Publishing your debut novel ~ What a new author needs to know

Out of tiny acorns!

Introduction

On reading debut author Ian K Pulham’s post ‘Three Months on’ last week, many key thoughts a new author ‘on the block’ needs to be prepared for leapt from the print.

Reviews on Amazon

Reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Waterstones and elsewhere are vital for the success of a book, whether self published, main stream or hybrid such as ourselves at Eventispress. The advantage with Goodreads is that folks can review your book, whatever platform they bought it from, whether they borrowed it from the library, found it in a charity shop or were given it by a friend who loved the book.

‘Such an effort to’ market the book

No-one can prepare you for the highs and lows of marketing your book, however your book is published. And yes, don’t kid yourself that you won’t be self marketing if you get a deal from one of the big publishing companies. You will.

As highly successful indie author Adam Croft says,

‘If you’re in front of their eyes (that’s the reader) less than other authors, you’re going to be forgotten about, no matter how much they enjoyed your book(s).’

Celebrate each victory

Author Ian K Pulham writes:

So grateful to those people for taking time out to support me in that way. It is a real confidence boost.

Each time you are aware of a new review of a reader who makes a positive comment, or there’s been a spike in your sales, celebrate! If people you know are going to read your novel on holiday, ask them to take a photo of themselves reading it; the idea might take off on Facebook with other readers posting similar selfies! Who knows. Use good reviews in your promotional posts. Marketing is too big a subject to cover effectively here, but try to create a buzz of positivity.

Know your target audience

For Ian this was a bit of an eye opener. He has found that his main target audience is women, which was a surprise to him. (women, allegedly, account for 80% of fiction sales)

Know your genre

In Ian’s case this has been baffling for him too, since many women who have read and reviewed, or given him good feedback on his novel, have said they don’t usually read Sci-fi or Dystopian novels, even though they really enjoyed his. Why did they buy it then? The novel was recommended by someone.

A question here: Should Ian be finding ways of reaching out to more readers of Dystopian or Sci’fi novels? If yes, how?

More about this and categories in another post.

Ian writes of characterization being important. Now that is a topic close to the heart of all Eventispress fiction writers so far and will also be a future topic to explore here.

In it for the log haul

This will be a post on its own too, but a debut author needs to remember that the best audience is one they grow gradually, reader by reader, step by step, because those are the readers who will be loyal and remain with them.

Very few novels, if any, gain immediate success overnight. Fifty Shades of Grey is one which comes to mind, (within one year of being self published on Amazon it was snapped up by a main stream publisher) and we’ll leave you with that thought … or maybe not!

‘Ticket To Eden’ ~ Three months on from publication

Author Ian K Pulham writes a very honest account of publishing his debut novel through Eventispress:

“Let’s get one thing straight from the start. Having my first novel published by Eventispress is in my world, the finest ‘professional’ type achievement of my life. Nothing in my forty years in the transport industry came anywhere near the thrill of seeing my work in print. And my friends and remaining family members, as well as people I know around Dunstable and beyond, have been supportive, and I believe a little shocked by it all. It’s actually quite funny. I’ll run into someone I haven’t seen in a while, and after the greetings and ‘what have you been up to’s, I hit them with the ‘I’ve had a novel published’ line and watch their reaction. Usually a mixture of confusion and curiosity. My words make grammatical sense, but they take a while to sink in. Does make me chuckle, every time.

And now my book has been available for three months, so friends will naturally ask me how the book is going. My stock reply is ‘It’s ticking along’, which it is. I get sales, here and there. I’ve got fantastic reviews, mainly on Amazon. So grateful to those people for taking time out to support me in that way. It is a real confidence boost.

However, it begs the question, if my book is good, how come it seems to be such an effort to get people to read it?

The answer to that is, I need to work harder. Visit more book shops. Post more stuff online. Send more emails. Build up contacts. Do more talks. The list goes on. And in my defence, I am focused on all those things. But it is not easy to get people to read your stuff. People I know, mainly blokes, always say they are too busy. They’ll read it on holiday. And I know of at least two guys who are reading it on foreign beaches, or airport lounges maybe, as I write this.

It’s a frustration, but then I remember back to when I was working. I’d sometimes go a year without reading a book, and when I did, it would be on holiday. Unless it was a chap’s holiday that is. Didn’t read much of anything on those.

Ladies appear to read more, though they probably rate strong characters above monsters. Judging by my reviews, I’ve got both of those in my book. If I could go back, I’d probably gear the cover and the blurb up more to highlight my lead characters and their interactions. Even the love angle. That’s a lesson learnt. To say all blokes are drunks and all ladies spend their lives buried in romance books is obviously a massive exaggeration. Even for Dunstable. But the truth is, I didn’t really know who I was writing for when I wrote this. And you need to know your audience. Categorisation doesn’t help you either. I would say just about every lady who has read my book, has commented that they don’t usually read these kinds of books. Sci-fi, dystopian…whatever. And I’m sure it’s put guys off too. I don’t know how you get round this. I wouldn’t normally read detective novels, yet I enjoyed Rod’s book. Largely due to the portrayal of the characters within. So, I’m just as guilty.

