Participants: Kathleen Marple Kalb, Gerald Hornsby, Maria Johnson, Rik Lonsdale, Elizabeth Holland, Anita Belli, John Wheatley, Susie Kearley, Chris Towndrow, Wendy Bayne, Kate Foster, Kirsten Hesketh, Deborah Klée
Maria: Hi all, I’m Maria! I have 3 novel published, 2 historical fiction and 1 fantasy (I’m with an indie small press) which I try to market. Nice to see everyone – the weeks seem to be rushing by at the moment!
Elizabeth: Hi everyone I’m Elizabeth, from Kent I have 4 self-published books but am focusing on marketing two of them
Gerald: Hi Deborah! I’m Gerald, author of thrillers and crime. I published a series of 4 thrillers last year, which I marketed through Amazon ads with some success. I’m currently publishing no.2 of a series of 3 crime novels.
Anita: Afternoon all. I am Anita. I am currently about to market A Month of writing Adventure. A creative writing book for children. I am also marketing 5 novels with limited success
Rik: Hi, I’m Rik. I’m not marketing anything at the mo!
Deborah: I am Deborah and I am marketing 2 self -published books. My debut was 1st Aug last year.
Kathleen: Hi, I’m Kathleen Marple Kalb. I write the Ella Shane historical mystery series, #2 coming next month, #3 next year. And, I have a contemporary cozy coming from another publisher next year.
John: John Wheatley. Mainly historical fiction. But some modern stuff too based on life in North of England.
Maria: Hi John! Historical fiction set in Anglesey sounds amazing! I’m hooked already
John: Anglesey is full of great stories. Mine are mainly 19th early 20th century, beginning with aftermath of Napoleonic War, ending with WW1
Kirsten: My debut, Another Us, was published last year – it’s contemporary uplit. My debut saga, The Post Office Girls, – written as Poppy Cooper – is published next month
What approaches have you tried so far in marketing your books?
Deborah: I have focused on using social media and using my blog/website to funnel traffic to my books. Only been doing this for a few months so early days.
Elizabeth: Networking has really helped. I try to say yes to every opportunity to get myself and my book out there. I think it’s working but it requires a lot of time and effort.
Deborah: I think you are very good at it but I can see that it can be draining if you are not selective.
Elizabeth: Thank you, Deborah! I don’t feel as though I have the luxury to be selective yet. I’m learning lots though and I think it’s getting easier.
Rik: How much time do you spend on these events? How do you know if they work?
Deborah: I think you have to be patient and give initiatives time. If you have a blog it is often just when you tire of it that it becomes popular. We all want to see quick results but sometimes you just have to be patient and consistent
Elizabeth: I spend all day on social media. Even when working I’ll have a tab open in the background. I’ve tried to step back and log off in the evenings more now. I feel like I’ve reached a stage where I’ve got a good social media foundation. I’m not sure what works
Maria: Yeah, it is tough I find I can spend a lot of time on social media. A lot of the time I am replying to people and trying to engage with them so it’s hard then to block time off with it as you might miss opportunities etc and the evenings is often a better time for people.
Gerald: Mainly just pushing via social media. Also (for non-fiction) being active in groups where the books could gain sales. I’ve also tried some Amazon ads, mainly for a box set of 4 thrillers I created last year.
Rik: Did the ads pay off? How do you track that?
Gerald: Hard to track, and and I didn’t invest too much. But I know I got a lot of page reads on Kindle Unlimited as a result. So I *might* have broken even. But I’ll invest more when I have the full series of 3 crime novels.
Deborah: I cannot decide whether it is better to. go solely with Amazon for Kindle unlimited or more widely.
Gerald: I think it depends on how quickly you write. For me, it’s better to write 4 novels a year just to Amazon KDP. I think wide works well if you’re publishing 1-2 books a year. Amazon accounts for >70% of wide sales, as far as I can make out
Anita: FB ads: blog: the usual social media presence; website: book / craft / Christmas fairs (sell more books this way than any other)
Elizabeth: Do you find Facebook ads are worthwhile?
Anita: I think it improved my reach. But I didn’t notice any increase in sales. I think Ads need a very measured and scientific approach which I don’t seem to have! And probably a hefty investment to see worthwhile returns
Elizabeth: I spent a small amount on a Facebook ad and had a similar experience!
