I’d be rich if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that an author starting their publishing journey shouldn’t expect many sales other than what they can sell to friends and family. Indeed, for my debut novel Gods of Avalon Road, I pursued a local audience as I wanted to feel that my publishing journey was ‘real’ and somehow the fanfare of a live book launch in a nationwide bookstore sealed this notion for me. However, it isn’t the case for my second novel, The Buddha’s Bone. I wanted to write this post to talk about what I did differently between my first and second novels, how I learned from the marketing strategies I used with my debut book, and how I’ve started to reach readers beyond people I personally know: in other words marketing to a global audience, rather than local.
Let’s start with percentages, to get some perspective. For my debut novel, Gods of Avalon Road, 55% of sales were from friends and family and 45% from unknown readers. Compare that with sales of my second novel, The Buddha’s Bone, which stand at 8% from people I know and 92% from unknown readers. The reason for this drop in sales from friends and family is to do with the fact that I didn’t have a live book signing event at Waterstones for The Buddha’s Bone as I did for my debut, Gods of Avalon Road – many of my social contacts came for the occasion of the book launch for Gods of Avalon Road (wine, listening to an extract, catching up with each other, etc).
On the other hand, with the release of The Buddha’s Bone in October this year, I chose to do a virtual book launch reading on YouTube due to social distancing. (Incidentally, more of my social contacts watched my YouTube video than came to my bookstore launch in any case, since I have friends and family in the US, Australia, Japan and many other countries.) Realistically in a pandemic world, it’s better for me as a writer to be attracting new readers of my writing through an online global basis in any case; I’m delighted to be reaching beyond my social circle, a realisation that I find both encouraging and motivating as a writer. I’ve never been more determined to finish the first draft of my current work in progress than now, knowing that I’m building an audience for future novels.
My debut novel was published with a small press publisher. I was informed a month before publication of a release date for 23 October 2019. The book wasn’t listed for pre-order, so no links were available to publicise it beforehand on Goodreads. My publisher also discouraged authors from sending out free Advance Review Copies (ARCs) to readers and said they didn’t do this themselves as they ‘didn’t find it to be lucrative’. The only option left to me as a debut novelist was to spread word among family and friends and share the cover image the publisher had sent me. Of course, my publisher also promoted my book on their website, Facebook and Twitter, in addition to suggesting a slot on the Author Show, so they helped with promotion, but the truth of the matter is, getting the word out about a new book from an unknown author requires much more intensive marketing than spreading word of mouth through a few social media sites.
I decided to do things differently with my second novel. I set it to pre-order 3 months in advance and immediately began looking for ARC readers, Book Bloggers (you can see reviews on Soph’s Book World and Whispering Stories) and author interview sites (my book interview is on Snowflakes in a Blizzard). I advertised my pre-order link on Goodreads, my author website and on my social media to start spreading the word. Instead of a live book signing event locally, I read excerpts from my novel and posted those on my YouTube channel – first from the Paperback proof copy and later on release day from the Hardcover version. I shared extracts as teasers during the last month before publication as part of a 4 week countdown. ARC reviews started to come in on Goodreads several weeks before the book was released. Two weeks before launch I placed an advertisement in the Ingram Advance catalog to promote my book to 27,000 international subscribers in addition to all the libraries, bookstores and wholesalers across the US. In the first month of publication I ran a Bargain Booksy promotion and I have been running ongoing Amazon sponsored ads.
I’m convinced that all of the above has made a difference to my book reaching new readers. Instead of relying on people I know to buy my book (some of you have and I’m thankful to you – you know who you are!) I really feel I’ve started to build a readership; I’m grateful to all of you, wherever you are in the world, for giving my book – and indeed me as an author – a chance. It’s early days yet; I’m learning new ways to try and target my audience. But as with anything in life, I learn from past mistakes too, and always work to improve my methods. Writing is my business as well as my passion; my career is focused on long-term strategies that work to reach new readers, rather than centring around promoting an individual book to friends, family and colleagues. I’m always striving to find new ways to market my book and I’ll keep trying with what works and get results. Hope you’ll stay with me on my author journey too!