Author: Gloria Webb

Getting to Know You (and your book!)

Our guest blogger for this month is well-known author and academic, Jenni Ogden, who shares her experiences in using methods that have contributed to her considerable success as an author. In particular, Jenni explains the advantages of employing a publicist to promote your book and you as the author.

 While Jenni’s first books were  in the non-fiction field of Clinical Neuropsychology, Jenni has since branched out into the world of fiction writing. Along the way, she has collected an impressive list of awards and prizes for her first novel, “A Drop in the Ocean”. Jenni is presently working on another novel set in Queensland.

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Jenni OgdenIf you are like me, the very words, “marketing” and “publicity”, exhaust you. Unfortunately, unless your book has been published by a traditional publisher (and even then sometimes, if you are not one of their top authors) there seems nothing for it but to get on with it; read the numerous e-books on the subject and click into the free webinars run by crazily successful entrepreneur writers who have 20,000 subscribers on their e-mail lists and write three or more books a year, usually in the same gripping series.

If you are happy to sell primarily through Amazon and love social media, you may be able to promote your book online yourself. Prepare to spend a considerable number of hours a week on promotion. Write your next book at the same time because the authors who are successful on Amazon tend to be prolific writers with two or more books a year. They can afford to give their first book away to lure readers onto their mailing lists.

But what if this is your first book and it took you years to write? What if your next book will take another two years to write? What if your books are the kind  that sell well in actual bookshops rather than as e-books? What if you want to see if they sell in a bookshop? If this is a goal, you will need to find a distributor who sells into bookshops, or take a road trip and “sell” your book to bookshops yourself. A very expensive exercise.

Alternatively, you can find a distributor who may be willing to distribute your book for you (and take a percentage of the fifty percent discounted retail price that the bookshop will pay) or find a good, high-quality pay-for-service or partnership publisher who includes distribution into bookshops as one of their options. Either way, if you make $3.00 profit (after print and distribution costs are subtracted) on a good quality paperback book that is sold in bookshops for $26.00 you will be doing well.

But here is the catch: bookshops buy books they have heard of. Three months after your book is published, the two or three copies taken by a few bookshops will likely disappear from the shelves and be returned to the distributor unless readers are still asking for it, or your book and your name are coming up again and again in reviews and articles. This is why you need to decide, before your book is published, whether you need your own publicist.

A publicist’s job is to find publicity for your book and for you, the fascinating author of this and future books. Publicity is free coverage of your book in the media. You supply content for the media, and in return they tell their consumers about your book, or at least include a link to it or your website. Marketing is a different beast; it is paid coverage. This might be in the form of Facebook ads, Goodreads give-aways,  and so on.

The only downside of good publicists is that they are not cheap. They will probably cost you considerably more than that fantastic editor who guided your revisions, because they need to spend more hours over a longer time period working for you and your book. A standard fee might be $80.00‒$100.00 an hour, and in Australia you will need the publicist’s services for at least a month before publication and for two to three months after. Not, of course for 40 hours a week, but perhaps for 50 plus hours in total, spread out over the time period required. That’s $4000 and up for a modest publicity campaign.

On top of that will be the cost of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), postage of those ARCs to reviewers and media, competition fees if you decide to enter your book for book awards like the IPPYs (Independent Publisher Book Awards), perhaps a slot on Netgalley which will build up the reviews your book receives and get it into book blogs, and more.

Chances are, you may not recoup this investment. But here’s the thing; if you intend to write more books, the right publicity will help get your name and your writing voice known and build those crucial loyal readers. If you have already spent 2000 plus hours writing your book and have invested in an editor, copy-editor and professionally designed cover (all essential for most successful books), then what is better; investing more dollars wisely and hoping you will sell enough books to make your losses less painful (or even make a profit), or selling 100 copies to friends before your book sinks without trace?

So how can a publicist assist you to achieve these miracles? My experience has been with a United States publicist but I did research Australian publicists as well, and their roles are similar. Any publicist works only in the country they know, but in today’s online world, reviews and book blogs are international. However, getting articles into Australian magazines and reviews into Australian newspapers are only likely to happen if you have an Australian publicist.

