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Posts from the ‘marketing’ Category

How the blurb is no longer enough

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As my children get older and develop their own tastes and interests, it is fascinating to see how the younger generation like to access their entertainment. It is useful to me as a publisher and author to take note of these changes in viewing and reading habits.

What I have garnered is that consumers are no longer satisfied with a brief written description of a book, app or product to base their purchase upon. My son will expect to view a short video before he downloads an app, even if it’s free. The same now goes for books too.

Not only do we need to provide an extract from the novel, so readers can tell if the writing style is acceptable to them, it is also useful to produce a book trailer, which integrates a description of the themes and plot of the novel along with some kind of visual and audio stimulus. I have done this with all twelve of my books. With modern technology it is a fun and fairly straightforward process. But it is necessary for modern media platforms.

We are becoming more choosy about how we spend our money. So readers need as much information as possible to make a decision. The blurb is still crucially important but on its own it may no longer be quite enough.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

How I used my book titles to create a strong author brand

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I write two separate series of detective, mystery novels. When I set out to pen the second series, featuring my new main character; Scottish policewoman DCI Dani Bevan, I wanted all the titles of the books to share a common feature.
This decision wasn’t pre-planned. When I make a choice about my next title it is usually quite early on in the planning process. The title helps me to formulate and develop the storyline. I need to have it in my head as I write. With the Dani Bevan books, I knew that the first instalment was going to be called ‘Against A Dark Sky’ because I wanted to create the image of a mountain set against a dark, stormy background in the reader’s imagination. The plot revolves around a suspicious death which takes place on Ben Lomond, when the weather turns bad without warning during a hiking expedition.
Once I had this first title fixed, I was keen that all of Dani’s subsequent cases should follow a similar theme and that the ‘dark’ element should be retained in each new book. ‘On A Dark Sea’ was the follow-up novel. The title was a natural progression from the planning phase as the story begins with a young woman’s perilous journey across dangerous seas at night, in a small fishing boat.
The other titles then flowed quite naturally as the series continued. ‘A Dark Shadow Falls’, ‘Dark As Night’ and ‘The Dark Fear’ were the books which followed.
I didn’t really realise at the time, but by creating this ‘dark’ series of books, I was building a kind of title-based brand for the Dani Bevan novels. Because of the nature of the titles, it was clear to my readership whether they would be getting an Imogen and Hugh Croft Mystery or a DCI Dani Bevan police procedural. I’m an avid reader of crime novels myself and I like to know exactly what I’m getting from a book. An author’s brand plays an important part in re-enforcing this and making the genre clear to consumers.
My Dani Bevan books are slightly different from the Imogen and Hughs – they are ‘darker’ and although containing humour, they are more brutal in subject matter than their sister series. The titles reflect this perfectly and help to formulate the brand.
The next book in the DCI Dani Bevan collection already has a working title; ‘Girls Of The Dark’, which I am hoping to be able to release before Christmas.
So, if you are looking to establish a strong author brand, you would do well to consider the title of the book itself, which can be a very powerful tool for conveying just exactly what your series wants to say.

Professionalise all aspects of the job you’re doing. The end results will be better for it.

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I read a very good blog this week by a fellow writer. He was bemoaning the fact that authors are now required to diversify in order to get their books to a wider audience, he didn’t want to have to claim that he did anything other than write books. I can certainly sympathise with his view, however, I suspect that I’m one of the people that this particular blogger was complaining about.
These days, I would say my job was not simply being an author, but also a publisher, a digital marketer and someone who has to turn their hand, quite frequently, to graphic design. I also edit and proof-read, alongside my very able team of editors and advisers. So I really can’t say that I’m just a writer, it would be disingenuous. Much of what I do on social media is marketing. It would be misleading to suggest otherwise.
The image of the hapless author, who has their mind almost permanently focussed on plots and characterisation and not on the realities of the business side of writing is really now a thing of the past. Even if your novels are handled by a large publishing company, you will still be required to do your own marketing.
As time goes on, I find myself increasingly enjoying these other aspects of the job; particularly the cover design and the making of the promotional materials. Why should I pay for a so-called ‘professional’ when I can do the task myself and the more I do, the better I get at it. I think it’s important not to undervalue the new skills we are learning. I actually think I could give some traditional publishing companies a run for their money in terms of the editing and design I’ve produced. I see no reason to be coy about the new trade that we are budding apprentices of.
If we take these various business roles seriously and treat them as a professional part of our job description then I believe that the end results will be better too. Don’t treat self-publishing as an amateur venture, give your hard work the credit it deserves. I reckon I could join a marketing department in any sector of industry now and have a reasonable amount to offer. I think that authors (and part-time working mums for that matter) have a tendency to trivialise the work they do. This is unwise. Be confident about producing a polished and professional end product and your work will be taken more seriously, which is something that every writer must surely desire.

