Tag Archives: marketing

Navigating your way to publishing success

Phil: While might be blisteringly succesful with our writing, I banked another £1.56 from sales earlier, we are both still interested in the whole publishing world. With this in mind, I attended a seminar at Stratford Lit Fest last week looking at the continuing changes in the industry. An interesting hour, which provided some welcome pointers.

  • Series sell better than 1 off novels. Readers prefer to invest in something that isn’t a one-off story.
  • Sales don’t really kick in until book 3 or 4. This seems pretty consistent – it worked for Harry Potter after all.
  • Differential pricing works. Price book 1 cheap to get people hooked and then offer the follow-ups at full price
  • Publishers are using e-books as a slush pile and picking up the best-selling ones. Traditional submissions still exist but more and more they are letting sales on-line handle some of the filtering process for them. Why read a thousand poor manuscripts when you can just cherry pick something other people already like and has a proven track record of sales?
  • The biggest trend is authors selling direct to readers. 9 out of 10 members of the Independent Publishers Group are doing this at events.
  • To sell non-fiction, try relevant special interest groups or sports bodies. They may be willing to offer grants to help pay for the work. At the least, they will offer a route to a potential audience.
  • Authors can go to the London Book Fair in April, it’s not trade only any more and there are seminars worth attending.
  • Quality matters. Do not launch without a professional edit. Likewise, get someone who knows the market to design the cover and don’t get upset if they reject your ideas on this.

Of the 40 people in the room, 1 had traditionally published and 2, including. me had self published. Only half the room seemed to be working on a book at the moment which makes me wonder why they had given up a Wednesday evening to find out about publishing.

Anyway, from this, I took that we are doing the right thing. Once Kate vs the Navy launches we are another book towards big sales. The point about the covers was well made too, long-term readers will know that we changed ours at the suggestion of our publisher to something more market-friendly. As a bonus, it’s more bloke friendly too, I’ve been reading something with an overly chick-lit cover recently and couldn’t bring myself to finish it on a train ride…

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What’s your road to publication?

Phil: It’s Stratford Literature Festival time again. Sadly, we aren’t on the bill this year, but there’s still many sessions worth tootling along for.

“My Road to Publication” featured three debut authors talking about their first books with Meg Sanders, how they came about and what happened next. Ironically, thanks to refurbishment of the local library forcing this to decamp to the arts venue, the session took place in an adjacent local theatre (this is Stratford-upon-Avon, there’s a theatre on every corner daahhhling) which I’d never been in before. That made it even more interesting but I have to apologise for the lighting confusing my phone’s camera.

Anyway, the author were, from left to right, Emma Slade, Ruth Hogan and Harriet Cummings.

Ruth and Harriet were both conventional authors in that they have written fiction and writing has become their livelihood, albeit with some freelance copyrighting thrown in for Harriet.  Her novel, We all begin as strangers is inspired by happenings in her parents village. It’s actually her second book, the first absorbed a year an a half before being abandoned. The current book was written in a 3 month session where she devoted her time exclusively to the task.

Of the three, she is the only one with anything approaching formal training with a Faber Academy course. Despite claiming it didn’t provide any real technical knowledge, the course gave her the confidence to write a novel and more importantly, an agent as she had to take part in a mass pitching session. Fellow attendees form a feedback group for each other to provide help and support.

Ruth was an avid reader as a child and had always wanted to be a writer but kept finding excuses not to start, until a car accident in her 30s left her working part-time and with the time and no more excuses. Her writing method is interesting – a chapter at a time laid down in longhand with a fountain pen. This is then typed up on the computer and edited at the same time. Then the pages are printed and edited again. This contrasts with Harriet who writes the entire first draft before doing any editing. The idea for The Keeper of Lost Things possibly relates to a long forgotten, until a “What was your favourite book as a child?” question unearthed it, short story of a child who finds a teddy bear in a puddle and manages to restore it to its owner.

They say all books should start with a bit of a bang and that certainly applies to Emma’s. Her memoir starts with her being held hostage.

