Recently I seem to have had a lot of people asking me about marketing books. Not only are there more and more authors turning to self-publishing, having found the traditional route did not suit them, for whatever reason, but also authors who are traditionally published have been discovering that a considerable burden of marketing their books nowadays falls on their own shoulders.
Unfortunately, I have been ill for three weeks this month, and I am not quite fully recovered, so I am afraid this blog will have to be short and sweet!
If you look through my earlier blogs, by going to the blog page on my website and scrolling down to July 2015 and October 2016, you will find two previous ones on marketing books, which explain what I was doing at each of those points in the course of my self-publishing career. However, things move rapidly in this fast changing world of modern publishing. Not only that, but each author’s own career changes and develops as more books are published. What worked for me in the past is not necessarily relevant now.
My number one bit of advice on marketing books is ‘Write the next one!’ And if possible, ‘Write a series!’
It is very difficult to succeed as the author of a single book, unless you are taken up by a large commercial publisher who is prepared to pour a great deal of money into a marketing campaign. It has been done, and no doubt it will be done again, but publishers are less and less likely to make this kind of effort unless the author is some kind of celebrity, so that they can hook the campaign to a name.
For the self-published author of one book, this is not going to happen.
Certainly such an author can use some of the marketing tools I mentioned in my earlier blogs, but nothing matters as much as writing more books. If readers enjoy your first book, where do they go afterwards? If no more books by the same author are available, they will go elsewhere, and the author has lost a potential audience.
When I started writing and publishing, I wrote only standalone books. My first three books (originally published by Random House) were The Anniversary, The Travellers, and A Running Tide, all standalone, contemporary novels. When I moved into historical fiction, in order of writing, they were The Testament of Mariam, This Rough Ocean, The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez, and Flood. Again, all standalones.
The first two of these remain (and will continue to remain) as standalones. Then I was given some very sound advice by the well-know editor, Rosie de Courcy. She had read The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez and liked it, but felt that I tried to cover too much in one book (about ten years). She told me that the original book would do better expanded into a series, which would allow me to explore the story in far more detail. This is what I have done, and she was quite right. Working on the series has allowed me to do much more, developing the characters and their world in the sort of detail which was impossible in a single volume, and creating entirely new story lines. There are nine books in the Christoval Alvarez series now, with more planned.
The fenland novel, Flood, was also originally intended to be a one-off, but I have found the characters constantly talking to me, so I took them forward in Betrayal. When I can delve into the necessary research, there will be a third in the series.
And what does this have to do with marketing? Very simple! The books market themselves. Once a reader really enjoys the first book in a series, he or she will immediately go looking for the next, and the next . . . I know the feeling. I do it myself.
Therefore, when Nicholas Elyot sprang to life, I knew from the start that Oxford Medieval Mysteries would be a series. There are quite a few medieval mystery series around, many of which lay the emphasis on the mystery. The books in the Oxford series each contain a mystery, but I wanted to do something a bit different, exploring the day-to-day lives of ordinary people in the fourteenth century, so the stories are more than straightforward mysteries, rather novels which contain a mystery element, along with much else.
Nowadays, I do very little marketing, letting the books speak for themselves. I have found that once Amazon discovers that your books are beginning to sell, they will do a lot of marketing for you. They regularly send out emails about my books to readers who have read one or more of them, or have read books set in a similar period. They do promotions for me – Kindle Daily Deal, Kindle Monthly Deal, Kindle Seasonal Deal. As a result, I no longer do Countdown promotions or other special offers myself, which I did in the early days. I am no longer on any book promotion sites. About the only thing I do is some very modest Amazon ads under ‘sponsored products’ on the US Amazon site. These cost little and seem to be quite effective. In addition, you can monitor just how effective, which is not always the case with other forms of advertising. (Try Googling ‘Amazon Ads’ – there’s plenty of guidance.)
I do have a New Release Mailing List (see the Sign Up page on my website). Whenever I publish a new book or audiobook, an email is sent out to subscribers first of all. I also announce it on Facebook and Twitter.
That really is it! Apart from anything else, it allows me more time for writing. So my advice to those just starting out on this exciting but chancy career – explore lots of options in the early days, then hone them down as you proceed, keeping only what is effective and appropriate. Above all, concentrate on the writing rather than the marketing. For those who are more experienced, have you given thought to whether you are doing the right level of marketing for the current stage in your writing career? And for those who simply want to read – enjoy it! But keep your eyes open for the next book to enhance your life.
And to finish, a tiny bit of marketing. Illness has held me up, but The Stonemason’s Tale will be coming out very shortly!
By the way, I’ve had endless troubles with WordPress when writing this blog, so I hope it reaches you intact!
Till next time,