Maria: I spent a small amount on a Facebook ad and had a similar experience!
Deborah: Although it may not seem like it – Friday Salon, Castaway Books and my blog are all forms of marketing because I am networking.
Susie: I’ve tried lots of things to market my books. The most effective approach was to literally TELL EVERYONE! From the neighbourhood watch coordinator to the local environmental group. I wrote a a blog about how the first two months had gone… susiekearley.blogspot.com/2021/03/market…
Deborah: Who else has tried newsletters and how successful have they been?
Elizabeth: my newsletter did really well at first. Then it kind of hit a wall with new subscribers.
Kirsten: No I’ve never tried this. It scares me, to be honest x
Susie: I have a newsletter with 17 sign ups. It’s successful, in the sense that the people who’ve signed up are genuinely interested and some buy my books whenever I have a new release. But unless it grows, it’s never going to be a huge success.
Is there one thing that has made a significant difference in achieving sales that you would do again?
Kathleen: Guest posts at some of the top blogs in my genre have made a noticeable difference.
Maria: great tip. I’ve noticed an improvement since doing a couple of guest blog/interview spotlight type things. I’m hoping to have guest blog interviews on my blog too at some point
Deborah: Another reason to network so that you can make those important connections.
Anita: I think writing more books seems to be the answer. And building a following of loyal supporters.
John: I also write about Middleton, my home town near Manchester. It has its own Facebook site with 12000 members. That is my best place for marketing.
Gerald: Amazon ads with an ‘attractive proposition’ (e.g. four novels in a box set for £4.99). Also having non-fiction writing craft books for sale at an event where you’re speaking to writers
Elizabeth: Twitter has been a great help in sales. It’s also helped to get those first few reviews, which then encourages people who stumble across you book to take a chance on it.
Deborah: You have a good following on social media Elizabeth. Did you build it up from your blogging days? It was your promo film that attracted me to you and your work
Elizabeth: I had a couple of hundred followers from my blog but it wasn’t until I joined the writing community for my books that I really grew my following. I’d like to say I know what I’m doing but I really don’t.
Deborah: Your weekly question slot seemed to attract a lot of followers. Also, you show your personality through your films and blog and that helps.
Elizabeth: Yes, my questions really help. I also take the time to engage with as many replies as possible which definitely makes a difference. I also read a lot and I think that makes people see that I’m a genuine member of the writing community. I’m not just focused on followers.
Rik: I don’t think it works, just trying to collect followers without engaging. But then, what do I know?
Elizabeth: I know lots of people that return follows but I’m not comfortable with that. Blogging taught me that you can have thousands of followers but if none of them are genuinely interested in your content then they mean nothing.
Maria: Also going public with my pen name has made a MASSIVE difference! Things like my FB author page and Instagram page which I wouldn’t have been able to do whilst keeping my pen name private. Going public was one of my best writing decisions.
Deborah: Do you regret using a pen name?
Maria: No, because it has been a journey (cheesy but true!) so it was right for me at the time, having a pen name just where I was at and what I needed. I also like having the distance between my writing/work life and my personal life and I like having it now as my brand etc.
Elizabeth: You make a really good point here about having a ‘brand’. It’s a great tool in marketing books. I inadvertently became my own brand.
Kirsten: Joining forces with other debuts who came out in lockdown has been invaluable. Saying yes to every opportunity – be it podcasts, guest blogs/ articles, panels. It’s been fun. And exhausting!
Deborah: It is good to link up with other authors who write in a similar genre. Lots of opportunities to work together in promoting books.
Kirsten: I tried paying for a FB ad and I got an Amazon bestseller banner a few days later!! That was great fun, but I’m not sure it’s cost effective and tenable going forward!
Deborah: Were the two things connected? The Facebook ad and Bestseller banner?
Kirsten: Yes absolutely! Direct correlation. It was amazing.
Deborah: I made The Borrowed Boy free for a month and as a result got to #4 in Amazon free eBook charts. I also got a flood of reviews so it was definitely worth it.
What is it that has persuaded you to buy a book by an author you have not previously read and is not well known?
Elizabeth: I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover! I’ve also chosen books based on recommendations or a synopsis.
