Free Online Conference This Week Offers Top Tips for Indie Authors

A quick and easy tip to start your book marketing week: if you’ve not yet heard about IndieReCon, the free online conference run for authors, by authors, head over to its website now to register: http://www.indierecon.org. This week, from Wednesday … Continue reading

How to Sell Print Books via High Street Bookshops

Many self-published authors bypass the print route altogether, preferring to issue their books only as ebooks, which is quicker, cheaper and less technically demanding. However, it’s received wisdom that even if the ebook market is your primary goal, you’ll also … Continue reading

Selling My Books: Rudolph Bader’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares his or her favourite book promotion tip here.

Rudoph Bader photographed out of doors

Swiss author Rudolph Bader

I was introduced to Swiss novelist and former professor of literature Rudolph Bader by Helen Hart at SilverWood Books, after I’d admired his intriguing book cover. I then went on to read and review his book, which I very much enjoyed, and it was a pleasure to be able to meet him in person to interview him a couple of years ago. I’m delighted that he is now able to join us on the Off The Shelf blog to share his top tip for marketing his self-published novel, The Prison of Perspective.

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.

Rudolph Bader: Spend a Saturday in a bookstore. Prepare a small display of your book on a small table, possibly with a poster of the book cover and yourself, and a chair to sit down for your book-signing. Slowly walk around the store and approach customers politely and convincingly. Sell them your book by conviction (not coercion).

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

Rudolph Bader: By all means be well-dressed (not over-dressed), well-rested (so you feel good about yourself) and remain polite throughout. Be relaxed and smile naturally. Approach customers with a friendly question, such as, “Excuse me, please. Do you read novels?” Show them your book, let them read a page or two and involve them in a pleasant discussion. Let them see the qualities of your book.

Avoid all cheap sales tricks, but respect your customers. Use your natural sense of humour without getting too pushy. Don’t try to persuade them once you see they’re not interested or under time-pressure, but use genuine arguments if they show a certain degree of interest. Be relaxed, and let your charisma and the real qualities of your book convince them. Like this, about fifty per cent of the customers you approach will definitely buy your book, and you can sell more than 60 books on a good Saturday.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Rudolph Bader: I like talking about books, about literature, about the writing process, and I like talking to friendly people with similar interests. It gives me a sense of real achievement when customers like my book. Sometimes readers who bought my novel on a previous book-signing event come back to thank me for my book and the pleasure it has given them. Contact with my readers is the most rewarding experience indeed!

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

Full cover of The Prison of Perspective, showing back, front and spine

The cover which intrigued me to read Rudolph Bader’s book

Rudolph Bader: I have used this strategy with my novel, The Prison of Perspective (published in 2010), through 2010 and 2011.

Unfortunately, Waterstone’s Bookstores discontinued such events in mid-2011, so that was the end of that.

Silly really, but it was obviously due to complaints from customers about authors who were too pushy and pressed customers into a corner.

I only hope they will resume the old practice in time, they should vet their authors before allowing them to do book-signing events in their stores to prevent unpleasant situations for their customers. Then the scheme would work wonderfully, as indeed it did in my case. I made quite a name for myself among the branch managers throughout the South East of England.

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

Rudolph Bader: No, I would do it exactly the same way. It was so successful.

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

Rudolph Bader: Heaving my books from the nearest car-park to the store. And, of course, the rare unfriendly customer.

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?

Rudolph Bader: Taking part in discussions on literature in general and on my novel in particular on the radio or on TV (after all, I used to take part in such general discussions during my time as a university professor of literature).

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

Rudolph Bader: For me it is very important that the quality of my books should sell them, not my person. I passionately disagree with today’s sales strategies in the book market, where “big names” of authors are created by the PR people. For me, “bestsellers” are no proof of quality, while books by really good authors may of course become bestsellers. For me, the big question is: How can I promote my book without putting myself in the foreground too much? How can I publicise the real qualities of my books at affordable costs?

Debbie Young: Good questions, Rudolph, and I hope you’ll find some helpful answers both on this blog and in my book promotion handbook Sell Your Books!

Find out more about Rudolph Bader and The Prison of Perspective on his website: www.rudolphbader.com

FOR MORE TIPS FOR SELF-PUBLISHED & INDIE AUTHORS:

Selling My Books: Isabel Burt’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares his or her favourite book promotion tip here.

Headshot of Isabel Burt

The author Isabel Burt

I met Isabel Burt through our mutual friends at author services provider SilverWood Books, and it’s been my pleasure to have helped her with some aspects of her book promotion.

