Selling My Books: Bobbie Coelho’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Photo of Bobbie Coelho at book signing table

Getting ready to meet new readers

I first met the poet Bobbie Coelho at a SilverWood Books Open Day and was pleased to be invited to read and review her latest book, Reflecting the Light.

I was interested to learn that one of Bobbie’s reasons for publishing her poetry was to benefit the charity Parkinson’s UK, because she’d taken up poetry to help her come to terms with her own diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.

Bobbie’s poetry is very personal and touching, and her books look beautiful, with stunning cover photography of flowers exuding optimism and hope. I’m delighted to welcome Bobbie to the blog today to share her top tip for book promotion. 

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Bobbie Coelho: My favourite way of promoting my books has always been to talk about them to groups of people, to read some of them, and explain the thinking behind them. This is especially true now,since neither Waterstones or W H Smith will stock my book because they lose money on local authors.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Cover of Finding the Light by Bobbie CoelhoBobbie Coelho:  I gauge the audience and pick poems that I think they will like and a couple of challenging ones. I am very passionate about them. Most people have been impressed by the covers of my two books.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Bobbie Coelho: I like meeting people and listening to their stories too. My books are different in that they are being published for charity, in this case, Parkinson’s UK. I particularly like speaking to non-Parkinson’s groups because I can promote understanding of the condition.

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Bobbie Coelho: I really hate it when I ask if someone will consider putting a review on Amazon or the Silverwood site. They say yes, but don’t do it. If they don’t want to do it – be honest!

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Bobbie Coelho: I haven’t given books away yet as a promotional gesture, perhaps I will try that.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

cover of Reflecting the Light by Bobbie CoelhoBobbie Coelho: Reflecting the Light will be my last book. It has had mixed reviews, most people liking it. some not. Whatever, I am very proud of the book and I found it a good way to raise money for Parkinson’s. Some of my poems make you think and lots of people need to be reminded that it is always later than you think, so don’t put off telling the ones you love how much you care – and life is to be enjoyed.

Debbie Young: What a lovely positive note to end this interview – thank you very much, Bobbie.

For more information about Bobbie Coelho and her poetry, visit her page on the SilverWood Books online shop.Her books are available from SilverWood, Amazon and other online retailers.

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Selling My Books: Carol Cooper’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Carol Cooper headshot

The multi-talented, multi-tasking author Carol Cooper

I first met Carol Cooper via the Alliance of Independent Authors, of which we’re both Author Members, and soon discovered that as well as writing novels, she has a busy and successful career as a GP, a medical journalist for the UK’s top-selling newspaper, and lecturer to medical students at the prestigious Imperial College London. Oh, and she’s had lots of medical and healthcare books published too – phew! I thought I was busy till I met Carol…

Back to her burgeoning career as a novelistI really enjoyed her debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda (which I’ve reviewed here).

I’ve been very grateful to her for the support she’s given to my own book about diabetes, Coming to Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, (she’s given me permission to quote her review: “It’s a lovely uplifting little book, full of insight, wit, and practical know-how. I think it will appeal to anyone with Type 1 Diabetes and their family. Health professionals would also find it useful. The book is beautifully written. A little treasure as well as a ray of hope.”

She also beta-read a short story of mine about a GP, helping me get my facts right about an important plot point. “The Art of Medicine” is published in my new collection of flash fiction, Quick Change.

I’m therefore delighted that Carol’s somehow managed to find time in her busy life to stop by Off The Shelf to share her top tip for book marketing.

Cover of One Night at the Jacaranda

The new cover for Carol Cooper’s debut novel

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Carol Cooper: My favourite tip is based on exploring the world around my novel, which I think is advice I first heard from writer Jonathan Gunson.

So on my blog Pills & Pillow-Talk, I write occasional posts in which I let characters out of One Night at the Jacaranda to have new adventures.  Dan, Sanjay, Karen, and the rest of them are all fictional, but I know them pretty well by now so they’re friends.  It would be rude not to invite them round occasionally.

The posts are like some of the extra material you might get when you buy a DVD.  I can’t tell you how well they work to sell books, if at all, but I believe that as I’m selling almost exclusively online, then online is where I should concentrate my efforts.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Carol Cooper:  I write each post from a character’s point of view, in the third person.  Using the present tense makes the text feel more like a blog post and helps distinguish it from events in the book itself.  I’ll add some photos, which usually also find their way onto my novel’s Pinterest page (http://www.pinterest.com/drcarolcooper/one-night-at-the-jacaranda/).   As each one is a mini-chapter in that character’s life, it’s short like most of my posts. And I try not to let the characters interact too much. There’s no point giving the plot away!

