Marketing myths for debut authors

Scroll article imageYour first book is published. Fame at last! Followed swiftly by fortune, one hopes. But will your publisher help you along the way to fame? Unlikely, unless you’re already famous. This article outlines the truth of book marketing for unknown authors, but be prepared for unvarnished truth you might find deeply depressing.

All that effort to get the book written, perfected, and published… and the copies sit on the warehouse shelves waiting for the news to get out. Book signings, lit festivals, blog tours, press releases, book trailers, social media campaigns, celeb endorsements, reviews… the publisher’s job, yes?

No. For an unknown first-timer, no. Publishers’ marketing budgets go on big name authors, not newbies. A hard fact of the writing life.

But…

It turns out that all these promotional schemes and scams might boost your ego, but they don’t do much for book sales. Really, not much at all. And avoid book signings unless you have a guaranteed ready-made audience waiting to queue for your signature. Every author has horror stories about the echoing loneliness of book signings.

Bottom line: write the book, outline the sequels, find the agent, get the publishing deal. Swig back the bubbly, then prepare for the slog of flogging your book without much help from your publisher or the uninterested media and book-buying public. You need to be thick-skinned, innovative and ruthless to get your name known and your book talked about. It can be done. You can do it.

 

 

Secrets of a bestselling author

author Lesley Cookman
Lesley Cookman

I’m so grateful to my long-time friend Lesley Cookman for revealing some of the secrets of a bestselling novelist‘s life. Read today’s guest blog to see what you have in common with her, and get a sneak preview of the cover of her next book (which won’t be published for months yet).

Lesley is the author of the Libby Serjeant series of murder mysteries, with the eighteenth recently published – Murder by the barrel. Each new book whizzes to the top of its category on the Amazon bestseller charts, but despite Lesley’s success, the writing life is still not easy. But it is rewarding… Read Lesley’s guest blog here – and do ask questions in the ‘comments’ bit!

Writing your first…

…illustrated children’s book. This is a great insight into some of the challenges and solutions for writers itching to get their story told: a piece by Michael Gallant for the BookBaby blog. Read, then get writing!

Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree
Illustration from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

 

When your idea takes flight…

COVER dragoniWhen a hint of a thought of an idea catches on fire in your head… and you find yourself chasing your characters through the skies over London until the story comes to satisfying close, it’s a great feeling.

When the story becomes a paper-and-ink reality, 192 pages with a fabulous cover, and you spend two days at a big book fair launching it, that’s something else. Exhausting, but exhilerating.

To be told (as I was today) that the initial print run of 3,000 copies have sold out, just 6 days after the launch – THAT’s a real buzz!

My dragons are being reprinted now, as their story seems to be rather popular. Nice…

So never give up on a story because you think it’ll never be published. Look at me and my dragons! Have faith in your story and make it happen.

Thanks to Booklet Fiction for their faith in the story, their publishing expertise and their enthusiasm…

IMG_1502 bookfest - Dina's pic

My must-read books list

My long list of books I’ve loved… These are books from all genres and none, for all ages. It’s not a snob list of books I pretend I’ve read – I have actually read each of these, to the end, at least once. And I think everyone would enjoy most of them, too.

I’ve adapted a list I filched off Facebook, removed some, added some. There’ll be lots I’ve missed off or *shame* forgotten. I’ve stuck to one (max 2) books by any author, even though it pained me to resist temptation.

I invite you to do the same and pass on your list. But before you do, please let me which of these you’ve read (or your top 5 or 10 favourites off the list) and which titles you’d add or delete.

And which of these have you hated? Or tried to read and gave up in boredom or disgust? I junked Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and the Shipping News, for instance. Got bored by the first, and enraged by the second.

This isn’t a contest and there are no right or wrong answers. It’s just fun to see what people read, what they like and what they don’t.

There are two which you might think I’ve chosen just because of their titles. You’ll know when you see them… But genuinely I love these books for much more than the title (although they are little extra bonuses).

Tell me about your books and whether they’ve changed your life in any way. And what are you reading right now?

Happy New Writing Year!

First post of 2013: I wish you happy writing, smooth revising, and joyful publication. May all your plot lines run true, and your characters surprise you.

Now for some stimulus to kick off your fictional year.

Writing prompt for New Year's Day on wheredoyougetyourideas.net
Who is Richard? Why does he get his name dug into the beach?

