PR for Authors – The Final Frontier
By Sarah E. England
Well I thought learning how to write good quality fiction was a long, hard learning curve – what with all those magazine rejections over the years – so twelve years on, with over 160 short stories, several serials and two books published with the small press, I really did think I could do it. Publish my first supernatural horror novel, that is. On my own. Yes – research, writing, editing (many times), proof-reading, formatting, cover art and the publishing! So much to learn. But actually, just at the point I thought I’d cracked it, I began to realise that was the easy bit.
Since then – a month ago – I have discovered just what it means to try and get your new book in front of readers, because without them writing novels is a luxury for most of us. Now I don’t know about you but I really squirm at self-promotion. However, as I had to it anyway with the online publishers I was with, my thinking was – I’ll do it myself and that way I’ll a) get the book out more quickly, and b) have more control over presentation, promotion and price. I have a background in sales and marketing so how hard can it be? Hmmm – well the answer to that is very! Very hard indeed! So this is what I’ve learned and I hope it helps or at least invites discussion!
First you will need to correct all the mistakes you’ve made in terms of proof-reading, cover art, and basic presentation on Amazon – if you’re like me and didn’t pay anyone to do it for you originally! For this you can approach people like Laurence O’Brian of BooksGoSocial… he pointed out my cover title was too small and my own name too big. He advised on the Amazon book page presentation, plus the inclusion of review quotes at the top. Of course, I now realise big publishers will have those reviews ready on day one! And yes, they are important – you have, apparently, 3 seconds to hook a potential reader! And top publishers know this.
Next you have to get your book onto the virtual bookshelf. It isn’t in the shops on the first shelf a potential reader will go to, nor is it on the front page of the genre in which you feature on Amazon. Unless a reader is actually looking for your book or knows you on face book – they don’t know the book is there. So yes, a launch party and your family and friends will catapult you into the top 100 in your genre on day one. But then you could well have to watch a nosedive into oblivion. Unless you do something.
In the past I’ve done blog tours and guest spots and tweeted until I’m hoarse… and it’s got me reviews and a few sales keeping the book in the midlist for a while. But still the wider readership does not know it’s there. So here’s what the big publishers do to get their own books noticed: apart from doing deals with bookstore chains and buying shop front space, they pretty much have to do the same thing in the virtual world of amazon and nook and kobo etc So what do they do?
Spend… a lot!
First there are the top promotional channels like Bookbub and ENT who email out to hundreds of thousands of readers specifying the genre they are interested in. These not only cost serious money per day, but also specify high review ratings and lots of them – not easy to get quickly if you haven’t had your book mailed out to reviewers prior to release, and it’s not easy to get top reviewers quickly either – more on that later. Ideally a cut price deal on the book is required, and even more ideally, a layering approach to your marketing – ie lots of promotional channels all on the same day – right across their mailing lists, social media and websites. So already we’re talking in the high hundreds and that’s just for one day.
Next – advertising in the media. For example The Publishers Weekly is one I subscribed to and which sends out its beautifully presented recommendations every week. So I looked at what a spot in ‘We Love This Book’ would cost me… thousands! Yes thousands, and again – for one day or even just a morning’s circulation. Imagine how a reader on these mailing list buys a book… they will look in the genre they are interested in, pick out something that grabs them, click and buy! Great. If you’re a reader. But try getting onto that list at those prices regularly enough and with a big enough space to attract that 2-3 second attention span a busy person will give you. Without big money….
So now let’s look at radio and TV shows. I now know how writers get to be invited on there! PR companies cost thousands too. And they work for the big publishers. Handshakes on the golf course again?
Lastly, reviews, as I said, are crucial. Why? Well I now know that reviews from the media, beta readers, bloggers, and well-known book reviewers hold great sway with the readers who follow them and trust them – after all no one wants to waste their money. And this is what spreads in the end – recommendations engender trust which in turn engenders more readers.. And promotional companies take notice, eventually believing that the product is of good enough quality to be included on their mailing lists… at a cost of course!
Highlighting this very fact is the recently opened Amazon store in Seattle. They bought books on the basis of reviews not on what they were told to stock by big publishers because that’s what a handful of marketing people decided they would push. So all power to the people… there’s a way forward in this – just not sure what it is yet. Needs shaking up though, doesn’t it?
A note on Father of Lies. I’d been writing for magazines for ten years, and had a background in psychiatry (nursing and then medical sales/marketing) when I met a lady with what used to be called multiple personality disorder and it broke my heart hearing her story and what she suffered. I already had an unhealthy interest in the occult and from that point on I started to do some serious research into demonology and even exorcisms – the books were so scary I had them burnt afterwards because I couldn’t keep them in the house! Anyway, having lived in a haunted mill at one time, up on the bleak but very beautiful Derbyshire moors, Father of Lies soon began to take shape. It took a long time to write, and even longer to prepare for publication …and all I wanted to do was bring it to the readers….sound of sobbing…
To this end a group of us have formed Authors Reach – it’s a day old as I write – but the aim is to bring a diverse group of genres to the reading public and encourage interaction. The one problem I can see regarding independent authors is quality. There are literally thousands of books out there that are really and truly awful. (Why do people think they can just write a book? Another subject …) At least agents and publishers do usually ensure good quality. Usually. In my view it’s very much a closed shop and more upcoming authors need a look in, BUT the issue remains – how does a reader know a book is going to be worth their money? Reviews. Lots of them. Endorsements. Hard work building up a fan base via social media and writers working to help each other. This really does have to be for love, doesn’t it?
Anyway, never one to miss an opportunity – if you love horror and you fancy being scared witless (actually when you know a lot of this is based on a true story it only adds to the horror).. Here’s a little about Father of Lies, and thank you for reading. Please hook up with me on social media too… it will be interesting to know what you think!
Father of Lies
A Supernatural Horror Novel by S. E. England
With no known identity or family, Ruby is the most aggressive and disturbed psychiatric patient ever admitted to Drummersgate secure forensic unit, situated on the bleak Derbyshire moors in the north of England.
Eventually, after almost two years with no improvement, psychiatrist Jack McGowan, decides to take a risk and hypnotises her – with catastrophic results. A horrific dark force is now unleashed on the entire medical team, as each in turn attempts to unlock Ruby’s shocking and sinister past. Who is this girl? And how did she manage to survive such evil when no one else can?
However, Ruby makes a miraculous recovery – suddenly displaying clear symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which involves switching from one deeply disturbing character to another. Jack had planned to be able to treat her at this stage. Instead, he’s suffering from a bizarre type of mental breakdown – rushing around giggling to himself, cancelling his own appointments before turning up for them, and having horrific nightmares. At least he thought they were nightmares – but as the darkness takes on a pulsating, breathing life of its own, he’s no longer sure.
Meanwhile, DID expert in Leeds, Dr. Kristy Silver, also has a client with a similar profile to Ruby’s – a young man who grew up in Woodsend, the same mining village in which Ruby attempted murder. Perhaps there is a connection? Kristy decides to investigate further, and on the way home that evening drives out to take a look around the area.
From that point on, unnerving events escalate: Kristy has an unwanted, gruesome passenger in her car; back at the hospital Jack has barricaded himself inside his office; and Becky the ward sister, has a sudden and violent accident.
Every mental health professional involved in the case goes on to experience some kind of inexplicable and de-stabilising incident, and soon a terrifying picture begins to unfold. One which challenges the very fabric of society, and those in whom we put our trust. One which leads us to a desolate mining village, a haunted mill, and the very heart of darkness.