Stephen is wondering why you haven’t subscribed to his newsletter.
I’ve launched a newsletter post on my novel and my novella. The good news is that it is good news, so read the post here. And subscribe as the best way to keep getting updates.
Photo S Dodgson. Me at York Art Gallery. The Lamp by Amy B Atkinson is poetic and evocative – she was a female artist who did quite well (exhibited RA at 17), unmarried, and toured Europe with her female ‘room-mates’ for many years.
The late Victorian, mystical, possibly sapphic vibe means I really like this although it doesn’t represent anyone in this book. Maybe the next
Just to say that it’s still out there, for sale, and getting the odd review like this:
Ben Jeapes gave Our Child of Two Worlds five stars
Carries on the story of Cory the alien from the first book, OUR CHILD OF THE STARS, with barely a falter in momentum. All the things that made the first book so charming and so strong are there: the golden age science fictional setting, updated with present sensibilities; the compassion and decency of the main characters; and above all, the intrusion of reality into the best-laid plans, making this feel like a story that is firmly set in the real world. Soon after the events of the first book, a new normality has just about asserted itself, people are getting used to it … And then the rug is pulled right from under their feet. There is no guaranteed ending, and whether the actual ending we do get can be called happy is a matter of perspective. I cannot recommend this or its predecessor highly enough.
Back in my home town and you can specifically find me at BristolCon – I believe you can book in advance or come to a panel on the day. The full programme link will be added when up probably 16th or so. It’s at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel, in central Bristol.
Friday 20th October
Launch of The Green Man’s Quarry by Juliet McKenna. The latest in the brilliant Green Man series which put a fairly ordinary bloke (except, he sees weird stuff others don’t) into a world where folklore is real and bloody.
15:00 – SG1 Interview skills for authors and other creatives – a workshop helping you be confident in interviews, dealing with media, identifying stories. Me! And my 30 years in PR!
16:00 – Room 2 “Point of View” – First, second, third person? Stories told in emails, or in stream of consciousness. Endlessly fascinating topic, actually.
(Yes, one panel after the other is going to be fun)
Last couple of months, I’ve been talking to authors and poets about book publicity. (Broadly, the stuff that promotes the book which you don’t pay for.)
I’ve spent 30 years working in publicity – small organisations, individuals, big household names. I’ve done difficult TV interviews, I’ve taught plenty of people how to do them.
The main things that came up from authors of all types were as follows.
How can I be interesting talking about my book?
I’m frightened people will ask me horrible questions and I will look like an idiot.
What does a publicist do? How do I work with them, or could do it myself if I haven’t got one?
What value does publicity add? Should it be a priority?
Many people are worried about talking about their book – whether at events, on video, or talking to a journalist. They don’t think they’re important enough or interesting enough. They are paralysed with fear of looking stupid or not being able to answer questions. Even people who are confident in other contexts can be stressed by promoting their work.
You wrote a book. You can be as interesting as you need to be! I build confidence in dealing with these events. Simple preparation tools will help answer questions.
Book marketing is in some measure, about you as well as the book. People are worried they’ll be dragged into talking about things they don’t want to. How do you keep good boundaries?
I assure you, and I will show you, that you have far more control than you think -Including freedom to decide what events you do!
Many people don’t know how book publicity works – and what it can and cannot do. The basic information is straightforward – although experience and contacts and some tricks of the trade make a big difference.
I explain how it works, how you can work with a publicist if you have one through your publisher, and whether and when it’s worth hiring one…
What works? What’s a good use of your time?
Most people buy books based on more than one mention of the book. A few paid for activities deliver measurable results. I’m optimistic I can help you, particularly with how you feel about doing this. Publicity won’t sell 100,000 copies. On the other hand, it is more people who know about your book.
What are the stories in the book
What are the stories about the book
What are the stories about me and my writing
And how can I use the ones I want to promote it.
My Media Masterclass
I run two different types of workshop.
A one-hour group introduction to book publicity which gives you the basics. It’s on Zoom. There’s some opportunity for questions. I welcome contacts from existing groups. This is currently free although I circulate a tip link!
I also run an in-depth 1-2-1 focusing on your personal needs and questions. Currently this is £50 an hour (by Paypal) and includes some handy factsheets.
Email me about either.
I’m open to doing these face-to-face. Additional cost to be discussed. I like doing this convenient for British time, and also, I know the UK market better than elsewhere. But I’m open to wider engagement.
I was signing the paperback of my second book. A man came up to me, introduced himself as Owen, and said,
‘I love Our Child of the Stars! I didn’t know you had written a sequel.’
He bought another copy for a friend, and a copy of Our Child of Two Worlds for himself. So, lovely, but also, I felt like banging my head on the table.
I’ve named this the Owen Problem. Everything I did to promote the book for six months hadn’t reached an enthusiastic reader. In fact, sales suggest a great many Owens are out there.
