Selling My Books: Atulya Bingham’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Photo of Atulya Bingham with her book

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog I first met Atulya Bingham through the Alliance of Independent Authors, of which we’re both author members, and was impressed … Continue reading

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

Head shot of David Ebsworth

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, … Continue reading

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 (   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:


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:

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:


How to Boost Sales of a Series: Price the First One Low

Alison Morton with paperback copies of Inceptio

Today’s book marketing tip is inspired by a message I’ve just had from my novelist friend Alison Morton. She’s cutting the price of her first book in the run-up to the launch of its sequel. Now, I’m usually loathe to … Continue reading

Does Book Marketing Begin at Home? How Author Relatives May Help You Promote Your Self-Published Book

Author Anne Renshaw

Like mother….

Author Joanne Phillips

…like daughter

With so much talk in the news lately about the rights and wrongs of parents helping their children get a step up on the career ladder, I wondered what difference it makes to an author to have a parent who writes.

I couldn’t quiz the two sets of writing relatives that first sprang to mind – Charles Dickens and his great-granddaughter Monica Dickens, Anthony Trollope and his descendant Joanna  – on account of the elder of each pair not being available for interview. Instead I asked another author whose name popped up in my Amazon search for Ms Trollope – the lovely Joanna Phillips, author of Can’t Live Without and The Family Trap. Her mother, Anne Renshaw, recently launched her own debut novel, A Grave Inheritance. I’m delighted to share their responses below.

Q) Having followed your writing career, Jo, since before you published your first novel, I was excited to learn that there was another novelist in your family – your mum! Do you discuss your writing together or do you operate independently?

Joanne: We do discuss our writing and have for years, bouncing around ideas for plot lines and characters. I’ve always valued my mum’s opinion and she’s a great listener – ideal for when you just want to hear yourself talk through an idea, which may well come to nothing. But in terms of the actual writing, we do operate independently. I don’t show my writing to anyone until it’s ready for beta readers, but I will sometimes ask for advice from my mum on various aspects of the story.

Anne: Joanne and I discuss our ideas and book titles, and discuss whether a main character would be best written in the first person for greater impact.

Q) Although your book was published first, Joanne, who was the first to actually start writing a novel?

Joanne: Mum wins hands down on this one! She’d been writing long before I was born 😉

Anne: I began writing a children’s story for Joanne and my eldest daughter Dawn when I was in my late twenties. In serial form, each story had the same four main characters, a teenage boy and his younger sister, the boy’s best friend and his uncle. They had a Saturday job helping the uncle clean his ramshackle old house, full of antiques, and had adventures through a large gothic style mirror they found under wraps and hidden on the top floor. The stories were entitled Curio’s Magic Mirror.

Joanne: I remember that! And I still think you should write and publish it!

The authors Anne Renshaw and Joanne Phillips (seated) with big sister Dawn

Authors on the sofa, with Jo’s big sister Dawn

Q) Were you both keen writers from your school days, or have you come to it later in life? 

Joanne: I loved English at school, and I’ve always loved inventing stories. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have imaginary conversations in my head! I listen to my daughter now (she’s five) acting out both sides of a conversation when she plays, and I realise that what I do is just an extended version of this, and that it’s something I’ve always done. I had good comments and grades from my English teachers, but I don’t remember creativity in writing being actively taught at school, not the way it is now. Even at five my daughter is learning about setting and structure of stories! I always knew I wanted to write – and was told quite often how difficult it was to make a living from writing, which was one of the reasons I went into hairdressing. University wasn’t on my radar at sixteen, but now – at 43 – I’m doing an MA in Creative Writing and making a nice income from royalties, even after only a year of being published. So I guess the short answer is, my love for writing was always there, but I’ve only managed to realise my dream recently.

Anne: Yes. English was my best subject. My family were great readers (still are). Of course, when I was a young girl, television had only recently come on the scene, and I remember it being a momentous moment when my father came home with a small black and white TV.

Q) I assume you both write under your married names, although I suspect many of your readers will know that you are related. With that wonderful thing that is hindsight, do you think it would have helped you to sell more books if you’d written under the same surname, or did you consciously decide against that, to ensure you were considered on your own terms? – a tricky challenge for the children of famous people!

Joanne: Well, my maiden name is Tasker – Mum remarried, so Renshaw is her married name now, and Stephenson her maiden name. I did think of using Tasker, though – I think it’s a very striking name – but the problem is, I just don’t feel like Joanne Tasker any more. I also considered a pseudonym, but figured I had enough identity problems without confusing things even further 😉

Anne: This was never discussed. Joanne is her own person, and I don’t think it would have helped her sell more books. Her first novel, Can’t Live Without, was a huge success long before mine was published.

Q) Although your debut novels were in different genres – Jo’s a light-hearted contemporary women’s novel, Anne’s a mystery spanning a century – it strikes me that you are now converging, with Jo’s next book to be a “cosy mystery”. Is that the case, or will Anne’s next novel be digressing into a different genre?

Anne: Definitely not. My next novel is also crime/mystery with an element of historical. A few characters, Amelia Farrell and DCI Peter Montrose, from A Grave Inheritance contribute, and it is mainly set in the same vicinity.

Joanne: Yes, I’d agree Mum’s books are very different from mine. I don’t really do historical, but I am excited about the mystery element in my next book. After that, I’ve got plans for all sorts of genres – I’m going to be a hopper, I think!

Q) How has it helped you to be related to each other? Do you share social networks, retweet each other, share best practice, etc or do you work in isolation from each other?