Here are some of the things publicists do:

  •  They read your book and love it, and feel confident that they can find story lines (angles) that relate to you or the themes in your book that will interest your target potential readers
  • They know how to write a press release and the other stuff that a press kit needs, and they know who to send it to and when
  • They know the right way to pitch to media (print, blog sites, trade reviewers, interviewers, TV, radio) and they have a long list of contacts they can choose fromBooklistAd ADITO
  • They come up with angles you hadn’t thought of for articles and blog posts that you write, with your name and new book details attached (your byline), and that they pitch to
  • They plan your publicity campaign and keep you on track, making sure deadlines aren’t missed
  • They suggest competitions you might enter, and enter your book for youOgden awards
  • They put your book on sites like Netgalley to garner reviews and they follow up on all their queries and submissions
  •  They may organise blog tours, in-person book tours, social networking and websites
  • They stay cheerful and optimistic and keep you calm and focused, and they celebrate your small and large achievements along the way.

DSCN6395Perhaps you can do it yourself? Yes, you can, but it will take a lot of time, research, and trial and error, and you most likely won’t be as effective as a good publicist would be. That’s the beauty of experts, and that’s why I go to a doctor if I think I have some terrible illness, rather than experimenting with treatments purchased over the internet.

OK, so you’ll hire a publicist. How, who, when? The same rules apply as for finding the right editor. Finding a publicist should begin as soon as you have decided you want your book in bookshops and you have a distributor who can hand-sell to bookshops (or you plan to take a road trip and do it yourself out of your car boot).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many to choose from in Australia. Here are some ways to help you select a publicist who suits you:

  •  Seek recommendations from trusted author and publisher friends
  • Interview a publicist before you decide, and before you sign a contract, make sure the publicist has a good feel for your book (and has preferably read at least a good portion of it, and can genuinely be a champion for it)
  • Ask for the names of the publicist’s other authors who write in your genre and if possible contact those authors and ask for their confidential opinions
  • Seek a publicist you feel at ease with; check how flexible they are regarding their time (for example, do they offer set packages that run for a set time, or will they spread their time out over a longer period, which may work more effectively for your book)
  • Find out how they prefer to communicate and make sure this fits with your preferences;
  • Sign a formal contract.

Be ready and willing to play your part. This means being an effective communicator and meeting deadlines if you are writing articles and blog posts, preparing well for interviews and book tours, and showing up to events on time.

The biggest advantage of having a great publicist is that it becomes fun when you have someone on your side ‒ even if they are paid to be there ‒ sharing your triumphs, whether it is a fabulous review from an unknown reader or that article about you and your book in the Australian Women’s Weekly !

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Jenni Ogden's booksJenni Ogden is the author of non-fiction books, Fractured Minds and Trouble In Mind, and writes a regular blog post for Psychology Today.41shKDQLaEL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni OgdenHer first novel, A Drop In The Ocean, set on the Great Barrier Reef, was published by US partnership press, She Writes Press. In 2016, the year of publication, the novel won four international book awards:

Gold—Nautilus Book Award for Fiction, Large Publisher

GOLD—Sarton Women’s Book Award, Contemporary Fiction

GOLD—Independent Publisher Book Award, Best Fiction, Australia/New Zealand

SILVER—Readers’ Favorite International Book Award, Women’s Fiction

Read reviews of the book on Goodreads or Amazon, and if you like the sound of it, order from your favourite independent bookshop or purchase online.

For more on Jenni Ogden’s off-grid lifestyle, travel and book reviews, subscribe to her monthly e-newsletter, friend her on Goodreads, follow her on Facebook  or visit her author page.

 

Dare to Dream – A Sustainable Life as a Creative

Our guest blogger is Dr June Perkins, who has recently published a beautiful children’s poetry book called “Magic Fish Dreaming”. To produce this book, June combined her artistic and creative talent, her academic qualifications in writing for empowerment, her poetic skills, her love of writing and reading, and her desire to make a financial success of her writing.  To do this, June turned to the idea of crowd funding and support from professionals in the field, and the results have been amazing. June’s exquisite poems are enhanced even further by delightful illustrations.

