IF you are a new author or book reviewer, click away now because this is going to be ugly.
In my author blog, Life’s an Idiom, I touched upon the problems that new authors face with the vast quantities of books being published on a daily basis and the development of a virtual slush pile created by this massive-scale production. In an inexorable tide of new publications thronging the market on an unprecedented scale, how does a new author swim to the surface and get seen?
I’m afraid to say that, if I knew the answer, I would already be a best seller and probably wouldn’t be blogging from my £5 million home somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, irrespective of whether you’re traditionally published or have gone it alone, the real work begins after the book is written.
Most publishing houses, especially the small indie ones, don’t have a marketing budget of any description. The big ones save their money for those authors who are already a brand name. This means publishers expect their authors to be pro-active on the promotion front and bombard the social networking sites, bloggers, book reviewers and any one else who will listen, with news of the new book, how great the author is and how anyone would be an idiot not to invest cash and time in the package. They also expect authors to arrange their own press releases, book launches and even invest in copies of the book for promotional work.
The biggest problem is, there are just too many new authors all doing the same thing and are seething across the internet, breaching protocols and etiquette of the social networking sites and unwittingly turning themselves into spammers.
There is a very fine line between promotion and spam – both are unsolicited marketing tools by way of bulk messaging used in an effort to promote awareness and sales. The former, however, is discriminate, the latter suggests a lack of careful judgement and selectivity.
Targeting like-minded people who are doing the same as you is considered acceptable by an unwritten code between new authors. But it is not other authors who buy your books; it is readers.
Taking into consideration that every person on the planet who is able to read is a potential target, how can a new author be selective in their approach to promotion? One answer is to target book reviewers.
Now, there are thousands of avid readers who have cottoned-on to the fact that putting themselves out as book reviewers will give them an eternal number of free books. That’s the plan, anyway. Unfortunately for everyone, as soon as someone announces that they are looking for books to review, they are met with an irrepressible bore of new titles hurling themselves through their email, swarming like a great zombie plague and completely overwhelming them.
This is why many established book reviewers have either closed their lists or stipulated that they will only read books published by traditional publishing houses. Others have learned to become discerning and, just like publishers, send rejection letters to authors and titles that fail to inspire them. It’s a humiliating and demoralising process for any author, and especially for those who write quality fiction, to be turned down by a book reviewer who can’t string a good sentence together.
Saying that, there are a few people out there who seem to really care about the plight of new authors and offer their support willingly and for free. I’ve started a Pinterest board on them and expect it to develop through time.
I have still to be convinced whether blog tours, freebies, author interviews and blog parties really equate to sales. I have a number of interviews, guest blogs and reviews lined up over the next few weeks, so will report back after these have taken place.
Many new authors arrange blog parties and invite their contacts to meet them online with a view to bombarding Amazon with sales at a certain time in order to swell the rankings. See, for example, Janice Horton’s How to Party Online who says that organising a virtual party via the social networking sites has certainly worked for her. I’m not much of a party-goer, so haven’t tried this method out yet, although I understand how it could work successfully.
Having taken a good look at which authors are selling well, there is (with a mere handful of exceptions) one overriding determinate factor amongst successful authors: they write books, lots of them.
And there’s the rub: one book doth not an author make. So it is really a question of keep writing, keep publishing and keep promoting. Find a balance between that author self and the marketing self and split your time doing both: I would say one third in promotion and two thirds writing the next book. Very few authors become one-hit-wonder-millionaires over night and, really, who would want to be labelled as such?
Get it right. Get it written and get it out there; then get it out there and get it written, in that order.