This is the least conventional story of all. Emma was a high-flying investment banker but when she saw a photo of her kidnapper after her release, the process of changing her life to becoming a Buddhist nun started. The book is a fund-raiser for her charity Opening Your Heart to Bhutan. written as a respite from her work towards becoming a nun, including creating several thousand hok mandana’s, unlike the others, this is very much a one-off. Buddhism teaches you to either be working for the community or be in retreat from it. Eventually she plans to go into full retreat, but at the moment it’s time to raise funds for a minibus.

All this is of course at odds with one of the first things all three were instructed to do by their publishers – get on social media. Ruth picked on Twitter and Instagram. Harriet is on Twitter too as is Emma. In the modern world, the author can’t sit back and do nothing between manuscripts – writing is just a small part of the job!

 

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How general elections happen

Downing Street
The scene. Downing Street. The Prime Ministers office.

A telephone rings.

“Hello. Theresa May here.”

“Mornin’ Tezza. ”

“Errr, good morning. Sorry, who is calling?”

“It’s me Tezza. Candice. You don’t know me, but I have a bit of a proposition for you.”

“A proposition? Is it about Brexit? I’m a bit busy at the moment.

“Brexit? Naaaah. This is much more serious.”

“More serious than Brexit? Not Trump? What’s he done now?”

“Don’t be daft. It’s about a book, and that idiot probably hasn’t read any.”

“Well, I errrr.”

“Basically Tezza. I’ve got a book to sell and it would help me enormously if you could do one of those general election things.”

“Sorry. You want me to call a general election to help you sell a book?”

“That’s about the size of it. Don’t worry, there’s a bit of wedge in it for you.

“I’m sorry, I don’t see how that would help. Surely everyone will be too busy reading our election pamflets to bother with fiction?”

“I don’t think so. Besides, if we are talking about fiction and political pamflets…”

“Very funny. I still don’t see how an election helps.”

“Let’s just say that when your book came about ‘cos that muppet Gove sacked the greatest writers wot England has ever produced after an election, then the medja are much more interested in our story, especially when the alternative is some numpty in a suit banging on about policies an’ stuff.”

“Ahh. Good thinking.”

“I knew you’d see sense. Shall we say a score?”

“A score? I’m afraid young lady, and I’m assuming that despite sounding like an effeminate Danny Dyer, you are a young lady, I’d want at least a monkey.”

“Ooo you callin’ and effeminate Danny Dyer? Listen lady, you might hold your little finger up when drinking a cup of the old rosie but I know what’s what. A pony at most.”

“A pony? In cash.”

“Cash. No questions asked.”

“Oh go on then. It’s better than having to look at Corbyn every Wednesday anyway.”

“Good Gell. You know it makes sense.”

*

And that, ladies and gentlemen is why the UK is having a snap general election. It’s all part of our plans for world domination.

Please note: None of the characters in this scene are related to real people. Any resemblance is purely coincidental. I have to say that or Candice will kill me.

 

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Letting the book fly brings success

bookwithwingsPhil: Last week I gained a new Twitter follower. Pleasant enough, but there was a surprise attached.

My new friends last tweet was: “A very funny read: an horticulture agency, including plant pathology and redundancies!” along with a link to our book on Amazon.

I recognised the name as one of the scientists I’d worked with over 16 years ago in my days on the veg research IT helpdesk. Joana wasn’t one of our regular visitors (the one you remember with a shudder) so how had she found our book?

It turns out that it was all down to Leamington Spa railway station.

Platform 3 is home to a bookcase in the waiting room. People leave books and collect others, all free of charge. A few weeks ago, I’d dropped off a copy of Kate vs the Dirtboffins, complete with new cover in there.  When I checked a couple of weeks later, it had gone and I wondered if the person who’d got it was enjoying the read.

It seems she was.

Not only that, but she passed it on to her friend Joana who suspected that HRI where she works and HRA in the book might be related!

The book has continued on its journey and a signed copy has been bought and dispatched. Giving away copies of your book pays off it seems. Best of all, I keep hearing, “We can’t wait to see what happens next.”

So Nolan, we better finish book 2!