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Carol Cooper: I enjoy it because it’s creative and it’s directly about the material in the book, so I don’t feel I’m giving up writing time for promotional activities.   It also means I can add a few topical touches.  There’s one post where GP Geoff visits his grandmother, who’s now so dotty that she’s put up Christmas decorations in the bathroom (it’s not Christmas).  He muses about a new online cognitive test, so I included a link to that test.  And in a post last September called Female, 38, Seeks Altruistic Single Male, Laure has read new research showing that men who do charitable deeds make more desirable partners.

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Carol Cooper: So far I’ve only used it for Night at the Jacaranda, but I’m looking forward to doing the same for the follow-up novel once I’ve finished it.  I don’t want to write any scenes that might end up in the story, or, even worse, contradict the story.  Of course, one can do much the same for non-fiction.  Say you’ve written a parenting title.  You could write a post on, for instance, keeping your toddler amused on a car journey.  As it happens, I have authored childcare books, but I wouldn’t actually do this on Pills & Pillow-Talk as I wouldn’t want my fiction and non-fiction sitting cheek by jowl on the same site.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Photo of large ornate outdoor clock

The clock in Marylebone, London, where the action kicks off at the opening of “One Night At The Jacaranda”

Carol Cooper: I suspect I would do much the same.  A friend of mine includes interviews with some of the characters, which is a good idea too.

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Carol Cooper: It eats into precious writing time (bet you’ve never heard that one before!).  I usually say I also dislike acting cold-calling or acting in any way like a salesperson as it’s far too brash, but the truth is that I’m not averse to stopping a woman I see in red heels, telling her that her shoes are just like the ones on the cover of my novel, and giving her a promotional postcard to prove it.  I think promoting a book is all about using and creating opportunities whenever you can, as long as it doesn’t feel icky.

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Carol Cooper: There are many activities that I haven’t perfected!   Next time I’d like a book launch.  As a traditionally published author, I never got book launches either.  Publishers tend to save their resources for books from big names – do I sound bitter?  Anyway I’ve seen the fun they can be, and of course you can post photos and blog and tweet about your launch, which all helps create a buzz.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Carol Cooper: I’m working on the follow-up to One Night at the Jacaranda, which will also be set in London.  Then there’s the prequel crying out for attention too.  It will go back about 15 years, to when Geoff was a medical student.  I also have plans for a novel partly set in Alexandria, where I grew up, and it probably won’t be chick-lit.

Debbie Young: I’ll look forward to reading both of those, Carol. I never knew you grew up in Alexandria – how interesting! Thanks for sharing your favourite book marketing advice here today, and good luck with all of your many books.

Carol Cooper: Thank you so much, Debbie, for inviting me onto your blog to share my thoughts.  I’ve really enjoyed your questions.

Debbie Young: I’m sure you’ll want to find out more about Carol Cooper and her work – so here’s a link to her website again so you can hop straight over there: www.pillsandpillowtalk.com

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Selling My Books: Alison Morton’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Headshot of Alison Morton

Alison Morton, thriller writer

I first met thriller writer Alison Morton online via our mutual publisher, SilverWood Books, and soon realised this British indie author, living in France, is a veritable whirlwind.

With endless energy and self-belief, she tirelessly promotes her fast-expanding Roma Nova alternative history series. I’ve read all three books in the series and am looking forward to the fourth.

I’m delighted that she’s somehow managed to find time in between launching book three and finishing book four to stop by Off The Shelf to share her top tip for book marketing.

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Alison Morton: Talking to real people. Although I’m a full-on social media enthusiast, and adore making book trailers on YouTube or blogging about Roman life, I love face-to-face contact at launches, fairs, fetes, libraries, conferences or in the airport lounge!

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Alison Morton: I carry Roma Nova – the imaginary country where my books are set – in my head so I’m ready to talk about it, and its heroines and heroes, at the drop of a sestertius. I was often told off at school for being a chatterbox…

Array of three of her postcards

Alison’s promotional postcards – collect the set!

On the practical side, I carry A6 size postcards with me for each book in my handbag. They carry the shiny front cover image on one side and the book blurb with publisher details and prices on the plain matt reverse.

