How to Raise Your Profile by Submitting to Literary Magazines: Case Study of Amanya Maloba

Phot of Amanya in a bookshop

Entering competitions and submitting your work to magazines is a great way to raise your profile – if you’re successful! Otherwise it might sap your confidence and creative strength. But pick your targets carefully, and you have much to gain. … Continue reading

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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Selling My Books: Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’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 Lindsay and Debbie seated at a table chatting

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn chats to Debbie Young on the SilverWood Books stand at the London Book Fair 2014 (photo by fellow author Joanne Phillips)

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn is the author I must thank for inspiring this series of guest posts in the first place. I blogged a couple of months ago about her “Why I Write” series, in which she’d kindly included me (read that post here). 

I was pleased to be invited also to her most recent book launch, where Lindsay, an experienced teacher of English and creative writing, was clearly in her element. She entertained a packed hall of potential readers who between them bought nearly every copy of her books on sale there, including her previous novel.

It was therefore no surprise when she revealed that her favourite way to promote her books focuses on connecting with the readers in many different settings, as my interview with her reveals.

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.

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: My favourite book promotion tip is to find ways to engage directly with readers. This can be visiting book groups, talks at libraries, and I was once commissioned to write a short story for a particular reading group!

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

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: The talks in libraries have come about by various means. I’ll try to keep it brief and give a few examples. When I published Unravelling, I approached a library close to the college where I teach creative writing, (as I knew that would ensure at least a few people attended!), to ask if I could give a talk on it. I met an incredibly supportive librarian, who set up a brilliant event. About thirty people came; they asked lots of interesting questions, and I sold lots of books.

Cover of The Piano Player's Son by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

Lindsay’s second novel

When my second novel The Piano Player’s Son came out last year, I went to my local library to tell them about it, and they invited me to give a talk on 23rd April as part of their World Book Night celebrations. I was also invited to another library on 25th.

Recently, I was invited to take part in Warwickshire Libraries’ ‘Fantastic Fun with Words Fortnight’. I spoke at two separate libraries – on both occasions, several book groups had been invited – about my books and being a writer. Both were lovely evenings with wine, cake and, again, some great questions. Not only was I able to sell books, I was also paid to do those events!

As well as talks, I enjoy visiting book groups who have read one of my novels. This is a more intimate opportunity for readers to question you about your characters and their motivations. It’s especially rewarding when a particular character’s actions generates debate. At a group I went to recently, one of the members said ‘I’m talking about them as if they’re real people.’ I couldn’t resist replying ‘They are, aren’t they?’

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: First, after spending so much time alone with my characters and their stories, it’s wonderful to meet readers who know those characters, have shared in their lives, and have opinions about their actions. Second, by engaging with readers, I’m promoting myself as a writer. As well as discussing individual books, readers are always interested in the writing process: Where do you get your ideas? Do you write every day? Do you have to wait for inspiration? The best promotion for books is word of mouth, and if readers feel they have shared in your creative process, they are more likely to become your advocates.

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

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: As I’ve outlined in question 2, I’ve used it for both my novels. It’s probably most effective in the first year or so after publication, but when I discuss my most recent novel The Piano Player’s Son, I inevitably also talk about Unravelling which was published nearly four years ago.

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

Cover of Unravelling by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’s debut novel

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: I’m always open to suggestions for improving promotional activities – I don’t feel marketing is one of my strengths – but, hoping not to sound too complacent, I feel these activities have been successful.

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

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: I’m not a very good sales person. The thought of cold calling fills me with horror, so I don’t like anything that smacks of ‘selling’. In a crowded world, where so many seem to be shouting ‘Look at me’, ‘Buy me’, ‘Listen to me’, ‘Watch me’, my inclination is to hide away and write. But my books deserve better – there’s no point bringing them into this world and then abandoning them to their fate. So, I’ll keep trying to champion them.

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?

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: So far, I’ve resisted Twitter. Everyone says it’s great for writers. Last year, I even went on a day course on how to use it, but when I see all those tweets, my brain freezes over. I don’t think I can face it.

But something I haven’t tried and would like to do is Pinterest. As I live in a world of words, I’m attracted to the visual aspect of it. I think it would be interesting and fun – two words I definitely wouldn’t apply to Twitter!

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

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: After a difficult time with my next book (where I reluctantly had to come to terms with the fact that I had two narratives jammed into one), I’m now excited to be moving forward. The story I’ve decided to tackle first once again involves family relationships – like my two previous novels. It’s about the clash between personal ambition and family responsibility: in the current culture of self-fulfillment at all costs, and the prevailing wisdom that if you want something enough, you will achieve it, the story involves the fallout if the drive towards one’s own goal is pursued to an extreme. The provisional title of the novel is Phoenix.

Thank you so much, Debbie, for inviting me to share my experiences of promoting my work on your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions and remembering how rewarding the events I’ve described were. The positive side of promotion!

Debbie Young: Thank you for taking part, Lindsay, and I’ll look forward to the launch of Phoenix!

I’ve reviewed both of Lindsay’s novels on my author website – click the title to hop to the review:

To find out more about Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn and to read her always interesting and inspiring blog, visit her website: www.lindsaystanberryflynn.co.uk.

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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

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