Being an Indie Author – Job description involving 3 hats – Part 3: Marketing

This is the third and final post where I share what it’s like for me working as an indie author-publisher. In this post I’ll be talking about marketing, how I keep in touch with my readers, and how I reach potential new ones.

(Part 1 looked at the writing process and you can read it here. And Part 2 looked at the preparations and procedures involved in getting my books published and can be read here).

Toolbox:                           

Over the years I’ve been publishing, I’ve learned a lot about selling books. And, because I now have a backlist, I also have an existing band of loyal and supportive readers. So, launching my first book was much harder than launching my latest one.

It’s also the case that things change – so what might once have worked may not do so any longer.

Having said that, there are some things that remain constant and essential to successful book marketing.

Identifying my target readers:

Books, like any other merchandise, have a target market. So authors need to know who their likely readers are and where to find them.

When I write my books I have a specific reader in mind. For my adult books that will be a woman who enjoys reading contemporary romantic fiction with a bit of depth to it. She’ll appreciate that age is no barrier to romance. She’ll enjoy reading about parts of the world or jobs, professions and lifestyles that might be different from her own. And she’ll appreciate that the path of true love doesn’t always run smoothly.

For my children’s book I knew that my readers would mainly be in the nine-to-twelve-year old age group and would enjoy an adventure story where the children rather than the adults save the day.

Where I find my readers:

Virtual World

The existence of the online world means that finding and connecting with existing and potential adult readers (or, in the case of my children’s book, with my readers’ parents/grandparents etc) is easier than it’s ever been.

I have a Facebook author page, I’m on Twitter, and I have this website and its blog. And through these I can alert people when I have a new book coming out and I can have ongoing interactions with the folks who read/might read my novels. These platforms also provide a way for my readers and/or followers to spread the word by sharing my posts or, indeed, their own recommendations as regards reading my books.

Blog Tour

Around the time that I’m launching a new novel I get a blog tour set up. This is where my new book will have a guest slot on a different book blogger’s blog every day for a week. Book bloggers are amazing, generous and hardworking folk who review and write about books for the love of it. The guest slot on a particular blog might be the blogger posting a review of my new book, or it might be the blogger interviewing me, or it might even be a guest post from me. Blog tour posts are widely shared on social media and so news of a new book ripples outwards as people share the book posts with friends and in reader groups.

Real World

And, in the real world I do author talks at libraries, book clubs, social clubs such as the Women’s Institute, and writers’ clubs – and for the children’s book I also do school visits.

I also take part in local book festivals and I go to book fairs, craft fairs and trade fairs – anywhere where there are tables available for authors to meet and chat to readers and to possibly sell books.

Book Availability:

I know some of my readers like to read real paper books and others prefer to read e-books. So I make sure both formats are available to them.

I also know that some like to get their books from an online store while others prefer to go to their local bookshop or library. So I also try to make sure they can get my books from their preferred outlet.

However, as an indie author, while making my books available online is easy, getting my books into bookshops and libraries can be trickier. Any reader wanting to get my a book of mine in a bookshop or library can ask for it to be ordered for them, but of course it would be easier if it was already on the shelf.

When I lived on the Isle of Skye the local bookshops and the library both stocked my books. As a regular customer at the bookshops and as a member of the library, I was able to use my existing relationship when I asked for my books to be stocked. And both the library and the shops were generally supportive of local authors no matter whether they were traditionally or independently published.

But having recently moved to a different area I’ve had to start building new relationships with local book sellers and libraries and my nearest bookshop has a no indie-author policy.

However, as I said above, just because a book of mine isn’t on the shelf, it is available (in the UK) to order via a bookshop or a library’s normal route. You just have to ask and be willing to wait a few days for it to arrive.

And if all else fails I’m happy to post or email a paper or e-book version directly to readers.

Hard Work:

So, yes, being a one-woman sales and marketing department is hard work but well worth the effort as it leads me to readers. Readers who not only buy or borrow my books but who write reviews, who feedback and who interact, readers who in their turn help me with marketing. And that’s what makes this book-writing lark such a rewarding one.

Three jobs in one:

So, as you can see the job of indie author – or authorpreneur as we’re sometimes called – is a busy one. I have to be the writer, the publisher and the book seller. But I love my multi-hatted job, I love writing books and I love that people get to read them. Long may this job continue.

Being An Indie Author – Job description involving 3 hats – Part 2: Publishing

This is the second in a series of 3 posts where I’m taking a look at my job as an indie author.

The first post in the series where I talk about how I go about the authoring/writing process can be read here. This second part looks at the publishing process and part three will look at marketing.