Like her fellow SilverWood author Edward Hancox, interviewed here last week, Isabel is focusing on bookshops for her top tip, but this time on a single branch of a chain store in Milton Keynes, where she recently held a book signing event to mark her launch. Her experience shows that contrary to popular belief, the door of the big chains is open to self-published authors with the right approach.  

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.

Isabel Burt: As a new author, the thing I have most enjoyed so far, in terms of promotion, was my first book signing at Waterstones, in Milton Keynes. It took a level of calm persistence to persuade a store to take an entirely unknown, debut children’s fantasy novel, but I am so glad I succeeded. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with the young readers and their parents about Toxics, and other novels they are currently reading. I think I learnt more than them, on the day! My tip, therefore, would be not to ignore the valuable and enriching experience of getting out and about – it is not about profit, but of other incalculable benefits.

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

Isabel Burt: How did I begin, with absolutely no experience? First I read your wonderful book, Sell Your Books!, and then having thrown it down, thinking I could never do any of those things, I left my writing cocoon, and began. I approached all local bookshops, either in person or by phone. It was pre-Christmas so this was a terrible time to begin, but there was no choice. I followed up by sending them further information, and then further calls or visits. Within a couple of months I had my book on the shelves at three stores, four libraries, and my first book signing!

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Isabel Burt: Why I choose this as my favourite, new promotional activity, is that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with the young readers and their parents about Toxics, and other novels they are currently reading. I think I learnt more than them, on the day!

Isabel signing books instore

Signing books at Waterstones, Milton Keynes

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

Isabel Burt: I chose to do book signings, for Toxics, because it is my first novel, and needs to be publicised within my local community, as well as through online social media. For the sequel, Oceans, I will not hesitate to continue building on any foundations with bookstores, as the whole booksigning event brought a feeling of resolution and reality to the experience of writing and publishing a novel.

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

Isabel Burt: How I might do things differently next time would be to promote the event further in advance. I only turned my attention to the first event about 10 days beforehand. I contacted my local radio station, and a local newspaper, but I see I could have made even better use of these two friendly and supportive avenues. The next store has asked for my posters as soon as possible, which surprised me, but had me realising that I should work further in advance, myself.

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

Isabel Burt: I know I am not alone in this, but I least like having to address the demands of social media, with respect to promotion as an author. I accept this is important and invaluable, and I do enjoy making new friends in the author community during the process, but I find it hard to find discipline and direction, sometimes, in this arena, in spite of the wonderful articles that exist to help authors do so!

Cover of Toxics by Isabel Burt

Having a beautiful book cover helps persuade store managers to host book signing events

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?

Isabel Burt: I know what I would like to now try, is teaching Creative Writing. alongside continuing to write regularly. Whilst not being a strictly promotional activity, I feel sure this will still quietly enhance my promotional activities, and build a strong foundation for me as a writer.

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

Isabel Burt: Sales and promotion are so important, but the energy that keeps me going, is simply my love of writing – most particularly for young readers. My own childhood was spent with a book glued to my nose from the moment I had finally mastered the hieroglyphs on the page. It still gives me a thrill to imagine I have taken a young reader away to the land of my story, if only for a few hours! I hope to finish the sequel, Oceans, this coming winter of 2014, which continues the story of Felicity and Reuben in their primitive, mystical Old World.

I will be in Waterstones, Market Harborough, Northamptonshire, on Saturday May 24th, signing copies of TOXICS, with great pleasure!

Find out more about Isabel Burt and her writing on her website: www.isabelburt.com.

FOR MORE TIPS FOR SELF-PUBLISHED & INDIE AUTHORS:

Selling My Books: Edward Hancox’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares his or her favourite book promotion tip here.

Ed Hancox speaking in Foyles Bookshop at the SilverWood Open Day

Edward Hancox speaking at SilverWood Books’ Open Day at Foyles, Bristol

I met Edward Hancox via SilverWood Books‘ Open Day at Foyles bookshop in Bristol in January, where he gave an excellent talk about how he crowdfunded the production of his first self-published book, Iceland Defrosted, a bestselling travelogue about his passion for that country and all things Icelandic. I’d read and enjoyed his book when it was first published, and had never met Ed in person before. Even so, I could tell straight away that he was a personable chap and very much at home in Foyles. So it was no surprise that his top tip for book promotion involves relationship building in bookshops. Over to you, Ed, and thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom with us all.

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.

Edward Hancox: Book shops. Don’t forget bookshops, and especially independent ones. The big chains might not even talk to you (or worse, one actually lied to me!), but I’ve found independent bookstores to be very supportive. My local one – Wenlock Books – has sold over 70 copies of my book. A book shop in central Reykjavík stocks my little book. I’m also stocked in cafés (can’t beat coffee and a good book) and a record shop. The high street isn’t dead – if you support retailers, you’ll be surprised how much they support you.

