Saturday, 27 August 2016

What does an agent really want?

I've had a few online conversations over the last few days that leads me to feel there is some confusion about what an agent is looking for in an author. I'm not an agent, or a specialist, so, as ever, this is only my own views etc etc but here goes:

1. They want a book they can sell. That's not quite the same thing as a book they really like (but see below). Agents only get money if they sell your book. The lovely agent who worked on Inish Carraig for 18 months with me but got unlucky with market timing - she got nothing. I got a shiny, edited book with a much improved storyline for John, the teen protagonist, that I then self published. I didn't lose much except time (and while she had IC I worked on other things) - she lost work time, and most agents are busy, busy people.

Note the codicil - that they can sell. It's so easy to see rejection after rejection as personal but a lot of the time, it's that the project is too hard to sell. The reasons are long and varied: the marketplace isn't hot for that kind of book; the agent doesn't specialise or have contacts in your type of book; the agent doesn't know any editors looking for what you have written; your novel crosses genres or ages, or myriad other lines, that makes it hard to fit. Your book can be fantastic, it can be wonderful, but it is no good to an agent if it will not sell.

2. It's not about the author, but the book. Sure, networking and connections can help, and being an obliging author who gets on with their edits and doesn't throw fits of temperament is never a bad thing, but no agent will take on an author without a marketable book.

A rejection is not personal. When my agent and I parted ways, it wasn't personal. It's always about the market, the book and if you will make money for the agency. (Sorry. It might not feel nice, but publishing is an industry. And, at the moment, it's a damned tough industry.)

3. Having an offer will not net you an agent. I used to think this - and when I received my first small publisher offer I trundled off to agents expecting to snag one. But an offer from a small publisher will make very little money. There will, generally, be no advance. Sales will, generally, be in line with the small publishing world. To be blunt, your offer will make the agent very little money - see above. This is a business.

Plus, it you have an small press offer you're happy with, an agent will bring little more to the party. If they love the book, they will probably reject the offer to sub to bigger publishers, so you'd have to be prepared to take that gamble. In terms of the contract, you can have it reviewed in a number of places (the Society of Authors, for instance, does so for members).

For my last sale, an agent had a full of the book but didn't feel they could better the offer I had, so declined. This was no reflection on anything other than that I had found a suitable home for the novel.

4. An agent signs you for that book. Not your back stories. Not books you have not written yet - although they will want to know about those and most author-agent relationships extend over a writing career. Some authors, though, have more than one agent dealing with different genres or age groups.

They might look at your previous work, to see if they can sell it. If you get an offer on it whilst agented - as I did with Abendau - they might contract for it and safeguard you (you are their client, after all, they want to know what rights you might be signing away - contracting for life to a small press would be disadvantageous for them). But they will focus on the work they have signed you up for.

5. Not every agented book sells. That sucks, doesn't it? You think, once you have the agent, you're sorted. A surprising amount of agented work never finds a home. It punts for the big publishers, and the mid-sized, and that's the toughest market of all. It's not something talked about a lot - agents need to celebrate success, not failure - but it happens. All the time. It's not a disaster. It's a bump in the road.

6. Agents can, and do, drop clients. Not usually after only one book fails to sell, to be fair, as happened with me. But if they can't sell your work, they don't make a living. Having said that, most agents only take work they like, and writers they have belief in. They're an advocate like no other. If, for whatever reason, they stop believing in you, it's probably better that both seek pastures new.

 (A word on that - it's atrocious etiquette to seek a new agent while contracted to a current one. And the agent network is small and close - the chances sre your sneaky submissions will get back to them. If you're not happy, bite the bullet and leave. And then go back to query letter hell*)

*if you want to. I never have yet. Mostly because I'm too busy bringing things out. But I have plans to.

7. Being published does not neccessarily mean an agent will take your next project. People always say to me that they expect an agent to snap me up next time I go looking - I sure as hell don't. If I have a project they like, then my various SM platforms, my reviews and contacts, become relevant. The icing on the  cake, if you like. But until I have that project that an agent likes AND thinks they can sell, it's irrelevant.

