This past year has presented many challenges. Our debut novel, ‘What Lies Between Them’ was published on 24th February 2022. Then we embarked on the task of selling it. After all, without readers, what’s the point?
For those writers who think, ‘Phew. That’s that, job done’ when their book goes into print – think again. Why do you think writers go on tour? They do it to market and sell their work. If you are traditionally published with one of the big five, then it’ll be expected. If you’re self-publishing, then it’s even more essential. We’re still learning but we’d like to share some of our thoughts.
We knew we’d be heavily involved in selling ‘What Lies Between Them’. Our publisher, Dixi Books UK is an indie press. Indie presses do not have vast sums of cash at their disposal. We set ourselves a budget for promotion activities. What could we afford to spend in promotion?
Even before the book was published, we started thinking about various promotion activities. We were very lucky to have the support of Mel Griffin at Griffin Books in Penarth, an expert at organising events for local, national and international writers. She gave us advice and arranged a venue for the launch evening.
That was a lovely start on the promotion journey. It hasn’t finished yet. We have a few ideas still in the pipeline. Here’s some things we’ve learnt so far.
- Marketing your novel is necessary
Even if you have a six-figure deal with one of the big publishers you’ll be expected to make an effort to get out there and sell your book. It’s essential. Without visibility you’ll not make many sales. It has to be done and you might even enjoy it. There are many different ways to market your novel. It’s quite different from writing and a new skill to learn. As former academics we are used to public speaking. We enjoy engaging with potential readers. Not everyone enjoys that. You may prefer to talk to readers through a social media platform. Whatever your preferences, you still need to do some marketing work.
- Marketing your novel can be fun
Our launch party was our treat for ourselves. After two years of online events, we wanted to celebrate the publication in person. We also felt, after all the hard work, that we needed a treat. The launch party was that treat. It was an opportunity to meet readers to tell our story and to talk books. Plus, we had a lot of fun. We were delighted at another recent local event one woman who was at the launch came to tell us how much she enjoyed the novel.
We also had a signing event at a local café. With the owners we advertised on social media sites and with posters. It was fun. We sat, ate a delicious lunch, and sold books to the curious and those who had come to the event. It brought benefits to both the café and ourselves. All we had to do was turn up and sit in the corner with our table of books while eating divine cakes. What’s not to like about that?
- Marketing your novel the usual ways
There are standard ways people approach marketing. Social media is one way. It’s difficult to know if this works as a marketing strategy as the market is saturated with books, both traditionally published and self-published. Some writers are on several platforms while others concentrate efforts on one platform. It can be interesting but social media is also a time sucker. Time when you’d probably be writing. Giveaways on social media also raise interest.
Events are good ways to meet the public. If there is an opportunity to hold an event in your local area, then it’s useful publicity. Book fairs and book clubs also present ways to talk to people about your work and create interest.
Press releases are something you need to think about. An article in the local press may lead to other opportunities such as a radio interview or podcast.
Make friends with your local librarian and offer to do an author talk. Give copies of your book to the library. We found the library staff very supportive and very willing to promote events to encourage readers.
- Marketing your novel in other ways
Think wider than bookshops and book fairs. We had publicity postcards printed and distributed them to all contacts. Anyone we met in the pub or café, the hairdresser, podiatrist, dentist, physiotherapist, neighbours and some local independent shops were given the publicity material. The more people know about your work the better. It’s difficult again with activity of this sort to gauge how effective it is and whether it does sell books but a different way of marketing. Spread the word.
Leave a copy of your book on the shelf when you go on holiday. Put a note in the back asking the reader to contact you or write a review. Books travel.
- What we now know about marketing a novel
We’ve found that using personal connections is important. Our connections with local universities, we are both former academics, gave us the opportunity to go and talk to students about our co-authoring techniques and ‘What Lies Between Them’. No sales, as being a student means you have no money, but publicity for the work. We were guaranteed a review for ‘What Lies Between Them’.
Reviews are the lifeblood for writers. Supporting other authors helps you to raise your profile on social media and helps to make friends in the writing community. If you read and enjoy something written by another author, then do say so … loud and clear. It’s a lovely way to support others and they may return the favour.
Bloggers and reviewers are important too. They are the sort of people who won’t glaze over when you talk about the joy of writing and what your story is about. They love reading and listening to writers talking about writing and inspiration for writing. They are often aspiring writers themselves so part of the tribe.
We’ve found that other writers are the most helpful and supportive people you could have to help. Online communities and writing groups will give you the hope and confidence that you need to get out there and sell your work.
We’re still learning and have a steep mountain to climb. If you have any marketing strategies that you’ve used to effect, then drop us a line and share any useful ideas. We’d love to hear from you.