I started writing my debut novel two-and-a-half years ago.
SEE ALSO: Learn how to publish your own e-book
I won't waffle on too much here about the writing process or how I ended up finding my publisher, but the abridged version is this: I wrote the bulk of my book in 30 hectic days for National Novel Writing Month back in 2015, then crowdfunded its publication with a UK publisher called Unbound last summer.
The book finally came out on 8 May.
— Sam Haysom (@samhaysom) May 8, 2018
The last few months have been incredibly exciting, but they've also been a hugely steep learning curve for me.
In short, there are so many things you can (and should) be doing around the time your book comes out — and you never feel like you're doing enough.
Here are some of the most important lessons I've learned while blundering my way through the process...
1. You need to start promoting it way, way before launch day
The marketing process for a book doesn't start on the day it's released — if you're on top of things, it should already have been ticking away for several months by then.
"Publishers start their marketing campaigns 6-12 months before publication," Natalie Fergie, best-selling author of historical fictional novel >The Sewing Machine (and a fellow Unbound author), told Mashable. "Authors, whether they are with one of the big publishers, or self-publishing, or somewhere in between, should be thinking about their personal campaign in the same way, several months before the big day."
I started putting the word out about my book a good few weeks before publication — contacting bloggers, reaching out to authors for quotes, etc. — but if I could do it all again I'd have started even earlier. You want to get your book in front of as many people as possible, and all of those people will have long reading lists. The sooner you get in touch with them, the more likely they'll have a chance to read your book before it's out.
2. You have to sell that thing yourself
If you're J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or any other author regularly topping the best-seller list, just your name is enough to sell books. If you're a wildly unknown debut author like me, though, you've got to do a fair bit of hustling.
Your publisher will obviously help you out too — mine has done a bunch of stuff to get the word out — but you still need to be as active as possible yourself.
It feels awkward at first. Whenever I pester people to write Amazon reviews for me or relentlessly bang on about my book on social media, a part of me worries that people will get fed up with it. Maybe they will. But being shy won't get me anywhere, either. People can always ignore me or say no, but if I don't ask them I'll never know. And so far I've found that people are often more than happy to help.
Oooh, people are starting to get their copies of The Moor through in the post 😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/MrUikVTYcz
— Sam Haysom (@samhaysom) May 11, 2018
3. Social media is your new best friend
Back in the pre-internet days, the only publicity methods at an author's disposal were events, magazine, and maybe (if you were super popular) a nice billboard or two. Physical stuff. The internet has changed all that, though. Now we can reach a whole bunch of potential readers without even leaving our homes.
I don't know exactly how many books I've sold so far (I won't until I get my first statement from my publisher), but I know a big chunk of my sales will likely have come through social media. Friends and family have found out about my book through Facebook; I've reached a bunch of bloggers and avid reader-types through Twitter; I may have even a picked up a sale or two through Instagram hashtags.
It's not just as simple as firing out links and hope somebody clicks. You have to test out different stuff.
I recently organised a Twitter giveaway that drummed up a bunch of RTs, for instance, and I've also been experimenting with posts on Reddit.
A recent post I wrote (picture above) talking about my experience of NaNoWriMo and how it led to me getting my debut novel published, for instance, was upvoted over 130 times and stayed at the top of the r/NaNoWriMo sub for several days. It also led to at least a small handful of people ordering the book.
4. Embrace new methods of getting the word out
A couple of weeks before my book came out, Unbound set me up with an app called Pigeonhole. I hadn't heard of it before. The premise of it made me excited, but also a tad nervous: basically my book would be released in instalments over a 10-day period a couple of weeks before its publication date, and people would be able to comment on specific passages as they read through the story. The even more nail-biting bit? I'd have an account too, meaning I could respond directly to their questions and feedback.
I needn't have worried in the end. The app's community turned out to be an incredibly lovely bunch. And as Pigeonhole's Ned Davies pointed out, it also provided an opportunity for me to get reviews and build an early readership.
"The experience rewards authors who are happy to discuss the book with their readers and take time to share their thoughts," Davies told Mashable. "Ultimately, it is a fantastic tool to build your readership, encourage reviews, spark social media chat, and ultimately deliver sales."
It might not work for every book. Davies explained that plot-based fiction, especially crime/thrillers, historical and women's fiction with plenty of twists and turns, tend to work best. But for me it led to an early slew of Goodreads reviews, which in turn led to a bunch of people adding the book to their "want to read" pile.
5. The importance of book bloggers
As well as Pigeonhole readers and the early supporters of my book on Unbound, the other group who have been instrumental in helping me spread word of The Moor have been book bloggers. In the weeks before publication, I contacted a bunch of them. Some I found on Twitter, while others I discovered through a super-useful Facebook group called Book Connectors. The result has been a handful of nice reviews, a couple of Q & A interviews, and a ton of social media posts — and loads more coverage still in the pipeline.
