Wednesday, 29 March 2017

It Started Out As A Joke...

Honestly, it did. I set up a Facebook page several years ago to promote my writing. Please Allow Me, I called it. You may recognise the words from the Stones' Bulgakov-inspired classic, Sympathy for the Devil.
It was also the title of one of the collections of short stories I was promoting at the time. The other collection, loosely based on experiences in Cold War Berlin, also got the occasional plug. I confess it was all a very dilatory business, mainly due to the inordinately long time it took my novel Gibbous House to move from acceptance to publication.

When I realised, after publication, that I needed to promote the novel almost single-handed I began to try to boost Gibbous House's profile. However, being me, I was unable to remove my tongue from my cheek. Besides, my expectations were extremely low. This was one of my first posts post-publication on the Please Allow Me page:

This reached 453 people. Previous posts reached an average of 20 people. Now, of course, Please Allow Me's page does not have Bieber-like numbers, but it is a significant boost.

Please Allow Me now has a life and personality of his own. He lives in a fantasy world where he has invented the concept of Fakevertising (He has not), going so far as to invent a slogan for the entirely fictive Please Allow Me Inc. brand.

"Never Knowingly Oversold"

Never one to be discouraged, PAM has faked celebrity endorsements with looky likeys such as the infamous Brant Pidd Cricklewood Poster campaign pictured below. I believe this actually generated a visit to a local book-shop. Still, as PAM says, "If people will believe fake news, why shouldn't they believe Fake Advertising, or, as I like to call it, Fakevertising".

So far so predictable. I have found it exhilarating to put words in PAM's mouth, especially when it comes to discussing the merits - or otherwise - of Gibbous House. Equally satisfying is to disparage his efforts at promoting the novel. For they are feeble, how could they not be? I have absolutely no money with which to promote my book. So I make this token effort and hopefully make a few people laugh along the way. So, PAM is my "sock-puppet" of sorts, so if you meet him, have some sympathy and some taste. Not that he merits it, of course.
But PAM does have some integrity. He believes there should be truth in Fakevertising. So much so that this picture was captioned "Brant Pidd in Cricklewood", just so people knew that a certain Hollywood actor has absolutely no idea that a novel called Gibbous House, or indeed  a place called Cricklewood, even exists (Facebook reach count 329). 
Furthermore, PAM's latest assault on Mount Marketing, could not be more honest. The pages do turn in this latest multi-media marvel

Gibbous House is a page turner, maybe they don't turn as fast as this, but almost.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

This Little Piggy...

... went to market. Or perhaps it was a goat.

About six months ago, I remember reading one of Jack O'Donnell's posts about the post-publication experience. Hmm... I thought, bit negative. I thought he'd be over the moon at having a real book with his name on the cover. To tell the truth, I have no doubt that he was. The thrust of Jack's post was that publishing was all very well, but it really was all about sales. And marketing. Because marketing = sales (if x = y, where x is the author and y is very, very lucky). Furthermore, if you don't do any marketing there won't be any sales at all, because no marketing = no sales who- or whatever x or y are.

Anyway, post publication, your time is subsumed in writing:

a) twitter posts that no-one reads because you don't have the secret hashtag that ensures your tweet is read by every prospective buyer of books in the world.

b) Facebook posts which all your circle of friends "like" but never share because, well, of course, there is no cat on your picture illustrating it.

c) blog posts that the three people who follow your occasionally diverting blog don't plug or comment on.

d)  e-mails to independent bookshops begging them to stock your book (they won't answer so you can assume they won't. Honourable exception : Cogito Books, Hexham (link is external) who replied and did).

In addition, you lose hundreds of hours grappling with new skills like photo-shop so you can find out that you can't even manage to make an image like the one above. Then you discover a web-site which will do it for you.

So what you don't have is time to write.