Joanne: Oh, I do everything! 😉 Only joking. Mum has come to the world of social media late in the game and is still getting used to how it all works. She does retweet me and share my books with her friends and contacts, which is fantastic. I tend to help with the more complicated stuff, for example I set up a free promotion for Mum recently, listing her book on all the relevant sites ahead of time. I think because I went into publishing first, I’m always one step ahead and happy to share what I’ve learned. More than happy – it’s a privilege to be so involved in my mum’s career as a writer because I know more than anyone what it means to her.

Anne: We work (write) in isolation from each other. I’m addicted to Joanne’s blog though, and I have re-tweeted on occasion.

Q) As you’ve been working in different genres until now, has it helped you to “confess” to being related, or does it confuse or irritate readers who expect your books to be very similar?

Joanne: That’s a good question, and I don’t really know if it has or not. I know that lots of my readers and loyal blog followers bought Mum’s book, and many of them have absolutely loved it. I think it helps that the cover styles are quite different (even though my cover designer, Chris Howard, did them all), and the blurbs make it clear what the reader is getting.

Anne: It could be irritating for one of Joanne’s readers to buy my book expecting it to be in the same genre, and vice-versa. The information given on the back of the paperbacks and on Amazon enables readers to check first to see if it is for them.

Q) Your both being authors is a gift of a story to local newspapers and radio stations, particularly if you live geographically close to each other. Have you milked the publicity opportunities here yet?

Joanne: We haven’t, Debbie, and we should be ashamed of ourselves! Really, it’s just down to time – there is so much to do and so little time. Since Mum launched her book, I’ve published the follow-up to Can’t Live Without and have been busy promoting that and now I’m working flat-out on the first of the Flora Lively mysteries. I will get around to writing some press releases from that very angle… one day. Maybe we need to pool our resources and hire a publicist to do some of this stuff 😉

Anne: I haven’t yet, no. I’ve had a lot of ill health since January, and also a house move, so everything has been put on the back burner, so to speak. I am intending to send a press release to our local newspaper soon, and it would be great it Joanne and I could share this opportunity.

Joanne: Well, I’m happy to delegate all that to you 😉

Q) Do you both share the same tastes in your own reading matter? Can you please each name your favourite authors for relaxing reading; the writers who are your greatest influence; the book you’d most like to have written yourself.

Joanne: My favourite authors for relaxing reading are Anne Tyler, Linda Gillard and Edie Clare, and the writers who have influenced me most are Anne Tyler, Carole Shields and V S Naipaul. The book I’d most like to have written myself is definitely A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. To me, this is the perfect novel, and was the inspiration for my wanting to become a novelist.

Anne: I love mysteries. Historical, adventures and crime. My favourite authors are Nora Loft, Bryce Courtney, Sebastion Barry, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and of course, Joanne Phillips!

Q) Let’s play “inheritance books”! I am frustrated when my ten year old daughter resists the books that I most enjoyed in my childhood, though she often takes an interest in them once I’ve stopped trying to get her to like them. (She’s come round to Alice in Wonderland and Teddy Robinson after some resistance; I’m still working on The House at Pooh Corner and  The Moomins!) Anne, which of your favourite books have you tried to encourage Jo also to love (whether now or when she was a child)? Jo, if you could choose just one book that you’d like your own daughter to read and treasure, which would that be?

Joanne: Tough question! One of my favourite books is Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman, and I would love for my daughter to read and enjoy this as much as I have many times. But really, all I would want to pass on to her is a love of reading, and the urge for creative endeavour, whatever field or area she felt inspired in. I couldn’t assume she might enjoy something just because I did, and often children will reject something wonderful just because you like it! But if she can discover the joy and escape to be found in fiction, I’ll be a happy mummy.

Anne: Joanne loved Enid Blyton’s books as a child, and I never had any difficulty getting her to read and love books. I haven’t tried to encourage Joanne to read a specific book. We have different tastes in literature.

Authors Anne Renshaw and Joanne Phillips

Celebrating each other’s successes

Q) What advice would you pass on to other writers who have another author in their family?

Joanne: Be supportive but not competitive. Recognise your differences and embrace them – there is more than one way to do something well, or right. Remember you are not necessarily going after the same readers, but even if you are it’s fine!

Anne: Value the support and motivation you give to each other.

Q) Are there any other writers lurking in your family that I don’t know about? And are there any signs a younger generation of writing talent in your family?

Anne: My mother (who passed away in 2008 aged 102), loved to write poetry. I have a little book with all her poems in which I treasure.

Joanne: My mother-in-law has always written, and she has a novel I’ve tried to convince her to self-publish. My mum is proof that age and technical know-how are no barrier to a successful indie career, but not everyone is as brave 😉 And yes, my daughter is definitely showing signs – she’s already written, and illustrated, her first book called The Three Hedgehogs! She goes to ‘book making’ club at school once a week, and really gets it that I’m an author.

Q) It has just struck me that the theme of moving house features in all of your books, both of you – A Grave Inheritance starts with a removal, Can’t Live Without & The Family Trap feature relocation and estate agents, and I gather Flora Lively runs a removals business! Do you share nomadic genes?

Joanne: Wow, what an amazing observation, Debbie! Yes, we do have nomadic genes, I think. I’ve moved house many times, Homes Under the Hammer is my favourite TV programme, and I’m fascinated by the whole moving and starting afresh thing. But I’d never noticed the theme before. And the removal business really interests me, how you come into contact with people in such a personal but transient way. Expect many more novels exploring these themes!

Thank you, Joanne Phillips and Anne Renshaw, for sharing your story on Off The Shelf. You can find out more about each of these authors at their official websites here:

Cover of The Family Trap by Joanne Phillips

There’s no family trap for this author or her mum

Cover of A Grave Inheritance by Anne Renshaw

A rather nicer inheritance for Joanne – a talent for writing

Joanne Phillips’ website

Anne Renshaw’s website