Welcome to episode 22 of my 2020 Staycation Podcast in which I explore how our attitudes change when faced with the possibility of a finite existence.
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?
With much love, Liv x
Documenting life through great social change
Welcome to day nineteen of the Staycation Podcast in which I talk about the great social change that faces us, and the importance of recording our voices in time. Hope you enjoy!
How putting it into words can increase wellness
Welcome to day seventeen of my staycation podcast where I talk about how the gift of writing in many forms can bring us an increased sense of wellbeing during challenging times.
Taking care of our mental health by sticking to a routine
Welcome to day nine of my Staycation Podcasts where I talk about the importance of routines in maintaining our mental health. Hope you enjoy!
Taking the time to reconnect while we’re apart
Welcome to day three of my #Staycation podcast! Today is all about using this time to reconnect to people we may not have spoken to for a while, and staying connected with people we have. I hope you enjoy it.
It’s been lovely to hear back from so many of you, with your own ideas of how to handle this time. Keep them coming!
And remember, we’re not alone, we’re in this together, take care,
How to stay sane in the middle of Coronavirus
While I’m stuck at home because of COVID-19 I thought I’d start a podcast series for everyone else affected by coronavirus. Hope you enjoy, and I’d love to hear from you! We are not alone, together we can!
How your DNA can change the way you write
I’m something of an armchair genealogist. In the digital age it’s now possible to access many records about our ancestors from the comfort of our own homes, and with the advent of Genetic Genealogy we can even find out our DNA by spitting in a tube and popping a parcel in the post.
One of the things which I have discovered as a result of my research is that I am built for speed and not endurance. This isn’t really news to me. I ran the 100 metres in school in 12.85 seconds. I also practically threw up during long distance running on frosty winter days as my chest tightened and my legs turned to jelly.
But how does this apply to my writing? Am I condemned to the realms of poetry or short-story writing? Should I just stick to blogging? That would be fine if my passion lay in poetry and short-stories, or I was content to do nothing but blog, but there are countless stories inside of me, itching to get out, that would fit perfectly into the length of a novel.
The answer, as I have discovered, is to move multiple counters forwards in short, sharp bursts, rather than sit and do one thing for a prolonged length of time. Today, for example, I’m writing two blog posts of approximately 600 words each, as well as 600 words of two novels I’m working on, and 600 more on an autobiographical work. That’s a total of 3k words in a day, which is hugely productive. I know I can achieve this relatively easily because I’ve broken it down into bite-sized chunks. Had I told myself that I would write a solid 3k words at the beginning of the day, the likelihood is my brain would have melted down in apoplexy and it would have felt like people were sticking a multitude of long, sharp needles in my head.
I also try to change it up throughout the day to keep my brain stimulated. For example, I might spend the first block of time writing a blog, then do some research, then listen to some music or watch a podcast, then write some of one of my novels. I will vary what I work on throughout the day so my brain never gets bored. The other key thing for me is to get plenty of fresh air an exercise, especially during the long, dark, winters, and, importantly, to cuddle with my cat, Henry.
Of course none of us are the same. I suspect that our writing styles are as unique as our DNA. The important thing is to find what works best for you. If you are a marathon runner at heart then you can probably sit down for longer periods, but may not write as fast. If you are a sprinter, you might want to try to write less words at a time or even set a stop watch to write in bursts. It’s all the same in the end, but unlocking the key to your own writing DNA is what will bring you the greatest success in the end.
Are you build for writing speed or endurance? What are the secrets to your writing success? I’d love to hear from you. Do drop me a line. Liv.