Thursday, March 09, 2006

Book covers, book launch and publicity!

Last week the dust jacket for my next book A SUITABLE HUSBAND, out this month, arrived and I find that I don't dislike it as much as I did. I'm still waiting to receive a sketch for the cover for A DISSEMBLER, due out in August. I have been promised that I will be allowed more input with this one. I sent several Victorian photographs of Great Bentley Green, a village two miles from where I live where the book is set, weeks ago so should get something any day. I will post it as soon as it arrives.
This week I have made six dozen sausage rolls, both vegetarian and normal, for my private book launch party on the 26th March. I am also going to bake 150 mini quiche - these were the most popular items on the buffet last time. This is the last private party I'm having; next time Caxton Bookshop is holding a signing and launch for me on the weekend of the Frinton Literary Festival. I won't sell as many books but it won't cost me anything.
This brings me on to the subject of promotion and PR. I have come to the conclusion, and I'm not alone in this, that readers are not really interested in who writes a book. I think that they select their reading purely on whether they like the content, have read a book by this author before, or the title has been recommended somewhere. It is the book that matters - write a good book and eventually people will hear about it and read it. What do you think? Are you interested in the writer or just their writing?
I know authors who do no promotion, publicity etc. at all and sell just as many books as those who spend days, and hundreds of pounds, contacting bookshops and newspapers. So from now on I am going to concentrate on writing, which is my life, and leave the books to get on with it.
I doubt if it will make any difference to my sales, but I will save a great deal of money and time.
Fenella Miller


Anonymous said...

I think it depends what you mean by 'not really interested in who writes a book'. Clearly, as you say, readers do remember which authors they like and sometimes 'they select their reading purely on whether they [...] have read a book by this author before'. So to that extent, they are interested in who wrote the book.

But are they interested in the personal likes/dislikes of this particular author? Probably not so much, though it might be different for really famous authors with lots of fans. And if someone really, really, likes a book, then they might want to send a letter to the author, telling them how much they liked it.

As for 'I know authors who do no promotion, publicity etc. at all and sell just as many books as those who spend days, and hundreds of pounds', I think it probably depends on what sort of writer you are, and what sort of books you're selling.

When readers/libraries buy books based on the line/publisher, then they're going to carry on doing that, so even if an author does no self-publicising, the books will sell.

For example, if you are a M&B writer, your readers will have certain expectations about what a M&B historical is like and which historical periods they prefer. The books are all given a certain identity (the rose, the colour-scheme etc). So even if the author does no publicity, someone who likes M&B historicals will most likely pick up the book and take a look. Also, these books are only available for one month in the shops. A big publicity drive to get people to notice any particular book isn't likely to work so well. But you could build up a web presence and get existing readers interested in when your next book is coming out.

If your books only sell in hardback (and I think that's the case with yours, Fenella), and mostly to libraries, then a publicity campaign directed at readers may well be less effective than something which makes librarians choose your book. I suspect that the price of a hardback makes them more difficult to sell to the general public. More publicity might make them pick it up if they see it in a library, and they might even try to get their library to order it in, but that won't make a very big difference in sales, particularly if you've targetted people who all attend the same or nearby libraries.

Mind you, I know nothing about marketing, I'm just trying to think through the issues from my perspective as a reader/buyer of books, so I may be completely wrong.

Anonymous said...

Fenella, about the cover for 'A Suitable Husband', going by what you've got on your website, the cover does seem to fit the plot. The couple look as though they're at odds with each other, pulling in opposite directions/not seeing eye to eye with each other (literally, as well as metaphorically), and yet, they're very close, and 'standing shoulder to shoulder' with each other, as though when necessary, they'll help and support each other.

Lois said...

Hmm, well, I guess I can't really answer the question the way you have it because I've never really had the possibility of meeting any authors, except for online. I don't live close enough to any city that they show up at. LOL Or if they had, I never knew about it. So if I were to have the opportunity, I certainly wouldn't mind it, I'd be shy as all heck, but wouldn't mind it. :)

But thinking about what you said though, maybe ultimately it comes down to that the book will do it on it's own -- I mean, even if there were authors down the road from me every weekend, I would arguably just go to the ones I read or heard of mostly. But I really am just guessing at what most people do. :)


Anonymous said...

Covers are very individual things. I like the cover for A Suitable Husband, and I like the colour scheme, the one Fenella thinks is garish (not sure what this says about my tastes LOL), but I think authors are often hard to please.

I think it's because we know our characters and plots so well. Seeing a cover for the first time is rather like watching the adaptation of a favourite novel, it's hard for the cover / adaptation to match up to the ideas in our head. Anyway, that's the way it seems to me, I don't know what other people think . . . ?

One of the nice things about the blog is that we get to meet and chat to readers, even if it's only in a virtual sense, so Hi, Laura and Lois.

As for PR, I think it makes a difference to begin with, but big name authors are going to sell whether they do PR or not.

Interesting point about library buying. I think librarians are usually happy to buy books if they know people want them, so if you like historical romance, let your librarians know. They're always looking for ways to get more people into libraries, or they are in the UK, and so if you use them, they're likely to want to provide you with the books you like.

Kate Allan said...

I had a huge shock when someone came up to me after I've just given a small author talk and said they had actually read The Lady Soldier! This was the first time I met a reader face to face (not counting friends and family etc). My experience of readers is that they enjoy meeting authors. I'm quite shy so I find encounters with readers a bit scary but I'm doing my best to get used to it and try and answer the various questions I get sensibly and usefully.

I've certainly had a couple of people email me who had asked their library to order in The Lady Soldier and that is really nice to hear because it is expensive to buy a hardback new, and a copy in a library hopefully can be enjoyed by dozens of readers.

I have to confess that I have been checking some library catalogues (you can do this online) to see how many and which libraries have ordered Perfidy and Perfection. Or maybe I just like seeing my book come up when I type 'allan, kate' into a library catalogue!

Anonymous said...

I do think readers are interested in authors, especially if they can meet them face to face. In my own experience as a self published author of an illustrated picture book, I have found that I tend to sell more books in places where 'like-minded' people meet, in my case at Jane Austen meetings, Jane Austen Fayre etc. I have been privileged to meet such lovely people and the pleasure I get from corresponding with some of them as a result, has been wonderful.
I was cautious about spending a lot of money on self promotion, not having any left after I had blown it all on colour printing, so I contacted any society or organisation, newspaper etc. who I thought might be vaguely interested. E-mails and letters with some leaflets I printed out of my printer were a cheap and effective solution.
I have been interested to see the comments about the book covers and whilst I would say that self publishing isn't the easiest route to take, one of the delights was being able to have total control over the look and design of my book. I am very lucky in that my husband is a graphic designer and helped me a lot and of course it helped to cut down costs! It's probably taken me longer to sell my books than a conventional publisher but as ever, persistence is the key.
I am sure you are right Fenella, just spread the word, keep your hard earned money and I'm sure your books will still sell as well. I think the idea of a web site like this is inspired and I hope will help all your sales!

Lois said...

Hiya! :) I do tend to be a quiet person, but I do read this and a couple other blogs, everyday. . . well, as close to everyday as I can. LOL :)

But I guess it's hard for me to really see the author side of the promotion world since I'm just a reader. I figure it must help more than anything.

As for libraries, I wasn't reading romances when I was in my last college so I didn't look at that section. But we had sooooooo few books down there that were recent, except for the computer section. Most of the work we did was on the internet or getting books or articles from other colleges. But that was where I did first read Steven Hawking's book! LOL And then got it for myself!