Anita: Subject matter; location; hook; premise. And price! .99p is usually worth the risk!
Kirsten: Cover (sorry!) recommendation, blurb …
Deborah: As I said I bought @EHollandAuthor book because of her image and brand – her cute videos. Also book cover. @Kirsten_Hesketh because of a tweet about her mum coming out of hospital and then getting a bad review. Authors sell books by sharing who they are.
Chris: The last 3 books I’ve read were all on recommendation, and as research for my current #WIP
Maria: Connecting with them on Twitter/getting to know them and then checking out their books on their website etc. One of my favourite indie reads (Empire’s Legacy) came out of chatting to the author at how I could describe a character’s hair that was authentic to the era.
Kate: That would be the cover and the blurb. Unfortunately #FriSalon I’m a sucker for a beautiful-looking book.
Maria: Also, I’m particularly interested in books similar genres to me/genres I e.g. historical fiction or fantasy. I’ll automatically check out any other books set in the medieval era
Gerald: The usual: genre, cover (must look professional), blurb, a quick ‘Look Inside’ to see if they can write, and finally price. Up to £5 for fiction ebook!
John: Almost any little hook can persuade me to try a book. I’ve been buying whilst this chat has been going on. If anyone wants to DM me with a suggestion, I may well go for it!
Wendy: In a book store it was always the cover that attracted my attention then the blurb on the back would entice me. Now with COVID, it’s word of mouth that gets my attention first. Then when I go in search of it the cover and blurb, though the blurb then is more important.
Susie: TELL EVERYONE!
Maria: I’ve noticed a difference since my new website. Getting a few hits every week now of people reading my blog etc. I think newsletter is starting to work too. Most of the Twitter sales I’ve made have been through genuine connections, not just blasting into the void!
Deborah: I think that’s right it is about taking time to build relationships and being consistent in what you do.
What do you struggle with and would like to understand or do better?
Elizabeth: I actually really struggle with social media Interacting with others doesn’t come easy to me. I over think every reply and constantly fear someone misinterprets what I say.
Kirsten: It’s definitely not for everyone. I’m a chronic over-sharer anyway, so I love it!
Kathleen: Talking up my work. I’m happy when we talk writer-y stuff…but actual “BUY MY BOOK” posts are sometimes tough for me.
Maria: I’m still getting there with talking about books in real life and author events. Getting there though – eg I never would have dreamed on doing something like Castaway Books a couple of years ago Hardest thing is bridging the gap between people ‘interested’ to ‘buying’
Anita: Although I don’t struggle with it, I am not comfortable on social media. I would like to be able to shout louder in the right places so that I can be heard above the noise.
Kirsten: Keeping my blog and website up to date. I’m hopeless at both. I’d far rather be chatting on SM or working on my WIP!
Susie: I think when things open up again, I should do public speaking and events to promote my novel, but it’s not something I’m very comfortable with, so it’s a step outside my comfort zone.
Deborah: I was asked to speak at a conference about my debut and writing life. I did it on Microsoft teams to a public sector audience. I don’t know if it led to sales. If I had been there in person, I could have engaged more and signed books. But delighted I was asked.
What is your advice – top tip to other writers for marketing their books?
Elizabeth: Network with as many people as possible. You can learn something new from everyone in the writing community.
Gerald: Research your market / genre. If you can and are able, write a series in a popular genre. Write as many books as you can – nothing sells a book better than other books. Join 20booksto50k on Facebook for inspiration!
Susie: I think having said it twice, I’m at risk of boring everyone now. (tell everyone)
Maria: It’s scary, but put yourself out there. Engage with people, share content (consider a blog/newsletter). Be consistent on social media and connect with people on Twitter. Try to find your own ‘niche’ within the #writingcommunity. Also don’t expect results automatically
Kathleen: Be a pro…approach social media with the same professionalism as your “day job” and writing. No one ever got into trouble by being on-time, prepared and polite.
Deborah: There are lots of ways to market your book. Chose the things you are good at and enjoy and stick at it. It takes time.
Gerald: Yes! There are no quick routes to success! Becoming a successful author takes time and resilience.
Anita: For me, it is a writing business; workshops and non-fic as well as novels. I now realise that each element needs a different marketing approach and reaches a different audience. I would say: identify your reader and target where they are on social media.