In fact, being published and your book doing badly can be more damaging than never being published at all. (But things like being with a small publisher first don't need to be worried about - so long as you sell within expectations for your market, all is well. In fact, a book doing well with a small publisher looks better than one that bombed with a big publisher.)

Anyhow, all just some observations of mine. whatever way you go about things, match the market and platofrm to your book, and may it do really well for you. :)

Jo writes sf and fantasy. Lots more about her and her awesome books can be found at

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The End

I think I've started this blog about four times now.... Anyhow, today it's going up because today Abendau's Heir is up for pre-order on Amazon and the release date of the 24 October has been confirmed. Which means that my days writing Abendau are over, at least for the foreseeable future.

This makes this blog a little more personal and reflective than I usually go. Abendau has been with me for nearly 30 years. That feels a very, very long time. Without going into horrid, hideous detail my secondary school days were not happy ones. When we face times like that, we react in many ways. I created a world to escape into.

That, partly, explains the classic SF feel of Abendau - this was back in the early to mid 80s. Blake's Seven had been part of my early SF viewing, Star Wars wasn't that long out and I was just to embark on the joy that was devouring the Dune books and finding out what a hero could really be. It, possibly, also explains some of the darker themes.
 But what I wanted to do in this blog was talk about the characters. Mostly, I wanted to talk about Kare, actually.

It's been a tad frustrating reading some of the reviews of Abendau's Heir, in particular, and seeing the comments that Kare is a little overshadowed by Ealyn (frankly, anyone would be) and wanting to say that I agreed, just a little. Sure, he had to be charismatic enough for people to believe he could the hero and likeable enough for people to read on, but he was never the Kare that I wanted to write about and who I knew in my mind so well. That Kare is the older man, the one we see glimpses of in book 2 and who fully arrives in the final book. In fact, when writing Heir, I had to get to know the young Kare properly for the first time - a very odd concept akin to having Time Travelling characters and regressing to their childhood.

When I got my first edits - the extensive ones - very, very few mentioned Kare at all. For the first time, I'd written a Kare from the heart, who didn't need editing, who I knew well enough that his actions made sense in the same way my own would (whilst being very different actions. Because he
is not me, or an extension of me, or anything to do with me - he is nothing other than a place to
escape and daydream about.) I'm hoping that is reflected in any reviews.

A trilogy is a huge undertaking. To take a story and wrest it into shape, to keep characters fresh and interesting throughout, to keep continuity in place over three books is something harder than I ever anticipated. To have that - one of my best achievements in life, I think - come out of difficulty and dark days is immensely satisfying.

Abendau accounts for about half of my first million words, between old versions, new versions, a version best never referred to (that I actually subbed about a decade ago. I'm so sorry, Snowbooks. Forgive me...), and ditched beginnings (70,000 of Abendau's Heir went in one single delete once. I think I still have it saved somewhere.)

From getting bored in June 2011 and deciding to write the story to joining my first forum to find out How-to-write-a-book in the November that year, Abendau has taken until now to complete. The timescale went something like this:

2011-12 I learned to write a book (mostly - I've got better since then). And wrote my second book (Sunset Over Abendau.) And then decided that churning out a new novel in 10 weeks was the done thing and wrote Inish Carraig for a competition.

2013 - I entered Abendau's Heir in an open window that took 18 months. Then I started to get agent interest in Inish Carraig. Whilst the sub process ground out I drafted Abendau's Legacy, just to know I could finish what I started.

I also got my first (very bad) offer and my second (good) offer on the trilogy. Happiness! And an agent. Double-happiness!

2014 - This was the year of a lot of work on Inish Carraig (and the first draft of Waters and the Wild). I thought Abendau was lost. Then I got a third offer, with Tickety Boo Press who were just starting up, and I took it. And then nothing more happened the rest of that year with it. (This is what publishing is, actually - a lot of periods were not a lot happens.)

2015 - Started on the bleak note of losing my agent. January. Dark, dreary day. Blunt email.

