This week I chat to friends from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books, who didn’t launch one book in lockdown. They launched several! Now there’s a challenge!
First up this week, Paula Readman.
1. What books did you launch in 2020?
Amazingly I had my first three books published this year. In February, my first book was published. The Funeral Birds, (Demain Publishing), is a novelette and tells the story of a failing detective agency. The book is about relationships, but also a murder, a witch, and nesting owls in a ruined church.
In June, my first collection of short stories, Days Pass like A Shadow, was published by Bridge House Publishing. The collection consists of thirteen dark tales covering the theme of death and loss.
In August my Gothic crime novel, Stone Angels, was published by Darkstroke. It tells the story of artist James Ravencroft and his obsession with painting his ten masterpieces, his stone angels.
2. How did you do this?
I was in the dark about marketing online. It didn’t feel real. As I used Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn I decided to post about the books to family and friends who were following my writing journey.
I also used my village Facebook site to post about my books. Though it doesn’t allow selling, I carefully worded my post telling them about my cancelled book launch and the story behind the book’s creation. Anyone showing an interest in my book I asked to private message me for further details.
My friend, David, helped me make a video for an online launch for Stone Angels. He’d read the book and enjoyed it so knew what questions to ask. I also made book trailers.
3. Why did you pick those options?
My friend, Nicky, mentioned she had some success with Fussy Librarian which is an American promotional site. I also tried Book Cave, which is another American site. I also updated my blog which I hadn’t been using. I decided to pay for my blog so I could lose the advertising and give it a clean look.
Book trailers give the reader an idea of what the book is about as well as it being another marketing tool. Over this year, I’ve signed up to thirty Facebook groups which allow you to market your books for free.
4. How do you think these events went?
I’m not sure. I know my work sells better in America. This could be because I’ve only managed to find promotional sites within my budget when paying for marketing in America. I’ve looked for promotional sites in Britain but haven’t had time to check them out. That’s on my to do list for 2021.
5. What have you missed most about not being able to hold signings etc. in the usual way?
I like to chat to people about my books. If you engage with potential readers they’re more likely to buy your book. Chatting online isn’t the same. Allison Russell and I normally go to the Whitby Goth Festival twice a year. I hand out postcard sized business cards at the festivals and have, over the years through chatting about my writing, got to know a lot of people. I was so looking forward to having a big launch party in my garden and planned to include my village in the celebration too.
6. What have you learned from your experiences here?
There are places you can market your books for free, if you know where to look, but be aware there are thousands of writers also looking for readers. You can spend money to advertise your books, but there is no guarantee that will bring you more sales.
7. Name one top tip based on your experience of your launches in 2020.
Check out all promotional sites by asking friends which sites they’ve tried. Be aware you can get caught out, if you’re not careful. I got caught out by a site that seemed too good to be true. Luckily, I got some of my money back.
Paula R C Readman is married, has a son, and lives in Essex with two cats. After leaving school with no qualifications, she spent her working life in low paying jobs. In 1998, with no understanding of English grammar, she decided to beat her dyslexia by setting herself a challenge to become a published author. She taught herself how to write from books her husband purchased from eBay.
After making the 250th purchase, Russell told her to ‘just to get on with the writing’. Since 2010 she has been published in anthologies in Britain, Australia, and America and won several writing competitions. In 2020 she had her first crime novelette, The Funeral Birds, published by Demain Publishing, a single collection of short stories, Days Pass Like A Shadow, published by Bridge House Publishing, and her first crime novel, Stone Angels, was published in August by Darkstroke.
And now over to Dawn Knox.
1. What book(s) did you launch in 2020?
I’ve launched four books. The Macaroon Chronicles is quirky, written in a similar style to The Basilwade Chronicles. Both are published by Chapeltown Books and are part of what I call The Chronicles Chronicles!
The other three are historical romances, set during World War Two and are published by Ulverscroft Large Print Books. They’re part of the Plotland Saga, and there will be two others out early in 2021.
The first which came out this year, is called With All My Heart and tells the story of three young German Jews who come to England on the Kindertransport. The second is Wild Spirit which sees the heroine taking part in the valiant effort to rescue thousands of British troops from Dunkirk. The third is Heart of Ice which takes place during the dark days of the Battle of Britain.