June has shared her experiences, as she wants to encourage others to follow their dreams and achieve success in their chosen creative fields.

Here is June’s inspiring story.

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June PerkinsI don’t know how many times I have heard people say, ‘Being a poet won’t pay the bills,’ and ‘Writers have a tough life. Why are you doing this to yourself?’ Still, I never gave up on writing, even whilst I took on various jobs: tutoring, dramaturgy for youth theatre, writer in community, volunteer blogger, teacher aiding, small photography assignments, and working as a nursing aide.

To support me throughout this journey, I have been extremely blessed to have an understanding partner who, for the most part, had the more regular work. Importantly, I have taken whatever work I could find, to help us out, and still have time to keep pursuing my creative practice, as well as helping raise our children.

Magic Fish Dreaming by June PerkinsFast forward to today, and I have been able to use crowd funding to “kickstart” my writing into a more sustainable model, resulting in the publication of my first full-length book of poetry for children, Magic Fish Dreaming. It is leading to more and more opportunities to build a sustainable career.

How did I manage to finally make some serious progress in my sustainability quest? By a strange combination of believing it was possible, enjoying what I was doing so much I was sure others would, too, working when there was not necessarily a financial reward, and taking online courses to help me market my work. One of these courses was on how to launch a kickstarter campaign, which I did in 2015 to help me publish my book.

An important part of preparing for the “kickstarter” was understanding my product and its value to others. I stood apart, with the help of Jed and Mira from the Children’s Book Academy, from my creative practice and looked at what it could contribute to society.

Working through this logically gave me the confidence that I could attract others to support my campaign. One of the biggest breakthroughs was finding an illustrator, Helene Magisson, who believed in the book as much as I did.

Sample Magic Fish Dreaming

I then sought out written endorsements from people I respect. The aim was to attract people beyond those who already knew me and my work.

The experience of having these professionals back Magic Fish Dreaming has given me the confidence to approach shops and distributors to stock the book. I now have up to fourteen shops, three suppliers and one distributor. More things are on the way, but I can’t say anything about that yet.

The first shop to take the risk, Riverbend, was, I think swayed by the wonderful blurb that Felicity Plunkett, a respected poetry editor, wrote for the back of the book. I also knew from discussions with people working in the shop that they were looking for children’s poetry and thought we might be a good match.  Riverbend hosts many poetry events.

Research is essential to success. I have found that Independent book stores across Queensland are supportive of the development of a regional Queensland voice. They have been invaluable in helping me reach a larger audience because we share the same values. You can see the full list of shops on my website. As I grew up in Tasmania, I sent the book to two shops there. I also connected with Local Authors Network  of Far North Queensland because I lived there for many years and am now so pleased that the book is available in Cairns.

Although I am shy, my desire to share this work with children and families who care about the world and its future is so strong, I can’t help but spill enthusiasm about my book. I just love reading poems to the public and watching their response.

June Perkins, Boonah Environment FestivalI wrote to festivals, and heard back from some of them, like Sandcliffe Writers Festival. They invited me to present on a panel. I kept pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learning from each experience, with sustainability as my motive.

Marketing is often the thing many creatives dread. Why? We enjoy the creating process so much we don’t want to think about finer details like “Will this work sell?” But to do the thing we love most in the world, we need to have a well-paying day job, have dedicated and caring patrons or partners and not have to worry about marketing at all, or consider questions of marketability and how to build a sustainable career.

My major priorities with my work, aside from attaining excellence, are the values I project and how I create pieces ‒ written, online, or photographic. I have never compromised on those values.

June Perkins - Ocean

I remember being at a most inspiring workshop with a Canadian actor and writer who was visiting my university when I was doing my doctorate. She spoke to us about a daily routine of centring oneself before moving to the creative. This centring process could be remembrance of ancestors and the past, dancing, praying, or all of these things combined. One can apply this same idea to marketing creative arts.