— Bookmark That (@bookmarkthatuk) May 3, 2018
It's one thing for me, and my friends and family, to try and sell my book. It's a whole other thing if a stranger — especially someone with a dedicated following of fans looking for new reading recommendations — shouts it out.
Word-of-mouth, whether that's in person or via the digital grapevine, is what really makes a novel spread.
6. Reviews are helpful in more ways than one
This is something I've only become aware of in recent weeks. As well as reviews acting as little digital recommendations for your book, they also help drive sales in other ways. This is particularly relevant on Amazon, which is both a retailer and a review platform. The latter feeds into the former. If a bunch of people are reviewing your book — especially if those reviews come from verified Amazon customers — the site is going to start taking note. I'm not going to try and and delve into the Amazon algorithm here — it's complex, it's updated regularly, and articles have been written attempting to decipher it in the past — but the consensus among authors and publishers seems to be that the more reviews you have, the more likely your book is to start popping up around the site elsewhere (for instance in the recommendations or "customers who bought this item also bought" section).
Amazon doesn't make public exactly how much of an impact reviews make, or how many reviews a book needs before it starts appearing in other places. It's all a bit mysterious. But I've been trying to encourage people to add reviews anyway, just in case. At the very least it'll give potential customers some more feedback to read if they're undecided on whether to buy my book.
A few speedy readers have already messaged me to say they’ve finished The Moor 😍 If you do finish it this weekend, would you mind doing me a huge favour and leaving a super quick review on Amazon? Apparently Amazon reviews are really important (they boost books up the algorithm so more people see them), so it’d really help me out! Doesn’t have to be a long one, even a couple of lines would be awesome ▶️▶️▶️ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Moor-Sam-Haysom-ebook/dp/B07C5YZQCK
A post shared by Sam Haysom (@sam_haysom) on
7. Don't worry too much about the format
I used to love the idea of walking into Waterstones and picking up a book with my own name on the cover. I still love that idea. But since I've been through the publication process — and chatted to a bunch of other Unbound authors who've been on the same journey — I've realised that print is only one part of it. And, as it turns out, maybe quite a small part.
"Quite early on, I was advised by Xander Cansell, Head of Digital at Unbound, that he expected sales to be 90% ebook and 10% paperback," said Natalie Fergie. "It’s fair to say that this wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Everyone loves a real book, even if they read mostly on Kindle, and seeing your book in a bookshop, on the shelf, is a thrilling experience. However, I can report that he was absolutely correct, and this was a trend that was established in the first few weeks and which has continued."
Rather than being upset about it, Fergie said she embraced the reality — connecting with bloggers and getting involved with social media. It's worked. In the first year since The Sewing Machine was published it's sold a whopping 50,000 ebooks and 2,000 paperbacks. That's 96% digital, 4% physical.
I have a bit of an announcement.
Over FIFTY THOUSAND copies of The Sewing Machine have been sold.
— 📚 Natalie ✏️ (@NatalieSFergie) April 20, 2018
8. It's definitely a marathon, not a sprint
This is probably the most important point on the whole list, and something I'm only just starting to get my head around. I spent the first few days after my book came out obsessively checking its Amazon ranking. If it went up a couple places I felt great, if it dropped I started to feel stressed. I kept worrying that I could be doing more to promote it, or that I wasn't getting enough reviews, etc., etc. Basically getting way too caught up in the numbers.
Okay, so I still do that a bit. But as the days go by, I'm starting to realise things won't happen overnight. Selling a book can be a slow process. The best analogy I've heard for it — one which I think came up in the Facebook group I'm in with my fellow Unbound authors — is planting seeds.
Every time you send your book out to someone, or host an event for it, or make a move to put the word out about it in any way, you're planting a seed. You only need one of those seeds to take hold.
British author C.J. Tudor released her debut novel, >The Chalk Man, in January 2018. About five weeks after it came out, Stephen King posted the following tweet to his 4.5 million plus followers:
Want to read something good? You won't find it on the front bestseller table at your bookstore, but it's new, and will be there. THE CHALK MAN, by C.J. Tudor. If you like my stuff, you'll like this.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) February 20, 2018
That quote now sits proudly at the top of The Chalk Man's Amazon page. At the time of writing the book has an Amazon Bestseller Rank of #2 for Kindle Store Horror and #4 for Contemporary Horror.
I'm not expecting something like that to happen for my book. I'd be unbelievably ecstatic if it did, but I'm managing my expectations.
Still: now that the book is out there, it's exciting to think that anyone — from a family member to Stephen King — could be reading it.
Source : https://mashable.com/2018/05/21/publishing-my-debut-novel-what-i-learned/