WRITING FEATURE Marketing my Debut

SCBWI author Kate Mallinder steps outside her writing comfort zone and into the world of book marketing. 

I am not a marketing expert, so this isn’t a blog about how to market any book. This is purely what I’ve done for my own book, Summer of No Regrets, and what, as far as I can tell, has worked, and what hasn’t.

I started off with my own set of guidelines. My main one was I didn’t want to look back and regret not having tried something. If you know me even slightly, you’ll know this is how I approach lots of things. Say yes to opportunities and figure out how to do it later. And broadly speaking it’s worked.
There has also been an interesting debate on twitter recently about whether authors ‘should’ spend money to promote their books. I’m not a fan of the word ‘should’. Everyone needs to consider their own circumstances and make that decision. I’d been spending money honing my craft, so personally it made sense to spend a little of my own money on promotion. We are often told that writing a story is art, but publishing a book is business, so I’ve been treating the promotion side as a business – and I have loved it despite it taking time, money, effort and being outside of my comfort zone.

So with those things in mind, I have done the following:

* Early on I designed a personality quiz for my four main characters: Hetal, Cam, Sasha and Nell. As Summer of No Regrets is told from their four points of view, I felt it would be fun for readers to get to know them a little better and perhaps build a personal connection. And everyone loves a quiz, right?

* My writing blog, which I have been writing sporadically for five years, has proved invaluable. People have told me they have bought my book on the strength of enjoying my blogs alone.
* I was nervous about school visits, so I offered my local high school three different free visits during the year. By the time my book published, I felt comfortable in front of groups of teenagers. I still don’t charge the full recommended amount for my school visits – I’m keen to have more visits, rather than fewer visits and more money.

* Postcards! Postcards are awesome! Firefly Press supplied some, and I’ve since had more printed. They’re good for leaving in bookshops, giving out on school visits and as compliment slips in packages. I’ve also recently realised the benefits of book plates; I can offer ‘signed books’ at a much cheaper postage rate, and independent bookshops like them too.

*I got a new website. My old one was solely my writing blog, but my author’s website needed to be more. For those who are interested it’s squarespace, which like lots of things, once you get used to is fine.

* I used social media. A lot. For me that’s mainly Twitter, but I’ve enjoyed getting into Instagram. I’m not great at Facebook, but it’s a brilliant way to keep all my local (and not so local) friends and family updated. I’ve given my author copies away in twitter giveaways over the past three months.

* Book banners – Firefly supplied one and I bought a second. These are brilliant at events, as the audience can’t help but notice what your book looks like. I also find it gives me courage – I must be a real author if my book cover is that big!

* One thing I found that didn’t work so well was the pre-order competition. I offered a critique or chocolate to the winner. I think the hassle of messaging a proof of pre-order was off-putting. Next time I would offer a small gift to every entrant (I’ve seen bookmarks done) so that the effort involved has a guaranteed reward.

* But I think the most valuable thing to do is make connections with people: librarians, teachers, bloggers and booksellers – anyone who can get my book into readers’ hands. Twitter again has been brilliant for this. I’ve posted off all my launch party extras (tiny deckchairs, cocktail umbrellas and yellow sunglasses) to schools and libraries so they can make their own summer read displays. I go out of my way to pop into bookshops and introduce myself. I go to library events where there may only be a handful of teens because every reader is important. I’ve been repeatedly surprised by what a seemingly small event has led to.

* I’ve also had a launch party, done lots of events at festivals, libraries and bookshops, guest blogged, written articles and blogs, been on the radio and chatted to people on public transport! I’d like to do more radio, investigate advertising on Facebook, promote my newsletter and attempt to understand hashtags on Instagram.

I have been overwhelmed by how supportive people are within the book industry, and how hard publishers work to get their books in front of readers. There are upsides and downsides to being with a small independent publisher, but with Firefly Press, I feel the upsides far outweigh the downsides. They are passionate about my book and have done loads of the industry behind-the-scenes stuff that I can’t physically do as an author (getting me into libraries, onto a panel at YALC, in front of book buyers etc) They are also brilliantly supportive of everything I’m doing – they encourage, offer support and take-on ideas. It’s truly been a team effort.

So? Has it worked? 

The thing with marketing a book is you rarely get to find out what has worked and what hasn’t. There just isn’t the detailed sales information available. All I know is that in less than three months, Firefly are reprinting (and it wasn’t an insignificant initial run) and that they are delighted with the way things are going. I have decided to call that a success.

But, in amongst all the signings and postcards and tweets, the best thing still is when a reader tells me how much they’ve enjoyed reading Summer of No Regrets. It honestly doesn’t get any better than that.

Header image courtesy of Freepik

Summer of No Regrets is feel-good teen fiction and was published in May by Firefly Press.

You can find Kate on twitter: @KateMallinder or Instagram: kate.mallinder

1 comment:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.