Preparing to Press the Publishing Button

The manuscript is complete. Now the hard work really begins. I redraft the whole thing many times, cut out whole sections, write new ones, make sure the whole thing makes sense and is well paced and well told. I check for consistency within the story. I check my research for factual accuracy. And I check the grammar, punctuation and spelling. I keep going until, at last, all is perfect – according to me.

So, I can’t put it off any longer. Now it must all go to the editor.

Professional Editing

A professional editor is vital to ensuring that the final product is the best it can be. This is the case whether a manuscript is going to be published by a traditional publishing company or by an indie author.

A professional editor must be able to spot all the mistakes, inaccuracies and blunders. They must be thorough, honest and harsh when necessary. If something’s not working, or could be done better, or is just plain rubbish they must say so.

My editor, John Hudspith, certainly does all of the above – and more. He’s a ruthless alchemist of prose. He points out where the manuscript isn’t perfect, the places it’s flat, flabby or lumpy – but he also makes useful suggestions as to how to improve things. His keen eye also spots missing or incorrect punctuation, and possible factual flaws or blips in the plot/character details.

Then I as the author must take all his constructive criticism on the chin, must not be precious, must get over myself and consider all his advice and suggestions seriously. And by doing so I ensure the book is polished and ready for its readers. John also helps with getting the back cover blurb and the front cover strap line just right – something that is vital in attracting readers to the book.

So I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John and if you want to know more about his editing services you can visit his website here.

In-House Proofreading

My current proofreader is my husband. He doesn’t do proofreading professionally but pre-retirement it was part of his job to check complex technical documents before they were released. He has a precise and accurate eye when looking over text. He picks up on yet more missing commas, ambiguous or inaccurate wording, and misspellings. This is despite me having read the document many times and John also having passed through it. So a good proof-reader is vital and I’m glad to have Mr S on board. He’s now open to working with other indie authors – so if you’d like to discuss using his proof-reading service then do get in touch via the comments section below and I’ll pass all queries on.

Professional Book Design

Another vital member of the team is the book designer.

In spite of the old saying advising us not to judge a book by its cover, it’s something most of us do. In truth the cover of a book has an enormous job to do. It has to fit the genre of the novel. The cover images have to suggest what’s between the covers, and the cover text has to be displayed in a way that will make it eye-catching and easy for browsing book buyers to read.

Then there’s the layout of the interior of the book to consider. The text needs to be presented in a reader friendly way. The font the size and the spacing have to be spot on. Then there’s the design and layout of chapter headings, page numbers and headers. And the book must look right regardless of whether it’s being read as a paperback, an e-reader or a phone.

Now, I’m neither artistic nor very good on the technical side of things but fortunately I don’t have to be. And that’s because I go to Jane at JD Smith Design for all my design needs.

I provide Jane with a design brief. This will include a short synopsis of the book, the formats it will be published in i.e. print and e-book, and a vague, just about coherent idea of what I’d like the cover to look like with maybe a few suggested images.

After a bit of back and forth emailing Jane will come up with the very cover design I was looking for – even although I didn’t know exactly what that was it before I saw it.

And once we’ve got the cover sorted out, Jane gets to work on the interior layout and design for all the various formats.

I love the look of my books and I get so many compliments on the covers. So, yes Jane is another alchemist who works magic on my book. If you want to find out more about JD Smith Design you can do so here.

And, I should add, it’s not just the books Jane designs for me, she also designs all my essential supplementary materials including, bookmarks, fliers, posters, postcards and a large roller banner  – all of which do a great job when it comes to marketing.

Pressing the Publish Button

Yes, indeed – publishing does happen at the press or rather the click of a button nowadays. So once the cover and the interior have been finalised it’s time to set up all the different formats on the appropriate websites such as the printer, distributor, and online booksellers. And then it really is as simple as clicking the button marked publish.

And now my book is out there – out there in the company of millions other books. All I have to do now is get it noticed. I have make sure folks know it’s available and how to get a copy. Now it’s time to get marketing – or rather to continue and step-up the marketing that will have already begun before publication.

 

Being an Indie Author – Job description involving three hats – Part 1: Writer

 

I’m an indie author. That means I write and publish my books. So not only do I do the creative part i.e. write the novel, but I must also ensure the manuscript is polished and ready to publish, and then I have to make it available and market it. So it’s a job that requires the wearing of three different hats – writer, publisher and marketer.

N.B. The only hat I suit is the trilby – hence the photo. The other hats for the purposes of this series will therefore be metaphorical – hey, I’m a writer – I can do metaphorical.

This will be the first of three posts where I look at each role in turn.

(If you’re interested in why I chose the indie route you can read a recent guest post I did here on Kate – aka the quiet knitter’s – blog).

 

The Writer’s Hat

The role of writer of the book is of course common to all authors whether they’re traditionally or independently published.