My top tips for marketing your book:

  • Know who you are and what you want to achieve.
  • Have confidence and technical skill in your work as these will invite others to have faith in you.
  • Seek endorsements from people you respect, always respecting their answers and never being pushy. If they think you need to do more work, do it!
  • Be audacious because you love what you do. Take a chance, and don’t worry about the outcome. Often, you will surprise yourself.
  • Reflect on what you have done and think about how to improve.
  • Decide what your measures of success will be and relate these to your well-being as a human being, not just to financial returns.
  • Understand where your market lies and keep deepening your understanding of this as people respond to your work.
  • Be prepared to adapt, change and move out of your comfort zone to some degree. Be persistent.
  • Put a value on what you do with an understanding of the markets, and don’t under- or over-value what you do.
  • Give your customer value and sincerity. Never make them feel like they are a marketing exercise!

All the very best in your own journey. Be fearless, reflective and wise, in pursuing the opportunity to do what you love every day!

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June Perkins is a multi-arts-creative of Papua New Guinean and Australian background now living in Brisbane. She published photography, documentary, and stories with ABC Open (2011-2015) and has a PhD in writing empowerment (University of Sydney.) She is currently a university writing tutor and blogger, and crowd-funded “Magic Fish Dreaming”, publishing it with her own press, Gumbootspearlz Press. In 2016 June won an Australian Society of Authors writing mentorship for picture books. She has more projects in development.

You can purchase June Perkins’ delightful book by clicking on this link.

“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”

One of the most delightful authors I have worked with is the very talented (and also very modest) Chris Shaw, a retired pharmacist who happily began writing seriously when he retired. This break from the demands of paid work allowed his creative juices to flow, and we, as his readers, are the beneficiaries of this outflow of writing talent.

I know when I work on Chris’s writing that I will either laugh, or cry (real tears!) sometimes both, triggered by the same piece of writing. It is always a pleasure working on Chris’s literary offerings, and this blog story is no exception. So, here are Chris’s thoughts on book marketing – as usual, tongue in cheek, with that slightly mischievous combination of cheekiness and seriousness for which he is known. Enjoy!

Chris Shaw with monkeys

(Chris is the one in the middle.)

Basically, I blame my wife for my writing. Perhaps I should start at the beginning, as writers are wont to do; and not right at the beginning but at the writing beginning.

Rebecca and I decided to visit the UK to spend a year with my aging parents in 2001-2002 while this was still a viable option, since they were 94 and 92, and because I had lived “overseas” since 1965. I planned to work as a locum pharmacy manager around the UK in order to support us. The result of this was great stress: new places, new staff and new computer programmes every week or two. To shed the stress load, I started to write to friends back in “Oz” to help ground myself in a more accustomed reality. These newsletters were “published” in a book called “Loose Chippings”. I had four copies printed, and I distributed them to aforesaid friends as thanks for their help in keeping me sane. The prose accurately reflected my “O” level English qualification from the 1950s.

We returned to Cairns, Australia, and Rebecca, my other “bookend”, became enamoured with the writings of author, Deric Longden, who kept and wrote funny short stories about his cats in Yorkshire. Her continual sniggers and chortles hardened my resolve to see off my competition. So I wrote a little story called “Happy Anniversary”. I gave it to her to read and received so much in the way of “ego-stroking” that I just had to continue writing. So, as you can see, I blame my wife for my writing.

It's All Relative Chris ShawI saw my first book of short stories, “It’s All Relative”, as my apprentice piece. I decided to make it the best I could, in line with my professional career, and spent a huge amount of money on the book design and production, the double CD audio version, the advertisement on the back window of my car, and a banner about the size of a house. And I sold some books. I had to learn about ISBN, Cataloguing-in-Publication, galleys, bleeds, A3, A4, A5, margins, fonts, and the whole Glossary of Terms that every endeavour sports. My copies were stored under the bed, with me on top of the bed but under the covers, hiding (or is that cowering?) in case my writing was not good enough for public consumption. Does this sound familiar?

