Seven Top Tips for Promoting your Novel as Holiday Read

2015-06-07 15.04.54Would your novel make a great holiday read? If so, now might be the time for a promotion.

Waterstones’ Summer Holiday Book Club list will be out in the next week or two. They pick a bunch of recently published books and through emails and blog posts, market them as great novels to take on holiday. It’s a promotion, pure and simple, but as many, many people do most of their reading on their summer holidays, the holiday season is too good an opportunity to miss.

So here are a few tips and ideas for promoting your novel as a holiday read.

  1. Start now. I know the school holidays don’t begin until late July. But don’t leave it until then, because the cruise ship will have sailed. Apart from anything else, plenty of people who don’t have children take their holidays before the resorts are overwhelmed by families. You don’t want to miss those relaxed singles and couples lazing on beaches in June and July.
  2. Plan a campaign. Run it over a few weeks. Work around a trio of pieces – a combination of blog posts and emails perhaps. Don’t just say the same thing over and over; build your picture by taking a different aspect of your novel each time. Leave a few days up to a couple of weeks between communications, and don’t do more than three pieces – you don’t want to annoy your potential readers.
  3. Think ‘Holiday’. If there’s anything about your book that relates specifically to holidays, travel, foreign lands, journeys or adventures for example, make the most of it in your promotion. It’s an extra angle.
  4. Have a price promotion. Discounting by even a little for a specified and limited time can be effective in boosting interest for practically anything. Everyone loves a bargain.
  5. Think beyond the internet. I know social media gets you a worldwide audience. But you’re a drop in an ocean of authors trying to attract readers. Think about your personal contact list, friends and neighbours, colleagues and the school-gate, clubs and organisations. Everyone belongs to multiple formal and informal networks and knows lots of people. You probably promoted your novel to them all when it first came out, but beyond your most loyal supporters, friends and family, there is still a community of potential readers; people who, with a gentle nudge, will like the idea of a holiday read, written by someone they actually know.
  6. Create a physical promotional piece. Because Singled Out is set on a summer holiday, this was a no-brainer for me. I’ve created a postcard-sized promotion using the image from the book cover. Duh, but it’s meant to look like a holiday postcard sent from a friend. I’ll be spreading it around over the next few weeks. I’m hoping it might end up hanging about on the front of a few fridges over coming months too. I used my cover designer (Alessio Varvarà) and VistaPrint to create the card. Other options – bookmarks (of course!), and for those on a very tight budget, simple home-printed leaflets. If you take that route, all you need is some best-quality paper (high gsm, sheen/gloss perhaps). It doesn’t have to cost the earth.
  7. Compile your own Summer Holiday Book Club list. It’s great to collaborate with other authors and recommended reads attract, guess what, readers. I’ll be putting an indie and small-press Summer Holiday Book Club list together for this blog in the next week or two, so, as they say, ‘watch this space’ for a fresh list of recommended reads.

A light-bulb moment: I want to enjoy marketing Singled Out

So how relentless, determined, repetitive, insistent, drum-beating and dogged should I be?

2015-01-20 20.45.01I began writing fiction just over 4 years ago for pleasure. I’ve been writing for business for years, but I wanted to see if I had sufficient creative imagination and writing skills to craft a page-turning story, the length of a typical novel – somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 words. I knew I had a lot to learn, so I attended courses and read how-to books and blogs. Whenever I came upon a challenge – creating characters not stereotypes, avoiding cliché, show-not-tell, learning to write dialogue, precision in description, creating tension and so on – I drafted and re-drafted and studied my way through it, learning all the time.

It’s had its moments, but it’s been rewarding and really, really FUN.

Now Singled Out is ready to launch on 1st February – all the boring background admin is done and everything’s ready on Amazon. I’m looking forward to seeing whether Singled Out finds favour with readers. And… I’m looking forward to getting going on book number two (broad concept, bit of an outline so far, but I’ve learned so much from writing book number one, that I just have to carry on).

But what about the task of marketing Singled Out?

I’m a marketer by profession. I’ve marketed Business-to-Business for years. Marketing a book to consumers/readers is different, but the principles are the same.