186,000 books are published in the UK each year. Traditional publishers rely on the retailers to sell to individuals. Some small presses and some online retailers retain contacts for the purchasers – so Amazon can tell you a sequel is out.
Marketing and publicity is expected to reach the millions of Owens. But I believe 95% of marketing goes on 5% of titles. Not everyone reads book bloggers, and no one reads all of them. Not everyone reads the reviews in papers.
Furthermore, the traditional model relies on publishing the paperback six months later than the main publicity drive. (Some publishers now do eBook and paperback first, and then do a hardback if demand justifies it!)
Every commercial social media platform becomes progressively less effective, demanding more payment to make your content widely visible, or at all. TikTok (which only works for some books) is starting to go down that route.
The traditional publisher arguing the author on social can sell the books has never been brilliant and now looks very out of date.
Self-publishers of course have a similar problem.
Mastodon is a federated, non-commercial social media platform. I quite like it, it has potential, but it’s really not the main solution.
If I sold handbags on Etsy and the like, I would have emails from my buyers. I could warm them up for new products, within reason, and they’d at least know when the new one was out.
It’s why I run a newsletter and why I want to expand it. But still, I cannot expect people to follow me and 99 different authors. Our email inboxes are already very full.
If you like my content, sign up to the newsletter anyway! Free, special offers, not too frequent.
It’s one reason why I am moving into training authors in media skills, useful across a range of publicity activity.
I woke up this week and thought – you should run media skills workshops for creatives.
Stephen, you worked for twelve years at Great Ormond Street. You supported world class doctors and nurses and fundraisers with the media. You helped parents and patients get through tragedies, and to get their side of the story across. I helped with research and fundraising and public interest campaigns. You enjoy doing this. You were good at it.
Last century, you led a successful consumer campaign, much of which was empowering local branches. You did turnaround PR support for the Nursing and Midwifery Council six months after it was described as ‘failing at every level’. You helped pro bono all sorts of small organisations.
My publisher publicists knew what they were doing. The publicity for Our Child of the Stars was excellent. But they’re overworked. Social media is becoming steadily less helpful at reaching audiences. It’s fragmenting, punishing small creators, and increasingly asking for money.
I thought – why not use these skills for authors and other creatives? You’ve been a writer and talking about that journey for years. Hell, you sent over a friend exhibiting her art a free PR plan last month just cos you could.
Being confident and interesting, and knowing how to answer difficult questions, will help in many ways. Some obvious opportunities on your doorstep will take little time. Speaking in public, doing interviews, getting coverage…. a bit scary but doable.
I’m piloting these workshops free, then I’ll be running them for a modest fee in the autumn. Interested? Drop me a line through contact asap.
A survey of independent (self-published) authors shows several interesting features of the market. Report is from CREATe at the University of Glasgow, commissioned by ALLi, the alliance of independent authors, and the Self Publishing Formula.
The headline figures for indie authors was a median income of $12,755 for 2022, which is higher than a similar survey of traditionally published authors (reported here), and an increase on the indie author 2021 figure.
(The median means half of all authors earn more and half less than the median figure.)
The indie market offers good opportunities with more women than men answering the survey (traditional publishing is roughly equal), women earning more than men, and LGBTQA+ authors earning more than those outside that community. However, both black and disabled authors earned significantly less than others. The argument that self-publishing widens access to the reader clearly has some truth, but not universally. Benefit could work in different ways – the LGBTQA+ authors also appeared to write primarily in community tagged genres.
As with traditional publishing and many creative endeavours, the rewards are unevenly divided – 1% of authors received 31% of income. And those who had been self-publishing the longest, and with the most works available, tended to do better.
These figures refer to authors who spend at least half their working time on writing and allied activities.
The report notes that many of the successful indie authors make money from direct liaison with their readers – crowdfunding, subscriptions, paid content newsletters, patron platforms etc. At a time where reaching your fans directly and cheaply, owning a mailing list becomes ever more important – however you publish.
Analysis: “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.”
ALLI, the alliance of independent authors said the survey showed that independent authors earned more.
However, this needs to be interpreted with caution. This is income, not income after costs. CREATe has yet to study the difference in costs between traditionally published and indie published authors.
An independent author must pay for their own editing, cover design, printing, advanced copies, and promotion etc. A traditional author largely doesn’t – the exception being perhaps promotion. If an independent author advertises, they directly raise their own income more than a traditional author would. (Independent authors receive a cut on each sale. Traditional authors receive a lower cut, but are usually paid a lump sum assuming a certain level of sales, even if they never make that. Trad authors advertising their books benefits their publisher more than them.)
A very large number of independent authors lose money on their publishing career. One might ask how many of them filled in the survey?
What is clear is that independent publishing is a world away from thirty years ago – where it was a bit quixotic, although some still made it work. Now a businesslike author who writes fast, to a specific audience, probably in series, and promotes their work well, can get their work into print quicker, stay in print as long as they want, and generate a significant income. Traditional publishing has probably got more vexing for many of its authors. But there’s no guarantee, just as with in traditional publishing.