Moving on.

But Abendau's Heir came out! Hurray! My first book. And people liked it - mostly, I always knew some of the themes were a hard sell and that it was only over the whole trilogy that I'd do what I wanted with the characters and setting. From start to release, then - about 4 years. Urgh. Some of the self publishers I know do that step in a few months.

I can say, hand on heart, my trilogy has flaws (many of which reviewers have nailed) and many strengths (I think the set of characters is a strong one, and bringing them to life is where the book is best). But to write something like that as my first project, with no published short stories behind me, no knowledge of structure or storytelling, and make it successful, is something to be proud of. I don't often say that, actually - I'm quite embarrassed to say it now.

Today the final book of my first trilogy is available on Amazon. It's available here   And I'm very proud.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Funding your writing

I now earn something most months from my writing. (Huzzah!) But it's often not very much (writers meet lots for coffees - it possibly covers that, now...) and my writing takes up an inordinate amount of my time. Therefore, I still have a day job.

I will, hand on heart, admit I've started to struggle a little in the last 6 months, for time, and for a balance in my writing-work-life triangle. Which led me to start asking questions of how I could even things out a little. As far as I can see there are four main funding streams for writers:

1. Sell enough books to earn a wage. Which would be lovely and is, of course, my aim. Of the hundreds of writers I know less than 20 in that position. Most are supplementing their earnings with editing, or coaching, or training, or serving coffees in Starbucks.

Most books sold earn the writer a pound or two at most - to earn anything coming up to a wage means sales of 1000+ every month - and writers need time to produce, so to get to that sort of sum, reliably, takes time.

2. Get a lovely big advance. Two things with this one - firstly, most publishers do not pay advances. Not anymore. Even those that do normally pay in increments. And, since most writers who get such a wonderful thing are agented, 15% of the advance amount is lost to the agency. Which, unless you're into five figures, suddenly makes an advance look less like the golden bullet it sounds like, especially when you think the book won't be out for perhaps a year and the author will earn nothing else from that book until the advance has been earned out (and we're back to the couple of quid per copy connundrum - most advances, especially for new writer, never earn out.)

3. Crowdfund. This it the new buzz area. Set up a GoFundMe, a Kickstarter, or a Patreon account and watch the money roll in.

Done well, it's a great model. Done poorly, it's hard to see any money from. To do it well, the writer needs to produce content for it, and provide rewards. It's a lot of work - and guess what you won't have time for when you're doing all that work. For me, whilst I am in awe of writers who can use this model, it's not the one for me. Not time-poor as I am.

Which leaves a fourth option, one I rarely hear talked about, and one which I feel in underutilised in SFF (perhaps because we think our weird stuff won't be considered.)

4. Seek funding. (Note, I have no idea how anywhere outside the UK works for this - but some research might be good. Or someone might pop up a useful comment.)

One big caveat is that funders do seem to favour the traditional model over self publishing - so this may be a barrier for anyone self published. 

Where from? Arts Councils have funding available from both the government and the National Lottery. They have an application process (currently happening, at least over here). The Authors' Foundation provide funding nationwide - including a specific award for SFF. There are many organisations and trusts set up to provide support - and some local councils also have funds available for creative projects. I had a great writing week this year on a bursary from the John Hewitt society which has impacted my writing in all sorts of way.

Some funds cover travel expenses. I travelled last year to Eastercon at my own expense - I think, looking at the funding, I could have had some of that covered, which would have been a great help - and maybe allowed me to attend another convention. 

Applying is time consuming, at least at first. However, a good synopsis and a project costing done once can be spread through a number of funding arrangements. Mostly the pots are small - £3-5,000 so it won't be a case of giving up the day job (although some are bigger - my local Arts Council does offer Major awards which would go a long way to giving a writer a year or two's grace). But it is out there, it is for all writers and, I think, for those struggling to balance everything, worth researching in your area.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Collaboration, the good, the bad and the ugly

I've never collaborated on a story. I threatened to once, and then decided I liked the idea too much to share - it later became Inish Carraig. One of my forum buddies, Nick Bailey, has brought out his first novel, to great reviews, in collaboration with Darren Bullock, and I thought it would be cool to hear how it had worked for them.

