Tuesday 26 November 2019

Why marketing matters

Photo: Morguefile.com
Everyone who's published a book, either on their own account or through a conventional publisher, will know that writing the darn thing is the easy part; the hard work starts when you come to sell it. Gone are the days when a publisher would throw an extravagant launch party, organise a book tour and arrange press interviews the length and breadth of the land. Once your book is out there, for the publisher it's a case of 'Done, done, on to the next one.' If you want to shift books, you have to shift yourself.

Actually, my publisher, 3P Publishing, is very supportive, and on Saturday I spent a delightful afternoon in a workshop organised by the company, learning where I'm going wrong when it comes to marketing. It's just such hard work! For many of us, of course, the hardest part is getting over our British modesty. 'My book?' we say. 'Oh yes, it's all right. If you really want to buy it, you can get if from...' We need to be loud and proud, to shout it from the rooftops: 'I've written a book and it's fabulous!' You can do this yourself, you can pay someone, or you can do a mixture of the two. What matters is that you do something.

For example:
  • Maintain your presence on social media, but make sure your posts and tweets say something other than simply 'Buy my book.'
  • Establish a relationship with your local press - newspapers, radio (including community stations), TV.
  • Google 'podcasts on... [your subject]' and get in touch with the broadcaster to offer yourself as an interviewee.  You never know who might be listening.
  • Who is your reader? Picture that person: where will he/she be looking? I've been thinking about the readers of A Sparge Bag on the Washing Line as people retiring or retired, or married to people retiring or retired; but on Saturday it was pointed out to me the book will strike a chord with anyone in a long-term relationship. This opens up a new avenue of magazines etc to explore for coverage.
  • If your book is on Amazon (a necessary evil, it seems), use all the categories and keywords you can to broad the search range for potential readers. What about the 'people who bought this, also bought that' function? Can you buy something at the same time as you buy your own book so the algorithm makes that connection? (I don't really understand how this works, but I'm willing to give it a go.)
  • Ask for reviews. They don't have to be five stars - in fact, it can be very suspicious if everyone who reads your book thinks it's amazing - but they have to be there. Again, it's those pesky algorithms. 
  • Think of yourself as a small business. The writing is one aspect of that business, but the marketing, publicity and, all being well, the sales elements are, if anything more important. 
  • Keep at it.
Now: with this in mind, if you haven't already Liked my author Facebook page (@JuliaThorleyAuthor) could you, please? I will, of course, return the favour.


Sunday 17 November 2019

Telling stories

I ran out of time on Friday, or I would have posted that I was going to attend a storytelling workshop on Saturday. Had I done that, it is possible that my blogging friend Sally Jenkins would have seen it and then it wouldn't have been a surprise when we both turned up! It was lovely to meet Sally in real life after having followed her blog for so long. We ended up working together and it just felt right, somehow. (The pic isn't brilliant, I'm afraid.)

The workshop was organised by Writing West Midlands and  led by Maria Whatton, who proved to be an excellent teacher. I don't want to do a 'school report' here, so let me just give you the bullets:
  • Storytelling is not a performance; rather it is a way to engage with the people listening.
  • Unlike writing, where we have a reader in mind, a storytelling session depends on who turns up on the night.
  • The more thoroughly you can imagine the world you are creating, the better and more believable your stories will be. Interrogate your characters. Put yourself in their shoes - and heads. Draw the world you are creating - see pic.
  • There is value in the rhythm of the story; it's almost like music. Read aloud, even if your story is for publication.
  • Walk as you think. A change of physical surroundings can stimulate the mind.
  • Inanimate objects can be characters. Push yourself to explore the less usual points of view.
We listened, we wrote, we chatted, we shared. It was an excellent day.

Sunday 10 November 2019

'Back from the Brink'

My 'office' on Friday
Even if you've never been to Northamptonshire, there is a good chance you've heard of Rockingham Forest. This was once a hunting forest covering over a third of the county; it now exists in isolated patches dotted through a farmed landscape, giving people like me the opportunity to walk in nature and breathe in some good air.  The perfect setting, then, for a creative writing workshop.

It was a privilege to be asked to run a session in Fineshade Wood under the aegis of a Back from the Brink Project, which as the name suggests is concerned with the conservation and restoration of rare plants, bats, birds, reptiles and butterflies. Our focus was birds and we began with a short guided walk led by Liz, who works for the project. After the recent torrential rain, I was relieved that we had glorious sunshine, although it was a bit nippy. Liz gave us lots of information about what was going on in this patch of woodland. We stood in silence to take in the atmosphere, connecting with our senses and enjoying the cackling of rooks and the call of pheasants.

Back in the warm, I gave the participants some exercises to do to help get the creative juices going, and read various extracts of published works - poetry, fiction and non-fiction - by way of example. Then I suggested some prompts and off they went. Despite some of them saying 'I'm not really a writer', they all produced some lovely work and I hope they will carry on doing so.

From my point of view there were two equally important aims of this workshop:
  1. To encourage participants to create a piece of writing based on the birds in the woodland and the environment in a wider sense.
  2. To bring awareness of the work of Roots of Rockingham, Back from the Brink and all the groups involved in restoring and managing this network of woodland sites, creating more habitat in which a range of vulnerable species can thrive, and to stimulate engagement in this work.
I think on both counts we had a successful morning.

Monday 4 November 2019

How well do you know your own work?

Bernie and Riley, who was also in the studio
I was interviewed on BBC Northampton this morning (get her!) about A Sparge Bag on the Washing Line. It was great fun and I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame, but the interview didn't go as I'd expected it would.

The host of the show, Bernie Keith (see page 167 of the book), is a lovely chap and very easy to talk to, and he always does his research. He knew, for instance, that I'd been to Worcester, so he must have read this blog. However, while in my mind my book is all about the funny stories, he came at it from a different angle, homing in on the whole business of diary writing, on the local connections and the rather serious side of adjusting to the 'new normal' when one of you retires.

I've just listened back on BBC Sounds here (I'm on at 1.44.45) and I'm pleased with the result. It is actually more lighthearted than it felt at the time - there were things recorded that I don't remember saying: isn't that strange? - but it has made me wonder if as writers we get so caught up with what we think we're saying that we forget our readers might have a different agenda.

What do you think?