All this aside, Unbound have an agreement with The Three Marketeers - Laurie Avadis, Jack O'Donnell,& Yours Truly - and ABCTales, wherein ABCTales gets a cut of the profits. Now I don't care about what money I make, and I seriously doubt whether Laurie or Jack do either. What we do want is to have our books read by as many people as possible. Buy one of them, buy an e-book (although all three books are beautifully designed and a pleasure to own, even if you didn't write it), or buy from one of the cheaper suppliers the Amazon page links to. Every sale will keep ABCTales going. Go on, give it a go, make it worthwhile learning how to get my novel's cover artwork in a picture with some goats.

Ewan (link is external)

Jack (link is external)

Laurie (link is external)

Sunday, 5 March 2017


My fellow crowd-funded Authors at Unbound have a "Social Page" on Facebook. It's an informal group, where we have lively discussions and provide each other with a great deal of support over the course of the ups-and-downs of a campaign to get our books published. I can't tell you how much I wished I had known about the page when my campaign was "Live". My book, of course, has been published now.

Yesterday, a thread began concerning marketing of books (our books, naturally). One of the most experienced of Unbound authors (thank you Stevyn Colgan) gave us a few home truths about what a debut (or any) author can expect in the way of help from their publisher. However, what I found most interesting was this:

"if a publisher wants to promote a book in a book shop, they have to pay substantial fees; those ‘featured’ books and the ones put out on tables aren’t there for free."

Now, maybe you can remember the Payola scandal in the USA which implicated Alan Freed, the pioneer of Rock and Roll on the radio.  DJs and radio stations took payments to play artists' records and the USA found this to be illegal. UK radio has ever since been very frightened of any accusation of this kind of thing, but they tread a very thin line, which just stops short of Pay for Plays. Actually this gave rise to DJ's in Anglophone countries having to play music from the playlists. (Incidentally, how does an indie band get on those playlists?) Last.FM will only play debut bands if they pay for the privilege. 

How is the model quoted above different? I think we need to get ourselves an Under-Assistant West Coast Promo Man  

buy my novel here

Friday, 3 March 2017

Authors Are Marketers, Discuss...

There is no discussion required, in truth. Only if you are Stephen King, do you have no obligation to promote your book, but that won't have been the case in the 1970's when that best-selling author started out. First premise, no-one, (NO ONE!) outside your immediate social  circus circle could care less that you have written a novel. If anything, it's probably more difficult to market your deathless-prose nowadays with self-publishing and indie-publishing flooding the market with more books than anyone ever can read.

 Self-published books: marketing = author's responsibility
 Indie-published books: marketing = author's responsibility pretty much. Funds are limited in  these small companies. They need a "unicorn" just as much as a tech start-up does. That is unlikely to be your book. To tell the truth, the indie gang don't know which of their titles it's going to be, any more than one of the giants like Penguin/Random House does.
 Large Publishing House-published books: marketing = part of the deal struck, most likely, with the author's agent. The large publishing house deal used to include an advance if they were willing to take a risk on you. That's why it was so hard to get published. It must have taken a brave soul to risk 10,000 smackers of the publisher's money on a debut novelist. One would suppose that very few advances are paid outside of the Vlogger and Celebrity deals nowadays. I would think a story like Jo Rowling's (and it was no overnight success by the way) will become rarer and rarer in the future

However, it is easier to publish a book. Self-publishing can be done by anybody, and, cruel though it may be to say, whilst everyone probably does have a book inside them, in the vast majority of cases, that is probably where it should stay. In this vast flood of dross your book is bobbing about like a cork in the Atlantic. No matter how many tweets, hashtags, facebook posts, vimeo videos, or linkedin articles you post, that will probably remain the case.
Crowd-funding and indie publishing is also slightly easier. For a start there is a better than even chance that someone will eventually read a manuscript, this is the most fantastic fluke at somewhere like Little, Brown or Penguin/Random House. But the fact remains, that your indie-published book, however good it is, is no more than a slightly bigger cork and it's still in the ocean of books.