Inside a writer’s mind at her first book launch

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Thursday night saw the launch party for my second novel, Dead Write.

I never had a launch event for my first book, Dead Letter Day, so I was a little unsure of how I should set the format of the evening, as well as nervous as to whether anyone would actually show up.

Being a girl who likes her wine, I chose a city pub as my venue. I wanted the evening to be relaxed and fun, a chance for everyone to mingle, have a few drinks, maybe buy one of my books and eat cake.

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Yes, I went all Marie Antoinette and let my guests eat cake.

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These were courtesy of my great friend, Vanessa Hagg, of My Sweet Williams, who produced a fabulous giant chocolate fudge cake in the shape of my book, plus dozens of cupcakes.

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The day of the launch party arrived. I was excited and a little nervous. My publisher and Iceni Magazine were both going to be there to support me, as well as a few of my fellow authors. I had family travelling up from Suffolk who I hadn’t seen in years and lovely readers coming who had been engaging in my Facebook author page, but who I had not yet met.

And then there were the niggling doubts still there. What if none of them came? What if it was just me sat in the pub with a stack of books and enough cake to fill a bakery?

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And throughout the day as I sat in the hair salon having all those pesky grey bits covered up ahead of my big evening, the texts and email came, people sorry that they were unable to make my event due to illness or unforeseen circumstances. I had expected a few such messages, as I know there is a lot of sickness around at the moment. These things can’t be helped and I know many of those affected were genuinely disappointed they couldn’t come, but I hadn’t expected so many last day drop outs.

As my phone continued to bleep with apologies, I began to wonder if my niggling doubts would prove to be true and it would be a book launch flop.

Gulp!

So I arrived at the venue with my mother and my aunt. It was still packed out with after work drinkers as we carted in boxes of books, then Vanessa arrived and brought in the cakes. One drinker glanced across at our eateries before informing his pals ‘reckon they must be having a funeral party or something.’

Well, people do die in my books, so I guess he could have been right by a very big stretch of the imagination.

Eventually the pub cleared out and we were able to set up.

My mother glanced around at the small number of us and helpfully said in that wonderfully pessimistic way of hers, ‘Maybe this is it and no one else is coming. Oh well, your brother and sister should turn up later.’

Yup, thanks for that, Mum.

And then I spotted a couple of familiar faces and the shadow of doubt lifted slightly.

By the time the books were laid out and the cupcakes set up, the room was packed out.

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‘Yes.’ I thought silently. ‘Take that pessimistic mother.’

And from that moment on the evening passed in a bit of a blur.

I said a few words, thanked everyone for coming and for their support. I sold and signed books, people ate cake and a good time seemed to be had by all.

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For one evening I had glam hair, delectable cupcakes and a fantastic crowd of people celebrating the release of my second novel. I felt like the belle of the ball.

If only those same people could have seen me the next day, dressed in sweats with tousled hair and no make-up, washing dirty dishes, scooping up cat poop and taking out the trash.

Oh the heady life of the writer.

 

Authors – How to make Facebook work for you

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I have recently been talking with an author friend who is disillusioned with Facebook and feels there are better ways to market his novels.

That maybe so, but I truly believe that for free promotion Facebook is easily the best marketing tool on the Internet. Sure the annoying popups reminding you that for an additional cost you can reach a bigger audience are annoying, but trust me, you do not need to pay. If you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, Facebook will work for you, the same as it is working for me.

Here are my six rules.

Don’t force your books on people

Some authors are relentless. All I see is ‘Buy my book, you won’t regret it’ repeated again and again. Sure, post the occasional reminder, maybe share when you receive a four or five star review, but don’t keep ramming your work down people’s throats.  They know you are a writer and that you have books to promote and if they’re following your page it’s because they want to know what you’re up to, not continually be bombarded with relentless sales pleas. Look at the pages of celebrities who are prolific on Facebook like Ricky Gervais and Jason Manford. They have things to promote, but they are not constantly reminding you with every post that you must buy their latest work, and let’s face it, if they were you would probably stop following them, because it’s not what you want to see.

Mix it up

Don’t post the same type of thing day in, day out. You will always go through peaks and lulls with your audience, but most loyal followers will keep an eye on your page. Keep them updated with what is happening with your work. Tell them how sales are going and if you’re meeting with a book club or doing some other kind of promotional engagement, talk about it. Let people know where you are off to and afterwards how it went. But don’t keep it all about the book. Post interesting pictures and quotes about writing in general. And try to inject some humour into your updates. I post about my family, my cats, my love for wine, my gripes with life (in a lighthearted way to make people smile, as no one wants to listen to a moaner), and anything witty that happens during my day. Think about what you’re putting on your page and whether it would engage you if you were the reader. If it would, post it.

Don’t give snippets away

When I was about half way through Dead Write I sought advice on whether to post a passage from the book to whet appetites. While the decision was left in my hands, I decided against it after it was pointed out to me that bestselling authors such as JK Rowling don’t reveal snippets of their work before the release of the book and that it comes across as rather amateurish – like, look at me and what I managed to write today – rather than engaging your readers. They want the finished product, not snippets, so make them wait and give the book to them in its entirety.

Post regularly

I cannot stress the importance of this enough. If you post once or twice a week you are going to have far fewer page views than if you post every single day. We all have other commitments in our lives, social, family, work and of course writing, but if you want people to engage and interact on your page you need to make time to post frequently. You don’t need to say a lot, but let people know you are there. Post every single day and at least two or three times a day if possible.

When I went on holiday last summer I switched off from writing for 10 days, only to return to find the people interacting with my author page had dropped from over 100 to about 5. This then had a knock on effect to the number of people who were viewing my posts. I don’t regret switching off while I was away because we all need to have a break from social media, and I would do it again, but be prepared for the harsh truth. A week away is enough time to knock you almost back down to zero and it takes longer – a couple of weeks to a month – to get you back on top.

I have a personal Facebook account, but other than to exchange private emails with friends and family, I rarely use it. Instead I have concentrated on my author page and over the last few months I have made an effort to post to it almost every day and when possible several times a day to make sure I am constantly in people’s faces. It pays. My average post view is around the 200 mark, but plenty are much higher and I’ve had posts hit almost 3,000 views.

Engage with your audience and be human

I love interacting with anyone who posts to my page, so this bit is easy for me. The people who follow my updates are great fun, they make me laugh, they encourage and support me, and I feel I have made so many new friends. Regardless of how your audience is, don’t ignore them. Without your page followers you are nothing. If someone takes the trouble to comment on one of your posts, acknowledge this. I have seen far too many author pages where a post is made and then there is no further interaction from the author. Like any conversation it’s a two way thing, so get down off your lofty pedestal and be nice.

Increase sales by asking people to post share

I know some authors are sceptical about whether marketing on social sites can lead to sales. I am not one of them. I still have my doubts about Twitter, as once you post it has already disappeared off the page of most of your followers, but Facebook can definitely increase sales and I know people I have met through my page, who had never heard of me before, have gone on to buy my book after engaging in my updates. Asking friends and followers to share links, especially when you have a new book out for sale, is also effective and I know I gained a lot of sales this way when Dead Letter Day was first released.

So the bottom line is this, Facebook is a great marketing tool, but if you want it to work, you need to put in a lot of effort. Yes, at times it is hard, but it can also be a lot of fun, and I promise you it will be worth it.