Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Self-promotion for indie authors - some thoughts.



Successfully publishing on Amazon Kindle and Createspace isn’t the end of the story, simply the beginning. To actually sell books, whether ebooks or paperbacks, it’s essential to bring it to the notice of the public. It’s not easy, especially if you aren’t the pushy sort – and I’m not. I’m what’s known in Lancashire as 'a bit back'ards in coming for'ards.' OK, I’ve been on Facebook for a couple of years and have built up my contacts there. More recently, I’ve joined Linked In and Twitter though it’s still early days and I’ve probably to still take full advantage of those networks.

I’m a member of the national women’s organisation, Townswomen's Guilds with individual guilds all over the United Kingdom and some 34,000 members so one of the things I will be doing, once I’ve got my author copies is to send a review copy to the Townswomen, the organisation’s quarterly journal, in the hope that they will do a review. I’ve put my name forward as a prospective speaker for the Chesterfield area and already have one booking, to speak at my own Bolsover Guild at our March AGM. As the programmes are due to change in April, I’m hoping I’ll get some more speaking dates for the coming year from other Guilds in the area and where hopefully I can sell a few print copies.

With writing family and social history articles, once I had published on Kindle, I contacted the proprietor of a particular website,  Lost Cousins with whom I’ve had correspondence in the past, about my book. LostCousins is about bringing people together, not just people who share an interest in family history, but people with a shared interest in the same families, people who share the same DNA. This is done by entering census data of one’s ancestors and the Lost Cousins’ unique search system identifies members who share the same ancestors by comparing the information each member has entered on their My Ancestors page. Peter Calver has been running Lost Cousins for over ten years now and, in addition to the ancestor search facility, he sends out frequent newsletters to members. These are always incredibly helpful to family historians, with lots of tips and ideas and not just about family history. The newsletters have a chatty friendly approach and what’s more, are free to all members, whether they have paid a subscription or not. Standard Membership is free but subscription does entitle one to contact lost cousins and is well worth the reasonable cost, currently £10 a year. I have made several connections this way.

To my delight, he featured my book in one of his newlsetters and, as he has around 97,000 members, I saw an instant increase in sales. In his latest newsletter, he has posted a fantastic review of my book. This is what he had to say. 

‘Review: A Suitable Young Man
It's not often that I review a work of fiction that isn't about genealogy, but I enjoyed A Suitable Young Man so much that I just had to tell you about it. The author of this extremely enjoyable book is Anne L Harvey - who many of you will know from her articles in family history magazines - and the story takes place in 1956, against the background of National Service and the Suez Crisis.
 I'm not familiar with the area of Lancashire where it's set … but I'm glad to say that this didn't spoil my enjoyment in the slightest - the people and locations seemed so real that I thought at first that it must be semi-autobiographical. Judging from the effusive email I received from a LostCousins member both the period detail and the geography are spot on - this is what Val wrote:

"I am only half way through but can tell now that it will be the best book I have ever read. I can see Rivington Pike from my kitchen window and my daily walks take me 'up Rivington' or to Horwich.

"In reading the book I am reliving my youth, everywhere the characters go I also went, and the last train on a Saturday night out of Blackpool was spot on. It used to be an exciting/frightening ride home where the lads did take the light bulbs out and throw them out of the windows. Fortunately I was with my own Teddy Boy boyfriend so felt safe enough. Like Kathy my parents did not like my Teddy Boy but we rode out all the rough seas and later married.”

I didn't want the book to end either - so I was absolutely delighted to discover that Anne has another novel in the pipeline. A Suitable Young Man is a skilful recreation of Britain in the mid-1950s which reminded me what it was like to be young - and whilst some people might pigeonhole the novel as romantic fiction, so was Pride & Prejudice. Mind you, there is one big difference between Jane Austen and Anne L Harvey - Jane Austen wasn't a LostCousins member!’

This immediately prompted another rush of sales, even in the United States, a few in Canada, one in France and one in Italy, presumably ex-pats living there. So, as an exercise in self-promotion, extremely valuable. My advice is to explore as many of your contacts as possible. And think laterally!