Indulge me if I digress a moment – a little red herring. If you are creative in any way, the chances are that there is something that you do that lasts for an hour but feels like five minutes. “It” has many names, but I call it “the zone”. It happened to me as a violinist. I could beaver away, and time would have absolutely no meaning. I have also discovered my “writing zone”, and it is very pleasurable, and very seductive, but lacks a time dimension.

Danielle Ellis, who lives in northern NSW and appraises manuscripts, very kindly gave me a list of things to do when writing a book. The list was entitled, “How to wreck the potential for success of any book”. One of those things was, “Don’t get an editor, because it’s your writing and it’s saying what you want to say”.

So, accepting that I was still doing my apprenticeship, I cast around for an editor, and the fates brought me Gloria Webb’s name (from Wordfix, http://www.word-fix.com.au). We met over coffee. I think there was an instinctual trust, and the rest, as they say, became history. Gloria has been correcting my prose and punctuation, guiding my direction, and generally keeping me on the straight and narrow ever since. She also acts as a sounding board in that she enjoys my quirky writing, and if she doesn’t, I know I’m in for a re-write, but that’s fine. “The zone” is not infallible.

Scan_Pic0007At the time that my next book, “Hey, Guys! Here’s How You Get More ‘Nooky!” came out in 2011, I had secured the services of Francis Chuah at FC Productions in Sydney, who has a dedicated website (www.writersandebooks.com.au) for his authors. This is a selling site for their hard copies and e-books, FOR FREE! And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, has almost been the extent of my marketing.

In my defence, I did run a book launch. I hired the hall and a PA system, bought the wine, made the nibbles, and phoned friends and acquaintances. I think we got nearly 100 people, a good effort, but instead of doing a reading, I played an unfinished piece of music that I was writing, on my piano keyboard. The evening went down like a lead balloon, and I sold less than ten books at a cost of well over five hundred dollars. Why didn’t I do a reading? How come I know so many freeloaders? I’ve been giving out free samples for a lot of my professional career; so why didn’t I do a free reading? Next time!

Chris Shaw MY NEW COUNTRY CHRIS SHAW (2).jpgSo, my marketing has been less than optimal, and is accurately reflected in sales. However, I know my writing is fine, and so there is hope. There are many organisations out there that say they will deliver for you, and it will only cost you $X, with many noughts but no guarantees. So, writers and authors, take care about where your hard-earned money goes.

As a logical extension to her editing business, Gloria Webb has set up Jabiru Publishing (www.jabirupublishing.com.au), and this may be just what you are looking for; so check out the website. I know from experience that you will get an encouraging and welcoming hearing. It’s so important to have a guiding hand, from someone who knows what they’re doing and is in your corner.

Scan_Pic0001.jpgAs a small but important postscript to all writers, I offer some serious words of advice. After I retired I sat for three years in front of a computer screen, writing three books which I published, and had a heart attack as a consequence.Message: get up from your chair every fifteen minutes and have a little walk. With very little practice, this break won’t spoil “the zone”, and allows the opportunity for evaluation and projection, without the necessity of having a pacemaker inserted as a consequence.

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Chris Shaw’s books are available from Collins Booksellers, Smithfield Shopping Centre, Smithfield, and http://www.writersandebooks.com.au.

Marketing: Through the Looking Glass

Phil Ackman with South Pacific leaders 2Philip Ackman has had a long and interesting career in journalism and marketing, as well as some interesting business ventures. The inspiration for his first novel, ‘The Man in the Spiderweb Coat’, came from some rather frightening adventures as a journalist in the Middle East, as well as his experiences in a number of small South Pacific countries. Philip very kindly shares his vast knowledge in the areas of both books and marketing. He has also agreed to write a sequel to this blog. I’m sure you will enjoy both!

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Tom Clancy allegedly sold his first novel, The Hunt For Red October, out of the trunk of his car. One day, a miracle occurred: United States President Ronald Reagan secured a copy – and the rest is history.

