I’m currently taking the Introduction to Screenwriting course from the University of East Anglia through Futurelearn, and as part of the course I’ve been working on a character outline which they have suggested we blog about. It’s a very vague sketch for something I’m working on but here it is:
The Characters Major Actions in Reverse Order
Kisses the girl
Escapes execution and runs away with girl and friends
Is tried and convicted
Is captured in a trap
Meets with girl and plans running away together
Kills guard who attacked his mother
Buries his mother
Finds his mother dying after being attacked
Celebrates his success with girl and friends
Carries out raid for supplies with friends
Breaks in to see girl
Plans raid with gang
Watches supply route from port to stores
Sees girl helping sick and poor
Tells his mother about the girl
Sees girl at port and fancies her
Shares all he has with friends and mother
Chased by guards with gang for petty thievery
Provide for his friends and family
To be happy
To fall in love
He is aware of his wants and needs, just may not know how to get them.
One of the main reasons I went down the self-publishing route for my first book, Writing for Wellness: Surviving Lockdown One Word at a Time, was that I thought I would do my own publicity and marketing. I have a background in public relations and I have done rather well on social media over the years. But now it comes down to it I am finding it harder than I thought.
It’s not the number of sales that’s the problem. In that respect it has exceeded my expectations. It’s that I have had so many negative experiences of other people trying to get me to buy their book that I am hesitant to put others through the same.
Here are some of the big no’s I have picked up along the way:
Don’t beg people to buy your book – it comes across as being desperate and at the end of the day not everyone will be interested in reading your genre. Your book isn’t for everyone, so it’s about finding out who might be interested in it.
Don’t flood people’s DMs with requests that they buy your book
Make sure that the vast majority of tweets are useful to the community you are addressing. They say only one in seven should be you asking anything of them
I’m not comfortable flat out asking people to buy my book, but I do know who my target audience are. They are people who love writing, who would like to write more, who may be nervous about doing so, or think they are not good enough. It’s also for people who may struggle with mental health issues and who discover, perhaps through my book, how writing it out of their heads and on to the page can be therapeutic for them, and finally it’s for people who enjoy reading something that is semi-autobiographical.
If you fit in one or more of those categories, then you may find my book interesting, and possibly even inspiring. There, I said it, someone. out there might actually enjoy reading it.
I could, of course, run free giveaways and other such promotions, but unless I can get the book in front of my target audiences there is little point. It will just become yet another free block of pixels in someone’s rarely visited Kindle library. Surely it’s much better to hold the book’s value and continue the search for the people who would equally value it? I’d love your perspective on this.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of reviews. I absolutely refuse to ask anyone to review my book and consequently, even though it launched three days ago, there are no reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Of course, I wish there were, at least I wish there were some good ones, but I can’t quite bring myself to ask people because that would feel like cheating. Not quite as bad as paying someone to do them (which I believe happens in some instances), but still, at the very least incredibly awkward.
Some people might think I’m selling myself short in all this. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m doing what most people are not doing, and that’s simply talking about my book and sharing what I have enjoyed about writing and publishing it, what has been difficult for me, in the hopes that it will organically find its way into the right hands. It certainly feels like the way of integrity, but I doubt I’ll get to retire on it anytime soon.
What do you all think? What are some of the marketing and publicity techniques you’ve used for your books?
On a final note, I will say this. If we were not in lockdown, things would be different. There would be certain events I could go to where I could sell my book and do signings, and talks I could give where I could do the same. When the only marketing platform is a digital one, it’s tricky not to fall prey to the temptation to start screaming as loud as you can in the hopes that you will be heard above the din.
Here’s one small voice, speaking to the other small voices in the universe, saying I’m here, I have something you might like. Have a read and see what you think.
I never thought the day would come when I would be able to announce to the world that my book was published and available to buy, but it has, and it is. I have been attempting to write a novel for twelve years. I have, in fact, written it four times over, each time close to seventy thousand words, and each time have deleted it. I know some of you will recoil in horror at this news. “Save everything!” is the advice we give one another, and you are all absolutely right. The only problem was, my internal critic had a louder voice.
But I have an editor, a friend called Ros, who has been a quiet encourager to me over the years. She has read many drafts of my supposed opus and has always told me I’m a great storyteller and she can’t wait to find out what happens next. Only the next never came and I think she got a bit frustrated with me, because she eventually said, “just write a blooming book. I don’t care what it’s about. It can be anything. The important thing is to just write it and get it published. Don’t even send it to me to edit it. Don’t worry if it has the odd typo in it, or the prose sticks slightly in your throat when you read it, get it written and get it out there! Then, once you’re an author, you can spend the rest of your life honing your craft and getting better at it.”
She had a point. I wasn’t going to be a master wordsmith if I kept unravelling and starting again. I needed to finish something and learn from that experience as well. But what to write about? I decided on non-fiction as it is something that comes more easily to me. I love writing fiction in the way that I love knitting, but I have to work that much harder at it than I do with crochet. But I digress. The subject…
I have been leading a Writing for Wellness group online since lockdown began, and over the weeks we have grown both numerically and in terms of self-awareness. This group encompasses all of my favourite things, writing, wellness, creativity, inspiration, imagination, and the equipping and empowering of others. Not only that, it is topical, as we have faced the ravages of life in lockdown together. There was a built-in deadline to it too! I was on a roll.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned about my writing is that I work so much better when I work to a routine and to a deadline. I now get up at eight every morning and go into my office to begin my working day, coffee in hand. I stop at one for lunch, and return to my office at two. I stop for the day at four as I have some other commitments I need to attend to by then. This routine works for me, and is what has helped me write this book. I can’t imagine not doing this now.
So I began to write. I spent quite a bit of time devising the chapters, sifting through the writing we had done over the weeks in the group, gathering anecdotal stories, and planning. Then I sat down and began to write. The words flowed, and when they didn’t, I used dictation software to help me get through the dryer spells.
All in all, this book took about six weeks to write and edit. It is fairly short, but it is a book and the sense of achievement I felt when I had finished it was such a relief. Now came the hard part. No, not the editing. I did the best I could with that in the short space of time I had. The hard part was the formatting for Kindle and print on Amazon. There’s an app for the former which makes things considerably easier, and there are templates for the latter. The only problem was, I hadn’t used those templates until then so had to copy and paste my book into it which meant a fair amount of reformatting. But I did it, and the print copy is currently under review.
It felt good to change my bio from writer to author. I have learned so much from this entire process and I am eternally indebted to Ros for giving me the shove over the cliff edge so that I could learn to fly. This is just the beginning. I have made many mistakes in this process, all of which I hope to learn from so that I can do better next time. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? It’s progress, and not perfection that will drive me forwards from now on, and help me to achieve things that are beyond my wildest dreams. How about you have a go at doing that too?