Thursday 26 February 2009

My advice to authors in these hard times: don't go wide, GO DEEP

One quick check of my blog reader before I go to Costa Coffee to avoid Facebook and I find this link to a nice piece about how the recession is going to make it even tougher to sell books.

The author Novella Carpenter is in nail-biting mode, awaiting the release of her book Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer in June 2009.
Holiday book sales were abysmal, and most of the major publishing houses have announced job losses in recent months. One publishing behemoth, HarperCollins, lost 75 percent of its operating income during the first six months of 2008. Over all, the publishing industry has struggled as bookstore sales -- and the economy -- have slowed drastically.
My agent told me the other day that things were not as bad as that yet in the UK, but what's going to stop me being miserable anyway?

The point of Carpenter's article is that authors will just have to work that much harder to promote their books (though we can't all be as good at it as John Green). One editor told her:
"The best advice for today, and really in any financial climate, is to be fanatical and motivated to promote your book ... Do as many events as possible. Become a shameless self-promoter."
Note: Carpenter in fact forgot to mention the title of her book in the article. I had to check out her website. And when I checked out her website, her upcoming book wasn't even promoted on the front page. When you clicked on Publications, the book was listed but there was no link to any promotional page or synopsis whatsoever (and the listing on Amazon doesn't tell us anything either). She's obviously a nice person who ain't shameless. I think we should all pre-order her book.

A writer friend asked me yesterday if she should Twitter as well as Facebook to get her name out there.

I found myself giving the same advice I offered to a client for whom I designed a website.

The client wanted to know if they were doing enough to get their site listed by search engines. Someone had told her she should stick a long list of key words into her code to make sure her site could be found.

My advice: when you are trying to market yourself, don't go wide, go deep.

If you are a children's author writing about aliens, you don't want someone searching for "book" to find you. You want someone searching for "children's book about aliens". It's the quality of the traffic that counts, not the number. You don't want to be found by just anyone. You want people who are actually likely to reach into their wallets.

If you are trying to use social networking sites to raise your profile, sure, set up an account with Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and what have you. But it's better to have one social network that really works for you than half a dozen that don't. It's the quality of the network, not the quantity (ie. You don't want to friend 3,000 people who will never buy your book) ...

The caveat is that social networking is not just about marketing. And if you'd like to have a go at Twitter, or blogging, or other kinds of social networking , don't let me stop you. But do it because you want to have some fun not just because you're looking for a database to market to.

And of course, we must not forget, as one bookseller reminded Carpenter in the article: "the most important thing is to write an awesome book. That's the biggest hurdle. Just write an awesome book."


Last night I watched Millions again, the story by Frank Cottrell Boyce about a boy who finds a millions of pounds in a holdall by a railway. I had forgotten that it was directed by Danny Boyle, pre-Slumdog. Later, I read this interview of Boyle talking about what sold the script to him —
Basically, page seven where the kid first uses the excuse of his mum's death to gain an advantage - it's a killer moment. You'd think you would examine scripts and weigh them up, but you don't in fact. You read the American ones and they're good and very impressive, but basically when you have a giddy moment like that in a script, that's it.
— it's the scene where the boys tell a shopkeeper, "Me mam's dead" and the shopkeeper immediately hands over some free sweets.

Made me think of rejections. Have you ever received a rejection from an editor or an agent with the words "I liked your book. But I don't love it."

That means your killer moment didn't slay them enough.

Today I resolve to make my killer scene more killer than it is.

1 comment :

  1. great post Candy - If it's ok I'm going to put a post on my blog linking to this.


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