Book marketing · My Memories of a Future Life · self-publishing

If you normally blog about writing, how will you promote your fiction?

Yesterday Laura Pauling asked me about my decision to self-publish My Memories of a Future Life. She also had another question:

‘Now that you have fiction you’re promoting, will you be blogging about topics other than writing? Kristen Lamb, who blogs about social media and platform building, said recently that bloggers shouldn’t be blogging about writing to find their readers.’

Laura, you’ve nailed perhaps the most difficult question for writer/bloggers. Most of us start blogging and find – hey presto – we’ve got lots of readers who are writers.

But not all our writer/readers will like our fiction, because everyone’s tastes are individual. And we hope that far more people are going to buy our books than just other people who write. Because although the blogosphere may seem infinite to us, it’s only a tiny grain of the reading world.

In mainstream publishing, authors get noticed by writing and talking about their novels’ subjects and issues in big-circulation media. This is where a traditional publishing deal can be really worthwhile. They will punt you in front of readers you can’t reach on your own. This is what publicists do as well, although there’s one area where bona fide publishers are still ahead – because many reviewers simply won’t look at self-publishers.

If this is starting to sound waffly and generalised, then it is. Every book needs a different sales approach. You have to identify where your specific readers are likely to be, and then reach out to them. I can’t tell you how to do that for your book; all I can do is tell you what I’m going to do for My Memories of a Future Life.

My biggest problem is that it isn’t a genre novel. If it was supernatural, paranormal, historical, sci fi et al I could trot over to the lovely collectives who review those books, find the forums and spread the word that way. I could review books myself, talk about other novels in my genre that I like. But instead I have a contemporary, offbeat story about a lost soul trying to find where she belongs. It should be a story anyone could read, but I need a better target than that.

I have a platform, but as Laura has pointed out, it’s about writing. And I like to keep it that way. You may indulge me with the odd splurge like this (and really it’s still about publishing) but one thing I’ve learned from many years in magazines is that readers want you for a certain thing, not for others. Here is where you want fighting talk about writing – and here is where I want to write it. If I want to write arty farty pieces about kick-ass pianos (which I had to learn about for my novel) that doesn’t belong here unless I make a useful writing point out of it. (Although that book did teach me a few hefty lessons about writing, and I hope you won’t mind me sharing them from time to time.)

Similarly, on my Twitter account @DirtyWhiteCandy you want writing advice. I’m not going to dilute that either. (UPDATE 2014: now @Roz_Morris. DirtyWhiteCandy was a naive blogging handle which I eventually dropped )

So here’s my marketing plan for spreading the word without annoying you all. If you’re in this position, you might find it helpful too.

  • A parallel Twitter account@ByRozMorris. I’ll use that account to chat about my fiction, but also about subjects that inspired me to write the book – stage hypnotists, memory tricks, illusionists, mysterious injuries, music and, of course, kick-ass pianos. (UPDATE 2014: it was too much trouble so I closed it!)
  • Blogging at other venues with a wider remit. I’ve been invited to be a regular guest blogger at Kindle Authors UK, a collective of professional UK authors branching out with independent projects that are too edgy, bent and challenging for mainstream publishers. Watch out for me on the 20th of each month – but drop in there at any time and you’ll find a lot of pro writers with exciting indie projects. (UPDATE 2014: I also had to stop that because of workload!) I’m also blogging at Women Writers, who have invited me to talk about any subject close to my heart  and link it loosely with my book (UPDATE 2014: see previous update!). I’ll signpost these guest spots with short introduction pieces here, as I usually do, but if they’re not your cup of tea they won’t be clogging up your inbox.
  • Creating a website for My Memories of a Future Life. Behind these walls I’ve been constructing a parallel world of the red piano, which I’ll be opening soon. I’ll post material there that’s specific to the book, for those who are curious. (UPDATE 2014: this became The Undercover Soundtrack… still very much alive.)

All books have to find their audience, and this is how I’m going to find the readers for mine. But without intending to, I’ve already been building curiosity for it – I mention it in Nail Your Novel and I’ve been getting inquiries from people who want to buy it.

But I do have a big secret weapon to send it into the Kindlesphere with a bang. It’s either a really good idea or a totally dumb one. But hey, you only live once. Or maybe more than once… I’ll be revealing that in a couple of weeks…

Have you solved this problem of developing a platform for your novels? I’d love to know what you’re doing. Especially if there’s anywhere you can suggest that I should introduce myself! Share in the comments!


61 thoughts on “If you normally blog about writing, how will you promote your fiction?