My pitch to clients on my marketing website has always been this: Before they buy from you, customers need to know who you are, understand what problems you solve and believe you’re the supplier best able to help them.

In book/reader terms, this would be: Before they buy your book, readers need to know who you are, understand what type of book you’re selling and believe that it’s likely to entertain them.

A blog goes a long way towards these goals. As an author your personality, character, writing skills and ability to engage are on show. Readers have a chance to feel connected, decide if they like you and the way you write – and what you write about. You’ll tell them about your writing, maybe tease with a few samples. They’ll share your challenges, dilemmas and adventures. They’ll feel connected with you in a way that was almost impossible before social media was invented.

From an author’s point of view, blogging is FUN. It’s wonderful to engage, share experiences, get conversations going and find that – amazingly – people all over the world are reading and subscribing. For me, blogging is the easiest and easily the most enjoyable aspect of marketing my book – it’s not a burden, it’s a pleasure. It’s also the most low-key and least in-your-face channel, which is another reason I like it best of all. You’re not pushing anything at people – they choose to come and read.

However… the general view is that as an indie author, if you want to sell more than a couple of dozen books, you’re going to have to work a lot harder at marketing. And here’s where I stumble.

I should know what to do to market my book – and, broadly speaking, I do. But I don’t actually want to DO most of it. Marketing is my work; writing fiction is my pleasure – but when it comes to marketing my fiction, this starts to feel perilously like… work.

So to my light-bulb moment; maybe it had something to do with the fact that whilst in Florida, I visited the Edison Ford Winter Estates in Ft Myers and found out all about the inventor of… the lightbulb. I don’t know. I’ve been saying for years that I envy those fortunate people who are earning a living from something they really, truly love doing. You know those people, the ones who say things like, ‘I feel so lucky that people actually pay me for doing this!’ I want to be one of those people, but only if readers give me permission, by buying my books. And until and unless I get to that earning a living space (somewhere in the far distant future perhaps?) I don’t want to spoil the joy, by putting myself under pressure to market my book according to anyone else’s productivity plan, programme or structure, and by doing things that feel laboured or inauthentic to me.

I’ve decided I don’t want to work at marketing Singled Out. I don’t ever want to get up in the morning and think, ‘oh, no, I’ve got to do… today’, to publicise my novel. I don’t ever want to not enjoy marketing my book. I’ve decided that if this means I don’t sell very many copies, I will live with this. I just want to have FUN with every aspect of writing fiction. However many copies people buy, whatever nice things (I hope!) they say about my story – all these are wonderful bonuses, unexpected rewards for simply doing something I’ve realised I love doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these programmes and their relentless approaches pay off. I just don’t think I would enjoy doing things that way.

So once Singled Out is launched, you won’t be seeing much of me on the book promo sites or Twitter feeds. I won’t be doing blog tours, or pressing people I don’t know for author interviews. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be delighted to do any author interviews – I would! I just don’t want to push for these things.

Nothing will make me happier than if people leave positive reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. I will be beyond delighted if they recommend my book to their friends and colleagues and my sales grow through word-of-mouth. I’d be thrilled to be asked to guest post on other people’s blogs. I’d love to do interviews or readings, panels at events and anything like that – weirdly I actually enjoy that kind of thing. If anybody wants to feature Singled Out anywhere, the answer will more than likely be a resounding yes! It’s not that I want to keep Singled Out a secret. I just want to get on with writing the next book and not let the joy of this first experience be diluted by a job-list of activities that I don’t really want to do.

In life, I’m a rules girl. I follow the rules. I drive as much as possible within the speed limit, I do what I’m told, I colour inside the lines. But perhaps, now I’m approaching the not-so-tender age of 55, I can afford to kick-back on my compulsion to do what other people say I should, and just plough my own furrow, for good or bad.

What do you think?

Coming to Twerms with Twitter

As a would-be author and freelancer without a limitless supply of spare time, how on earth do I cut through the noise and make the most of Twitter?

tweet-150421_1280I’ll lay my cards on the table; I think Twitter is a monster of epic proportions.