The cards were produced by my publisher, SilverWood Books, and I’m already on my second thousand for Inceptio, my first book. I give them out freely so that people have a tangible reminder of my book well after they have stopped talking with me. I’ve heard at business seminar that 62% of people retain paper-based information about a product they’re interested in. I also use the postcards in goody bags for conferences, to put on chairs at a talk venue, to leave at reception desks. But I like handing them to people best.

Talking to people, I keep to the same basic information, but tailor it to the audience. For instance, a group of romantic novelists generally wants more about personal and emotional relationships, and a history group will be looking for research and the alternative historical development of Roma Nova.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Alison Morton: The instant feedback! It’s still a source of wonderment to me that people are happy to let me burble on about my books, but I’ve been told that they love my enthusiasm. I’ve had wonderful conversations about the Roma Nova school system, religion, characterisation, how do I know all about special forces procedures, how did I make Carina and Conrad so complex, and are the Roma Nova books feminist? (Of course!)

So far, and I stress the ‘so far’, I haven’t met anyone who’s been rude or cross at these personal meetings…

As a reader, I love author talks and nearly always buy the book!

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Alison and Sue in armchairs discussing Successio

Sue Cook interviews Alison Morton about her latest novel, “Successio”

Alison Morton: All three books.

None of my books is going to be the Great British Novel; I write speculative thrillers that appeal to many different types of reader from 17 to 85.

I think it’s important to show yourself to your readers and the book-buying public. If you have confidence in your story and have produced a top-notch physical book, then it’s so much easier. I launched Inceptio and Perfiditas at Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells and gave a talk about Inceptio at the library in the village where I lived for 24 years.

For Successio, I launched in London just three weeks ago with the broadcaster Sue Cook interviewing me and followed up with a talk at the main Tunbridge Wells library.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Alison Morton: That’s easy – no!

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Alison Morton: The time it eats up when I could be writing the next adventure, but that’s a little precious of me because I have to let people know about the book I’m promoting.

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Alison Morton: The one is guaranteed to work. Seriously, book promotion is about trying all kinds of things. Some readers want more hard information, others love to hear about motivation. Some love collecting cards, pens, badges and bookmarks from a ‘live’ event, others enjoy interacting on social media. And they buy a book for as many different reasons.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Alison talking to a group of readers, all seated, theatre-style

Alison Morton speaking at Tunbridge Wells public library

Alison Morton: Giving talks and chatting face-to-face is also about giving back to your readers, undiscovered readers and other writers. This is why I’m doing talks at two conferences this summer: the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society Conference.

Now that Successio is out, I need to step back from strong promotion and get on with writing book four, working title Aurelia, featuring the early years of one of the main secondary characters form the first three books. She’s tough and resilient when we meet her in Inceptio, but she had a pretty rough ride when younger with a particularly nasty traitor targeting her…

Debbie Young: I can’t wait to read this one – Aurelia is my favourite character! Thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to take part in this interview, Alison, it is a joy to share your enthusiasm and commitment with my readers.

I’ve reviewed all three of Alison Morton’s novels, and you’ll find links to them and many other book reviews on my author website here: http://authordebbieyoung.com/reviews/directory-of-book-reviews/.

The books are quickly gaining a huge and enthusiastic audience around the world. The first two have just been awarded the prestigious Indie Brag Medallion and were shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s 2014 Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Wow!

For more information about Alison Morton, visit her author website here: http://www.alison-morton.com.

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Selling My Books: Deborah Jay’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Head and shoulders of Deborah JayMy first encounter with novelist Deborah Jay was on Twitter, and I subsequently discovered that she also writes non-fiction equestrian books under the name Debby Lush – so she has plenty of experience to draw on for today’s top tip – something easy to apply, whatever genre you write in. 

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Deborah Jay: My favourite is a simple piece of passive marketing: adding the most effective back matter to each of your books. In other words, it’s what you add at the end of your book AFTER you’ve typed ‘The End’.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions.

Kindle screen with note from author Deborah Jay: Ideally, the first thing a reader should see, following the end of the book proper, is a brief ‘thank you’ note from the author, with a request to leave a review. Something along the lines of:

“Thank you so much for spending your time reading my words. If you liked what you read, would you please leave a short review on the site where you purchased it? Just a few lines would be great. Reviews are not only the highest compliment you can pay to an author, they also help other readers discover and make more informed choices about purchasing books in a crowded space. Thank you!”

If you tailor your ebook individually for a specific retailer, you can even insert a direct link to where you want your reader to leave a review.

