Morning, everyone. Hope you’re all keeping well and managing to keep things relatively normal. How are you all doing, anyway? I’ve been staring in amazement at all the social media posts people are putting up, detailing how they’re learning to play an instrument, or doing lots of baking, or they’ve taken up macrame or crochet or something. Me? I count it a success if I’ve changed out of my pyjamas and managed to write one blog post. Then again, I was the same before the madness, so …
Anyway, here we are on day *whatever* of the A to Z Challenge, and we’ve arrived at the letter G. G is for:
You know, people do like to put books into boxes, with neat little labels attached. Publishers certainly seem to prefer it if they can say, categorically, this book is a psychological thriller, or romantic suspense, or paranormal, or fantasy, or horror. Problems arise when books don’t quite fit neatly into those boxes, or when they have to write special labels instead of selecting one of the ready-printed ones. I understand their dilemma. It’s all about the marketing, and how can you market a book if you’re not quite sure what it is, or who to market it to?
Unfortunately, not all books fit neatly into one genre, and that causes problems. Take my Witches of Castle Clair books, for example. Personally, I call them romantic comedies because, take away the fact that the protagonists are witches, and that there’s a bit of magic involved, and they’re definitely humorous stories of finding love, losing love, wanting to throttle love, accepting love and walking off into the sunset together at the end. However, some people who read romantic comedies don’t agree that magic and witchcraft belong in that category, and some readers and writers of such books have invented their own sub-genre: Witch Lit. I think witch lit could be a great category. Unfortunately, it’s not one that features on Amazon’s list, so I can’t put them into it. I market them as romantic comedies, but I could equally market them as paranormal romance. Except, to me, paranormal romance speaks more of vampires and werewolves and has darker overtones. Do you see the problem?
I chose romantic comedy in the end, because I thought about the television programme, Bewitched. Many of you are probably too young to remember it, but it was a fabulous American show that ran for most of the sixties and very early seventies, and featured Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha, a loved-up All-American housewife, who just happened to be a witch. She had a witch of a mother (and her husband, Darrin, certainly called her that a few times, and not in a good way …) and a grand, powerful wizard of a father. Her cousin Serena (loved her!) and joker Uncle Arthur, bumbling Aunt Clara (aw!) and insecure maid, Esmerelda, were all magical, and the whole premise of the show was that Sam’s relatives were always doing magic and causing mayhem, which she and Darrin had to put right and try to hide from Darrin’s mortal boss, Larry, his wife, Louise, and various clients of Darrin’s advertising business. It was most definitely marketed as a comedy show, and that’s why I finally decided to market my Castle Clair books as romcoms.
I’m not ordering you to write within the parameters of a genre. The hand writes what the heart wants, as they say. I’m not sure who says it. I might have just made that up. Anyway, you must write the book of your heart. However, I would say it gives you some advantage if the book of your heart happens to fall neatly into that box, with a ready-made label just waiting to be attached. It makes marketing a lot easier. Something to think about anyway.
Authors are always being told they should do giveaways, and I’ve always thought it was a lovely idea. Back when I started out, I couldn’t wait to be all “authorly” and offer free signed copies of my books as prizes. I’d seen other authors do it, and there was always a stream of people commenting, begging for the chance to win one. So, I posted on social media that I was giving away a signed copy of my book, and all anyone had to do to be in with a chance of winning one was to comment on the post. Blushes all round. I think one person entered. It was humiliation on an epic scale. I couldn’t even give the wretched book away!
I tried a couple of times with my early books and interest was minimal to non-existent, so I stopped doing giveaways for a long time. It was only when I finally got round to setting up a newsletter that I thought I’d start them again. After all, if people had deliberately signed up to hear from me every month, they must be interested in my books, right? So, you would think I’d get a stream of people entering the giveaways, right? Wrong. I’d been buying little gifts for months and putting them away to offer as prizes, along with signed copies of my book, but honestly, I was lucky to get two or three people taking part. The most popular giveaway I ever ran wasn’t for one of my books, but a different prize entirely! What does that tell you?
I’ll tell you now, it’s soul-destroying. I can’t figure it out. People read my books. People buy my books – enough to allow me to make writing a full-time career. I get loads of lovely comments and messages from people who have read and loved them. So why don’t they want a free, signed copy of one of them? It’s a mystery to me. I’m sure other authors have lots more success with this than I do, so don’t be put off. I’ll keep doing my monthly giveaways for my newsletter subscribers because I like giving presents, simple as that. Maybe I’ll just offer other things instead of books! *Sigh*. By the way, you can sign up for my newsletter here. Just saying …
I’ve touched on this subject before in earlier posts. Going wide simply means you haven’t made your book exclusive to Amazon, but have chosen to sell it on various other platforms, such as Apple, Kobo, etc.
Clearly, there are advantages to this. Amazon may be a massive company, with a worldwide reach, but we’re looking at it from our own narrow perspective. In this country, Amazon is the big player. However, believe it or not, in some countries, Amazon is small potatoes. There are places in this world where people prefer to buy their books from other online outlets, and if you’re exclusive to Amazon you’re missing out on those markets.