Robert Galbraith’s first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, sold somewhere between 1,500 and 5,000 copies. One day, Galbraith was outed as Harry Potter author, J K Rowling. The Cuckoo’s Calling sold a million copies in the next week.

There are a thousand stories like this in the world of publishing, and this raises the question: how do you get your book onto the best-seller list?

Phil Ackman The Man in the Spiderweb CoatMy first novel, The Man in the Spiderweb Coat, has done moderately well, helped no doubt by a review from the Queen’s former Press Secretary. However, the best-seller list is still far off.

A distinguished former television producer has urged me to turn it into a television series. ‘It’s filmic,’ he told me. ‘But it’s not about the dollars in television,’ he added. ‘A television series will drive sales of the book.’

So, there’s a marketing mystery to be unlocked here. Tom Clancy, a moderately successful insurance agent, suddenly becomes a best-selling author, while Robert Galbraith’s first crime novel loiters in publishing obscurity until the market learns ‘he’ is really J K Rowling.

The answer to this puzzle is that commercial success turns on ‘word of mouth’. Simple as that. If the ‘word of mouth’ – via a television ad campaign, a public relations event, a Tweet, Facebook or a singing telegram – produces positive ‘word of mouth’ responses, then (subject to some other ‘gotchas’) you’re on your way.

‘Word of mouth’ does two things. Firstly, it draws the attention of readers to your book’s existence. Without that, you are no more than title number 3,666,484 on Amazon’s vast database.  Probably no one but your mother and a few friends will find you there. Secondly, it enables the market to decide whether your book is great – or whether it sucks.

The most closely held secret of word of mouth is that no one can determine in advance whether word of mouth is going to be positive or negative. Not

Publishers. Not Hollywood studios. Not music entrepreneurs. Not actors. Not television producers. Get the point? No one. It’s why most projects fail. Word of mouth is usually negative, or at best neutral. If success via marketing could be guaranteed, there would be no failed movies, books, television shows and so on.

So, there you have it: word of mouth is king.

This means you should do everything within your power to stimulate it. What you need in the early days of your literary career is the largest possible number of people reading your book or books and building your ‘word of mouth’.

If those early readers also happen to be famous or distinguished in some way, then so much the better.

‘Wait a minute!’ you splutter. ‘I reviewed my own book. I tweeted it. Wrote a blog (1 of 362 trillion). Told my friends (6 people).  Got 17 likes on my Facebook page.’

Of course you did! The point is, you never got above background noise. Fifty people heard of your book. Ten went on to buy it. So how much noise can 10 people make? Answer: not much.

Every author needs a way to develop and execute a marketing plan  – themselves, through their publisher, or with the help of a marketing professional. It’s as important as writing the book itself.

So, what about quality? Isn’t that the key issue? And how do you explain viral hits, which occur without any marketing at all? And finally, how do publishers decide which manuscripts to ‘green-light’ and which to send to the recycle bin?

All of these questions may be the subject of a future blog.

A Real Challenge

Ludij Peden is known Australia wide as “The Queen of the Rust Iron”. Her paintings reflect a love of the buildings, landscape and way of life uniquely typical of Far North Queensland. She has learnt to render the rusty iron and weathered textures of these old buildings like no other; so now when people see such a structure in their travels they comment, “Oh, look, there’s a Ludij Peden.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mainly an oil and watercolour painter, Peden also works in acrylics, printmaking and graphics, is an experienced art judge and tutor, and has published several books and print editions, mostly sold out. She has won numerous awards, and her works are in many public and private collections worldwide.

In Ludij’s story below, her talent and versatility are evident. Not only is she a celebrated artist; she is also a writer who has been very successful in selling her books. After the initial challenge of selling thousands of books when her publisher let her down, Ludij has since ventured along the track of self-publishing through Amazon. With all her books, she has relied on imaginative, attention-getting book launches. She is also not afraid of hard work!

Ludij has very generously shared her marketing experiences below.

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Having been through the whole book publishing and marketing “thing” years ago with the book, “Sun on a Rusty Roof”, which I co-authored with Ron Edwards, I had no desire to repeat that exercise with my current books.