  1. Thanks Roz! I agree that it can be different for everyone. For me, and I’m still working things out in my head, my blog has always been a mix of writing and book reviews. I don’t often blog about really personal things. When I have a book to be published I’ll probably have my writing blog as part of my website. But I’ll post sparingly on my website on topics that reveal the core themes of the book I’m trying to sell. Or if there are interesting facts, I’ll share those. My website/blog will be me. Each blog post whether about writing or not is in my voice.

    I’ll tell you what I don’t want to have happen. Once I have a book out, I don’t want to have my blog turn into the most recent news about my book (all the time) b/c that gets kind of boring. I think. Thanks for answering my questions. Can’t to see your secret weapon for the release of your book!

    1. Hi Laura – I totally agree about the way some writer blogs turn into a roll of recent news.Obviously from time to time it’s nice to share something important, but the blogs that do only that are so dull. And I don’t think that’s connecting with readers – which is the whole reason why I enjoy blogging anyway. And I like your point about how each post is you and your voice – that’s one of the more subtle ways we find our audience, from people who just enjoy our writing.

      Thanks for asking the difficult questions!

  2. I’m definitely still working out the marketing thing in my head. I have decided to attempt to go traditional, so I’m building my brand. Whatever that is. All I know is that I like to blog about things I find interesting and that I think others will, too. All I can do is be myself and try to reach out to as many people as possible. I hope that works. It seems like the more you support others, the more they support you, which is how it should be.

    But the branding/marketing thing is still a bit of a mystery to me.

    1. Sounds good to me, Stacy. Marketing our books is really marketing ourselves. Readers enjoy spending time with one of our books because they like our company on the page. Pure and simple. The best thing we can do is find a way to blog, tweet, FB or whatever that is easy for us to do that. It’s like if you were at a party and chatting to people, you’d find the ones who were naturally in synch with you. And whose work we want to champion.

      And on that subject, thanks, BTW, for always pitching up here with great contributions.

    2. Marketing expert Jeb Blount says “people buy you.” I think that’s particularly true for authors, since readers use the names of authors whose material they’ve enjoyed as their first criteria for choosing new reading material.

      The way a “brand” is supposed to work is that your brand (or your name in your case) is fully identified with some particular concept. For example, when I say “horror,” you might very well think “Steven King.” The reverse is also true. Steven King’s name is a brand of horror fiction. That’s why many authors use a pseudonym when writing for a new genre: to avoid confusing/diluting their established brand.

  3. Why can’t you talk about writing and your book on the same blog? I’d like that. You can alternate a writing post with one about your book or related interests. That’s what I do on my blog, partly because I don’t want to have to keep a lot of different social media accounts running. As well as writing related stuff, I have reviews because I love to read and other posts that relate to my book. There certainly isn’t one recipe that suits all, and what works for one person may not work for someone else.

    1. Tahlia, you’re right. No one makes the rules for what goes on your blog but you. You find what feels natural to you and what your readers like. Most of the time I find it entirely natural to write about writing, because that’s what my world is! As for writing exclusively about my book – I’ve rather enjoyed building a place with a different look. I also change my handbag every day too…

  4. hi I have three blogs one for my paranormal stories ,one for my murder stories, and one for my poetry that way people can choose what they like of what I choose to write or promote. hopefully people will enjoy my writing and read my book(S)

  5. Stacy – I love that. “I’m building my brand. Whatever that is.” Made me smile. I think brands are kinda important but even more important is writing a great book. Where I think our social media efforts make a difference is pushing our books out there to give it a chance -in the case it doesn’t go viral. And we just develop our own solid group of fans. I do think it’s possible to over think it.

    1. We can overthink this, Laura, and to be honest it’s hard enough to get a decent book written. I’m aware my launch plan is probably rather thin compared with what some people do, but it’s what I think will be effective and manageable. And I think it’s the right approach for a book that has to feel its way to an extent.

    2. Thanks, Laura. You’re right, it is possible to over think it. But there are so many sites out there telling us what to do, and you have to be really careful not to get wrapped up in them.

  6. I prefer the mixed variety of blogs to Sheilagh’s choice. I also find it distracting to visit people who have more than one blog on the go. I want to read what they’ve said most recently and so end up flicking. I’m with Tahlia. My favourite blogs are the ones that talk about writing and life all rolled up together. For many of us on the blogger circuit we want to know a bit about the writer behind the blog name, not only their views on writing. That gives the opportunity for the blogger to talk about their latest book without it being an awkward ‘in your face’ promotion. That’s what I try to do on my blog and it works for me.

    1. Greetings, from one Rosalind to another! ‘Writing and life all rolled up together?’ Writing IS life, isn’t it?! Loved your music post, by the way.

