reported recently that UK publishers released 184,000 new and revised titles in 2013. Literary agent Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown said of the figure: “Of course, it is utter madness to publish so many books when the average person reads between one and five books a year.”

Around 235,000 titles were self-published in print and digital in the US in 2012. Amazon UK boasts having over 2.5 million e-books on sale.

That’s why I do it and will continue to do it. It has to be done to ensure my books don’t disappear into those millions of others but manage to scramble up to towards the ranking levels at which they will be noticed by potential readers.

I hope to become better at it as I learn from other writers who know more about it than I do: such as the wonderful bunch of writers on eNovelAuthorsatWork  who help each other on this perilous promotions pathway.

I know it works.  I do wonder, though, when I’ll ever have the time to focus on writing my next books? It seems to be easier the more books you have out there so I really must get down to it.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Why do we do it? by Jenny Harper

So Girl Online wasn't written by Zoella. What a surprise!

Zoella, from Wikimedia Commons,
photograph by Gage Skidmore.
When a young girl who has created her own brand of fame in the relatively new world of vlogging is commissioned to write a novel – in eight weeks – and it becomes a runaway bestseller, why are fans 'outraged' when they discover (shock, horror), it's not actually written by her? Or at least, not all of it. Or, at least, the characters and stories are hers. According to her publisher, Penguin, she 'worked with an expert editorial team to help her bring to life her characters and experiences in a heartwarming yet compelling story.'

Those of us who have slogged over the years to learn the craft of storytelling might a) chortle at the notion that anyone could actually believe that a young twenty-something can master the art with her first book, in a mere eight weeks or b) go green with envy at the ringing of the tills as Girl Online becomes the highest selling first week sales of a debut novelist of all time.

But think about it. Pretty girl, popular girl = marketing opportunity. A smart editor at Penguin had the idea and followed it through. Celebrity sells. What's not to like? (Ahem – honestly? Only the knowledge I'll never be twenty-something again, and that the seemingly boundless opportunities afforded by social media weren't available when I was?)

But that's just sour grapes. As writers, what we need to do is acknowledge that this is a smart, savvy marketing initiative, tip our hats to the ghostwriter who pulled off the stunt of actually penning a credible and readable 80,000 word YA novel in eight weeks, then sit down and get on with our own writing.

No, we won't sell nearly 80,000 copies in the first week (or might we...? We can still dream!) But we will have crafted something readable, and thoughtful, and polished, that is all our own work and that – hopefully – will connect with our own readership and give pleasure.

I can't get worked up about it. The row about whether Penguin were misleading readers by 'pretending' the book was written by Zoella might rumble on, but if it has made at least some people realise that writing is a skill and a craft that needs to be honed and polished over the years, then I'll be happy.

What do I know about Zoella anyway? Only that she temporarily withdrew from the internet after her legion of Twitter fans turned their wrath on her, claiming that it was 'clouding her brain.' You and me both, Zoe, you and me both.

Monday, 15 December 2014

SO ....IT'S ALMOST CHRISTMAS AND .... by Linda Mitchelmore

....... my cards have been written and posted. Presents have been bought, although they are as yet, unwrapped. The shops are awash with Christmas trees and lights and gift ideas, and Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells. I have already eaten one 'Christmas dinner' and am booked in for two more before the 25th. There are also a couple of drinks 'dos' on the calendar. But inside my head it is summer. It is what writers do - think ahead of the game. Sun, sea, sangria - and possibly sex depending on which publication I am writing for - have been in my head for weeks. I have to say it's rather nice to have warm sun on my back, and a garden full of roses and to be building sandcastles with a small child or two inside my head when it's grey and grim and grotty out there. Visualization (spell check tells me it is a z in there, although instinct wants me to put an s!)is a gift to the writer - escapism from the reality of sometimes not very happy lives at worst, and like meditation at best. I sold a short story last week set on St Valentine's Day.and there is one set on the longest day half-completed and waiting for me to get on with it. So, all those people who have had Christmas novels and novellas and anthologies and stories printed this year were well ahead of the game, weren't they? I, too, have a little collection of Christmas stories out there in the ether, done in connection with Janey Fraser who asked me if it might be fun to do. It was. And we are already thinking ahead of the game for what next to put our heads together on.
That very excellent publication, Writing Magazine publishes, from time to time, an Editorial Calendar. The current issue tells us that 25th April 2015 is the 100th Anniver4sary of ANZAC landings at Gallipoli. Possibly a bit late for an historical novel set at that time, but there's still time for a novella, I should think. Or an article. Easter, should you be thinking of writing an Easter story, is in April in 2015, so best get your skates on with that one. Or how about something to mark the 90th Anniversary of the publication of F Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby? 10th April is the date for that. Now then, don't say you didn't hear it here first and that you haven't had good warning. April 2016 (yes, 2016!!!) is the 200th Anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth. And yes, I do know there is the double-dot thing over the e but I can't get it up on this programme, so very sorry about that everyone. And Charlotte. So....get your thinking caps on everyone. How about a modern take on one of her novels?