New authors: Dawn of the Dead

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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.

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9 thoughts on “New authors: Dawn of the Dead

  1. Kimber Leigh Wheaton says:

    I am a book reviewer and a soon to be published author. My book review blog, Once Upon a YA Book, has been up for five months and the review requests keep pouring in. I refuse to close down submissions from Indie authors, so, yes, I do have to only select books that appeal to me (and I’m still running a 3 month backlog). I feel terrible turning any author away, so I’m actively recruiting additional reviewers that share my review philosophy.

    It’s a tough market out there, I agree, and I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve checked sales of books that are in blog tours I participate in. Sales do increase during the tour but then tend to fall back to nothing when the tour is over. Marketing isn’t just something you do when your book is released, but something that must be continued in order to maintain momentum. Facebook parties are all the rage now. There are even party planners that will run the entire thing for a fee.

    • ivymoonpress says:

      Hello Kimber and thanks for your really interesting comments. I actually follow your blog and know how well you support authors and how, even though you understand the process, continue the work.
      I’ve put you on the Pinterest board hall of fame, a place that you deserve.
      I really think it’s the way traditional publishing has responded to the likes of Amazon works that makes the industry so fickle. The trouble is, I am a writer who has no time to write! How frustrating is that?
      Thanks again and good luck with the publishing venture.

  2. MishaBurnett says:

    I think that fans are the best advertising that any writer can have. I have a small but very enthusiastic group of fans who do a huge amount of promotion for me.

    Building a fan base takes time, and it takes honest engagement. We can’t make readers like our work–either they will or they won’t. However, I think that we can and we should cultivate those who do. Be approachable, let your fans know that you appreciate them and that you want to hear from them.

    Respond personally to e-mails and blog comments. Too often social media advice is concerned with building numbers instead of building a relationship. A handful of readers who are excited about a book and tell all their friends about it will do more good that a thousand “followers”.

    I recently had a reader of my work ask me if she could get some signed copies to sell at a con that she’s going to be attending–not for money, just because she loves my books and wants to share them with as many people as she can.

    You can’t buy that kind of exposure.

    • ivymoonpress says:

      Yes, Misha, a fan base is a wonderful marketing tool and something that all new writers aspire to. It’s the physical act of acquiring that fan base that is the stumbling block for a lot of fledgling authors who believe that writing ‘The End’ defines the beginning. How did you manage to garner that fan base? Fancy writing a guest post on it?

      • MishaBurnett says:

        I don’t think I really know enough to write a guest post yet. Honestly, I think I did most of my fan base building by accident– I was so insecure that I never took anyone liking my work for granted, and I think it shows. I treat every reader as a precious jewel because I don’t really believe I’ll ever have another one.

  3. ivymoonpress says:

    You must be very special, Misha. Thanks for sharing.

  4. wallacecass says:

    Very insightful article with points that I tend to agree with. I’m one of those Write 1-Submit 1 writers and have been slowly adjusting to the new way of doing things. This article has given me much to think about.

  5. ivymoonpress says:

    It’s a long uphill climb, Wallace. Thanks for the thoughts.

  6. rosgemmell says:

    Great post, Sara, and very astute and relevant. It’s a definite uphill journey which hopefully can only get better for authors through hard work and genuine socialising online, or wherever.

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