Following this, add contact information (again, using direct links) for your website and social media sites, details (cover and blurb) of your other available books, and an author bio – many readers like to know more about their favourite authors and where they can find them on the web.

About the author pageFinally, if this book is part of a series, you might also include the first chapter of the next book – a great way to get readers to go and buy the next book immediately.

You can play around with the order of these items, but the review request should always be right up there in a prominent position.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Deborah Jay: I’m a big fan of passive marketing, because it doesn’t take up too much time! Once you’ve written your back matter for one book, most of the wording can just be added to each subsequent release with little change. Admittedly you need to update each book, every time you publish a new one, (by adding cover and blurb of each new release) but that’s minimal time input compared to many marketing efforts.

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Kindle screen showing about the next book detailsDeborah Jay: Every book and all the time! That’s the joy of passive marketing, and I know that many of my reviews have come about as a result of adding this simple, polite request.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Deborah Jay: Not now. I have refined what I add over a few versions, changing author photos and cover pictures to look better in print books as well as ebooks, and I’ve learned not to mention Amazon in a version that is going to Apple, as they simply refuse to publish if you name the competition!

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Deborah Jay Like everyone, I think – the amount of time it eats up.

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Deborah Jay: I’m currently trying to understand a bit more about how Pinterest works as a marketing tool. I enjoy making boards and sharing pictures, I’m just clueless so far as to how to use it.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Deborah Jay: I’m in the middle of writing the second book in my epic fantasy series, so no immediate release news, but I’ve just added a newsletter sign up page to my website so that I can keep eager readers up to speed. I love to meet new authors and readers on my blog, http://deborahjayauthor.com/ which comprises a mix of book spotlights, blog tours and reviews in my genres (fantasy and SF) with occasional informative posts on indie publishing subjects. All visitors welcome!

Debbie Young: Thanks so much for taking part today. Lots of luck with your new book!

SPECIAL OFFER: This weekend (21st-22nd June 2014), Deborah Jay’s novel The Prince’s Man is just 99p on Amazon! It’s been described as “James Bond meets Lord of the Rings” – what’s not to love about that? Hop over here to snap it up.

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Selling My Books: Anna Belfrage’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Head shot of Anna Belfrage

The novelist Anna Belfrage

I first met the Swedish novelist Anna Belfrage via her publisher SilverWood Books. She’s a vibrant, prolific author, fun to be with and full of energy, as you’ll guess from her interview below. She homes in on her excellent blog and blog tours as her favourite way of promoting her historical time-slip novels.

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Anna Belfrage: I must come quite clean and admit that the promotional part is the one I find most difficult. I am never sure there is a correlation between being active on FB, Twitter and blogs and any sale of books.

The activity I enjoy the most is to maintain my own blog: www.annabelfrage.wordpress.com (I rather enjoy being able to share my ramblings about everything from history to the universe with people) but from a promotional perspective I believe that being hosted by book-review blogs is one of the more efficient ways of getting your name – and book – out there. Accordingly, I am a big fan of virtual book tours.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Anna Belfrage: Since some years back, I had been following the tours arranged by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and once I’d worked up the nerve, I approached Ms Bruno who runs this service and asked her to arrange a tour for the second book in The Graham Saga, Like Chaff in the Wind. My role was restricted to writing guest-posts and replying to various interview questions, and I found this to be a perfect balance between what I CAN do (write) and what I need someone else to handle (the actual organising of the tour, contacts with various blogs, etc)

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Anna Belfrage: Enjoy and enjoy… It’s actually quite nerve-racking, as I never know beforehand if the reviews are going to be good or not. As a fellow writer, I am sure you understand the review-angst, right? Once the tour is in full swing – and especially if the reviews are favourable – the tour gives me opportunities to tweet and share reviews, posts and interviews, thereby increasing exposure.

Debbie Young: With my next book about to come out this weekend, Anna, I know exactly what you mean there about nerves! Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Cover of Like Chaff in the Wind

Book 2 in the Graham Saga

Anna Belfrage: I’ve used it for books 2, 3, 4 and 5 of The Graham Saga, and will continue using it for any future book I publish.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Anna Belfrage: I am doing it for the next book, Revenge and Retribution – in August. But this time, I’m combining it with a Book Blast that showcases the entire Graham Saga. A Book Blast is a promotional activity where you have bloggers highlighting your book(s), in some cases with give-aways, in others just by posting the cover and the blurb. It increases visibility of your book(s).

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Anna Belfrage: I find the self-advertisement part very difficult. “Yoohoo, lookie, lookie here – I’m Anna and I’ve written a BOOK. Please buy it and like it.” 