But to wind this up on a positive note, a fair amount of people have read my book and enjoyed it too. I really couldn’t ask for any more. The truth is, my life is considerably better now having written a book, and then had it published by the wonderful Eventispress. It’s more a spiritual improvement maybe than financial, but in honesty, that was what I was searching for when I began all this around three years ago, so my prayers have been answered.

Therefore, my manta for all this would be – Improve your life: read a book. Improve your life considerably: write a book!”

Thanks so much Ian. Here’s Ian’s novel Ticket to Eden.

WATERSTONES AMAZON

ISBN: 978-1-8381526-4-2

Ian, your post raises some vital issues which we will address in the next couple of posts and we’ll finish the series with ‘What Eventispress does to support authors in the marketing of their novel.’ Not a straight forward task or certainly a panacea!

THE IMPORTANCE OF BOOK SIGNINGS

Signing books for the public in bookshops is not the reserve for just rich and famous authors. In this post we will look at the ‘how to organise’ and also ‘how to be at the event.’

Of course, the cost of petrol can make events far and wide not viable which is a shame but, nevertheless, supporting and building a positive repartee with your local bookshop is essential in the life of an author, as well as the opportunity to meet new readers.

A) How to organise a book-signing

  • Visit your local bookstore regularly.
  • Choose a quieter time to visit and discuss your book with the manager (in the case of Waterstones they usually have a designated person who arranges events. You may have to make an appointment by email first)
  • Offer them a free copy to read.
  • Negotiate a discounted price. (40 – 60 % is usual)
  • If it is an Indie Bookshop they may be willing to buy books directly from your stock, in which case it is more worthwhile to you both. Be prepared to be flexible.
  • If it is a large book company then they are likely to order from a main distributor, such as Gardners. Your discount will then be set by your publisher and negotiated by them.
  • Your enthusiasm will bring you rewards. Don’t forget it is a two way thing. Both should benefit.
  • Try if you can to organise the date to coincide with an event related to your book ~ eg the date Queen Victoria came to the throne, the opening of the London Underground etc

How to be on the day

  • Publicise the event beforehand on your website, blog on Twitter or Facebook. (You could encourage a few friends to come in to make a buzz and spark interest)
  • Don’t be pushy. Make eye contact and smile, but certainly don’t follow readers around the store.
  • Readers are only too willing to chat. Be open and friendly and enjoy the banter, even if it is about their own writing project. Be enthusiastic for them and make suggestions if appropriate.
  • Have a giveaway of a bookmark or business card to give to those buying the book, but also to other folks. They might go home and check you up on Amazon or your website first.
  • Ask if they would like a personal message and make sure to spell their name correctly.
  • Have a sheet for folks to sign up for your newsletter.
  • Practice your signature, especially if it is a pen name.
  • Be courteous to the book sales people and thank them.

Author Diana Jackson writes:

“When my Riduna Series was first published I travelled up and down the country from Alderney in the Channel Islands to Southampton, throughout Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, not to mention more unusual events at the Shuttleworth Collection bookshop, who also stocked my second book ‘Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home,’ where I gained so much support when researching the aviation aspects of the novel.

I enjoyed the events because, not only did I sell books but I had the chance to meet and talk to readers. I had a special relationship with our local indie bookshop in Ampthill called Horatio’s, which, sadly to say, is no more, but Waterstones were extremely supportive too.

You say to encourage a few friends to come in. At Luton, Waterstones, so many folks I knew popped in from Barnfield College where I worked, that I hardly had time to talk to the public. It was quite a party atmosphere and the store loved it!”

HOW CAN SMALL PRESSES ENJOY BOOKSHOP SUCCESS?

It is important to acknowledge bookshops and give them thanks, because all of our authors now have the same treatment on bookshop websites as they do on Amazon, with author bio, descriptions of books and reviews.

It is harder for small presses like us to be visible in actual bookshops up and down the country, especially following the pandemic shut down, because we are in competition with all the huge publishing companies. This is an area we are working on both by email and by physically visiting and supporting bookshops ourselves.

Let’s look at author Brian Kerr’s books:

Please check out his pages on:

BRIAN KERR’S PAGE ON WATERSTONES

FOYLES

HIVE and WH SMITHS for Skylarks only

Hive is an on line bookshop where you can give a percentage of the sale to support a local indie bookshop of your choice. Ignore the ‘OUT OF STOCK.’ It is the cheapest site on the market to purchase the book and it will take a few days for the order to come through.

Brian’s books have always had orders from bookshops, especially locally in Bedfordshire, with whom we have a good relationship.

Author IAN K PULHAM’S debut novel

Ticket to Eden is on the WATERSTONES

website too.

Author DIANA JACKSON has several books on WATERSTONES including Riduna, Ancasta, Murder Now and Then, her latest mystery Missing Past and Present

and The Healing Paths of Fife, which is also on WH SMITHS.

Diana Jackson’s books have been stocked in bookshops in Bedfordshire, the south of England and on the Channel Islands.

However, all of our books can be ordered from any good bookshop.

We’ll let you know the progress we make in changing attitudes and acknowledging the contribution to publishing small presses like us make.