Category Archives: traditional publishing

Publish and promote… a 5 point plan and a piece of advice

My new book, 70 Ways to Bullyproof Yourself, is out this month and I’ve been busy promoting.

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It’s hard work and, as far as I can see, there are no quick, easy short cuts. But the more you do it, the less challenging it feels, and I’ve actually come to enjoy it. Here’s the 5 point plan that works for me.

1  Choose a good launch date for the particular book

I chose September for 70 Ways to Bullyproof Yourself because lots of parents and children are concerned about bullying at the start of a new school year. I thought that would be a good angle for articles and social media updates around the launch, with the added bonus of Anti Bullying Week coming up soon after for another flurry of promoting in November.

Hashtag #bullying !

2  Try to get some reviews

I always email local magazines and newspapers when I’ve got a new book coming out, offering to send them a review copy. Uptake on this one hasn’t been as good as usual, but influential book blogs are probably even more important these days, and the book got a great review from Pippa Goodhart in Awfully Big Reviews, which is full of great quotables that I can use in twitter and facebook.

Two other influential bloggers, Minerva Reads and Books for Topics have have told me their reviews will be posted around Anti Bullying Week.

Only Peters Booksellers customers get to see what the awesome librarians who review for them have to say, but I think this book must have fared all right because I’ve had several orders already.

3  Pitch some articles 

I got an article in the September issue of  Devon Life – we didn’t even discuss a fee because they let me include the cover and book details, so it was a win-win – they could view it as a free article, and I as a free one-page ad.

backtoschoolbullyingarticle

But as with reviews, blogs can be as influential as magazines these days, so I wrote  articles for The Alliance of Independent Authors blog and my lovely cover designer Rachel Lawston’s blog and did an interview with Authors Electric.

It’s all very time consuming, but I find that pitching and writing articles is a really good way of focusing my ideas about what the book is actually about and why people should read it – the process helps me find the so-called elevator pitch.

4  Get some bookmarks and fliers

Rachel offers promotional bits and pieces such as this as part of her cover design package, which is wonderful because she can create everything to fit the book’s branding. Everything carries my website address, so it’s like handing out a business card really.

bullyingbooks

 

5  Organise some events

I almost always have a launch party to celebrate the publication of a new book, because it feels important to me to celebrate and you can add photos and updates to the buzz you’re trying to build in your social networks, but I just haven’t had time with 70 Ways to Bullyproof Yourself.

I’ll usually try to do arrange some author talks in my local libraries, bookshops and festivals around launch time too, but that hasn’t happened – same problem. It’s partly because I’m still doing my free-range writing tour to celebrate Free-Range Writing: 75 Forays for the Wild Writer’s Soul – talks and workshops throughout the year just wherever I happen to be (the next ones are in Cheltenham on Sunday September 30th, Launceston on October 10th and Bath on Friday October 19th)

A piece of advice

That brings me to my personal piece of advice for other inde authors around launch time – and most traditionally published authors, come to that, since publishers usually expect you to do most of the promoting yourself.

Make a list of all the possible things you could do, such as publications you could approach for a review or articles you could pitch around the subject, but don’t expect yourself to be able to do it all.

Be able, after a month or two, to ditch the list or cut it right back to anything you still quite fancy doing – I’ve got a few publications that have expressed interest in articles, for example, but I won’t be pitching to new ones.

Promoting a book is stressful and you need to look after yourself, and part of that, for a writer, is looking after your writing.

After several months of focusing on trying to get these two 70 Ways books noticed, I’m  letting that be one of my low level background activities and switching my attention back towards starting some new writing projects.

What have I missed in my 5 point plan? New ideas for promoting my next book would be most welcome!

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Your book has been published – is there any point in having a website?

A new author asked me recently whether I thought it would be worth her while to set up a website. ‘I like the thought of having a platform out there, but obviously if nobody is going to look at it then there’s no point…’

I would ask, is there any point in NOT having a website? It doesn’t cost anything and with platforms like this one (wordpress) it isn’t difficult to set one up, even for someone as technically challenged as me.

Your website is like your shop window. You can point people towards it via your social networking profiles, email signatures, business cards and any other promos you can think of, such as bookmarks, and show them what you do.

You can install ‘buy now’ buttons, so they can instantly order your book from you if they like what they see (but be careful not to undercut amazon on price, or they’ll delist it).

The job of writing the text and adding images is entirely pleasurable if you love writing – and I’m guessing you must, as you’ve actually managed to complete a whole novel.

You’re trying to convey a sense of you as the author – your style, as well as the style of your book. You want your website visitors to know, from reading your site, what kind of reading experience they might expect to find in your books.

The content you choose to include will also probably reflect the kind of books you write. For example, I’ve got a fair amount of personal information on my website’s ‘About’ page, because I share my own experiences in my non-fiction, and write in a personal kind of voice.

In the separate area on my site for my children’s books, the content and voice is aimed at younger readers, including a second ‘About’ page with different information on.

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Just as with the content and voice of the text, the visual style of your blog should have the same feel as your books. A romantic novelist, for example, needs a style that’s completely different from a lit fic writer.

Setting up your own website makes keeping it updated really easy – you’re not having to send a batch of updates to a web designer every couple of weeks or months – and it evolves like any other kind of creative work.

