Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Publish and Be Published. How? Promoting it.

If you build a better mousetrap, people won’t beat a path to your door, especially if they haven’t got mice. Most people don’t read; 40% of adult UK males have never read a novel. In 2004, over 161,000 books got published in the UK, so to get your novel noticed you’ll have to apply some imagination to publicising it, embarrassing as this might feel.
Free advertising. 62% of people buy books on the recommendation of a friend, so exploit word-of-mouth. Don’t hassle friends to buy your novel, but do mention it to them. Add a signature to your outgoing emails plugging your novel.
Zineworld (see links list ) allows a free 50 word advert for DIY projects. I think fliers are only worth doing if you’ve got access to free photocopying and you target them cannily. Some distros will include your fliers when mailing orders.
The Internet’s great for free advertising. Give your novel a tactful plug on relevant online communities and message boards, but don’t abuse the opportunity. These sites are really good as sources of support and skill-sharing. There’s a useful list on http://www.zinebook.com/ . Also, http://www.livejournal.com/ has several zine-related communities good for sharing news with other zinesters.
Other sites exist primarily to promote your stuff. You can post news of your project on the huge database at http://www.diysearch.com/ . Similarly, www.published.com lets you plug your work, and is a fantastic source of info on self publishing. Free listings are available for small presses and DIY publishers at www.indigogroup.co.uk/llpp/ .
Your own website. There’s plenty of info out there already on setting up a website, so I’ll just suggest reading Build Your Own Website, by David Karlins, (Osborne McGraw Hill), which covers all you need to know, and most software. My favourite related how-to site’s http://www.weballey.net/ . If the site’s intended to promote your novel, you need to include a few extracts from it, and a ‘shop’ page detailing how to buy a copy. Submit your site to search engines, but remember that swapping links with related sites will attract more useful traffic.
I don’t think having a ‘professional’ sounding site address matters- most people’ll find your site via links or a content based search. There’s plenty of decent free web-hosting services. I use http://www.cjb.net/ – they’re basic but easy to use.
Over 12000 people visited my old website, but only a handful bought BCL. I think you have to see running your site as an end in itself. Mine’s been a platform for mail art, gig and record reviews, and tips on having a good time on a budget, things I mightn’t have got involved in otherwise. People are more likely to visit your site if it offers them something beyond your attempts at self-promotion.
Press. 42% of readers buy books based on reviews they’ve read. Editorial coverage of a project is reckoned to be worth seven times as much as advertising, so try getting some free publicity this way. This needn’t be anything fancy. Plenty of zines review other DIY publications – there’s a list of ones that do on the Zineworld website. Check the online catalogues of distros for details of zines with review sections. Here's a couple of clippings of mine;

When sending review copies, include a covering letter saying you’d like your novel reviewed and asking the zinester to email you if and when they publish a review. Keep it friendly polite and personal. As putting out a truly DIY novel is still relatively rare, it might help to send a basic info sheet explaining what you’re up to.
When approaching local press and arts mags for reviews or other coverage it’s wise to send a press release. I’ve never written one and have no clue, but do a search on Google; lots of sites give how-to tips on this. Apparently around 75% of what we read in print media is taken directly from press releases. When I rang round shops to sell BCL, some that turned me down said they’d have been more interested if I’d had some local press interest.
Readings and open mics. Most towns have at least one open mic night where people can read out their writing. Most feature poetry but they’re still worth checking out. Slots are generally around five minutes. Select pieces that give a flavour of your novel but which stand up as interesting in their own right; poetry crowds are used to listening to short performance pieces. Rehearse, and time yourself. As a guide, most people read at about 200 words per minute. Tell the MC you’re reading prose so they can give you an appropriate intro. Make sure you plug your novel at the mic, and invite people to buy a copy. You’ll still need to approach people afterwards to make sales, but they’ll be more receptive than if you’d approached them cold. A few performance nights specialize in fiction; Plum Fiction, ( http://www.plumlive.co.uk/ ) and Tales of the Decongested, (http://www.decongested.com/) but you have to book a gig with them in advance. Check out open mic nights in your area here; http://www.poetrykit.org.uk/ .
Publication elsewhere. 55% of people buy novel’s based on familiarity with an author’s previous work. You might think that means you’re stuffed, but not necessarily. I found having stories published in small magazines helped sell BCL. Some people bought it having read my stories in mags, and so did two editors who’d published my stories. Most small mags print a short biog alongside your story, which is a good opportunity to plug your novel. Some mags will publish excerpts from novels. Potential stockists of BCL seemed reassured that I’d had stories published. Many mags have their own websites giving submission guidelines. Note these carefully. Search for small mags on these two excellent sites; http://www.laurahird.com/ and http://www.thunderburst.co.uk/

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