There are lots of how-to books, courses and online lists of advice available, but it seems for every rule there is about writing a novel, there’s a corresponding one that instructs the writer to do the opposite. So what it boils down to is – do what works for you and adhere to one rule only – and that is TURN UP AND WRITE.

I have attended several writing courses from week-long residential to one-off half-day workshops. And gradually I’ve discovered what works for me.

My Writing Method

Story Elements:

Character and Setting

I’ve found for all my novels so far – and for possible future ones (which I already have notes for) – the stories start with a character or two. The character will just pop into my head when I’m least expecting it – often when I’m out walking. If I like the character enough I’ll then carry out a bit of an interrogation/interview with them in order to find out more about them. They’ll tell me where they live, what they do for a living, their family situation and so on.

This information will help me come up with a possible setting for the story.

For example, Rachel from Displacement came to me when I was hanging up the washing in my garden on the Isle of Skye. She told me she was a Skye crofter, but also a book illustrator as nobody can make a living from crofting only. She also revealed she lived alone, she was bereaved, and her mother had been a Jewish refugee who’d arrived in Scotland as a child just before the Second World War.

Plot

Once I have a character or two I’ll then try to find out what problems, dilemmas and/or challenges the character faces and that will lead to ideas for the plot.

Then once I have these ingredients in place it’s time to get writing.

Planning

I rarely know the full story in advance and I don’t plan it all out beforehand. I’m more of a pantster (as in fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants) as some writing experts call it. Apparently writers are either plotters or pantsters. But I suspect a lot of us are a bit of both. I usually have a rough outline based on the timeline of the novel and divided up into beginning, middle and end and it’s usually handwritten on one side of an A4 piece of paper. But as I go along I’ll also sketch out (also handwritten) individual scenes or a list of scene headings. And sometimes I’ll break scenes down into post-it notes. However, there are other times where the ideas just flow and don’t require any sort of prompts or notes.

For me, part of the enjoyment of writing a novel actually comes from not planning in too much detail. That element of surprise, of characters sometimes sort of taking over is fun and exciting.

Of course as my most recent two novels have been parts 1 and 2 of a 3 part series, I’ve had to be a bit more organised planning wise – both to maintain consistency with the earlier book – and to ensure credible development in character and plot across all three books. But even with the series there has been no very detailed or inflexible plan. Indeed I didn’t plan to write a series. That only came about because readers of book 1 wanted more.

Getting On With The Job:

Desk Time

I aim to write every day Monday to Friday and I aim for a particular word count per day – that way I can have an approximate date for completion of the first draft in the diary.

It also means my writing brain is used to/coaxed into co-operating. It knows it can’t wait around for the muse. It knows it has a job to do and it had better get on with it – with or without the fickle muse. Yes, there are days when the quality’s not great or when it’s a struggle just to do a few sentences, but that’s all part of the process. Writing is a job and, like any job, there are good days and bad days, but regardless you do have to show up.

I don’t edit much as I go along. I may make a note to check or research something later, or I may a tweak here and there, but mostly I just plough onwards until THE END.

Although it isn’t really THE END – not by a long way…

In part 2 in this series I’ll look at the next stage – at the process of redrafting and redrafting and redrafting – to get the manuscript ready for going off to the editor. I’ll also share how it is working with the editor and cover designer in order to get the book to its absolute best version.

 

Why I Love Being An Indie Author #amwriting #indieauthor #selfpublishing

 

And I really do. So I was delighted to do a guest post on the reasons why for Kate’s marvellous book blog. This post also nicely rounds off the publicity posts for my latest indie novel Settlement. Kate aka @The Quiet Knitter is an awesome book blogger and she is very supportive of indie authors and publishers. So, thank you, Kate.

You can read the post on Kate’s blog here.

The Writers Craft: Four Days of Learning

 

'Write Enough' production centre
The Garret

Writing is both an art and a craft. As such it’s something that requires inspiration,  skill, ability and knowledge. So it’s important that writers sometimes leave their solitary garrets and go ‘fill up the well’ .

image via shutterstock
image via shutterstock

And that’s what I like about attending writing conferences, events and courses. I love the buzz and intensity and I really love those light-bulb, now-I-see moments that arise when listening to a speaker or conversing with a fellow delegate.

image via shutterstock
image via shutterstock

And so it was that from Wednesday to Friday of last week I was a virtual participant in a worldwide book event and then on Saturday I was an actual participant at a local workshop for writers. I got a huge amount out of both. I made contact with other writers and with professionals who had so much expertise to offer. I learned a lot.

