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:


“Selling My Books”: The New Guest Slot for Self-publishing Authors

My favourite book promotion tip of the moment is to write guest posts on other authors’ blogs, especially when a specific theme is called for.

Writing posts on other people’s blogs may not immediately help indie authors sell more books, but it will:

  • raise your profile as an author
  • build name recognition
  • open up valuable new networking opportunities

Guest posts also give you the opportunity to place more inbound links back to your own website, encouraging search engines to give your site higher priority.

But it’s not just the guest who benefits:

  • Blog hosts gain new, fresh copy to supplement their own posts
  • They also gain new followers and friends that the guest blogger brings with them to the site via social media sharing of their guest post.

Here are three examples of themed guest post strands on very different websites. All are beautifully presented and branded, each readily identifiable at a glance.

Lindsay Stanberry Flynn’s “Why I Write” Series

Cover of The Piano Player's Son by Linsday Stanberry-FlynnNovelist Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn has just completed an eight-part series of guest posts under the banner “Why I Write”, spanning the first two months of 2014.

Lindsay is a gifted writer and writing coach whom I met online some time ago. A friendship formed across the ether in which we shared advice, moral support and humour, and we also often hook up via the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), to which we both belong, and whose blog of self-publishing advice I edit.  Our online connection leapt off the screen and into real life when last autumn Lindsay kindly invited me to the official launch of her second novel, The Piano Player’s Son, published by Cinnamon Press (Lindsay won her contract as a prize in their novel-writing competition!)

Lindsay specialises in novels about families in turmoil, following familial disharmony. Given my propensity to favour Pollyanna scenarios with happy endings, they’re not the kind of book I’d normally plump for, but I found both this book and her debut novel, Unravelling, gripping and fulfilling reading.

And her book launch was a joy, interspersing readings with live music and performance poetry, in a striking old hall in the centre of Worcester. On this memorable night, a cabaret of entertainment played to a packed house, whose audience snapped up copies of both of Lindsay’s books from the sales table as they left. I’ve reviewed both of Lindsay’s books on Amazon and Goodreads, where you’ll find them for sale as ebooks and paperbacks.

When novelist Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn invited me to be a guest on her blog in her new series called “Why I Write”, I jumped at the chance. You can read my guest post here:

“Why I Write”~7 – Debbie Young

The Alliterative Allomorph with Jessica Bell

Cover of String Bridge by Jessica Bell

One of Jessica’s many published works

Another  regular guest blog feature that I enjoy is Jessica Bell’s, gloriously titled! I met Jessica via the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), to which we both belong, and we’ve become good friends, though not yet met in person. I’m excited to be joining her Homeric Writers’ Retreat on the idyllic Greek island of Ithaca in August –  find out more about that here:

I’ve now featured twice on The Alliterative Allomorph, in which Jessica encourages her guests to sound off about whatever aspect of the writing life is currently on their mind.

Disparate authors follow each other, week after week, often with not much in common other than their passion for what they do, and the mix works well. You never quite know what’s coming next – just that it’ll be a stimulating read. Here’s an example of one of my guest posts on Jessica’s blog:

Why I Used To Feel Sorry for Tolstoy – and Why I’m Over It Now

The Undercover Soundtrack with Roz Morris

Cover of Roz Morris's novelOne of the great benefits of having a regular guest post series on your blog is that readers who stop by to read one may find themselves hooked and make a regular date with your blog to see who writes what next. This certainly happens for Roz Morris (another ALLi chum) with her now legendary blog slot, The Undercover Soundtrack.

The Undercover Soundtrack is the author’s answer to that long-running BBC radio series, Desert Island Discs (which I adore). This blog slot gives authors the opportunity to share thoughts about the music that inspires and informs their work. I’m sure it must encourage readers to discover and explore new writers, as well as to read Roz’s own novel on a musical theme, My Memories of a Future Life.

Strange – and pleasingly neat – how all three of the authors’ novels shown here share a musical connection! Jessica’s isn’t clear from the cover, so I should point out that String Bridge is about a guitarist and comes with its own soundtrack, written and performed by the author, who is also a talented musician. Wow!

My New Weekly Guest Slot

For the reasons I’ve outlined above, I’m pleased now to be launching a regular guest slot here on Off The Shelf. It will be called “Selling My Books: (Author’s Name)’s Top Tip for Book Promotion” and it will appear every Wednesday. Kicking it off next Wednesday (19th March 20014) will be the Canadian author Francis Guenette, whose two novels Disappearing in Plain Sight and Finding the Light just blew me away. I first came across Fran via Twitter and was really pleased when she joined ALLi, opening up more opportunities for us to network to our mutual benefit.

After Fran’s post, I’ve got a substantial list of guests lined up. If you’re a self-published author and would like to share YOUR top tip for book promotion, please message me via the contact form with a summary of the tip that you’d like to write about, and we’ll take it from there.

And if you run a regular guest slot on YOUR blog with a specific theme, please feel free to post a link in the comments section so we can all hop over to have a look at it!

If you’re a writer and you’re not yet a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), the nonprofit organisation for professional self-published authors, check it out – the ease it offers of making great author friends is just one of many benefits of membership. Aspiring authors are welcome to join, as well as those who have already self-published books! To find out more, please use this handy link to the ALLi website so they’ll know I’ve sent you!