Here are their hints and tips. 


Collaboration. Does the word fill you with dread? You wouldn’t be alone. Many writers wouldn’t work on a project with another person, and often with good reason. Would your manuscript have two distinct styles? Would your characters be consistent? Would you end up hating your co-writer? For Darren and I, it was never a question of whether we would collaborate on a series of novels, the question had always been: when would it happen? Having been very close friends since our early teens, we have a distinct advantage in that we know each other very well. 

So what pitfalls can I talk about that may help writers plan a joint work? 

First of all, be well prepared to disagree, and to compromise. You absolutely have to be honest with each other about what works, what you like, what you don’t like and how you will go about the actual writing process.

When planning Liberator, we wrote an early storyboard together, over many, many cups of coffee. After putting together a rough story, we picked a scene and just started writing. It was a pretty random process at first, and we were writing completely out of chronological order, but it seemed the natural thing to do at the time. Luckily, and with continuous regular meetings and copious amounts of caffeine, we began piecing it together; writing extra pieces to join scenes, cutting huge swathes of work, and bickering about Darren’s slightly modern art style, versus my more blunt, in-your-face writing. Somehow, a complete novel began to take shape from the chaos. 

As I pointed out, there were plenty of disagreements, friendly, but disagreements nonetheless. And that is absolutely inevitable when you are creating a world from two imaginations. No two people really see the same thing when you describe with words. So, we cheated a little. For all the main characters for instance, we picked a real life actor that we saw as the perfect person to play that part, that way, we knew exactly how to describe anything that required an actual physical description. For technological stuff—ships, weapons, armour, and so on, we drew them. We also luckily have an extremely talented artist as a friend; he’s the guy who did the cover for us.

To work together, and see a project through, you need to be very honest with each other, and have very thick skin. You have to tell your co-writer when you don’t like something, because you both really do have to like everything you put into the final version. You need to be able to take criticism, and accept what you can’t both agree on. It’s like a tougher love version of murdering your darlings, because sometimes, you have to watch your co-writer murder them. 

To end up with a tight, working, story you need to both be on the same wavelength all the time. The manuscript has to read as though one person wrote it, not change styles or tone. One way we did that was to edit each other’s work regularly, not a full rewrite, but a once over of each scene. At the full edit/rewrite stage, we did this together over Skype. One of us would read it aloud, the other reading silently while also listening to the reader. 

One thing you will absolutely need is the ability to both access files from different locations at any time. So you need cloud storage. Liberator would have taken much, much longer to produce had we not had cloud access to all the files. Sometimes we would be working on laptops; other times tablets, and even phones. And of course, we live quite far apart. 

One of the big pros of course is motivation. You don’t want to let your co-writer down, and when they are feeling low, you can pick them up. When all else fails and you are in a bit of a slump… Meet up for coffee. Have a chat, and a laugh. Talk stuff out face-to-face. It works every time. When we meet up, I always come away happier and more motivated. 

Communication is king in collaborative work. Stay talking, most days. Darren and I talk almost every day, even if it is just by text. If you find yourself thinking that you are grinding away, and your co-writer doesn’t seem to be working as hard as you, don’t start to harbour resentment, get talking. It may be they have hit a barrier, the so-called writers block, and don’t know how to tell you. Maybe life has gotten in the way, as happens to everyone. Communicate, find out. They may just need you to talk to them and share a joke or two. We all know that writing can be lonely work, and if your co-writer is falling into a bad headspace, then you need to pick them back up, dust them down and get them back in the saddle. Because sure as hell, at some point you are going to need it done for you. 

And right there, is probably the very best thing about collaboration. You are not alone in the dark when you feel your manuscript is a piece of crap and you want to throw it in the bin, then climb right in after it. You know the times I am talking about. When you have a partner, they don’t climb in with you, they grab you by the scruff of the neck, shake you off and stick a cup of coffee in your hand.