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IndieReCon: Indies at the London Book Fair

Last week was a big one in the world of publishing. It was the week in which the London Book Fair (LBF) took place. And it wasn’t just the big publishing houses who were there. Indie publishers – that is individual authors publishing their own books and small co-operatives of authors pulling resources and expertise in order to self-publish – had a real and significant presence there too.

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) ran an Indie Author Fringe Festival in association with the LBF. It was delivered in  live-streamed and  watch-when-you-can formats over three days and it was called IndieReCon. So while some events were live and interactive and could be attended in person, some (including those live ones) were video (vlog) presentations that could be watched at your own convenience and some were written presentations in blog format where ‘attendees’ could leave comments. All the presentations, whatever the format, were designed to either inform self-publishers how to improve their products or to tell them about the sorts of services, expertise and marketing that are available to them – just as at any trade fair.

And on the third day of the fringe fest there was also an indie book selling event at Foyles bookshop  where indie authors could promote and sell their own books.

So, despite being hundreds of miles from London, I was able to take part. And I’m very glad I did.

The online organisation was mostly slick and with only a few technical hiccups – and it’s important to bear in mind this was a first time and a unique event.

Below is a roundup of the events, talks, discussions I attended.

  • Discussion between ALLi founder Orna Ross and Smashwords (eBook publisher/distributor) chief, Mark Coker. It was a good introduction to e-publishing for those who’ve not done it before and a good round up/reminder of the pros cons and possible future developments for the more experienced.
  • David Farland shared his recipe for fiction that sells well.
  • Ben Galley led a lively and useful interactive discussion on online bookstores.
  • Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware did a live session on the need or otherwise to register copyright.
  • Miral Sattar gave a talk on the basics of online book selling – excellent for first-timers.
  • David Penny and Joel Friedlander shared an often amusing, as well as enlightening, conversation on the principles of good book design. As Friedlander said, the design should be so good the reader doesn’t notice it. He also flagged up his Book Construction Blueprints available free on his site bookdesigntemplates.com
  • Guido Caroti also did a useful presentation on cover design and on copyright issues around covers.
  • Neil Baptista of Riffle and Katie Donelan of Book Bub gave good advice on how to optimise your book for inclusion on their promotional sites.
  • One of the best talks, for me, was the one given by Rebecca Swift of the Literary Consultancy. She stuck her head above the parapet by addressing quality in self-publishing. She made comparisons with the Victorian era’s Penny Dreadful novels. She wasn’t dismissing or deriding self-publishing, but she was making a plea for high ethical standards of editing, for good content both genre and literary and for expert reviewers. She made the point that it shouldn’t be the writers with backgrounds in marketing and with money to spend who flourished. Good thought-provoking stuff.
  • Other highlights were Jessica Bell on self-editing. As an experienced editor as well as a writer she provided a first-class editing checklist which I’ll definitely be using. Ricardo Fayet advised on finding and working with publishing professionals such as editors. Yen Ooi’s excellent ‘What is your Message?’ addressed how to grab readers’ attention. She talked about the importance of crisp, precise description of your book and how to apply it. She suggested thinking in terms of newspaper headlines followed by a suggestion of content. Jay Artale advised on the use of Pinterest for authors – something I’d been wondering about. And finally, Robin Cutler’s piece on getting your manuscript together and on the four most lucrative genres was also interesting and helpful. And finally, author, poet and campaigner Dan Holloway performed his outstanding new poem calling for social diversity in publishing. You can read it here.

All of the above people have their own websites, blogs, twitter (etc) accounts and I recommend you check out any who grab your interest. It’s also my understanding that most of the events will be available to view on the ALLi/IndieReCon website within the next fortnight.

Orna Ross and her team and all the presenters deserve a very big thank you for all the hard work they put into this successful event.

image copyright Suriya KK via shutterstock.com.
image copyright Suriya KK via shutterstock.com.

 

Emergent Writers Workshop

Then, on Saturday, I was off out into the real world to a local arts centre for a day’s workshop on self-editing for novelists. This was run by community interest company, Emergents, which as XPONorth offers support to writers in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Novelist, literary agent and editor, Allan Guthrie delivered the workshop. Now, when I was at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference at the end of March,  I’d attended an interesting and informative workshop given by Allan on the topic of getting published (which I wrote about here) so I had high expectations.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was superb and I came away with sheets and sheets of notes and again, I learned a lot.

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. It’s easy to let self-doubt eat away at motivation, to wonder if it’s worth it. It’s easy to be daunted by all you don’t know. It’s easy to get stuck. Having a network of fellow writers and of publishing professionals is vital. And striving to improve is vital. So for me those four days were sound investments in my writing. I learned so much and my own writing-well is full to the brim once more.

If you’re a writer, or other type of creative artist, how do you ensure you keep learning, developing and continue to be motivated?