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Nearly ready for Books Showoff tonight!

talkcheckingPhil: Last Friday was the final meeting ahead of our appearance tonight at Books Showoff tonight.

Sitting down in an artisan bakery, Candice started to tell me about potty training, so I quickly changed the subject to the slides prepared for the evening entertainment. As anyone who has friends with small children knows, the obsess about the topic and there are some things that can put you right off your hot chocolate.

All words have been expunged from the slides. It was just left to sort out what we are going to say. The audience needs entertaining, not just a selection of pictures to look at.

Doing a two-hander talk is a bit of a challenge. We don’t want to talk over each other, but there must be banter. That’s easy when you are sitting opposite each other and stuffing some delicious sandwiches and cake in your gob. I’ll shut up when I’m eating for a start, but you can’t rely on that on stage.

So, we have a sort of script. Not a strict one as that would be rubbish, but an idea what we’ll be filling our alloted 9 minutes with.

Now, if you excuse me, I need to write a rant to accompany a certain photo. Come along to see if I manage it.

Books Showoff, London 28th Sept at 7pm

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Why are you giving away your book?

Candice: I’ve been taking a good, hard look at book selling in the modern age. It seems to me there are two routes to success:

Be a celebrity. Phil hates this but you can’t deny that a famous name on the cover sells copies. Sadly, I didn’t end up writing with Joey Essex so that’s not going to work.

Create some word-of-mouth. Get people talking about your book and hopefully sales will grow by recommendation.

So, I have decided that we need to concentrate on reviews, not sales.

This sounds stupid. After all, we ought to be trying to sell books shouldn’t we? At this stage, I don’t think so. What I want to do is establish us as authors whose work people like. If we can get them hooked on our first book, selling the second one should be a lot easier.

So, we’ve decided to give the electronic copy away on 3 summer Sundays. We’ll plug it on various social media outlets, including our new Facebook page. There’s even a video of us waving the new look book around on there and Phil is fiddling with his camera to make some funny photos up.

What we need out of all this is a selection of reviews. We’ve got some good one so far now people are being bullied or bribed to do more than just read it. Even this is helping as people at work are now reading it on the recommendation of others!

Hopefully, once we’ve collected a healthy number, somewhere between 25 and 50 seems to be the target, sales will start to grow.

In the meantime, all the good feedback has encouraged us to get back to Book 2, so watch out for us holed up in a library any day soon.

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Read. My. Book.

This IS the book you are looking for.Phil: The route to fame and fortune is more convoluted and full of unexpected pitfalls than negotiating a trip around Ikea on a Sunday. We’ve learnt to our cost that when other authors tell us something will be a problem, it usually is and we should pay attention.

One problem we didn’t expect was persuading people who have bought or been presented a copy of our book to actually read the thing.

It might seem like a small problem, but if we want to become rich and famous, and we do, then people need to read the story and then be so pleased that they tell others about it. That way word of mouth will spread, sales will rocket and we can buy more cake.

From an authors point of view, it’s really difficult to explain the reticence to open the pages and enjoy the fun. To us, this is a baby and we want everyone to love it, or at least to tickle it under the chin and make goo-goo noises.

To everyone else, it’s just another book. OK, they know the author but that’s just luck.

Of course there is the dread that it might be terrible. Far easier to put off the reading rather than admit you don’t like it perhaps.

So, I’m on a mission. Everyone I suspect of owning a copy is now being badgered to get reading.

I’ve emphasised that I don’t mind if they don’t like it – and I really don’t. After all, we all like different things and not everyone is going to love our book. People with no taste for example, they won’t like it. And stupid people. And possibly Michael Gove.

Seriously though, not everyone will love it but if they don’t I’d like to know this and even possibly why. That way, maybe the next one will be even better.

Of course, when they do like it (yes, WHEN, no author really thinks they have written anything but brilliance), some glowing reviews on the web and perhaps an Instagram photo holding the book and grinning. Maybe tell everyone you know on Facebook, remembering that copious linking would be appreciated.

Which brings me to you lot. Our blog readers. Have you bought a copy yet? Why not? Come on, just click on the picture of the book cover on the left of this page. It’s a really good read!

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