So what else can I tell you? I am still learning, Liberator is the first novel either of us has published, and it was a proud moment when the first day’s sales came rolling in on the KDP report. I will probably still be learning when the KDP report rolls in for book 8. And I will still have my co-writer, my wingman, Darren, right there propping me up so that I can pretend it is all going to plan.


Colonel JJ Tristan, last officer of the Liberators, is trying to keep the embers of the once great military corporation burning, but passion and the dreams of a glorious past don’t pay the bills. Everything changes when Orlanda Nixon, a former unit member, calls for his help. Finally, he has a reason to reform the Liberators, but after eight years will he be able to gather enough of them together to rescue one of their own? JJ has his doubts; just getting their old warship back into space could be a problem.
The Liberators never left anyone behind, and JJ isn't about to let that happen now…

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Being different

And a few other musings, like blowing your own trumpet and confidence.

This has been a blog building for a number of days, from forum interactions, to reviews received, to just one of those dips in confidence all writers go through. It's been a rollercoaster week of thoughts and perceptions, leading me to a place where I'm on more solid ground.

That solid ground is that it is okay to be different. That, provided you're not looking to have a thousand people download your book on day one and Amazon to pick you out as the next sure-win in your category, it might even be a good thing.

That last is quite a big caveat - different is not an easy sell.

So, firstly, what's different about what I write? I write a Space Opera series that deals with a rebellion against a cruel Empress, has a chosen one as its main character and is, on the face of it, so far-so generic.

Then I got a timely review on it (from Leighton Evans) which touched on exactly what I tried to make my own in Abendau:

'There are no appendices for planets, ships, weapons, foods, drinks, stars, dust mites....there is a tremendous focus on character. You understand the universe from the eyes of the characters and none of them dwell on anything outside of the current situation and what led them there.'

Now, I'm not going to pretend I'm so clever as to set out and do anything fancy like subvert genres, or add a new dimension to Space Opera. I set out to write a story in the only way I know how - from the
characters' point of view. Anyone looking for nice omnipresent descriptions of ships in space, or
roving overviews of attack ships blowing up installations are in for a disappointment. I don't do that.

Instead, I do the commander watching a friend die, the twitching of her hand, the sadness of the moment. To heck with the shaking base and cool attack arrays. Kare doesn't notice that, in that moment. He sees that twitch, and wishes he could end their pain.

When the book turns dark - as it does, as dark as it comes - it's not because I want the reader to be grossed out. It's not because I wanted to shock. It's because this story is told by the characters, and there was no way to zoom out. I did so, as fast as I felt able to, losing the horror of the close point of view for one removed. Sadly, that point of view, Sam, became one full of empathy. His section of Abendau's Heir turned out, for me, the most moving and challenging to write and get the balance I wanted.

And all of this is before I even touch on Inish Carraig, a book with comments such as 'blessed with an entirely novel storyline' and 'sensible in its weirdness'. A book which received a hugo-nom, a mention  on File770, and has 50 reviews where you can look at 'the (single) negative review', if you so desire. A book based in a Belfast changed by an alien invasion. Told from a teenager and an adult, with parity to each other. That follows an entirely personal storyline to both of them. Once again, removed from the norm of alien-invasion stories, and how to tell them. No screaming bombs, no Independence day moving speeches. Just the story of what would happen to you, or I, in the face of the extraordinary.

So, that's all whirring in my ever-busy mind when I came across, as many of us did this week, this blog  which outlined how to succeed on Amazon and sell an awful lot of books and give up the day job.

I have several friends in that category and I've been feeling frustrated in not quite reaching such heady heights (don't get me wrong, I do very well and am not complaining). Anyhow, I read these steps and many of them are good - I'm building a mailing list as we speak - but some, for me, felt alien to what I wanted to do. But, more than that, I realised that most of these books that sell so well on Amazon tend to be ones that fall firmly in a category, tell the story the voracious readers off that category want in the way they want it told.