This is to some extent due to my Swedish background – in Sweden one does NOT toot one’s own horn – but also because I find it very difficult to consider my books THAT important in the overall context of things.

So yes, I write good books, I write entertaining reads, I write historically well-researched novels that are set in the 17th century and have a wonderful protagonist couple. He’s a die-hard Scottish Presbyterian, she’s a time traveller, and they should never have met, what with her being born three centuries after him. But fate had other ideas, and so here they are, incapable of considering life without each other.

There is plenty of action, plenty of romance, quite a lot of steamy bits, but seriously, will my books make the world a better place? Bring about world peace? Nope – and that makes me somewhat embarrassed to drown the internet with tweets and postings about my marvellous books.

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Anna Belfrage: I am rather curious about book trailers. I’m not sure who watches these trailers except for other authors, but some are definitely very titillating and hook my interest completely. I think that if one has a good trailer, it can heighten awareness re the book.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Cover of Revenge and Retribution

Book 6 in the Graham Saga

Anna Belfrage: Well, as I mentioned above, the sixth book in The Graham Saga, Revenge and Retribution, is imminent – it will be released on July 1st. If you’re into a book that covers betrayal, death, retribution, love, abduction and time travelling, it may be just up your street. I am personally very attached to this instalment of The Graham Saga – to my husband’s amusement I cry abundantly every time I read it, and he will gently point out that I’ve written it and read it like a hundred times, so I shouldn’t be all that surprised at all the heart-wrenching stuff that happens, should I? Stupid man…

Also, this time round I’m going to try something entirely new regarding promotion. I have decided to use a PR firm to help me plan a short campaign around the book, and I am quite curious as to what the fall-out will be. I am fortunate in that the earlier books of the series are earning enough to finance this marketing gamble, so please keep your fingers crossed. And if you want, I can drop by in some months’ time and share my conclusions with you!

Debbie Young: I’d love that, Anna – just tip me the wink when you’re ready to share! And thanks so much for taking part today. Lots of luck with the new book!

Anna Belfrage is the author of five published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on Aamazon, Facebook and on her website.

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Selling My Books: Jane Davis’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Photo of Jane with a copy of her book and a glass of champagne

Jane Davis celebrates the launch of her latest novel

I first encountered Jane Davis through two other indie author friends, Dan Holloway and Rohan Quine, when they featured on her blog, and met her for the first time in real life at the London Book Fair last month. We’ve become good friends via the internet, swapping tips,connections and opportunities, which funnily enough chimes precisely with what she has to say in this interview now.  

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could be the one you enjoy most.

Jane Davis: I work with a very limited marketing budget, but if I were to isolate the single thing that has worked best for me in terms of expanding my network, it would be interviewing other authors for my blog. Initially, I’m embarrassed to say, I was thinking single-mindedly. I wanted to increase traffic to my website, in the hope that, while learning more about their favourite authors, readers might discover my books. (Similar to what I’m doing here, Jane – no problem with that, it’s definitely a win-win situation!)

And so, after my novel I Stopped Time appeared in The Guardian’s top 30 reader recommended list for 2013, I tracked down all those authors whose names appeared alongside mine. Authors like Linda Gillard, JJ Marsh and Rohan Quine. Most were extremely pleased to hear from me and I think only one turned me down, but that was because he was too busy.

For most promotional marketing activities, it is difficult to measure results, because there is almost inevitably a time lag. Not so with the author interviews. I soon found that authors I interviewed were returning the favour. Reviews appeared. Recommendations. A simple ‘I am currently reading’ post on Facebook. Joanna Penn calls this ‘Social Karma’ and it really does seem to work.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Jane Davis: If I have read a book written by an author, or if the interview is quite a coup, I draft a personalised question set. If I don’t know an author’s work (and I’m afraid I don’t have time to read all of the books that are the subject of the interviews), then I send out my standard question set (which is a document I am constantly refining, based on trial and error) with a set of written instructions.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Jane Davis: Even if you have a creative writing MA, the only way to learn how to write a novel is by doing it. I wrote my first novel for the sheer hell of it. I wasn’t aware that there were any rules. It was only when I began submitting my work to structural editors and agents that I was told ‘But you can’t do that!’ And every time I was told that no-one was accepting books written in the first person, I discovered a new novel that was written in the first person. Every time I was told that you can’t switch point of view, I found authors who did just that. And so I have found myself at home among the rule-breakers.

