How to Get Ahead of Advertising
I’m h’an h’author now (Why? Because I said so). And tonight I’m going down the pub to meet a friend’s new girlfriend with being a writer in the back of my mind. Not to nick her life story or get a vignette or anything; I’m a firm believer in making stuff up. But how will I respond to the ‘what do you do’ bit of the evening? Especially after this week when I’ve spent one afternoon doing a bit of admin for a friend and the rest researching marketing.
Last week I finished the penultimate edit of Changing the Subject, which involved a month of typing, staring out of the window and more typing; fascinating. The cover picture is with Alex Cameron Design, which meant a few emails about trim sizes and barcodes; I bet you wish you were my friend’s new girlfriend (he is very nice even if some of his friends are a bit dull).
A writer with a proper publisher would ask what now? Clean my filthy home? When I was a teacher, the holidays were the time to clean up properly. The plants obviously need something agricultural done to them. Or I could go to the British Museum. I love the British Museum, it's a bus ride away and have a card that will give me 10% off a cream tea. But no. I’m a self-publisher, I have to sell myself like fish-food.
Tens of thousands of fiction books are published every year and if I don’t get out there, or get lucky, then my book will end up at the bottom of a tower of stories that’s about two miles high. Judging by the number of ‘best selling authors’ who try and sell you marketing tips I would say that even if I get close to the top it looks like I’m still going to need another source of income. The attractions of inventing the double-barrelled waste basket are getting stronger. But I’ve started now so…
I am unlike a proper publisher in three ways. First; I do not have a marketing budget and cannot afford more than to boost the odd post on face-book. I have done that once and have learned how to attract a noticeable number of American Sports and English Hill Farming enthusiasts by the way. I could say that tonight without being too boring? People love talking about the algorithms that this week filled this middle-aged white lady's Facebook feed with adverts for saris and young black women’s make-up. If murky types did try and intervene in the Brexit vote then I have to say that after the last ten days, I am not too worried.
Second; I don’t meet connected types at dinner parties or whatever work-dos proper publishers do. No-one will be saying ‘I’ve just signed this brilliant new writer’ over a sherry to anyone at the Times Literary Supplement any time ever. Even if she turns out to be easily amused, I will not be telling my friends new girlfriend that I spent Tuesday googling likely reviewers and putting their twitter accounts into a spreadsheet. I nearly died of boredom, and I care.
Which brings me on to third, and this might actually be useful; I am my sole client and am on one-hundred-percent commission. I am not going to say how set-of-superlatives I think I am and I’m working to promote my book everywhere and then just put me in a catalogue and go for coffee.
So this week I have mainly been searching the internet. I spent a horrible amount of time on Amazon. This is important, if I don’t get reviews on Amazon my book will definitely fall to the bottom of that book skyscraper.
The How to guides advise me to go on Amazon and search for books like mine, look at reviews with lots of stars, click on the reviewer and see if they have put a contact address in their profile. All Amazon users have Amazon profiles, who knew?
I typed in comedy science fiction adventures and saw a lot of book covers with shiny space-ships and well- endowed women on them. I haven’t got anything against books sporting rockets or women in tin underwear, they kept a roof over my head and shoes on my feet throughout my childhood. But my cover shows the lovely, slim and slight Amy Fleming in a garden, fashionably dressed and behatted.
I took out the word science fiction, clicked, and the stainless steel and titties were still in abundance. I gave up and searched for reviews of books I like too (A L Kennedy does not get enough attention on Amazon). The How to guide said that one in eighty reviewers leave their contact details with the express intention that you will send them your book in exchange for an honest review. This is a lie; it's more like one in 300. I have now promised myself to do an hour a day. I did that this morning; I found one.
Book bloggers are much easier to find and seem like a lovely bunch. From all over and in all walks of life, these people will review my book if they are not too busy. If you want free books forever; become a book blogger.
I have not yet turned my attention to vloggers, when I do, I will find out what a vlogger is no doubt. I did free download a 150-page book by a ‘best-selling author’. It is on how self-published writers should use Instagram, just Instagram. I got to page 46 before I thought ‘Fuck Instagram’.
I don’t know what we’re going to talk about tonight. Maybe my friend’s new girlfriend is a humane lion trapper or a very chatty spy and I can ask her questions all night. Now it’s 9.30, AM, and I have finished writing a diary entry which is already too long. I should get on with marketing. I hope she likes heavy drinkers.
P.S. I wrote this yesterday and my friend's new girlfriend is a primary teacher with a teenager and we talked about those and Brexit and all sorts of things, And we all drank quite a bit on a not-school night and it turns out she lived upstairs from my mum's friend, two doors down from us back in the Grove!