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

Ed's books on a bookshop shelf

Iceland Defrosted on a bookshop shelf

Edward Hancox: Easy. Go in and say ‘Hello’. Be polite. Buy something. Ask for an email address. Get in touch. Always offer sale or return. Keep in contact. Watch the magic happen

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Edward Hancox: I enjoy book shops, record shops and drinking good coffee. This is a great excuse to indulge in all three! I also get a huge kick out of seeing my book for sale, as an actual book, from a real shelf, in a physical location. Something that ebooks will never be able to compete with.

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

Edward Hancox: My debut book, Iceland, Defrosted is stocked in 10 shops now, and is doing very well. The support of independent shops has meant a huge deal to me.

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

Edward Hancox: No, I don’t think so. I have the contacts and  confidence now, which would make it much easier.

How about this title for an icebreaker in bookshops?

How about this title for an icebreaker in bookshops?

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

Edward Hancox: Reviews. Urgh. I hate them. I have  tens of wonderful reviews on Amazon for my book, but a single cutting, malicious review can wound me for days. I need to grow a thicker skin.

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?

Edward Hancox: Vine. It’s like Twitter but with 6 second videos. I’ve tried it, but not mastered it. I think it has huge scope and potential – I need to sit down and figure it out.

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

Ed's name on an event poster

Ed shares the billing with an Icelandic pop singer

Edward Hancox: I’m giving a reading at Left for Dead in Birmingham – the record shop I mentioned – on the 10th May. It’s worth mentioning, because I’m appearing with a singer/songwriter from Iceland who I admire hugely. She’s called Hafdís Huld and appears in my book, so the whole thing has a nice symmetry to it!

Debbie Young: That sounds very exciting, Ed. Have fun – and make sure you get a photo of her holding your book for publicity purposes! (I bet you’re going to give her a free signed copy…)

Find out more about Edward Hancox and his bestselling book on his website: www.icelanddefrosted.com.

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Girl Cop’s Case Study of a Successful Book Launch Event

Cover of Girl Cop, chicklit novel by Sandy Osborne, police officerIt’s been my privilege to be in at the birth of Girl Cop, Sandy Osborne’s terrific chick-lit novel. This feel-good tale of romance in the police force is given an extra dimension by its setting – the beautiful World Heritage City of Bath.

Sandy is a local police officer turned writer. I first met her last autumn, just before her debut novel was published. After enjoying an advance review copy of the book, I set up her author website to coincide with her pre-Christmas publication date. For the official launch, we had to wait a little longer – till mid-January at the prestigious Waterstones in Bath.

Despite having a demanding day job, a young family and the usual pressures of Christmas upon her, Sandy worked her regulation socks off to prepare for her big day. Was it worth all the hard work and sleepless nights? In the words of a slightly astonished senior bookseller at Waterstones, it was “the best attended local author book launch in my 25 years of selling books in Bath!” Very impressive – and that’s before I’ve mentioned that she sold over 100 books that night!

Girl Cop and Burmese Days on same shelf at Waterstones, Bath

Osborne & Orwell – police novelists reporting for duty!

Two weeks later, Sandy Osborne’s books are still flying off the shelves. Much to the author’s amusement, Girl Cop is now displayed in Bath Waterstones on the same shelf as the works of the most-discussed writer of the moment: George Orwell, in whose honour Penguin Books has just launched the national Orwell Day (21st January). By chance, George Orwell was also once a policeman, serving in the Burmese colonial force. This  experience inspired his own debut novel, Burmese Days. I’m sure that, like Orwell (one of my personal writing heroes, by the way), Sandy Osborne will have many more writing successes to celebrate.

Just about down from Cloud Nine now, Sandy has kindly agreed to share her experience in a guest post here, to help other writers engineer a great book launch event. So now, over to Sandy…

Sandy Osborne, author of Girl Cop

Sandy Osborne

OK – I had brazenly walked into Waterstones and asked if I could have a book signing for my soon-to-be released, self-funded rom com Girl Cop – The Life and Loves of an Officer on the Beat. It was mid November and I got a cool response from the events manager.

“We don’t do book signings any more,” she told me (too many weirdos apparently), “but we might be able to do a book launch.”

Well, I was a bit cool at that. A signing would have meant I would have an audience who didn’t already know about the book – a launch would be invited guests who did already know about it. But this was Waterstones in Bath and I wasn’t about to turn down any kind of publicity there. I said I was thinking about a date in January. January was fine: the run-up to Christmas was apparently too busy to consider and she immediately warmed to me.

