19 June 2018

'It isn't wrong but...' Tuesday Talk with Helen Hollick

Gordon the Big Engine
"It isn't wrong - but we just don't do it ...." Edward the Blue Engine
(referring to Gordon the Big Engine's habit of being annoying by whistling long, loud and often.)

Or to put it another way.... Spamming. 
Deliberate spamming that can, in a few cases, come very close to harassment is wrong. It is irritating, intrusive and can be, in the hands of the persistent Troll, downright nasty. We've all had them, those emails that proclaim things like 'use my editing service, I'm the best' followed by another and another pestering email (because you sent the first couple straight to the junk folder) with 'Since you didn't answer I'll put a snide comment on Amazon about how many errors are in your badly written book.'  Why do these people feel the need to trash a book because their spammed offer of (unwanted) 'service' was not accepted? More baffling, where on earth do they find the time to  continue with their nonsensical spamming? Obviously their 'we're the best' business can't be very busy can it?

But where is the fine line between trying to get your hard-written novel noticed and pi**ing people off when you go on and on about it?

The answer is really quite simple. Vary your marketingDon't whistle about the same thing long, loud and oftenRepeated tweets, Facebook posts and re-mentioned-yet-again blog shout-outs can turn potential readers off quicker than Edward the Blue Engine can shunt a train of carriages into the sidings.

Edward the Blue Engine
'But', I hear you wail, 'how do we promote our books then?'
As much as we like to think that we are huge whales swimming in a small pond, most of us are only tadpoles struggling in the enormous ocean that is Amazon. I have to be honest, when someone comes up with a really good answer to that question I'll let you know. (Maybe not straight away - I'll keep it for myself for a bit.)

Readers like to know about authors, how they got started, how they discovered their characters, where they write, what their hobbies are - the interesting bits behind the scenes of that book cover. In the very pre-internet days top authors were regarded as celebs because they sold lots of books and made lots of money. (I bet you can easily name a few high-profile pre-1990s authors!) Until recently - pre 2005 I'd say as a rough guesstimate - the publishing houses took care of all the marketing for the books they published. Their best authors were seen on TV, heard on the radio, featured in newspapers and magazines. Us lesser authors, well, we got two weeks of minor publicity and that was it. If our book didn't sell (because no one knew about it) we could find ourselves dropped like a ton of broken bricks with no offer of a further contract. Advance payments were usually large, four or five figure sums. Today you're lucky if you get picked up, let alone offered a small advance!

But then computers came along with floppy disks (or cassettes prior to that!) and the World Wide Web, followed with emails, newsletters, My Space (remember that?) Facebook, websites, Twitter, Blogs ... Amazon... and Indie Writers who discovered that you didn't need a Big Publishing House to publish and market (or not) your book.

For many years, back in the mid-2000s, Indies were looked down upon as the sludge of the literary world (still are at times, though fortunately, not as often.) This is because back then we didn't quite know how to do it properly. I include myself. My first indie novel was not far short of a disaster - even down to the Comic Sans print (blushes in shame - although it wasn't my fault. It never occurred to me that the assisted publishing house I used then would not re-set the text correctly. That company eventually went bankrupt owing money to disgruntled staff, authors and printers all over the show, so it sums up their poor service.) 

Original cover
designed by an amateur artist -
attractive, but not professional quality
Present professionally designed cover
By properly I mean professionally, to produce a novel that is every bit as good as one published traditionally mainstream. Actually, in some cases, even better. Mainstream is becoming quite shoddy at times. Indie authors are taking control. Experienced editors are used, professional designs for the covers, quality printing - and good marketing. Plus if we get something wrong we can quickly re-edit and re-print. Mainstream publishers won't or can't.

Marketing your book is a subtle art. Yes of course you can tootle your whistle occasionally - but not continuously. There is a difference between pleasantly mentioning and outright heckling.

There are plenty of places on line and more than a few good books to advise about marketing but here are a few suggestions:
  • Send out a regular newsletter (I use Tinyletter it is simple to use) but again, keep it interesting. Sign up to my newsletter or I can recommend Alison Morton's newsletter (she writes alternative history - crime novels set in the fictional modern world of if the Rome Empire had survived. Brilliant books.) 
  • Tweet interesting Tweets, and make sure you re-tweet other people's interesting Tweets. They in turn might re-tweet yours.
  • Have a Facebook page. Again keep it interesting (but not too personal. Once on the Internet something stays on the Internet.)
  • Keep a Blog. OK maybe update it with a new article only once a month, but do so regularly. And no, it isn't a blog that is just about you and your books. Take at look at the index page for this blog. Note how diverse my posts are. Invite interesting guests. Then they might invite you back and automatically you are widening your audience. 

The drawback to all this? 

I wish someone would invent a 36 hour day...


1 comment:

  1. Now where did you get that quote from? Lol! agree wigth all you say, but might I also suggest that a good review is invaluable for publicity purposes. although even a poor one can be useful. Discovering Diamonds is possibly the best review site because it deals almost exclusively with a) Historical Fiction and b) Indie authors. As you know, I was recently offered a contract; it would have cost me £2,400 had I accepted it! For that sort of money I would have wanted a professionally finished product and lots of publicity - I doubt I would have got either ....


Thank you for leaving a comment - it should appear soon, but Blogger sometimes chucks its teddies out of the cot and has a tantrum. My apologies if you leave a comment and I do not respond - blame it on Blogger Bloopers. If you are having problems, contact me on author AT helenhollick DOT net and I will post it for you. Sometimes a post will appear as anonymous instead of your name or avatar - I draw attention to this being another Blogger Blooper and NOT of MY doing... That said ...SPAMMERS or distasteful rudeness will be stamped on, squashed, composted and very possibly cursed - if you spam my blog, next time something nasty happens to you just remember that I DID warn you...