Selling My Books: David Ebsworth’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

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

I first met historical novelist David Ebsworth via our mutual publisher, SilverWood Books, and soon realised this British indie author, living in England and Spain, is a prolific and gifted author whose enthusiasm for the many periods he studies is infectious. He’s also highly regarded in historical fiction circles, being a finalist in the Historical Novel Society’s first ever awards for indie authors.

I’m delighted to be able to pin him down in one place for a moment to share his top tips for book marketing, as part of his blog tour to promote his latest novel, The Kraals of Ulundi.

Head shot of David Ebsworth

The historical novelist David Ebsworth

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.

David Ebsworth: Hi Debbie. That’s a really difficult question because, to be honest, I enjoy almost every aspect of book promotion. In general though. I agree with a comment that Helen Hollick made on your blog a while ago – that you mustn’t promote the book. As Helen says, you can always promote yourself as the person who wrote it but, personally, I prefer to focus on promoting the background, those things that sparked the story. And that lends itself very nicely to author events that are something massively better than the normal signings.

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

David Ebsworth: Plan ahead. First, look for relevant venues. That can be your favourite friendly bookstore, of course. But it might also be a library, a university, a pub/hotel with some link to the story. You’ll need to make a decent pitch to the venue, so a snappy message – a bit like a short press release – that will grab their attention.

Next, your potential audience. If you’ve got a newsletter list, for example, it helps to make a note on your contact details, if possible, of whereabouts people live, so you can target them when the event is going to be in their area.

Use all your social media to advertise the event. Google all the words associated with the event – the town, subject matter, etc – and compile a further list of possible contact details. Think laterally about this.

Prepare your presentation. Maybe some Powerpoint slides – but check that you’ve got access to the necessary equipment (and always be prepared for the technology to let you down!) Relevant props, like a pull-up banner or objects that might be talking points. And work on your script until it’s as polished as the book itself.

Once you know how the presentation will work, you can start to think about a press release. Make this as snappy as the original venue pitch. It’s massively easier to grab the attention of journalists if you’ve got a good story and you’re approaching them by name. A bit of research is usually enough to find this out, so think about phoning the newspaper or radio station.

Make sure that you have some way of verifying how many people are likely to attend. That way you can always “pull the plug” if it looks like being a flop. Finally, make sure to arrange some light refreshments if that’s appropriate and, when the event takes place, try to use the event not only to sell and sign, but also to gather contact details from any “new” folk who might turn up. Lots of thank yous to all involved, naturally.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

David Ebsworth: It’s the response of the audience really, I think. The buzz. Always great when they go away “surprised” and thoroughly entertained by the two or three untold stories that inspired your book. This is real contact with your readers. And there’s something very reassuring about being able to speak with confidence about those back-stories.

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

Cover of The Kraals of Ulundi

David Ebsworth’s latest novel

David Ebsworth: As examples, and apart from bookstores, I gave some presentations about the background to The Jacobites’ Apprentice in the Manchester pub where, in 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s English supporters gathered to plot their rebellion and, as it happens, where one of the main characters had his lodgings.

For The Assassin’s Mark, I’ve spoken at several meetings of the Co-operative Movement since the book, in part, involves a character who was a journalist for the Co-op’s weekly newspaper during the Spanish Civil War. I gave my presentation to several audiences in Spain itself, too.

And the story behind my third book, The Kraals of Ulundi: A Novel of the Zulu War, has been told at a library near the site where one of the main protagonists is buried, with extra invitations extended to local history groups, students, a South African restaurant and the French/South African Honorary Consuls. The presentations about Kraals have gone down wonderfully well since this year also marks 50 years since the release of that iconic move, Zulu, and the book has been widely marketed as “picking up the story of the Zulu War where Michael Caine left off.” So it’s got loads of “things you didn’t know about the film” elements and similar little-known facts. I also always make sure that I find some “local” link to the story.

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

David Ebsworth: Yes, I’d start earlier and be even more inventive about locations. As it happens, my next book, The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour, is set around the Battle of Waterloo, and I’ve already started to think about venues, particularly since next year is the 200th anniversary of this legendary conflict.

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

David Ebsworth: As I said, I like most of the promotional work, but I have to confess that the social media stuff is the thing with which I struggle most. It’s the time that it takes, I think, and the difficulty of working out whether it’s actually achieved anything. But recently I’ve been concentrating much more just on Twitter and Goodreads. A focus on just one or two bits of social media is, I think, better than a scattergun approach.

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?

David Ebsworth: I’m in the middle of completely revising my website,but I want it to be much more interactive. So I’ve started looking at the use of audio-clips for book extracts. Or better video book trailers.

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

David Ebsworth: The current “big thing” is a series of Virtual Book Tours for The Kraals of Ulundi. I had a really successful tour for Assassins back in January. But I was surprised how many people thought that I was really in Colorado one day and Bristol the next. It gave me the idea of organising blog tours that were a bit more “realistic” – hence I spent one week in August writing posts for bloggers in South Africa, scheduled and pitched as though I was actually in their locations. Then there’s this present week in the UK. And, finally, next week, a blog tour of the United States and Canada. Naturally, Debbie, I’ll keep you posted, and thanks for giving me this slot.

Debbie: Thank you so much for joining me here today, David, and bon voyage for the rest of your travels, whether virtual or otherwise!

You might also like to read the posts at the other stops on Dave’s tour – you’ll find links to all of them on his website, but here are his previous three stops on the British part of the tour:

If you’d like to support this prolific author’s next project, check out his crowdfunding project for The Last Battle of Marianne Tambour, set around the Battle of Waterloo, for which there will be 300th anniversary celebrations in 2015.


2 thoughts on “Selling My Books: David Ebsworth’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

    • Terrific, thanks! I’ve just been reading the posts in the earlier part of your blog tour, and they’re fascinating! I’ll add some links to the foot of my post as I’m sure others will want to read them too. Great discussion on Helen Hollick’s blog about the relationship of fact to fiction, and I love the list of little-known facts about the film Zulu on Lily’s blog.

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