Selling My Books: Anna Belfrage’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 shot of Anna Belfrage

The novelist Anna Belfrage

I first met the Swedish novelist Anna Belfrage via her publisher SilverWood Books. She’s a vibrant, prolific author, fun to be with and full of energy, as you’ll guess from her interview below. She homes in on her excellent blog and blog tours as her favourite way of promoting her historical time-slip novels.

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.

Anna Belfrage: I must come quite clean and admit that the promotional part is the one I find most difficult. I am never sure there is a correlation between being active on FB, Twitter and blogs and any sale of books.

The activity I enjoy the most is to maintain my own blog: www.annabelfrage.wordpress.com (I rather enjoy being able to share my ramblings about everything from history to the universe with people) but from a promotional perspective I believe that being hosted by book-review blogs is one of the more efficient ways of getting your name – and book – out there. Accordingly, I am a big fan of virtual book tours.

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

Anna Belfrage: Since some years back, I had been following the tours arranged by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and once I’d worked up the nerve, I approached Ms Bruno who runs this service and asked her to arrange a tour for the second book in The Graham Saga, Like Chaff in the Wind. My role was restricted to writing guest-posts and replying to various interview questions, and I found this to be a perfect balance between what I CAN do (write) and what I need someone else to handle (the actual organising of the tour, contacts with various blogs, etc)

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Anna Belfrage: Enjoy and enjoy… It’s actually quite nerve-racking, as I never know beforehand if the reviews are going to be good or not. As a fellow writer, I am sure you understand the review-angst, right? Once the tour is in full swing – and especially if the reviews are favourable – the tour gives me opportunities to tweet and share reviews, posts and interviews, thereby increasing exposure.

Debbie Young: With my next book about to come out this weekend, Anna, I know exactly what you mean there about nerves! Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Cover of Like Chaff in the Wind

Book 2 in the Graham Saga

Anna Belfrage: I’ve used it for books 2, 3, 4 and 5 of The Graham Saga, and will continue using it for any future book I publish.

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

Anna Belfrage: I am doing it for the next book, Revenge and Retribution – in August. But this time, I’m combining it with a Book Blast that showcases the entire Graham Saga. A Book Blast is a promotional activity where you have bloggers highlighting your book(s), in some cases with give-aways, in others just by posting the cover and the blurb. It increases visibility of your book(s).

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

Anna Belfrage: I find the self-advertisement part very difficult. “Yoohoo, lookie, lookie here – I’m Anna and I’ve written a BOOK. Please buy it and like it.” 

This is to some extent due to my Swedish background – in Sweden one does NOT toot one’s own horn – but also because I find it very difficult to consider my books THAT important in the overall context of things.

So yes, I write good books, I write entertaining reads, I write historically well-researched novels that are set in the 17th century and have a wonderful protagonist couple. He’s a die-hard Scottish Presbyterian, she’s a time traveller, and they should never have met, what with her being born three centuries after him. But fate had other ideas, and so here they are, incapable of considering life without each other.

There is plenty of action, plenty of romance, quite a lot of steamy bits, but seriously, will my books make the world a better place? Bring about world peace? Nope – and that makes me somewhat embarrassed to drown the internet with tweets and postings about my marvellous books.

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?

Anna Belfrage: I am rather curious about book trailers. I’m not sure who watches these trailers except for other authors, but some are definitely very titillating and hook my interest completely. I think that if one has a good trailer, it can heighten awareness re the book.

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

Cover of Revenge and Retribution

Book 6 in the Graham Saga

Anna Belfrage: Well, as I mentioned above, the sixth book in The Graham Saga, Revenge and Retribution, is imminent – it will be released on July 1st. If you’re into a book that covers betrayal, death, retribution, love, abduction and time travelling, it may be just up your street. I am personally very attached to this instalment of The Graham Saga – to my husband’s amusement I cry abundantly every time I read it, and he will gently point out that I’ve written it and read it like a hundred times, so I shouldn’t be all that surprised at all the heart-wrenching stuff that happens, should I? Stupid man…

Also, this time round I’m going to try something entirely new regarding promotion. I have decided to use a PR firm to help me plan a short campaign around the book, and I am quite curious as to what the fall-out will be. I am fortunate in that the earlier books of the series are earning enough to finance this marketing gamble, so please keep your fingers crossed. And if you want, I can drop by in some months’ time and share my conclusions with you!

Debbie Young: I’d love that, Anna – just tip me the wink when you’re ready to share! And thanks so much for taking part today. Lots of luck with the new book!

Anna Belfrage is the author of five published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on Aamazon, Facebook and on her website.

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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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