Saturday, 8 June 2013

It's a Marathon, not a Sprint!

Promotion and marketing -
Moving from a frantic doggy-paddle to a stamina-preserving crawl.
I have only been actively involved in the ‘Indie’ market for a short time, but long enough to realise that the most frequently asked question has to be
Most frequently asked, and most difficult to answer. Imagine about two million tiny fish, swimming frantically around the harbour. On the shore is a wonderful lake, filled with everything a tiny fish could possibly need – but how to get there? A few fishermen are trawling, to be sure, but they are catching the bigger fish. In the meantime, a gigantic shark is circling, and gobbling up the tiny fish in their thousands. Things look pretty desperate for those tiny fish!
 So, am I saying that we ‘newbie’ indies are like those little fish. Well, there are similarities. There are probably around two million books on Amazon, many of them by new and/or unknown authors. All of us would like the fishermen – or in our case readers – to find us. The question is, how? But we do have one great advantage over the poor little fish – there is no gigantic shark circling to cut short our sparkling careers with one snap of its jaws. We have time on our side, and according to my research into this subject, allowing time is very necessary. It is, of course, not the sole answer. If we just sit back and do nothing, we can expect to be swimming around for a long, long time!
 There is a tremendous amount of advice available on this subject, some of it extremely helpful, much of it conflicting. But there are a few things on which pretty well everyone agrees –
 Before publishing the book, ensure it is as good as it can be.
That means proof-reading and editing. Not everyone can afford a professional proof reader, but most writers have hawk-eyed friends who can help them out. I can proof-read my own work to a limited extent, generally by reading it out loud. This ensures that I don’t miss mistakes by reading too fast, and also picks up a lot of duplication. But personally, I still need my hawk-eyed friend to pick up inconsistencies in capitalisation and the like.
 The same is true for editing the book. With Barricades, I splashed out on a  professional editor – not too expensive, and worth every penny. When we started, my book draft was 110,000 words. When we finished, it was 96,000 words. Of course I kicked, screamed and wriggled as it was suggested I cull some of my favourite (and often verbose) passages, but there is no doubt that the changes improved the book by cutting out unnecessary padding and generally sharpening up the prose.
 There is no ‘magic bullet.’
It is not unknown for a new, self-published author to ‘go viral,’ quickly, but it is very, very rare. For most of us, it will mean a lot of hard work. It will also need patience – not something that comes easily to me.
 The best way to promote and sell a book is to write another one -
Followed by yet another, and another after that. Very few new and unknown authors achieve high sales for their first stand-alone book.
Other than those points, advice is conflicting, depending upon the personal experiences of those offering the advice. Genre also has an effect. Sex, of course, sells well, so authors writing erotica are off to a good start. Vampires, horror, science fiction/fantasy and thrillers appear popular. My own genre is historical fiction (non-romance), which doesn’t appear to be one of the best selling genres.
 KDP Free Promotions (e-books only)
Opinions differ on this one. Some authors will not give away their work on principle. Others find the promotions beneficial. I suppose that if an author is selling well, he or she doesn’t need the free promotion anyway. But for new authors whose work is not selling, or selling very slowly, it can help. I put Barricades on free promotion for three days, and there was a slight sales spike afterwards. I also picked up a 5* review, possibly as a result of the promotion. At worst, it meant that my book was read by several hundred people who would not otherwise have read it.
Writing a blog.
Most authors seem to think it desirable to have an on-line presence, particularly for writers who are just starting out. There is, of course, still the problem of being noticed, but hopefully the followers will come, given time. I don’t yet have a large following, but my circle is slowly growing. I also find the blog helps to consolidate my thoughts, and I enjoy writing it.
 Twitter and Facebook.
Some authors find them useful, others a waste of time. I don’t yet know what my experience will be, but as a new author I feel that any on-line presence has to be of some use. I’m very new to the social media scene, so I am feeling my way and gradually building a network, whilst getting to grips with Twitter and the use of the # key.
 I have just published Barricades in paperback format, so I am planning a launch party next month. I shall be having a big push on facebook, including a modest £10 of paid advertising. I shall let you know the results in a later blog.

Next time - off-line promotions – the personal touch.