‘How to get noticed’ was probably the most practical of the panels I went to at FantasyCon. As an indie author it was the one thing that looked pretty much compulsory on the schedule. Embarrassingly, it’s also the panel for which I have the worst notes on who people were. But in as far as I can cover that, the panellists were…
- Graeme Reynolds – author and independent publisher
- Ruth Tross – an editor I think, chairing the panel
- Allen Ashley – author and editor
- Sophie Calder – publicity manager for Gollancz
- Nazia Khatun – a librarian and bookseller at Waterstones
- Ewa S-R – OK, Ewa had a proper surname but I didn’t get it, and the internet has not helped me solve that problem – she’s a blogger and an ex-bookseller and if anyone knows who she is please tell me because I want to go read her blog [edit: I found Ewa on Twitter thanks to Carl Barker – cheers Carl – this also means I’ll now be spelling her name right].
I’ve read and listened to a lot of opinions from authors on how to get noticed. Getting the perspective of other professionals with different views on what works was fascinating, if not always surprising.
Libraries and bookshops
For Sophie, events at bookshops and libraries are key in promoting a book. Libraries are in the top six ways people discover authors, so it’s good to be present in them. Graeme said that approaching libraries hadn’t worked for him. Allen pointed out that a lot of libraries are looking for a purpose to justify their existence as people come to them for books less, and if they have some autonomy then they can be a good way of getting some publicity going.
For Graeme what’s been more useful is local bookshops, though he’s found it hard to get into big chain Waterstones. Sophie mentioned that 65-70% of booksales are still through physical bookshops, making booksellers and word of mouth very important.
Nazia and Ewa both enthused about how much they’ve enjoyed selling the books of authors they like. Pushing a book in a shop is an extension of word of mouth publicity, and pushing books others don’t know about can be very exciting.
So the main lesson from this part was to make friends with local booksellers and librarians, because they could be a big help and support.
There was general chatter about that fact that both being a fan and engaging with fans can be exciting. According to Sophie even an imprint like Gollancz has its fans. They’re often loyal to the authors and will buy both print and hardcopy versions of books. And apparently genre fans are more likely than most to visit author websites and engage on social media.
So yay, this site isn’t a waste of time! (Just kidding. I waste hours just looking at my stats.)
This got into the nitty gritty, so it’s time for bullet points:
- You have to show respect to fans and readers – don’t ever be dismissive or rude (Graeme).
- It’s important to cultivate your own distinct voice (Sophie).
- Pick a platform you’re comfortable with to focus on (Sophie).
- Promoting fellow authors, making friends with authors and bloggers, and talking with excitement about your own work can all help (Sophie).
- Be subtle in promoting your work – everyone rebels against being told what to do (Nazia).
All of which reinforced the good practice that’s cited elsewhere, providing useful focus.
There was talk of other subjects, including book launches, promotions and the value of building relationships with reviewers. But what a lot of it boiled down to was that if you work well with others, if you’re positive and supportive and take the time to interact in a meaningful way, then that good stuff will come back to help you.
Persist, be positive and help one another – that’s right, good author marketing is about good old-fashioned hippy values, and that makes me a happy guy.
So there you go – another interesting panel and hopefully useful for some of you. As we’re talking marketing I should point out that you can find links to buy my books here, and you can find me on Twitter as @gibbondemon . Now go forth, have conversations, be positive and persistent and all that good stuff.
As Bill and Ted said, be excellent to one another.