I’ve tried to get to grips with Twitter for the last two or three years. I’ve listened into webinars, I’ve read blogs and I’ve watched videos; I’ve downloaded a dozen pdf e-books claiming things like 5-steps to Twitter Mastery, 10 Ways to Triumph over Twitter and so on; I’ve perused introduction-to’s and how-to’s and papers on the ethics of Twitter, the rules of Twitter and Twitter best practise; I’ve found out how often you’re supposed to Tweet and how many off-topic Tweets you can get away with and how you should thank people who re-Tweet you; and I’ve debated the wisdom of following thousands of people simply so they follow you back – even though nobody, nobody could possibly actually read thousands of people’s Tweets every day.

But I confess, after all this, I still haven’t tamed this yabbering monster in any meaningful way. I haven’t made friends with Twitter, I don’t have time to feed Twitter, and resent the white noise which streams from Twitter, day in and day out.

I know somewhere in there, there are gems and usefuls; links to fascinating blogs, tips and insights, information I’d struggle to access in any other way. I get it! But it’s like sifting a barrel of yellow sand to find a handful of white grains. I lose the will.

I know I’m missing a trick. I know I should do Twitter properly – for two very important reasons:

  1. I’m a writer – and a realist. I know I’m more likely to self-publish than be published in the conventional press. I don’t expect to enjoy the benefits of a corporate publicity engine, so Twitter is supposed to be a great platform for me and I’m supposed to embrace it. I’ve made a start, but it’s a stuttering, lacklustre one.
  2. I’m a professional freelance marketer. So it’s my job to understand Twitter and promote the opportunities it affords my clients to spread their message further and wider. And I do, I do. I know it has much to offer certain types of business. I can set my personal feelings aside and open their eyes to the benefits, even show them how to get started and build their presence. But I’m no advocate; on a personal level I don’t feel the Twitter love.

It’s this dual-personality that’s giving me the most problems. I can’t decide who I am on Twitter, and I think I should probably be two completely separate people. But how do I achieve this? I have a mixed following now, and I’m not sure how to go about splitting myself apart.

A while ago, I decided to commit to using Twitter for Writing Julie only. For a while this worked just fine. I unfollowed a few of the marketing related feeds I’d been tracking. Instead I added agents, publishing houses, writers and bookshops to my follows. I re-Tweeted my writerly blog posts. When other writers followed me I occasionally followed them back – but not always, because that’s how you end up with thousands of followers and follows and I was, and still am, resistant to this approach.

But then Marketing Julie started to creep back in. I began to use Twitter to keep track of feeds for a couple of my clients and, guess what? People I followed, followed me back. Imagine! Not only that, but I’d like to re-Tweet to help build my clients’ profiles and it’s a bit confusing, not to say pointless, to do this to a follower list which is perhaps 75% writerly.

So now I’m stuck and perplexed. I know I need to make some changes, to tame my two-headed beast. If I only felt the slightest love for Twitter, I’d be excited about this. Instead, I’m dragging my heels, big-time.

I think – although I’d appreciate any advice you have on this – I need two Twitter identities, one marketing and one writerly. But how do I separate out my followers and persuade perhaps half of them to migrate? Do I just abandon them and re-follow on another identity, hoping they’ll all jump on-board again? Or is there an easy way to do this? I bet there isn’t!

Then there’s the issue of devising a Twitter strategy, or rather, TWO Twitter strategies. Because I’m a marketer, and strategies is what we do.

I also need to decide whether I follow the few or the many – given that if I follow the many I’ll almost certainly be wilfully ignoring the majority of them. It feels like a nonsensical approach, with little value for anyone. Yet everyone’s doing it, which makes for a crazy, noisy world. So should I go along with it and add to the noise?

I just don’t know.

I’d really like to hear from you about your personal Twitter experiences. I want to love Twitter, so please share any positive stories you have. If you’ve found a workable approach to Twitter, please share that too. If you’ve created two Twitter identities for two aspects of your life, tell us how you make it work. What tools do you use, and how do you use them? If anything amazing or inspiring has come out of your presence on Twitter, inspire us in turn.

I genuinely want to tame this monster and I don’t know where to start.