January was fine with me as this would give me time to build up my marketing strategy. I wasn’t quite sure what that marketing strategy was going to be, but at least I had time to do it!

I then had the dilemma of whether to start selling the books before the launch or waiting to release it on the night. I made the right decision to release it before, as it made some good sales as Christmas presents. It made a particularly popular Secret Santa gift, being in the right price range too.

Waterstones were happy to lay on  soft drinks and nibbles, but I had to provide the wine. Well, my girlfriends wouldn’t go if there wasn’t any wine on offer! So I started shopping around and found an offer in Asda on some decent Australian. I held my breath and forked out for three boxes each of red and white wine. Gulp!

Then I turned my attention to my display. The cover of Girl Cop is shades of blue (of course), so I bought a large piece of navy blue crushed velvet material to use as a tablecloth. It looked stunning against the books. I fished out my old Dr Marten boots (the ones mentioned in the blurb on my fliers!) and buffed them up before putting them in the middle of the display surrounded by my books, fliers and bookmarks. Nice.

OK. Glasses hire. Free from Waitrose. More soft drinks and nibbles as a back-up to those Waterstones were providing. I was hoping for a good turnout!

Helium balloons would look nice, I thought, and they’d help create party atmosphere. I phoned around for quotes and when I told suppliers that I was donating to charities from the sales of Girl Cop, I got a special rate. I asked one of my charities for their balloons, which by my good fortune were navy, then I added sky blue and pearlescent white. Perfect.

This was starting to remind me of organising my wedding! Except I didn’t hassle the local press to attend that! The press gave me some coverage beforehand and although they couldn’t attend on the night, they  suggested sending a piece and a photo to them afterwards, which I have done.

Bath Waterstones winidow display for the launch of Sandy Osborne's Girl Cop

In the window of Bath Waterstones

A trip to Digiprint produced 20 copies of the cover to line the staircase to the first floor where the launch was taking place, some A3 posters, and launch invite fliers for an A-board outside the store on the night. Done.

The week before the launch I went to find the event manager again.

“Is there any chance I can have a window display please?”

No chance. Apparently Waterstones window displays are prescribed nationally.

“That’s a shame, because I have a life-sized cut-out of me in my police uniform.”

“‘Oh well,  in that case we might be able to do something.” came the reply.

I spent Saturday morning dressing my window in Waterstones Bath, no less!

I was worried my guests would arrive, buy a book, help themselves to a glass of wine and then be twiddling their thumbs, so I created three display boards. The first was all about my charity links with a mixture of materials that I had requested from the charities or had put together myself. Secondly, I compiled a storyboard about my publishing journey – how I  got started in the writing world and my ideas for the book. Finally, I did another about my career, from PE teacher, to policewoman, to writer, complete with hockey stick and truncheon!

I sent out invites via post, text, email and with my Christmas cards, and I followed them up in the week before the launch. I didn’t ask for RSVPs. I recruited four friends to meet and greet and run the bar.

As the day dawned I felt giddy with excitement and nerves. I had prepared a speech and ordered a bouquet of flowers for the mum of my late colleague whose collar number I had used as my love interest.

The glasses needed picking up, as did the balloons. I needed to get all my display boards in and all my props. With the assistance of my helpers, donation bowls and email collection lists were in place, and I managed to change into my black trousers and white shirt just  as the first guests started to arrive. This was it – it was really happening!

Well, the people just kept coming!

“The most well-attended local author launch in my 25 years as a book seller in Bath,” said the senior bookseller from Waterstones!

I had invited everyone I knew!

Whilst I was sat at the signing table, my son kept coming up to me and saying “Mum, this is immense! People are queuing for you to sign their books all the way down the stairs!”

I couldn’t believe it either. After bleating on for years to all my friends that I was writing a book, they all turned out to help me celebrate its eventual release!

Over 150 people turned out for me on a cold January evening and I sold over 100 books.

And they laughed in all the right places during my speech! Amazing.

Thanks, Sandy, for sharing your valuable experience. (Your speech, by the way, was masterful – plenty of laughs but not a dry eye in the house!)

And of course this is just the beginning for Sandy, who is now taking bookings for other author events, kicking off with a talk to the Ladies’ Lunch Club at the prestigious Bath Priory Hotel on Thursday 28th February. For more information about Sandy’s book, do take a look at her website: www.sandyosborne.com. And of course, like any author, Sandy will be very grateful for any reviews! (11 x 5* reviews on Amazon so far, and counting…)