Sun on a Rusty Roof“Sun on a Rusty Roof” contains full-page plates of my watercolours depicting old buildings on the left page. Each text page on the right explains something about the painting opposite, and contains an appropriate bush poem or folk song from Ron’s collection, as well as one of Ron’s black and white sketches. An exhibition of the original watercolours specially painted for the book was used to launch the book at a prominent Cairns art gallery.

The book sold well for the first six months until our publishing company was taken over by a major Australian publishing house which in turn, within a year, was itself taken over by a multi-national. This company was not interested in distributing and marketing our book anymore, preferring to concentrate their efforts on distributing and promoting the latest fiction thrillers.

Part of the original deal was that the publishing company would market and distribute the books through their distribution agents, who travelled the country visiting bookstores and the like, promoting their new releases AND checking and re-ordering sold stock. Now this no longer happened, and our sales died.

The company gave us two choices: either they put the books in the “throw out bins” at a ridiculous price so that our royalties would be nix; or we could buy the stock at cost. Ron was not interested as he had his own books to market and sell. So my husband and I decided to buy the stock and pay out Ron for his share. I was determined not to have a fire sale of the books. I didn’t want to lose face with those who had paid full price.  I needed to be able to hold my head up in the community where I lived.

Now what to do? As it was just before the social media era, marketing the book required “foot slogging” to every conceivable outlet: bookstores, tourist souvenir shops, local museums, newsagents – anywhere I thought the book would sell.

It was a great learning experience for me.  I had never found it easy to promote my work or myself.  I found marketing the book even harder, but in the process I learned much about human nature and relating to others. My marketing area stretched north to Cape York, west to Mt. Isa, and south to Rockhampton, and included every small township in between, with a few outlets in Brisbane.

This required monthly follow-ups, either personally or by phone. It also required follow-up to collect payment; most selling agents wanted the books on consignment, but were not very prompt in paying for sold ones. It was scary at times. But I persevered.

It took me quite a few years, but I eventually sold the thousands of books. Today, the book is out of print and highly sought after by collectors, and only three copies remain in my collection. I still get requests for it.  Eventually, we did very well out of the sale of the books, BUT it was hard work!

So you can see why I wasn’t keen to repeat the exercise with my current books. After some exploration, I decided on the self-publishing option for my new books, using Amazon as the sales and marketing option. My books are for sale on Amazon, in both hard copy and e-book format (Kindle).

However, besides selling the books online, I realised I also needed a public, local profile for the current books, “Terror and Turmoil” and “Into the Mirror, into the Past”. These are quite different books from “Sun on a Rusty Roof”.

TERROR AND TURMOIL.jpgI chose a Friday evening event with drinks and nibbles at the Atherton Library for the launch of “Terror and Turmoil”. Since the book was about our experiences of Cyclone Tracy and its aftermath, I began proceedings with a sound recording I had made of cyclonic winds with the intermittent cyclone warning siren, followed immediately after with a chapter reading from the book. It certainly attracted attention and frightened the hell out of some of the people there!

Besides the usual invitees, invitations were also extended to Tablelands Regional Council emergency staff, and State Emergency Service, medical and nursing personnel. I designed my launch invitations so that I could guillotine off the launch information, leaving the remainder as a handy brochure hand-out – much like a large business card.

INTO THE MIRROR INTO THE PAST.jpgCairns was chosen for the launch of “Into the Mirror, Into the Past”, since much of its story revolved around this city. This book is about my childhood in Nazi-occupied Holland, emigration with my parents, and growing up in Cairns from the late 1940s to the 1960s. I prepared a video of the photos and paintings I had used as illustrations, and this was played on a big screen throughout the night. At the time, the paintings were on display in a local gallery. I also did a chapter reading, as I have found people really respond to readings by a writer. A little later, I displayed the book at a school reunion and donated copies to the various schools. Word of mouth then took over.