2. How did you do this?
The historical romances are launched by Ulverscroft, who manage the process. I announce them on social media and that’s it. The Ulverscroft Foundation provides funds for research, diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. The Ulverscroft Group is the world’s leading publisher of large print, publishing 64 large print titles a month and distributing more, so copies are usually available in libraries.
A friend said I could look up authors on the WorldCat website and I couldn’t resist looking myself up, not expecting to find many entries.
I discovered all my Ulverscroft books are available in various libraries in the UK and in many US, Australian and New Zealand libraries! I even noticed the book due out in the UK in January, is currently available in two Australian libraries, so Ulverscroft obviously know what they are doing!
The Macaroon Chronicles came out in early October. I planned to launch it immediately but after a bereavement, I postponed. The Basilwade Chronicles was launched on local radio, Gateway 97.8FM by presenter, Jacqui James, on her weekly show Good Afternoon.
Each week, a chapter was read out live by John Guest, the narrator of the Basilwade audiobook. Although the country wasn’t in lockdown during the late summer, my family were self-isolating, so a radio launch for The Macaroon Chronicles was the perfect solution.
Jacqui was happy to launch it on her programme and John was ready to read the first chapter at the launch, and then continue reading one chapter per week.
To coincide with the launch, I’d scheduled posts on my blog, Twitter and Instagram with the promotional video as well as creating a new Facebook page for the book.
I scheduled posts about the main characters as well as blog exchanges with other authors, including you! (Allison: Indeed – links for these are further down).
I decided it might be fun to contact a company which sold macaroons online with a view to cross-promoting. I wanted to put links to their business on my blog and social media. In return, I would’ve liked them to post about The Macaroon Chronicles.
I contacted one company and offered to send a free copy of the book, so someone could satisfy themselves it wouldn’t bring their confectionery into disrepute! I also made it clear I didn’t expect freebies, I was happy to purchase macaroons, perhaps as a prize for radio listeners when the book was launched.
My other idea was to contact Eddie the Eagle! To my amazement, he replied! What a lovely man! Determined Eddie the Eagle, (or Michael Edwards – his real name) captured the hearts of the world when he took part in the ski jumping in the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary.
While I’d been planning a short story, I’d been watching a video of him ski jumping and the name appealed, which is how Eddie, the Bald Eagle who’s really a chicken, was hatched! That character inspired the first story of The Macaroon Chronicles.
I told Michael I’d borrowed his name for a character. However, I pointed out nothing about Eddie the Bald Eagle resembled him! I also sent him a copy of the book which he said he’d read.
3. How do you think these events went?
Most of my plans went wrong!
A few weeks before the radio launch, a workman went through a cable outside the station during Jacqui’s show, cutting electricity for an hour and preventing the scheduled episode of the play due for broadcast. That episode was broadcast the following week, putting the launch of The Macaroon Chronicles back.
Then the second lockdown was announced which meant no-one was allowed in the studio! Jacqui’s programme consisted of music with pre-recorded intros. It was early December before anyone was allowed in the studio. I postponed the launch of The Macaroon Chronicles until January. I went ahead with the scheduled blog exchanges and posts in late November and posted the book promotion video I’d made.
Contacting a company who sold macaroons online didn’t work. I contacted four but not one replied. Although The Macaroon Chronicles is out, and much of the ‘launch’ has taken place, the radio launch is yet to come – in January – without a macaroon company partner!
I’m not sure what I could’ve done differently. I had everything planned and prepared but there was a lot of interest in the blog posts and exchanges.
4. What have you missed most about not being able to hold signings etc in the usual way?
If I’m honest, I’m not keen on book signings. I fear no-one will turn up, so a radio launch is perfect for me. I can’t see people’s lack of interest while on air!
5. What have you learned from your experiences here?
I’d still plan everything but then be prepared for the unexpected. If possible, have a Plan B and C!
6. Name one top tip based on your experience of your launch(es) in 2020.
Try to think outside the box. A launch in a café selling macaroons would’ve been good but that was impossible during the pandemic. Online macaroons were the solution.
It would’ve been fun if a macaroon company participated. However, if the idea appeals to anyone, perhaps they’ll have better luck in connecting with people appropriate to their book.
