Too Many Writers, Not Enough Readers

A plea from an editor to the world's surfeit of aspirant writers: please stop writing — if only for one year. A heartfelt request unlikely to be observed, as millions of writers fight over what seems to be an ever shrinking pool of readers. According to a 'surprising fact' recently encountered on an American website, 80% of American families buy precisely zero books per year, a proportion which no doubt is echoed elsewhere in the western world.

Book Launches Can Be Effective

Rosie Abbot, author of Scent of Belonging reports that the recent launch of her book went extremely well.

'The Scent of Belonging' launch at Collins in Bairnsdale last night was a huge success. An audience of about 50 on a cold week night in the country is a great attendance. I spoke for about 30 minutes, followed by terrific book sales and signings that pleased Di Johnston, Manager of Collins Booksellers. Feedback has been rolling in. An extract from the latest email:

"Your sermon to the multitudes last night was inspiring. For someone “out of their comfort zone” you did a helluva job! You were interesting, warm, and your straightforward style and honesty did you proud. I think the sustained applause at the end of your talk was the proof of the pud. Congratulations!"

An earlier launch, held in my home town of Paynesville in July, attracted similar numbers and I am now receiving very positive feedback from readers. 

The book is currently being reviewed by CAE Melbourne Book Groups for consideration in their catalogue; I have some book club 'meet the author, discuss the book' events lined up in November, and am currently arranging another launch at Collins Booksellers in Traralgon, Central Gippsland.

Collins Booksellers in Bairnsdale have devoted a full window display to the promotion of 'The Scent of Belonging' which will be pride of place for two weeks (photos attached). Let's hope sales skyrocket!

 If an author knows their market, has good local support and gets the word out, a launch can be a real financial and emotional boost.

Be Your Own Newspaper Mogul

There's an American pundit who likes to bang on about the 'hyper-personal news stream' that will supposedly come to dominate the way we consume news. We will select a highly individualised stream of information that closely mirrors our preferences. A taste of this future can be seen with the various news aggregators. can take Twitter, Facebook or Google+ feeds and turn them into quite an attractive simulation of a newspaper. A business can build a collection of feeds likely to be of interest to its clients, including their own tweets or Facebook posts. A pro version of the service also allows a company to add their brand/logo to the newsletter, currently $9 per month.

E Book Promotional Hints for Authors

From book distributor Dennis Jones, the following practical suggestions for getting traction with your ebook offerings.

1. Sites where you can add yourself as an author, and your book if it's not already listed (or add to the details about your book if it's already there)

2. Some useful starting points about blogging and social networking

3. Mobilise your fans/family/friends on these sites

On any site that allows ratings/reviews (such as those above), ask all your friends and relatives (and anyone you know with an internet account) to go and rave about your books with positive comments and ratings… many sites are also now starting to feature Facebook 'Like' buttons or Google+ '+1' buttons, so any friends who are on those social networks should make sure they click these as well. Every good review, 5-star rating or 'Like' will add to the book's visibility in searches both on the bookseller sites and in general internet searches. Amazon leads the way here (as they do for general online shopping customer interaction); Kobo has some interesting features available for accountholders (it's free to join), including automated linking to Facebook inside the 'Reading Life' area of their site; Booku allows reviews, ratings, likes and +1s

4)  Other ideas

Make sure you include links on your blog/website to other blogs/web resources you have found useful, they will often give you a 'link-back' which will add traffic to your site(s).

Don't limit yourself by only thinking about how to use your online presence to attract new readers, make sure you interact with other authors doing the same thing, learn from them, compare notes, share tips. Whenever you visit another author's blog/site look at all of the links they have included, there will almost always be something of interest there.

Smashing Marketing

For those bypassing traditional publishers and going online with their ebook offerings, Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords has produced a handy promotional guide. Part of his collection of tips relates to promotion within Smashwords, and the other portion to online promotion in general. When you look at the vast volume of ebooks being uploaded every day, acquiring a bit of promotional nous  is not optional, but absolutely essential. The Internet booksellers do not promote accidental discovery in the same way that physical bookstores did (and still do, at least in some places). And did we mention that the guide is free?

