Writing a Book is the Easy Part
Writing a book can sometimes seem like the easy part when it comes to establishing yourself as a writer. Building a readership is much more difficult. It is a hard but necessary slog. For all published writers, the marketing of their work is crucial in getting their books in front of potential readers. Of course it is. We write to be read.
I don’t feel any sense of entitlement to fame and fortune just because I’ve written some books. I have no problem with the idea that an author, like any other seller, has to work to get their product not just out there, but visible to prospective readers. But what I have struggled with over the last five years, since my first novel was published, is how best to do this. How, does an indie author author, with a limited budget, effectively advertise their books?
Getting Started on Marketing
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been totally hopeless. I have researched and experimented with different things, and learned a lot over the last five years. I followed the conventional wisdom that authors should be on social media and should blog. I also visited bookshops and very nervously asked if they would stock my books. I approached my local radio station and local weekly newspaper about an interview and a feature.
All of the above worked––to a certain extent––but not necessarily in a linear way that led directly to lots of sales. What I spent the best part of five years doing was building relationships. On Twitter I quickly established a network of other writers. Writers both traditionally and independently published who were supportive and generous with retweeting and replying to my writer-related tweets. I joined Facebook where I initially struggled to make an impact, after all my friends on there already knew I’d written a book. I eventually discovered the page facility on Facebook and set up my author pages––one for each of my two author identities but didn’t really know how to use them effectively.
Working with a Marketing Mentor
Then in April this year I reached a turning point. I signed up for a 1-to-1 hour long session with Peter Urpeth from the creative arts agency, Emergents/XPONorth. Peter is the director (writing & publishing) and he runs the Writing Development programme that provides support to writers throughout the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The 1-to-1s were aimed at writers with projects that have broad mainstream potential and were for both for those traditionally and indie published in all genres. The aim was to offer help to access support services to writers both for their writing and their careers.
Peter and I discussed the content of my books and all aspects of marketing them, especially what I had done to so far and what had worked and what hadn’t. Peter was constructive and helpful and felt sure the agency could offer me some assistance.
And they did. I was offered a series of six, paid-for by Emergents, mentoring sessions on book marketing with Ben Galley, author and publishing consultant, from Shelf Help. I was delighted to accept the opportunity.
Delighted, yes, but unsure what to expect.
The Mentoring Process
The mentoring programme began in early August and ended at the end of November. And it was a great experience. Ben proved to be a great teacher, although he set some tough homework assignments. He was patient, friendly and encouraging and entirely sympathetic to my not exactly astounding technical online abilities.
The whole programme was carried out over the phone.
There was a half-hour getting-to-know-you call at the start, followed by a one hour initial session and five further half-hour calls.
Ben took me through an audit of what I’d done to date, and suggested ways of improving my Amazon author profile, my Facebook author pages, my websites, and my book-related tweets. He introduced me to Facebook advertising, got me to explore the use of Goodreads, Wattpad, and e-book publishing platforms other than Kindle. And he had tips on how best to run a free offer on Kindle Select. He also helped and encouraged me to explore the use of video posts – and this is the woman who’s never taken a selfie!
I took up every homework challenge Ben set me. I surprised myself with what I’m actually capable of. Some things suited me better than others and I’ll pursue the ones that I feel work for me.
I enjoyed the whole process. It was great to be made to question what I’d previously been doing marketing wise and it was good to be learning new and very useful things – and being pushed (in the nicest possible way) to deliver.
Through being mentored by Ben, I now have a much clearer idea of how to approach marketing. My approach from now on will be more professional, rigorous and focused. Sales will probably not rocket, but if all I do is increase my readership and my engagement with them then I will be very happy.
So thank you, Ben and thanks, too, to Peter and Emergents/XPONorth for considering me worthy of their support. It is much appreciated.
Have you ever been mentored in order to improve a particular skill? How was it for you?