Not only that, but it can be a bit daunting, knowing that your entire career rests on Amazon playing nicely with you. There’s nothing to stop them from closing down your account and deleting all your books, is there? Plenty of authors I know (myself included) have had reviews removed from their books with no explanation (and they’re invariably the good ones). I know several authors who’ve had their books rank-stripped, or even removed from the site for various obscure reasons. And getting information from anyone at Amazon is notoriously difficult. Query after query is returned with automated emails. Most frustrating. If Amazon is your only sales platform and it all goes sour with them, well …
On the other hand, if you’re exclusive and your book is enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited programme, you may find the majority of your income comes from pages read, rather than sales. That’s hard to walk away from. Financially, it may even be impossible.
Going wide gives you assurance that, should the unthinkable happen, you can still get your books to readers in other ways. You’ll still have a sales platform. Or multiple platforms. Speaking to some authors who’ve switched from exclusivity to going wide, I’ve learned that making an impact on other platforms can take time, so you have to be prepared to play the long game.
Some authors reckon it’s best to go wide with your very first book. That way, you’ll be slowly building an audience from the start, and won’t miss the pages read income at all. I can see the sense in that, too. The trouble is, will you reach as many readers as you would through the Kindle Unlimited scheme? And it’s no good to authors who have already published several books and made them exclusive, is it? I should point out that, even if you go wide, you can still sell your books on amazon. They just won’t be enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited programme.
I can’t advise one way or the other because, at the moment, my books are all exclusive to Amazon. I’m considering going wide in the future with at least some of my books, but I’ll probably always keep others in KDP Select, because the pages read income is so important. Also, I like that I can literally see how many pages of my books are being read, whereas, when someone buys a book, there’s no way of knowing whether they even read it. It may just sit on their Kindle and never be looked at again. So, you know, there’s a lot to think about.
Google (other search engines are available) is one of my best friends. It’s also possibly one of the biggest time sucks there is. I can’t count how many times I’ve been writing and thought, “Oh, what do they call that thing?/What year did such and such happen?/Would they have used that back in that time period?” and then – aarrgghh! I did it, I clicked on Google.
You can find out just about anything on Google. However, you do have to be careful because there’s a lot of rubbish on there, as well as good, reliable information. If you’re doing serious research you need to make sure you only visit reputable sites.
Be aware that visiting Google is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. You’ll just keep going and going and going … One site will lead to another, and before you know it, it’s getting dark outside and you’re having to switch off the computer, and you’ve only written half a paragraph all day. You will, however, have a head – and possibly a notebook – full of fascinating facts that you’ll probably never use, and along the way you’ll have learned the latest tour dates for your favourite band, how much an early Van Gogh sold for, and how to bake a pretty decent banana loaf. So, there you go. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
As I said in an earlier post, writing can be a pretty lonely job. One of the ways to combat this is to set up social media accounts. But when you’re new to Facebook, for example, and you don’t know many people on there, where do you connect with like-minded people? The answer is groups, and my word, there are thousands of them! Facebook is very good (or bad, depending on your viewpoint) at suggesting groups they think you will enjoy, and it really is wise if you don’t join all of them.
At one point, I was a member of dozens of the things, and was getting notifications on my phone every five minutes. I quickly realised that I just didn’t have the time or the energy to take part in endless conversations, as fascinating as some of them were. I tactfully withdrew from most of the groups, and now I’m only a member of around ten, and I have to admit, I rarely comment in them – not because I don’t want to, but because a) I just don’t have the time and b) I’m always petrified that whatever I say will contravene some rule and I’ll be blasted with angry responses and reported to admins. Some group admins (and members) are very zealous. And some people in certain groups are – not to put too fine a point on it – horrible. I don’t know what it is with some people, but they seem to take great pleasure in being as vile as possible to their fellow human beings. Don’t stay in groups like that. Life’s too short.
The groups I’m in now are friendly and welcoming, full of interesting posts and useful information. I’m very much a lurker, I’ll admit that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t read all the posts and enjoy them. I even pluck up the courage to post or comment myself sometimes!
There’s nothing to stop you setting up your own group, too. Several authors now have groups attached to their pages, and I think they’re a great idea. It gives authors and their readers a private space to discuss the books in peace. I belong to a couple of authors’ reading groups and they’re very different. One is more of a book club, with members posting about all the books they’ve read and enjoyed, not just that particular author’s books. The other is for the author and her fans to discuss only her books, and have general conversations. The author does giveaways on there, too, and it’s a friendly, warm and welcoming space for her to get to know her readers and for them to get to know her. I’d love to set up a group like that, but since I can’t even get anyone to accept a free book, I doubt anyone would want to join! 🙂
Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post. If nothing else, you’ve learned that there’s no room for ego in a writer’s life. You’ll invariably have it crushed, one way or the other! Have a lovely day and I’ll see you tomorrow.