Calling All Publishers

Though facing an uncertain future, publishers are still the preferred point of entry for many authors. The prospect of completely going it alone is daunting for all but the most optimistic and entrepreneurial. The Australian Writers Marketplace is perhaps the most comprehensive and best known resource, but the Australian Publishers' Association Directory is also worth consulting. And if your tastes are more towards the independent, risk-taking end of the publishing spectrum, SPUNC (The Small Press Network) maintains an excellent web presence for smaller publishers. As always, check each publisher's submission policies.

Still More Author promotional ideas

Richard Stamp, author of As the Sparks Fly Upwards has been very active and creative with the promotion of his book. He descibes some of his ideas below:

  1. I attend a local church which arsonists burned down three years ago. I have been selling books at $25 each and letting folk in the parish know that $5 for each book will go back into the rebuilding fund for all copies sold by them and within the parish. That way I get $20 a book back and the community benefits ....and buys more.  The suggestion therefore is that authors find a local cause which they can support and which then recruits more sellers and acts as a vehicle for selling more books.
  2. I have designed a simple poster. I have emailed it to a hundred folk or so around the world asking them to get them put up on community, club and church notice boards etc.  Eg There’s a town in Colorado in the USA which now has these flyers at the local gym, at the community hall and at the church. It all helps. I put the RRP on the ones for Australian use ... but left it off those sent to other countries where the cost would be differently expressed.
  3. I have used some of the old galley copies in this way; I have asked local places where people have to wait for a while if I can put a copy in their waiting room.
  4. I have  put a stick-on label on the front cover which says. This book has been lent by the author to ease your waiting time. Please do not remove it. Copies of this book may be purchased from Collins ABC shops also at Dymocks and also at Bookmark on High Street. [all local bookshops] or direct from the author on ph 54353576  
    Since each chapter of my book is a story in itself this is ideal for folk to read one story or two while they wait. Thus their appetite might be sharpened and a desire to buy the book and finish reading it be engendered. Books are now at the local Foot Clinic, at a large local medical practice and also at the new lounge and waiting area at a local garage complex where people wait while work is done on their vehicle.  More venues are planned.

These are additional measures to the usual personal give/away cards with the book’s details, interviews and reviews on radio and in local newspapers. Also I have visited various bookshops in the region [Bendigo and central Macedon ranges towns]  and 7 bookshops now have it in stock.

Smashwords and Open Library

It's a whole new publishing world out there. Here's an interesting discussion between Open Library and Smashwords founder Mark Coker. A brief summary of the ethos behind Smashwords:

"Smashwords represents 19,000 indie authors and small presses who handle the writing, editing and pricing of their books. We distribute these titles to major retailers such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel. We believe that authors should maintain the creative and financial control of their work and receive the lion's share of income."

Author Gives Away Ebooks...

Recently received comments regarding self-promotion from Mike Dixon, author's of Curtin Express:

I'm at last having success in promoting myself as an author. I've not started to sell books. That crucial point has not yet been reached. However, people are downloading my free ebooks and they are doing so consistently.

I'm averaging over 40 downloads a day. I start by making the books available through the "free ebook sites" listed on my home page. After that, they seem to generate a following of their own.

I suspect that Facebook plays a part but not directly. Attempts to promote through my own page on Facebook have produced poor results. The same can be said for Twitter and all those other ways that the viral explosion people talk about. They will take you for a ride which can cost a lot in time and money before you realise they are talking nonsense.

My advice is "Get focused". Expose your books to people who are interested in books and forget about everything else.

My remarks apply to works of fiction. A different approach may be appropriate in other areas.

My books are currently available in PDF format.  I have started to convert them to epub via html and calibre (free on net). The steps are (i) use microsoftword to produce document - jpg images may be included. (ii) save for web (iii) convert with calibre - just three clicks on the mouse is all that it takes. Finally, don't forget to support the folks at calibre with a small payment.

The epub format allows your book to be viewed on a small hand-held device (eg iphone). I'll let you know what the outcome is. I suspect epub will greatly increase the number of downloads. There's only one way to find out.

Selling Your Books Face to Face

Barry Wilks, author of Come in Spinner has this to say about selling his own book:

  1. I have found selling Come in Spinner at local markets successful
  2. I have sold 300 books in 3 months door to door in Armidale - cold canvas - and when I receive copies of Dolores I shall be making similar arrangements. I find personal contact with the customer at the door more successful than any other outlet.
  3. The postcard idea was unsuccessful — a complete loss. I didn't get one sale or even an enquiry. I sent out over 200.