I find it fascinating to learn other writers’ approaches. Indie authors are refreshingly honest about their successes and their failures. What drives them on. Their inspirations. And, of course, there’s the techie side, which can be hard work for a luddite like me. I have picked up a number of hints along the way – even if it’s that I don’t have to be doing all of this stuff myself.

Best of all, on arriving at the London Author Fair, standing in the coffee queue, I had struck up a conversation with a trade-published author, and people kept on coming up and introducing themselves. They recognised me. My new author friend’s reaction was amazement. ’How do you know all of these people?’ When I was trade published I also felt very isolated, so I empathised. But the answer is very simple. It doesn’t take an awful lot of effort to reach out. Online friendships are the strangest things. The London Book Fair felt like a reunion with old friends, even though I’d never actually met some of the authors before.

Since then, I am now being approached with requests and offers rather than the other way round. And they’re not just coming from other authors. I have had requests for book talks. I’ve actually been asked to speak as a social media ‘expert’, which seems extraordinary to me! The point is that by increasing my online presence, I have made myself visible. And, as we all know, visibility is key.

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Jane Davis: To be honest, it has all picked up very quickly. I launched A Funeral for an Owl in November last with very few fireworks. I had lost a lot of money on a book launch the summer before and simply didn’t have money to burn. Save for a price promotion (which I advertised on all of the free sites) and a Goodreads Giveaway, I relied on my existing network – family, friends, beta readers. This included Cleo Bannister (who blogs as Cleopatra Loves Books), a reader I met at a library talk. She contacted me afterwards to say how much she enjoyed my writing, so I invited her to join my team of beta readers. Cleo has been very generous in promoting my books ever since, but I had very few other interviews.

The timing of the launch of An Unchoreographed Life has been a very happy accident. This time around, I had seven interviews lined up, several of which have been re-posted by other bloggers. Of these, my favourite has been with Dan Holloway, which you can read here. An interview with him is like gold dust.

Covers of all of Jane Davis's books

Jane’s complete works – so far!

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Jane Davis: Tomorrow? I’m still in the middle of this one. Seriously, though, I do feel as if everything I have been building on is coming together. After my fifth release, the books are starting to sell each other.

Apart from reaching out to other authors, my focus is nurturing readers I hope to turn into ‘super-fans.’ If a reader has reviewed more than one of my books in the past, I might contact them and ask if they would like a free paperback. If your marketing budget is low, you are absolutely reliant on reader recommendations. 79% of readers still rely on recommendations from friends. A thank you, an acknowledgement in the books, an invitation to become a beta reader, a preview copy… most of these things cost very little. I’m told that if you have 1,000 super-fans, you never need to advertise.

Ideally, I must admit that I would have re-launched my website, which uses old technology and isn’t optimised for mobile phones and tablets. I thought it would be a simple job, but it isn’t. Swings and roundabouts…

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Jane Davis: It eats into my writing time. I used to see some of what I did – social media especially – as a waste of time. Now that I’m starting to see results, I realise it isn’t. The difficult is that if you adopt a dandelion clock approach, and when results aren’t immediate, it’s difficult to tell which activity has worked for you. Two years ago, I wrote to all the Surrey libraries asking if they were looking for authors to do book talks. I heard nothing. This year, I have three library talks lined up. The truth may be that results can’t be attributed to any single thing. If potential customers have to see your name in six different places before they buy, the same may be true of other people who can help you. My advice is to try everything.

Actually, I think the worst thing about promoting your books is saying ‘It’s £8.99.’ I have no idea why. I’m selling quality products. They look beautiful. They have been professionally edited. So why is that so hard?  

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Jane Davis: I am not a natural risk taker, so I haven’t tried advertising on BookBub or any of the more expensive sites. Now that I have some solid reviews behind me, it might be the time to try, but I’m afraid that any substantial financial outlay is a problem for me. If I can’t see a break-even situation, I usually have to politely decline.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Jane Davis: There’s lots in the pipeline. A piece in Surrey Life Magazine June issue, out now, folks!) A possible roadshow with a bookshop. The library talks I’ve already mentioned. And writing the next book, of course. That has to be slotted in somewhere…

Debbie Young: Thank you, Jane, for that insight into how you promote your books – and thank you too for generously sending me two of your novels to read and review. I’ve just recommended I Stopped Time to the Historical Novel Society book group that I attend in Bristol. It’s a very topical book to read right now because part of it is set in the First World War, showing its impact on the lives of ordinary people.

 

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