Tuesday, 17 November 2015

This Little World: stories from Dorset Writers

About a year ago I became involved with an exciting initiative from the Dorset Writers Network. The idea was to run a series of writing workshops across rural Dorset to encourage people to have a go at writing a short story set in the county. These stories could then be entered it into a competition being run by DWN for inclusion in an anthology.

I ran workshops in my local village hall and at a local secondary school as well as being involved in the judging and mentoring for the adult entries.

There have been many people involved throughout the process and on Saturday the project reached its culmination with the launch of the anthology This Little World: Stories from Dorset Writers.

The This Little World book launch and Writers Day took place at Dorchester Library. At the launch event the organisers talked about the project and some of the featured authors read out their stories. A couple were stories that I had picked out which is a lovely feeling, but I have to say I was particularly impressed with the children’s entries! What a wealth of young talent this county has!

As well as the launch itself there was a series of writing workshops covering all sorts of subjects from writing dialogue to poetry and screenplays and The Littoralis (me and fellow local authors Laura James and Kathy Sharp) hosted a panel event where we discussed our experiences with our publishers. Despite all of us being published by small mainstream publishers our routes to publication and our experiences of the process couldn’t have been more different!

The whole event was extremely well attended and the anthology sold out within minutes! But fear not. The paperback version is available on Amazon and an e-book edition will be following soon. It is packed with a wealth of wonderful Dorset set stories and would make a perfect Christmas present.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Twelve Tips for Book Promotion

Ah, book promotion – that ticklish subject – but something that every author has to think about at some point. Whether you are self-published, with a small press or published by one of the big trade publishers, you will find yourself doing book promotion in some form or other.

For my YA novel, Red Rock, my publisher had a dedicated marketing team and allocated a publicist for me to work with. Her help was invaluable. She arranged for me to write articles timed to appear around the time my book was launched. She pitched me to literary festivals and even managed to get me an appearance at the Edinburgh festival. She came up with ideas I would never have thought of on my own. Even so, it was still expected that I would do what I could to help promote the book. Not everything I tried worked, but I want to share with you the things that did.

With my short story collection about to hit the shelves I started looking around at blogs and articles on book promotion, looking for ideas that I could apply. I’ve come across lots of information on how NOT to promote your book, and I could make a whole blog post out of these – don’t spam people on twitter, don’t harass people for reviews or pay for fake ones… But I couldn’t find very much offering ideas on what you SHOULD do. So that is what I’m going to cover here.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of these will convert into sales, but you never know where they might lead. Nobody really knows why some books take off and others don’t. Very often it is by word of mouth, and that, I’m afraid is something we don’t have any control over.

So here are my top tips for book promotion:

1. Internet presence
At the very least make sure you have a website or a blog to showcase your books. Include a contact page – this is very important – I’ve had several opportunities arise through people contacting me via my blog. Keep it up to date and keep any blog posts interesting and relevant. Set up author pages on Amazon and goodreads. Twitter accounts and a facebook page can also be useful for some people. Plus any other social media platforms you may like to use. But don’t spam people about your book! If you seem like an interesting person then they may well check it out without any prompting.

2. Media
You or your publisher should put together a press release around the time of your book launch. Local newspapers are often looking for stories to fill their pages and like nothing better than a local author, especially if there is an interesting angle you can take, local history for example. Send them the press release and then follow up by e-mail. The same applies to local radio stations. Again they will be looking for an angle. Don’t forget to mention the title of your book at least once during the interview but don’t overdo it!

3. Launch Party/Book signings
Whether you hold a launch party or not is a personal thing. For Red Rock I hired out my local village hall and invited loads of people and sold a lot of books. Provide refreshments, do a reading, and make sure you have plenty of books to sell! (I ran out). If you are with a mainstream publisher your local bookstore will often sort out a stall for you. Otherwise get a friend or family member to do the selling so you have a chance to mix! Another option is to run an online launch party. I’ve seen quite a few of these on Facebook. It’s worth checking a few out and seeing how they work. It is also worth talking to your local bookshop to see if you can go in one Saturday morning and do a signing. You may not sell many books but the store will probably continue to stock a few.

4. Giveaways
There’s nothing nicer than a free book. I’ve had a few from giveaways and I love it when the package turns up! There are lots of ways to do this, one of the easiest being to run a Goodreads giveaway. Or you can run one from you own website or blog using a tool such as rafflecopter. Try to run it in such a way that encourages people to tweet and share it, or maybe tie it into a blog tour. One tip though – don’t do it in the run up to Christmas – there are loads of giveaways going on around that time and yours will get lost in the noise!

5. Networking
I’m not talking about social media here, I’m talking about the real world, networking with other authors, booksellers, local writing groups. Don’t go into this with the sole purpose of getting people to buy your books, but as they get to know you they probably will. Since getting published I got to know several other published writers in my local area. We’ve now teamed up to offer author events. We share opportunities and support each other when times are tough. I wouldn’t be without them.

6. Literary Festivals
These days it seems that every town is holding a literary festival. Why not check out what is happening in your local area. See what sorts of events these festivals have put on in the past. Then have a think about what you can offer them. It’s no good sending them an e-mail saying, “Hi, I’m an author and I’d like to appear at you festival.” You need to come up with something specific. Think of an event or a workshop you can offer. Then put together a professional looking pitch and send it out. It might be worth teaming up with other authors. My local author friends and I have called our little group The Littoralis and we have been offering a panel event to local festivals. One word of warning though – even a small literary festival gets its programme set up well in advance so you need to get in early. A year ahead is not too soon!

7. Writing Workshops
You’re a published author now, so don’t sell yourself short. Whether you’re self-published or trade published you have studied the craft of writing and have an insight into the world of publishing that other aspiring writers would love to hear about. If you write for children then your local schools will often be interested if you offer to run writing workshops for them. Or perhaps this is something you could offer to local literary festivals or colleges, or even run a course for adults off your own back. All you need is a venue and the will.

8. Writing Group and Book Group visits
I bet there are loads of local book groups or writers groups in your area who would love a visit from a published author! I’ve been to a few and always found them very welcoming. If your book is the type that might interest book groups then why not arrange a tour around the time your book comes out. They’ll probably want to read your book before they meet you to discuss it and they normally do this through the local library, so that will probably be a good way to contact them. Writers groups are a bit different. You could offer them a workshop. They should be happy for you to talk about your book and your experiences of publication and will probably want to buy some copies, so make sure you take some along.

9. Articles and blog tours
Magazine articles, guest blog posts and blog tours are all good ways to engage with potential readers. Most of these you will offer for free but you never know. An interesting article will make people want to know more about you so make sure that you include a link to an up to date website in your bio. Some publicists or publishers will arrange blog tours, but this will depend on the audience you are writing for.

10. The Old Boy network
Your old school will probably be interested in the former pupil, now a published author, so, unless you’re writing something rather too steamy, then get in touch with them and offer an author visit. The same goes for Universities. Many have an active alumni programme and would be happy to feature you in their alumni magazine.

11. Opportunities
Take advantage of any opportunities that may arise. For example, I spotted a tweet from a local tourist attraction asking for local authors to attend their opening. This led to a series of lovely author events at the venue concerned and a decent number of book sales.

12. Be a Professional!
Finally remember that this is a business and although you may do some events or write some articles for free, don’t be afraid to ask for a fee and expenses where appropriate. If you act like a professional you’ll be treated like one!