When someone off the telly favourites your tweet.

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I haven’t always been a confident user of that most fast paced platform of social media, Twitter. It’s taken me a little while, but I’m gradually getting into the swing of it. I use it primarily to discuss the books and television programmes that I have enjoyed and to let my readers know about new releases and special offers. What I have discovered to be one of the great perks of this medium, is that really quite frequently, somebody off the telly will respond to one of your tweets.
I’m sure this has happened to many other people. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to feel a little flutter of pleasure when it happens to me. This week, for some reason, I’ve had a particular flurry of celebrity ‘favouriting’; from producers and actors to reality TV contestants. For a stay at home mum of two, who happens to write crime novels, this isn’t bad going.
I’ve tried to analyse the reason for my recent Twitter success. The conclusions I’ve reached are pretty straightforward.
My tweets are generally supportive and positive. I’m usually only sharing my opinions about the stuff I enjoy and am enthusiastic about – and people like to be given praise. This concept goes without saying, surely? But actually, there’s so much negativity on Twitter that it would be easy to forget.
I believe that if you enjoy a book, tv drama or documentary then you should give it a good review somewhere, whether it’s on Amazon, Facebook or Twitter. This means that others will be encouraged to watch or read it too and the author or production team can provide more of the same. It’s a win win for the consumer.
If you do this regularly enough, you might also find yourself taking part in a pleasant little exchange with some person off the telly and believe me, it’s a bit of a thrill.

I’m a writer. I refuse to be judged by my appearance.

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Having read an article by a Chicago Tribune journalist who was vilified by dozens of readers for having slightly unruly, curly hair, it got me thinking.

To be a novelist or a reporter in the written press used to be a fairly anonymous profession. You were judged upon your choice of words and not on the way you looked. But in this modern age of social media and technology, the world has become a much more visual place. All the handbooks tell me that my picture should adorn all of my online platforms, so that readers can relate to me and feel as if they know who I am. This is absolutely fair enough, I can see the logic and thankfully, I am in no way well known enough for people to feel that they have to knock me down a peg or two by criticising my appearance.

I suppose it would be very easy to use a false image to represent yourself. To do a kind of online ‘Banksy’, or the equivalent of a visual ‘nom de plume’. I’m not certain if such an approach would benefit a writer in their trade or not. But what I am sure of, is that I’ve not invited comment upon my appearance simply by using a photo to identify myself. Writing books has traditionally been a profession in which the stories should really speak for themselves. Are we seriously more likely to buy a thriller novel because the author looks dishy on the dust cover, or on their Amazon page? Maybe we would, but its part in the decision making process is so entirely subconscious that we aren’t even aware it has a bearing on our choices.

The possibility worries me, because where does that leave people with disabilities or facial disfigurements? Should their writing be judged on the way they appear on their Facebook or Twitter page?
The internet has opened up many new opportunities for writers, but our transformation into a more visual age has its downsides. The world can be a cruel and judgemental place at times. I just hope that by tying our image so closely to our work, us writers aren’t playing a role in perpetuating it.

Finding a way through the maze; e-marketing for beginners.

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Most writers are more familiar with pencil and paper than they are with the internet, but amazingly enough, us bookish types are slowly getting the hang of this new technology revolution.
I’ve recently released my eighth novel and am forcing myself to concentrate on my digital marketing for a few days. This aspect of the job doesn’t come naturally to me. However, the more I find out about pay-per-click advertising campaigns and pinterest walls the more I begin to like it.
Adding new contacts through WordPress, Facebook or LinkedIn is a sociable process, especially for someone like me who once lived in Central London and enjoyed the non-stop socialising the city had to offer but now lives out in semi-rural Essex and has two children under ten. Folk who go into work each day might not appreciate the thrill of receiving a message from a fellow writer/publisher in the United States. It’s very exciting. And relatively easy to get involved in. Most of these sites are free to use and navigate novices through the joining process in a very straightforward way.
What I particularly enjoy are the social media platforms which encourage creativity and design. This suits writers and authors perfectly. For example, I have pinterest walls for photographs of places which have inspired my books. I’ve also created a step by step guide to the design of my covers. It’s informative and interesting and only obliquely related to book sales.
Don’t be afraid of trying it out. Writing the books is the difficult bit. The marketing and social media aspect is actually a lot of fun and if you give it enough time it really works.

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