It’s lovely to have been in contact with Eddie the Eagle! There’s always the opportunity to make friends!
Dawn has had two plays about World War One performed internationally. Research carried out for writing these scripts led to her book, The Great War – 100 Stories of 100 Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died 100 Years Ago, which has been a finalist in three literary awards.
Her latest book is called The Macaroon Chronicles (Chapeltown Books) a series of quirky adventures on the exotic Isle of Macaroon with Eddie and his zany friends. It is written in a similar style to The Basilwade Chronicles (Chapeltown Books).
She also has historical romances published by Ulverscroft Large Print Books. Many are set in Essex where Dawn lives.
Links to books
Wild Spirit – August 2020
With All My Heart – November 2020
Heart of Ice – December 2020
The Macaroon Chronicles – October 2020
Now for Amanda Huggins…
1.What books did you launch in 2020?
I was lucky enough to have two books published this year – my debut poetry collection, The Collective Nouns for Birds (Maytree Press), and my second short story collection, Scratched Enamel Heart (Retreat West Books).
I was unlucky both launches were badly affected by lockdown. My poetry collection just made it out there at the end of February, and I did an initial reading at The Red Shed Labour Club in Wakefield before all other events were cancelled.
Scratched Enamel Heart came out in May. I had several readings in place, but alas they were not to be!
2. How did you launch Scratched Enamel Heart?
I arranged a Facebook launch, where I shared filmed readings of stories from the collection and organised a competition relating to the book’s themes. I also held a similar promotional competition on Twitter, and hosted a question and answer session. Both were great fun.
3. Why did you pick these options?
I’ve built up a Twitter following of just under three thousand writers, readers, publishers, and book bloggers, and I have 1200 Facebook friends who are mostly writers and readers, so knew I could reach a lot of people through these platforms.
Facebook lets you send invites (and remind guests of the event), and it can be held over an afternoon or evening, so it’s flexible and gives people the option to drop in and out.
If I did it again I’d probably organise a Zoom launch too, because it’s akin to a true live event, and I could’ve held readings, but I wasn’t familiar with Zoom when I first planned it.
4. How do you think the events went?
I think the Facebook launch and Twitter chat went well, and a few people who saw my work invited me to read at their Zoom events later in the year. I must have done okay with my online efforts to promote my poetry collection, as it went on to win the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry pamphlet – also in lockdown! (Allison: Well done!).
5. What have you missed most about not being able to hold events and book signings in the usual way?
You can’t beat face to face contact with people: socialising, networking, making new friends. Live events do sell books on the night. I’ve been lucky enough to read my work in great venues – word of mouth helped enormously there.
Having said that, online events are accessible, so you get more attendees from other parts of the country – and other continents! Even locally, people will attend an online event who might never have come in person on a cold winter’s night.
6. What have you learned from your experiences here?
I’ve learned you need to be creative for promotion and launch events. The advantage of restrictions is you are forced to adapt and rethink!
I’ve plenty of ideas up my sleeve and believe online events are the way forward in conjunction (I hope!) with live events. I’ll be doing it online again for my novella, All Our Squandered Beauty, at the end of January.
7. Name one top tip based on your experience of your lockdown book launch
Get someone to host your launch if you use Zoom – and perhaps interview you live. Offer book giveaways as a lure – everyone loves a freebie. Invite people in good time – and keep reminding them. Oops, sorry, that’s three tips!
Allison: All useful stuff though!
Links to Books
Amanda Huggins is the author of the forthcoming novella, All Our Squandered Beauty, as well as four collections of short fiction and poetry. She was a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award 2018. Her prize-winning story Red features in Scratched Enamel Heart.
In 2020 she won the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award and was included in the BIFFY50 list of Best British and Irish Flash Fiction 2019-20. Her poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, won the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Her story, Tiger, was broadcast on BBC Radio and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Amanda grew up on the North Yorkshire coast, moved to London in the 1990s, and now lives in West Yorkshire.
Many thanks, everyone, for your fabulous contributions. Next week I talk to Amanda Jones, Gail Aldwin, and, appropriately, finish this series by chatting to Gill James, the creative force behind Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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