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: 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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