 

Where do you get your ideas? Writing prompt for New Year's Day
Whose face is this? Who sculpted it and why? What will happen to it in three hours?

Where do you get your ideas?
Why is the boy looking so dejected? What is his connection to the couple? What will happen when the sun goes down?

 

where do you get your ideas?
How would your protagonist react to this appearing all of a sudden? What effect would this reaction have on your storyline?

 

 

Got all your ideas for NaNoWriMo?

where do you get your ideas? all keyed up for NaNoWriMo
Mists and mellow fruitfulness – it’s the season for NaNoWriMo

It’s on the doorstep, howling to be let in. Forget about Hallowe’en tomorrow – it’s NaNoWriMoe’en…

Are you ready? Got your ideas lined up, got names for your characters and your setting? How about sub-plots and your supporting cast? Are your main characters rounded and complex, or do they feel like rice paper?

If you’re keyed up, your imagination might be locked up…

Some people are admitting to an excitement bordering on panic, which doesn’t help the flow of creativity we will all need in the next four weeks.

Here, on various pages, you’ll find help in conjuring up great names, settings, real life stories to plunder, images to inspire you, character quirks for your key people… All you might need is a tiny nudge to unlock a whole world.

Raid as much as you like, and feel free to share with your writing buddies. Open to all, no catches, no sign-ups – November is mutual help for authors month.

 [That’s not permission to filch, though – if you share it, do please share the credit, too!]

I’m going to be with you through the caffeine-fuelled, RSI-inducing month – my NaNoWriMo name is Abbs Pepper, so if you’d like another writing buddy, say hello.

Good luck! Happy scribbling! All power to your fingers…

 

The novella is back – and this time it means business

With the rise and rise of the e-reader – Kindles and the like – we have seen the return of the novella as online fiction-buyers demand stories shorter than a fully-fledged novel, but longer than a short story.  Enter… the novella.

But what is it?

To encourage entries for its novella competition, the Paris Literary Review gave its readers some links to explore the art of novella. [Please note: the competition is closed for 2012 but you have 352 days to get your entry polished for the 2013 Prize. More details here.]

According to the Encylopaedia Britannica: “Novella, short and well-structured narrative, often realistic and satiric in tone, that influenced the development of the short story and the novel throughout Europe. Originating in Italy during the Middle Ages, the novella was based on local events that were humorous, political, or amorous in nature; the individual tales often were gathered into collections along with anecdotes, legends, and romantic tales. Writers such as Giovanni Boccaccio, Franco Sacchetti, and Matteo Bandello later developed the novella into a psychologically subtle and highly structured short tale, often using a frame story to unify the tales around a common theme.”

In a Guardian article (here) about Julian Barnes’s “short novel” The sense of an ending, Stephen King was quoted as condemning the novella thus: “an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic”.

The novella as literary form is discussed in The Daily Beast by Taylor Antrim (here), as does Bliss Kern in Three Quarks Daily (here), but quoting the arch storyteller Edgar Allen Poe’s scorning of the literary novella’s reluctance to end itself.

So is the novella the sole preserve of the literary author? If it is now, it soon won’t be. Some years ago as part of a campaign to get more people reading, the QuickReads series was launched, with bestselling authors writing novellas, aka short novels, for the romance, crime and other genre markets.

On e-book download sites there are many thousands of short novels, not proclaimed as such, but boasting 40,000-60,000 words for those who want a quick, easy read. As long as they are priced right, they sell.

So if you’re contemplating a first book, don’t quail at the thought of a 100,000-word doorstop tome;  kick off with a novella. Or a short novel. Or a long short story. Make up your own rules – who cares, if the story’s good?

Fantastic true story – inspiration for yours?

Where do you get your ideas? Story from Astoria, Oregon, Flavel family
Deserted Flavel family house in Astoria, Oregon

An amazing story in the Daily Astorian, local paper for Astoria in Oregon. It reads like the transcript of a film – all it needs is dialogue: the fall of the house of Flavel.

An influential rich family come to degradation and violence, a deserted mansion full of mysteries, a missing heiress and lots of questions.

Any one chunk of this long story would inspire a novel, a play, a screenplay, a TV series – crime, mystery, thriller, horror, even romance.

If you’re searching for ideas, this story could give you the spur your imagination needs.

Read, be inspired, start writing. Let me know how it goes!

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