Launch sales for these two books were beyond expectations, and we had to place names on waiting lists to purchase copies. People did not seem to mind waiting a few weeks for their copies to arrive from Amazon. So with Amazon you have the opportunity to sell locally, go on a marketing road trip if you so wish, and sell online. You don’t need to take cases of books with you everywhere but can ask Amazon to send your Author copies ahead.

If Amazon publishes your books, they will automatically become public. Anyone – readers, bookstores and libraries – can buy your books from the Amazon website from anywhere in the world. But isn’t that a good thing? I have sold my books in the UK, USA, Europe, Argentina and Australia – markets I would not have been able to reach myself, unless I was a James Paterson.

Using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing was a great learning experience – exciting and fun. With Kindle, royalties are paid monthly into your bank account, advice is by e-mail, and each day, if you wish, you can check the statistics on your book’s sales and progress.

For me, the Kindle royalties that flow in magically by themselves are a bonus, “the cream on top”, while I concentrate on selling the hard copies I’ve ordered, usually ten or twenty at a time, at Author discounted prices. As the books usually take 2 to 3 weeks to arrive, I program the times into my marketing program. With hard copy books, however, Amazon doesn’t pay royalties until the value of royalties reaches $100. Also, no royalties are earned with discounted Author copies.

I have no complaints about my Amazon and Kindle experiences, and enjoy the immediacy of the statistics and Amazon’s search engine possibilities. However, keep in mind that Amazon has more than 31 million books online, and tens of thousands of new books are added each month.  Kindle has almost four million books, with tens of thousands of new ones added each month, too. For readers, this means a lot of choice, but for authors it is easy for their books to get lost in the crowd. For this type of online selling, authors need to choose the book categories and pricing carefully, and promote regularly online.

I currently have three new books on the go, working from one to the other – much like I do when I’m painting. This helps me to keep the muse in tow. I’m hoping to have at least one of these books ready by Christmas 2016.

The Personal Touch

This month’s contributor to “Marketing your book” is Susan Alley, who has shown how adding the personal touch to marketing efforts resulted in good sales of her books. In marketing the books, which are based on her family’s history, Susan used contacts in the local area where she lived, as well as contacts in the areas where her books were set. 

Launch in Babinda.jpgSusan Alley has published three books, the most recent being Cheerio, Don, published by Jabiru Publishing in 2015. So, it would be true to say that Susan has acquired some experience in selling books, using her personal networks and her ability to connect with people at the local level. Susan lives in the small town of Babinda in tropical North Queensland, but that hasn’t stopped her from being very successful in selling her books.

Susan Alley (2)Susan’s first book was Battle of the Bar, the story of her great-grandfather’s difficult job as the captain of a tugboat that had to regularly cross the treacherous mouth of the Richmond River in northern New South Wales. Susan sold this book simply by going around town and offering it to whomever she thought might buy it. Her biggest order for the book was from a tourist boat which plied the same river on which the story was set.

For marketing her second book, Flamin’ Donny!, Susan had an article about the book published in the local newspaper,  Innisfail Advocate, and was interviewed on ABC Radio. Other sales methods included word of mouth and through the Babinda Arts & Craft group.

Cheerio DonFor Cheerio, Don, Susan had two book launches, with posters displayed all around the towns where the launches were held. The first launch was at Coraki in northern New South Wales, where the story was set, while the second launch was in Babinda. The book is about Susan’s uncle, Don Mitchell, who served in the Militia in New Guinea. Thus, there were three marketing angles: wartime Australia; history of World War II; and the link with tropical North Queensland.

In marketing Cheerio, Don, Susan also used her personal networks by sending information about the book to people on her email list that she thought might be interested in buying her book, and to libraries in the area where the book was set. Luckily, another local author read her book and loved it, providing Susan with a few marketing tips from his own experience.

Susan and Janeen Schouten.jpgSusan’s efforts have paid off through good book sales, including a request for a surprisingly large number of books from Peterpal, an online book service that sells to libraries.

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Cheerio, Don is available from http://www.jabirupublishing.com.au and directly from the author at r.alley2@bigpond.com. Battle of the Bar and Flamin’ Donny! are available from the author at r.alley2@bigpond.com.