Guest post: Author Marc Nash on Marketing your self-published book
Once you’ve self-published you’ve got to let people know about it, author Marc Nash tells us the methods he’s used and how it fits in with his literary endeavours.
Marc Nash writes “difficult” fiction, work that tips its hat to the literary modernists. He has four books out on kindle, 19 videos on his YouTube channel and puts on a show when reading live, often in costume! He lives in London with his wife and twin boys and works for an NGO monitoring censorship around the world.
I’m an artissste darling, what do you mean I have to market my own book?
That was pretty much my attitude towards self-promotion. It was sullying and the very antithesis of creativity. But when after years of rejected submissions I resolved to self-publish, I knew no one else would do it for me. That was part of the decision making process. Time to take the plunge.
I gave myself 6 months to promote my debut novel, which I figured meant 6 months without being able to address any new novel writing. Two and a half years’ and three books later, I’m still also promoting that first novel. The marketing has never let up in all that time. But I have been able to write new material. Indeed two of those new titles arose from my marketing efforts (more of which below).
And I’ve surprised myself. Of course I’d still rather write fiction than write a marketing related blog or a book review, but actually the act of marketing has offered up a fair amount of creativity, albeit of different kind. I’ve made videos for my books and that gives me perhaps as much pleasure as writing a good dialogue scene. But it is very different, so maybe it’s flexing different parts of my brain.
The first thing to bear in mind that every marketing tool I mention below is free. There are jazzier versions of them which do cost money, but you don’t have to over-commit yourself in case your initial book struggles to sell in numbers. The investment in your time however is great, but again that is part of the pact you make when you go it alone. Unless you have friendly web designers, video makers and voice-over actors. And the time does shorten as you get more practised. Starting from scratch, a video reading with images, now only takes me a day to the point of being uploaded on YouTube.
So these are the marketing activities I do:
1) I have two websites, one for each of my novels, presenting extra content around them. One of the themes is alcohol abuse, so I’ve got a piece on the site about our culture’s relation to drink which formed the background of what I wrote, but didn’t appear in the book. The problem with websites is they tend to be fairly static, unless you can somehow generate new material on your book which I think is tough. Therefore it’s hard to keep driving people to it and certainly not return views. Also the free platform I use doesn’t permit the embedding of videos or podcasts which is pretty poor really.
2) Before I published anything, I had a forlorn little blog. I’m not a blogger, never will be. If I feel I’ve got anything interesting to say, I’m more like to put it into a novel than blog about it. I don’t blog about the writing process, since although I’m happy to talk to anyone 1-1 about it, I feel my processes are way too idiosyncratic to be of much use to anyone else. Occasionally I blogged about my love of music, otherwise I put up samples of my writing, without any context or explanation. The whole thing was somewhat desultory. But once my novel came out, I had to draw attention to it. I started to write flash fiction weekly, which brought people to my blog where maybe they would also click on the novel thumbnail or view the trailer. Suddenly my blog was getting regular weekly traffic. After a year I suddenly realised that despite my vow not to do any new writing while marketing, I actually had a whole new book; an anthology of flash fiction! Most of the directing of people to my blog was done by platform number 3- Twitter.
3) This week I celebrated my 75,000th tweet (90,000 if you include my account in the guise of my fictional heroine). Most of my sporadic sales have been through Twitter. I know the names of most of my readers, since we have conversed before they’ve bought my book, as they’ve bought it, while they’re reading it and after they’ve finished it, which is quite a unique privilege for a writer I believe. Several have become genuine friends through our Twitter relationship. I have about 2000 followers and were they all readers of my work, (they’re not, a maximum of 200 are I’d gauge and most of those for my free online content rather than purchasing from Amazon), then I would be more than content with that as my ‘fans’. That is I would maintain an interactive relationship with those fans, producing daily content, holding conversations etc. A book a year selling to 2000 fans would do me both financially and validation wise. That remains my target. There are lots of dos and don’ts around Twitter. All I’ll say here, is don’t only push your work but build up your online personality through conversing with others and only light touch your sales pitches.
4) Videos and podcasts. I have a YouTube Channel with 19 videos on it, 18 of which are readings of my work, either me to camera, image collages to voiced over readings, or self-made trailers. For these latter I have spent money through buying royalty free images and video clips to insert into my videos. I’ve also made a few podcasted readings, but have found it difficult to offer these from my blog and websites, so found this less than ideal. Do videos sell books? I actually don’t think so. Literature and the medium of YouTube with its own style of visual language, do not make for comfortable bed fellows. Still, I love doing them, I put them on my blog and on other file sharing sites, but they are a bit of a luxury in all probability.
5) Competitions and giveaways. I have 4 kindle books out. I’m not on Smashwords or any other platform. So I can’t give my book away as a prize. I’ve got two competitions, one for a sculpture prop commissioned for use in a trailer, the other for an exclusive flash piece written by me. To date, I have had zero entries.
6) I review books for a review site called Booksquawk. My books are on the bookshelf on the site like those of the other reviewers, I’ve had my trailer up there, but I don’t think it helps sell anything. People come for book reviews, I don’t think they make the connection to the reviewer having books to sell. I also used to write for a prestigious publication’s arts and culture blog. But again, couldn’t get my book up there for people to make the association.
7) Live readings. I love doing them. I often dress up in character for them. I put on a show, I really do. But sales? I once sold a couple of POD copies of my debut novel, one to a work colleague who came along to see me dressed as a nurse. But now I have kindle only books, I have no product to sell on the night. I can only point the audience to my leaflets about the books. Still, for me nothing beats performing.
8) Facebook. I don’t FB because I leave that realm clear for my kids. I’d feel like I was reading their diaries if I was on it. Plus I feel I have enough time just doing the above activities. To do FB properly from scratch would take a huge investment of time.
So what does all the above mean? In truth, not many extra sales. But since I’m enjoying it, I am happy to continue, as long as I keep it in balance with my actual novel writing. I am going to see if I can get advice about linking all the above activities up so that each feeds in to the other whenever there’s any fresh content, which with my twitter activity would be every day. Much of what I do reaches other writers as we have Twitter conversations or I comment on other’s blogs or host their book tour. Writers pitching and truing to sell to other writers. The breakthrough has to be to reach readers, that is those people who use these platforms who aren’t also pushing their own work. And that one I haven’t quite cracked yet.
Check out Marc’s books, videos and twitter stream
Alison Wells runs the Random Acts of Optimism blog and lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow with her husband and four children. Her short fiction been published in many magazines and online and print anthologies and she has been featured on Sunday Miscellany. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, Bridport and Fish Prize's she has just completed a themed short story collection Random Acts of Optimism and a literary novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities. To read Alison's full blog, visit Head Above Water. Find out in her Random Acts of Optimism how she manages to juggle writing, children and life.