As well as being a shop window for you and your work, your website can be a hub for all your networks. You can add links to your blog, if you have one, to your social media profiles and also a sign-up button to your mailing list (I use mailchimp for mine – definitely worth checking out).

If you’re new to all this, it can feel daunting setting up a website, but remember no one can see anything until you press ‘publish.’ Even then, you can just publish to a few people if you like, and get their feedback first, rather than going public straight away. So play around and enjoy it!

Rather like when your book is published, when you publish your website it won’t suddenly mean gazillions of people are flocking to read it. For almost everyone, it’s a slow build. But you don’t need gazillions of people to like your work.

If you can get a couple of hundred people who like it enough to tell their friends, with any luck that could set the snowball rolling, and your readership will begin to grow.

So friends, if you liked this post, please tweet, fb or share it. The buttons are all here below, for your convenience!

 

You’ve finished writing your book – what now?

I get a fair few emails from people who have completed their first novel and want some advice on how to get it published. It’s really time consuming to keep repeating the same things, so I’ve decided to put my thoughts in a blog post – then all I’ll have to do when I reply is send them the link!

The first thing to say is ‘Well done!’ Seriously. I mean it. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. People who’ve never tried it have no idea how hard it is, and a lot of people who do try find they can’t go the distance.

Having said that, make sure you actually have finished it.  Getting the story down is only the start. Once you’ve completed your first draft, you need to redraft and keep redrafting until the book is as good as you can possibly make it.

I’m not going to go into the issues with redrafting here, because it would take too long, and I’ve already written about crafting your novel at some length in my book Happy Writing: Beat your blocks, be published and find your flowwhere you can find loads of tips and advice.

When you’ve written your novel, crafted it, got it as good as you can get it, then you have three choices:

  1. Decide not to publish
  2. Try to find a traditional publisher
  3. Publish it yourself.

You’ll have discovered, having reached this stage, that publication isn’t the only point in writing a book. The process itself is intensely challenging, and intensely rewarding. That’s another thing that people who have never written a novel may not understand.

So although publication is certainly an option, it isn’t the only reason why you might decide to write and keep writing.

Option 2 is still the route most new authors want to start with, and I think that’s a good idea, unless you’re writing something you know you can find readers for yourself.

There are no short cuts that I’m aware of. Most major publishers will only read agented manuscripts, so you need to check out agents’ websites and look carefully at which books and authors they represent, or check out authors writing the same kind of story as you, and find out who their agent is.

When you’ve got 4-6 agents who seem like a possible fit, contact them, following their guidelines for new submissions. Some prefer email, some letters. Keep it brief, don’t big yourself up – ‘My book’s better than Harry Potter and I’m going to be bigger than JK Rowling!’ (Somebody actually wrote exactly that in their covering letter when I worked for a reading agency).

Also, avoid mentioning that your mum/friends/children love your stories so they must be good. Of course your mum/friends/children love your stories – they love you!

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If you want to take a punt at approaching publishers direct, find books similar to yours and check out their publishers’ websites. They may say they accept un-agented manuscripts and, if so, make sure you follow their submissions guidelines.

The wheels move exceeding slow in traditional publishing, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait weeks for a response. It’s also incredibly competitive, so don’t feel too disheartened if you can’t get any takers.

That would once have been the end of the road for your novel but now we’ve got Option 3 – self-publishing. My advice if you’re considering this route is to check out the Alliance of Independent Authors – they have a fantastic blog and, for members, a really  useful fb group where you can always find people who know the answers to any questions you may have concerning any aspect of the self-publishing process.

Again, I’ve written about the various routes to publication in Happy Writing, so I won’t go into it at any more length here.

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Happy Writing – it’s all here!

Whichever route you take, you’ll have to learn how to use social media and be willing to get out there and promote yourself and your book. Also, whichever route you take, you’re very unlikely to be able to give up the day job and earn your living from writing.

Nobody ever believes this, but it’s a fact. Check out the last authors earnings survey by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society – bearing in mind it was compiled in 2014, and things have gone on getting worse since then. Read this clear and honest article by author Dawn Finch on her own experiences – and the comments from other authors at the end.

Most authors have to supplement their income from books by doing some teaching, editing, mentoring or a different kind of work that isn’t related to writing at all.

There’s one other thing people sometimes ask me – do I have any contacts that might be helpful to them? I personally probably don’t but anyway, I obviously wouldn’t want to recommend someone’s book without having first read it, and I simply don’t have time to read manuscripts for people I don’t know.

I used to work for a reading agency, Cornerstones, but I gave it up for precisely that reason – reading manuscripts takes a long time, and writing appraisals even longer. If you’re a new author,  please don’t ask authors you’ve never met to do this work for nothing. It’s simply not a reasonable request.

An agency like Cornerstones will do a brilliant job of that for you and, if they spot publishing potential in your manuscript, they can help you try to find an agent. But obviously it will cost you.

So there it is! Well done, good luck, and I hope I’ve been able to be helpful. In my next post, I’ll address another question people often email me about – whether writers need a blog or website and how to set one up.

Have you got any experiences or advice you’d like to share with someone who has just finished writing their book?