10 things I have learned whilst promoting my novel

  1. Advertising works, even when you are not getting clicks. Spend sixty dollars on a Goodreads campaign and play with the text every now and then to test the traction. Link straight to your retailer page – you want people be directed to where they can buy your book. If they click, the fund goes down. If they don’t, they’re seeing the cover of your novel, even if they’re  not directly looking at it. Thousands of people will see your book advertisement each month. Never underestimate the power of the familiar subconscious.
  2. Get on Goodreads. Without Goodreads my novel would be sitting sadly on Amazon, all alone, with two or three reviews. Granted, it only has six now but lots of people are seeing it through my regular giveaways and over 1,400 people have added it to their ‘to read’ list. That means something, right?
  3. With reference to the above, run regular giveaways. Just list one copy of your book, make the eligibility worldwide and let it run for a couple of months. Then when a winner is chosen put the next one up. It’s not exactly free advertising but it’s pretty cheap advertising – your book is being continuously advertised in the giveaway section. People’s friends will see when they enter thus spreading the word.
  4. Tweet! I do not Tweet nearly enough, but I try. If you’re doing giveaways or Kindle Countdown Deals let the users of social media know. Make a Facebook event, mention it in blogs, email group organisers on Goodreads and (responsibly) ‘spam’ the relevant folders in the forums. Just let readers know what’s happening, when; and share your excitement about your book as often as you can.
  5. It seems to be the thing for authors to follow five thousand people on Twitter in order to get five thousand people to follow them back. Except at some point they start to unfollow those five thousand people to make themselves look established. If they’re all doing it, it probably works, but it’s entirely false. Mostly they’re all just DMing each other asking one another to read their currently free book (yes, I know they’re probably selling more novels than me).
  6. Time is money, money is time. Do you have the money to splurge £500 on your latest advertising campaign? Can you pay for verified reviews from top reviewing/endorsement agencies? No? Do you have 36 hours a day to make the posters and find the reviewers/endorsers yourself? No? Do you have the money to get someone else to do it all for you instead?
  7. Promotion is time consuming and time spent not writing, but it works. 17 ratings on Goodreads may seem a low amount to most authors (shh, I’m going somewhere with this), but there are plenty of self-published (and agency-published) books out there that go their whole first year without. one. single. review. Oh, the horror.
  8. Visual aids help even the most learned of readers. Have a promotion? Then declare: FREE EBOOK! Now let’s try something more visual:

    FREE EBOOK!

    Slightly more eye-catching? no?

  9. Free ebook giveaways are better than discounted ebook sales. Whilst this is true for unknown authors like myself, someone like J. K. Rowling would probably benefit more from a discounted ebook giveaway bonanza. When I ran my Kindle Countdown deal with a discount on my novel, I achieved a grand total of 3 downloads. Better than none, obviously, and those people are probably more likely to leave a review. When I ran the free equivalent I got over 500 downloads. Have any of those people read my novel yet? There’s no way to tell. But it got me in the top five of the Arthurian books category for a couple of days at least (side note: Harry Potter is NOT ARTHURIAN!).
  10. Try to keep up with your social media appearances. Homely images of your novel next to coffee on Instagram will draw attention, or pen a declaration of how actively you are living the life of a writer. Share something like: New ideas for new scenes today. Writing from the heart, with a picture of you gazing out of a coffeeshop window. I haven’t tried it yet, but I see other people posting such stuff on Instagram and they get more likes than me, so they must be doing something right.

What I’ve been up to

Today has been busy. Impatient to get some idea of what my book might look like once it is finished, I have been fiddling about with formatting in MS Word. With no clue where or what to start with, I found a very helpful website (http://www.diybookformats.com/mswordtemplates/) and have managed to set my margins, my paper size, choose a font, and even make chapter dividers in photoshop which match the feel of my draft design for my book cover. Being an arty person, I am very excited by this small achievement (it looks really cool).

Less encouraging is my page count. Yes, I know my final draft is not yet done, and having carved through about fifty pages today I am fairly certain that it will end up being about 20 A4 pages shorter than it is now. In my new layout however, the book as it is (140,000 words) is close to six-hundred (5.25 x 8) pages. I had assumed that publishing your own book might give you greater freedom concerning word count, but after doing Amazon’s royalty calculator I have discovered that my novel would cost me 50p per book to print in the UK. Not the 30-70% royalties I had in mind!

Before settling on the decision to self-publish I did approach the crowdsourcing website, Unbound. Set up by writers Dan Kieran, Justin Pollard and John Mitchinson, Unbound purports to let the readers decide which books get published through a process in which authors present pitches on Unbound’s website. These pitches then receive pledges (payments) from future readers. Only the pitches that reach their target (of about £15,000 from what I can tell from their FAQs [please do correct me if I am wrong]) get published.

It sounded perfect. But, of course, to avoid being swamped by endless pitches, Unbound do have a submissions process. Great for the works that make it through, but that means those works have (ironically) been chosen by the publisher. There is an eight-week wait to get to the top of the slush pile, so percentage-wise not many submissions seem to make it past the selection process (my pitch was one of them). Basically Unbound seems to be a publisher with the best of both worlds – no upfront costs to publish their chosen author’s works, because the readers (may or may not) cover that for them.

Crowd-funding in publishing still seems to be relatively new, and whilst exploring my options I did come across several other sites that seemed to adopt the same concept as Unbound, with the difference that any pitch is posted. So far however, these websites only seem to publish e-books with a much lower crowd-sourcing target (for one of these sites the target was £500 per book). Others claimed to be free, but with the surprise of pop up adverts in your novel when anyone reads it, and (let’s be honest) no author wants their masterpiece repeatedly interrupted by weight-loss ads.

Unbound was tempting for me, because at 50% royalties as well as a paid-for investment in your book concerning editing, book cover and proof-reading it sounded like the best deal. It’s worth a go if anyone out there hasn’t tried it already, particularly if you have a large social media following – it’s one of the things they ask you when you apply because the more followers you have the more books you’re likely to sell. It is discouraging to find that yet another creative endeavour essentially boils down to a popularity contest (or, you could argue, a large social network), but this is already endemic in many artistic fields and is hardly new. Followers = distribution = wider market = more sales. It is becoming the case in the fashion industry, with models with higher numbers of followers getting booked for bigger jobs. Free advertising makes perfect sense.

Ultimately, the author knows what will be a good fit for them, but unfortunately for us writers we’re not usually the ones who get to choose. I am excited about self-publishing though. It’s a challenge, a test to see if I can do it. Can I be editor, designer, agent and writer all at the same time? We’ll find out when it’s released. I’ve already announced my intention on Facebook, and though my social network is modest I’ve had encouraging feedback (and great encouragement). They’re probably just pleased that I’m finally taking the initiative to get it out there – I have been harassing them all with novel-related updates over the years.

I’m half-way through my revision. I caught a scene that referenced something that had already been resolved earlier in the book, so I think as editor I am doing well. I will post up artwork updates as I create them and closer to the release. In the words of most people everywhere, ‘let’s do this!’