Hello, hope you had a good week. Mine has been busy – as usual.
Think of the best books that have ever been written – Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, I am Legend, some of the books by Charles Dickens – how many of them are still read today outside of the classroom? People might tell you they love the story (meaning they have seen the film) but surprisingly few people actually read them. If no one is promoting a book, it doesn’t sell. Which is why many of the books we enjoyed as teenagers are no longer in the shops (You never see Desmond Bagley on the shelves.) This is true even of contemporary fiction. Having a book on the shelf in a bookshop does not sell it. Ask even the most famous of authors (Stephen King and Lee Child to name two) and they all seem to say the same thing, that authors spend 75% of their time promoting their books. So, being someone who likes a challenge, this is what I have done so far.
Firstly, I have listened to a lot of advice. Lots of it. Some has been excellent, some has been dismissed on the grounds of “that is too scary” and some was just plain silly (I won’t waste your time with that.) Son who knows marketing, told me that people have to be prompted four times in a month for advertising to be effective. So, short intense bursts of advertising are better than a long drawn out one.
One excellent piece of advice was to decide which niches my book fitted into – to enlarge the stereotypes if you like. So, Hidden Faces includes details about schools, about women, about motherhood, about church, plus it was written by a local author (me.) So, which of those could I use to market the book?
I took the church aspect. Lots of people are Christians, attend church, and read books. I therefore sent copies to relevant magazines, asking them to review it. I contacted Christian bookshops, asking if they would stock it. I advertised it amongst the Christian community. Now I have to just wait, which is difficult, to see who will respond.
I took the school aspect, and advertised it amongst the parents at the local school. The story begins with a nativity play that goes disastrously wrong, so I felt it had appeal for both parents and teachers. It also means the book will be an ideal Christmas gift. I plan to contact teacher-training colleges and ask if they have a newsletter where the book could be reviewed or advertised.
I was asked if I would do a ‘book signing’ session at the local community cafe, and I advertised this amongst the parents at the local school. I will also ask if I can sell them at Christmas fairs.
I am the author and I have a locality (yes, obvious, I know, but we have to use what we can.) I contacted the editor of the free newspaper in our area and told him I had written a book. He interviewed me, took a photo (really embarrassing one) and wrote an article. Since then, lots of people have stopped me in the street, saying they have read about me/the book. The reporter said he would also cover the book signing.
I made some small posters, and most shops in the town were willing to display them.
I am attending a lunch in London, where the guest speaker is a famous author (the kind that has had her books made into television dramas.) I mentioned to the organiser that I had been inspired to start writing at a similar event and she then asked if I would also be willing to speak. (This will be terrifying – I will let you know how I get on.) I can provide comment on the other end of the spectrum – how someone who knows nobody famous can write a book, and what happens next,
Sometimes, while doing all this, I felt like a little boat on a big sea, being pushed in all directions by massive waves. It was all way outside my comfort zone. Prayed about it, and realised that if I never sell another book, in the grand scheme of things, does it matter? What was important was that I lived each day as well as I can. Husband also gave me some advice. He said that every ‘job’ that needed to be responded to, needed to be graded. They were either ‘not important’, or ‘important but not urgent,’ or ‘important and urgent’. I could therefore decide where in my week I would deal with them. In other words, I could take back control, not simply react to everything as it appeared in my emails. (I now have great fun when he asks if there any clean socks, telling him that they are in the ‘important but not urgent’ pile.)
I have seen some results already. A bookshop in Streatham agreed to take some books. They were willing to stock more books than I could post, so I had a very traumatic morning driving into London – so many people walking into the road, unexpected red lights and cars passing on all sides. Then when I finally reached the shop, there was nowhere to park. Nowhere. It was by far the most stressful part of being an author to date.
I will let you know how the other avenues develop as I get there. I still have a few ideas on my list, such as contacting the library and asking if they would like me to do a reading. Attending book groups, and explaining the journey to producing a book, or telling them about Hidden Faces and why I wrote it. Sometimes one idea leads naturally to another, sometimes something doesn’t work and I forget about it. I have a naturally compulsive character, when I meet friends in the street, I have to remember to greet them and listen to their news, not rush up with, “I have written a book!” I have to try and be a nice person while doing all this.
After the initial burst in August, my sales have become a steady trickle. Which is okay – it means I have time to edit Joanna (my next book.) I have nearly sold a quarter of the number I had printed (not bad for one month.)
One of my next moves is to enter into a trading agreement with a wholesaler. If I do this, Waterstones will sell my book (it is already listed in their online shop.) I can also approach other shops, further afield, and ask them to stock it. At the moment, I have seen their standard agreement, which asks for 60% discount on all books. This would mean I received less than my production costs. However, all big businesses are used to negotiations (little ones aren’t – I have found that if a small business asks an unreasonable mark-up, they will not budge!) I will try to lower them to something more realistic. One thing I have learnt is to set up my supply network, ie make sure people can actually buy the book, before I advertise it. I lost sales initially because local shops had sold out and took ages to restock, so it should have been in more than one shop in each town.
Of course, the best way to sell my book is for the people who have enjoyed it to tell their friends and family (NOT to lend it to them – which happens a lot of times and is very frustrating!) Some people have already told me they will be buying a second copy for someone for Christmas. A few people have already bought more than one copy, which is rather thrilling. Thank you everyone who has bought it – have you….?
Thank you for reading.
Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson is in a growing number of shops….and on Amazon:
Next week, I review someone else’s book. But things did not turn out as planned….