I have enormous respect for that approach. In many ways, I wish I could emulate it. It would certainly make my life easier. But it also wouldn't tell the story I want to tell, in the way I naturally tell it.

Which brings the hard truth - that to be different, in terms of the genre you write in these days, is a slow, hard build. I could cheerfully blame that on Amazon algorithms and Amazon dictating what we find to read and, therefore, encouraging generic books - and there might even be a grain of truth in that. But that has happened over time continual, in bookstores, in the movies, on popular culture. And through time continual the quirky stories have to fight a little harder to be found - and yet, often, stand the test of time. Wuthering Heights, far removed from the societal novels of the time, raw and bloody and dark. To Kill a Mocking Bird, using the child voice to tell the story that resonated with adults as much as kids. James Joyce original and difficult the same.

Which brought me full circle, through streams of thought, to the belief it's okay to be different. It's good to have different voices. But it's no good to be difficult and aspire to models of conventional selling. To be different is a little harder path, perhaps.

Anyhow, in my continued ambition to be a little different and still eat, I have a newsletter here, if anyone fancies signing up to hear what I'm up to from time to time, and to get some short story freebies etc.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Mailing lists - and why you might want one.

I’m not techy. Like, I’m really, really not techy. I use a very old computer on Windows Vista, can’t get on with Schrivener at all and whimper to the ever-patient Gary Compton when things like my website don’t work.

For that reason, I’ve steered clear of a mailing list until now. Because it’s, like, hard. But I’ve bitten the bullet and started one properly.

What will I put on it? Well, not things like go into this blog – it’s a different place for different musings. It's not the place to be putting up promo posts and what not – that’s never been what I’ve tried to do.

The newsletter will work alongside the blog. I’ll be putting things in like launch events, and announcements. I’m working on completing some short stories which will go up from time to time and will be exclusive to subscribers. Early notifications and offers on my books will pop up.

The why is easy. I, like most writers, have platforms all over the place. I have twitter followers and facebook friends, blog readers and book readers. I’m on Goodreads, on forums, in facebook groups. I am, honestly, all over the place.

Which means when I release books I put up a post here, and a post there, and mention it in lots of places – and still those who like my writing might not see it. Since I have a lot coming out in the next few months (sticks out tongue and counts on fingers, I'm also not maths-y – I think I have five releases in various shapes and forms coming up) it makes sense to have a single platform where I can pop the news up.

(The news element will also appear in my normal platforms – what won’t will be the exclusive content.)

I also like the idea of giving back – that’s always been what this blog, for instance, is about – so having a platform where I can write something I like and give it out appeals.

If anyone wants to join up, the link is here:

The first 15 new subscribers bag themselves a free ebook of Inish Carraig!  

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Promotion - why it's never too early.

On Paying It Forwards, and Backwards and Every which way

Some of my very closest author friends are bringing out their debut books this year. I also have many other author friends who have done the same thing over the last couple of years. Hey, I brought out my first book only last year. (Honest. I’m still a newby…)

One of the things I see – and did, to a certain extent – is promotion being left until the book comes out. It’s as if there is a belief that, until a product actually exists, promotion isn’t worthwhile.

I think this is very far from the truth (I think the argument applies to marketing, to an extent, but not to promotion.) The truth is that the day your book hits kindle, you want to have a lot of promotion already in place. You have a very small window to impress the Amazon algorithms.

My next book comes out in October. I have a list of promo activities in place, including two conventions (lucky timing, to be honest, but if it hadn’t been I’d gone off and tried to find somewhere at the right time), three interviews (all of which I’ve asked to put into October instead of now – I’ll tick over, annoying you all, in the blog and in existing bits and pieces, including a nice little interview coming soon), two guest blogs and no doubt a few other goodies – including a launch. I didn’t, in the end, go for one with Sunset, a bit worried I’d be launching to an empty room, but I will with Legacy and celebrate the end of the Abendau books properly (so, please, a couple of people turn up.)

‘But that’s you!’ I hear my shyer writing friends say. You talk all the time. You have something to say, and books to talk about and we don’t yet. I do sympathise: it is easier to fill interview requests when you have material to pull on. But I don’t think it’s a get-out-of-jail card.

