By Kathryn Evans
This is a heart on sleeve blog post. You may hate me after you've read it. You have been warned.
My debut YA novel, More of Me, was released in February this year. It took me a long time to get published - fifteen years in fact, during which time I accrued quite a gang of fellow journeymen through Facebook and SCBWI.
My book launched to an amazing reception thanks to them and my fabulous friends and family - I had two sell out launch events and a social media storm created by our very own Candy Gourlay and gorgeous SCBWI friend Amanda Lillywhite - plus all the people who got involved. Months on and people still say to me:
"Oh More of Me is the book that everyone put their faces on the cover!"
|More than 100 fellow authors joined in with this More of Me Photobomb|
I was amazingly lucky.
Usborne also sent me on a Social Media training course which taught me a few things I thought I already knew but didn't . I was advertised on Facebook ( so cool) and there were lots of blog posts on Usborne YA Shelfies. I was pitched for a few festivals and told about some events I might want to get involved in. I had a lot of support and then.... well...things move on. You only launch a book once and then other books come along.
No matter that you know exactly how lucky you've been just to get published, there will be moments in your career, unless you are an absolute saint, when envy gets the better of you. It's just a fact, and here is why.
Some people will have a bigger publicity budget from their publisher than you. This will make you jealous. Even if you love them AND love their book.. Accept it and move on. It's the way of things. Some books are more commercial than others. This is fine - if your publisher is making pots of money from someone else's book, they are way more likely to feel strong enough to take a punt on yours, even if it's not so obviously a bestseller.
So without the big budget, what can you do instead?
Number 1: Say Yes.
As this blog post goes live, I will be in Scotland chewing my fingernails off in preparation for my first ever appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I was super lucky to be booked for this - I'm an unknown writer with a weird book ( true, they have hedged their bets by teaming me up with the wonderful Jo Cotterill but hey, I'll still be there!) Your publisher has to pitch you for these events so seem willing and be organised so that you'll deliver something interesting and get offered more festivals. (This is my plan, it hasn't happened yet. They might think I'm just too weird...)
|Bit of standard showing off from me|
BTW You can still get tickets for this event! If you're quick...
Number 2: Still say YES when they say no...
I did not get booked for YALC. Instead, I begged my publisher to let me come and sign books at their table. If they'd said no, I'd have gone anyway - not to be a menace but to meet people I've connected with on line. If a book blogger likes your book they will help promote it FOR FREE. Same goes for librarians and other writers - but they can't know if they like it if they don't read it and they might not read it if they've never heard of you.
|Making the most of YALC with my fab editor Sarah Stewart|
I have contacted my local library, bookshops and schools to let them know I'm here and more than willing to get involved with local events. What about your old school? Would they like to see you? Your local paper? You're a published author, you have something to offer - let people know. I googled all the schools in a 40 mile radius!
Number 4: Be Present Online.
This is a biggy - and it's not a simple as it sounds so I'll break it up a bit:
Facebook is where your writer pals are - you need them to keep you sane. Twitter is where the librarians, bloggers and book sellers are - you need them to help get your book to market. If you write YA, Instagram is where your readers are. They will interact with you in the most brilliant way - posting pictures of your book in beautiful arrangements. You need a website so people can find you easily. Lots of young people are on Tumblr. Choose what you want to do and then get involved.
|This Tweet originated on Instagram|
Candy Gourlay said a wise thing (she does that):
One of the awful things about being "present" is that, even when you're sincere, people think you are only there to promote yourself and it's so important to be real. Because that's what readers ultimately want you to be. They want the author and not the promotion.
Be interesting and relevant to your audience - writer pals might want to know about opportunities for them, or they might really appreciate you saying nice things about their book. Readers might want to know about freebies, or insights into an author's life. Librarians might need your support just to keep their library open. This is not as calculated as it sounds. If you were having a face to face conversation with someone it would not go like this:
Them: My mum had her hip operation last week.If your conversations do go like that - seriously, no! Human first, author second. Just be yourself and keep direct promotion to a minimum.
You: Oh, that's sad, if she's got nothing to do you could buy her a copy of my book.
Social media platforms are time suckers and you will have another book to write - be careful. Don't lose sight of that - ever. I really struggle with this one because I LOVE to chat. Jackie Morris sent me a Chicken of Time - it's an egg timer, I switch it on and limit my social media time. If you spend too much time on social media , you are not spending enough time writing books. Ultimately, no amount of social media is going to turn a poor book into a best seller ( well, maybe one time in a gazillion it will). Chuck Wendig has a brilliant post on this, I recommend it.
|Chicken of Time, reporting for duty.|
Number 5: Team up.
Being a member of SCBWI has given me access to many other writers who are on the same journey. I am immensely proud and privileged to have been asked to join 5 other SCBWI debut authors on a book shop tour under the name #LostAndFound. Their books are wonderful - all different but all with a central theme of characters searching for their true identity. Our first stop is Waterstones Birmingham on 1st October - follow the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to find out more over the next few weeks. This kind of gallivanting is a lot less scary to be part of a team - cheaper too, you can share rooms!
|#LostAndFound: Sue Wallman, Olivia Levez, Eugene Lambert, Patrice Lawrence, Kathryn Evans|
If you are organising something like this, don't be afraid to go to your publicity team and ask for help. As well as funding there're all sorts of things they can do for you in terms of design and connecting you to people - other authors for example - all the publicity people seem to know each other! They may not have a bottomless pit of money but they do have a vested interest in your book doing as well as it possibly can. they will want to help you.
But you know, no one is going to want your book to succeed more than you, so bury that envy and do everything you can to help your book succeed. And then get back to your desk and finish the next one. Nothing sells a book better than what's between the covers
Kathryn Evans is the author of More of Me: A gripping thriller with a sinister sci-fi edge, exploring family, identity and sacrifice. She loves faffing about on social media: find her between Time Chicken pings on Facebook and Instagram @kathrynevansauthor and tweeting @mrsbung. She also blogs on My Life Under Paper. She has been nominated for The Edinburgh Festival First Book award, you can vote for her book here (please).