Here are some of the things I think are worth looking at before the book gets launched (Bryan – this is your WWJD. Take notes!)

  1. Get some work out there. Don’t worry about pay –although that’s nice. People will be more inclined to take a chance on you if they know your writing is good. Pop a few short stories on a blog and promote it on your facebook or twitter, or whatever (see point 2). Get some followers. Release a 5000 word story in five parts and get five hits. Get it published on a site and use the double hit of their promo and yours.  Make it stretch.

  1. Get on social media. Somewhere, anywhere, people can find you. A facebook author page or a twitter account are useful for the end of interviews – keep up to date with me on @joz1812, just for example (go, follow me! I don’t actually tweet oodles and oodles so I won’t flood you, but I do put all my blog posts up and updates.)

  1. If you’re offered something, take it. Goodwill goes a long way- but only if you use it. If you have an interview given to you to fill in (Sue, I’m looking at you…) fill it in. Don’t let it sit in your inbox, giving you the evil eye and making you afraid of it – just go for it. Believe me, they get easier the more you do. Start with paper ones and then move up to ones you have to talk in – and then start with recorded ones, not live. By the time you’re on live anywhere you’ll have killed a lot of your fear.

  1. Communities. It is too late to join a forum when your book is out – you’ll always be an author potentially promoting your book, with all the attendant suspicion that brings. Get on forums and facebook groups before your book comes out. Get to know the forum and the tastes and you’ll know whether or not to promote your book. (One of my fav facebook groups is a Grimdark forum I joined to promote my book. Turns out my books aren’t a great fit for the readers, but I like the forum and still hang out there. And, what do you know – there’s been an awesome podcast derived from contacts there, and a couple of reviews. Plus, most important of all, a couple of new mates.)

  1. Blurbs. Look, this is hard and toe-curling, and I’ve done it three times now. (Now my publisher does it for me, and that’s lovely. But if I self publish again, I’ll have to do it again.)

Mostly, the conversation goes like this. Me, shuffle, shuffle, ‘would you give me a cover blurb? Please.’ Run away and hide and await (warm gracious, in my experience) response. 

I’ve been asked to do blurbs a couple of times now, so I’ve been at the receiving end of the request and I can say, hand on heart, it’s fine to ask. Writers understand. They might not always say yes – they might not have the time, or they might just not do blurbs – but they’ll never mind you asking. So if you don’t have a blurb, go and ask. They do make a difference.

  1. Pay it forwards. I can’t emphasise this enough. You think you’re pushed for time now, editing and preparing? You’re not. Once the book is out, you’ll find yourself inundated, whilst also trying to write the next one. Which is when you’ll realise that you need reviews and goodwill and promotion and you don’t have time to promote back.

The thing is, it’s easy to look at writers a little up the ladder from us and think
they’re doing okay and don’t need any help (I grant you, I doubt Mr King
needs me ra-ra-ing anymore). They do. They need reviews. They need people
to turn up at their events. They need support for launches, and openings for
promo (because, sometimes, after the novelty of the first book dies down,
promo options die out.) Help them, not because they might give you a leg up,
or because you want them to retweet your promo tweet, but because paying
it forwards is always a good thing to do. Call it karma, if you like. Call it your
generous act for the day. Call it whatever – I call it community and friendship,
and what makes the writing world go round.

But don’t call it promotion. Writers are not good to promote to. Really, if you want to find someone who has too many books to read – ask a writer. I have, at this point, something like 10 free books on my kindle from other writers. Some are exchanges because we liked the sound of each other’s books, some are just out and ARCS (advance review copies) which, if I like, I’ll try to review. Some are just freebies that people have put out to get downloads of. This, in addition to a TBR pile of books I’m dying to get to that occasionally grows into a lifeform.

There are loads of other things you could think of doing – blogs, building a website, etc etc, and I don’t think it matters too much what you do choose. But I think it’s vital to start doing something. Now, not on the day of release.