  7. I’d say no matter what the theme of people’s blogs, it shouldn’t be the only place on which they promote their book.

    My writing-related blog is the centerpiece of my online presence. When the paperback version of my debut novel, Fur-Face, comes out this fall, I’ll use it to promote the book launch, personal appearances, online guest posts and interviews on other journals, as well as promotion-related contests etc. Of course, I’ll still be doing my usual entries too.

    The mistake I think some folks make, is they get carried away in all the excitement of the book launch and their blog turns into an almost continual advertisement for their work, which people soon grow tired of.

    1. Jon, it sounds like you’re doing something similar to me. Like Laura was saying earlier, some blogs turn into a list of engagements and puffs, which gets very tiresome. A relationship with blog readers is like any relationship with friends. It’s rewarding because it’s built on common interests and experiences, not just on having something to sell. Good luck with yours – great title.

  8. This post is very timely for me. Thanks for addressing this issue.

    I’ve been wondering what the right thing to do is as well. My blog has mostly been about my writing experiences, but I have worried that my eventual readers (how’s that for optimism) won’t find that information interesting. Or maybe they will. I just don’t know.

    At one point, I thought I would transition the blog over to writing about my story world and characters to make it more interesting to readers. I do post information like that, but I can’t help myself from posting about writing as well (e.g. my recent post about using a beat sheet.)

    I’ve finally reached the conclusion that it is what it is. I write what I think an audience of fantasy readers and writers might find interesting. Until I get a clear indication of what my visitors *really* want, that will have to do.

  9. this is something I’ve thought about too. It sounds like a lot of blogger writers have. And yeah, most of my readers are also writers. But sales aren’t just about who you reach directly, they’re also about word of mouth, and the online writing community is a very supportive group. So maybe not all of them read in your genre, but how many of them are more likely to tell their friends and family about your book than a regular reader would?

    Of course, that might just be optimism on my part, but I like the theory behind it ^_^

  10. Thanks for this – very useful! It’s something I wonder about, as my blog, too, is very tightly focussed on writing about writing for writers. And I very much agree that people keep coming back to blogs which consistently do what they say on the tin.

    I agree too about finding other ways to get out there – I’m part of a new group-blog of historical fiction writers, The History Girls, aimed at readers. I’m sure there’s more I could do of that sort of thing, at least if I had another couple of weeks in every month!

    Twitter is ideal, as you say: @thisitchofwriting (=Writer Emma) and @emma_darwin (=Author Emma) are both me. And they feed respectively to my blog and my website. I use TweetDeck so I can post as either or both (and to Facebook for real friends, and as @history_girls) with equal ease. Doing it this way reminds me to check anything I might say or write or Tweet, to see which audience it’s right for (though obviously some are fine for both) .

    In a funny way it also helps me to keep those two sides of my writer’s self separate, which is so necessary. You can’t let the business of selling yourself mess with your writer’s head… but equally my business head shouldn’t be saying things which the book trade and even non-writing readers will mis-understand or won’t get at all. (Which is one reason I think it’s a real mistake to blog, as yourself, about having work rejected. The trade just doesn’t get it: they call it failure.) Mind you, readers love to feel they’re eavesdropping on writers, so it’s no bad thing if Author Emma lets fall a few tit-bits from Writer Emma’s current struggles…

    1. Ah Emma, interesting to see you have three Twitter personas! I wondered why your name was so familiar…

      You raise an interesting point that I took a risk when I blogged about having work rejected. I thought long and hard before writing this post, because people might misunderstand it. And people inexperienced in the book trade might. But actually anyone who has been in the fiction ‘industry’ (if we may call it that) for any length of time knows the truth. Sure, bad books get rejected. But good books get agents, spend a lot of time being ummed and ahhed over, and break editors’ hearts – and eventually the agent says ‘there’s nothing more I can do, it’s up to you now’.
      Ask anyone who works in fiction publishing and they’ll tell you that’s absolutely one-hundred-per-cent true.
      Ask all the editors who are so disillusioned that they became agents instead, or quit the industry altogether.
      Ask anyone who’s written an unusual book and just secured an agent, in fact – the first thing the agent will say is ‘I really hope I can sell this, but I may not be able to in the current climate’.
      Just out of interest, does anyone else think I just shot myself in the foot?

      1. I don’t think you’ve shot yourself Roz – in fact reading about others’ rejections (especially from otherwise successful authors) is sobering and teaches would-be authors to have realistic expectations.

    2. I doubt you shot yourself in the foot, Roz. Anyone who takes your admission of rejection out of context might try to read a qualitative judgment into it, but anyone who regularly reads your blog understands enough about the industry to know better.

      Many excellent books get past the gatekeepers, but then drop through the trap door in the marketing department.

      1. Thanks, Daniel! A lot of exciting writers have had to self-publish to find their audience. And this isn’t new. Dedalus Press, established for over 25 years, was started, I believe, when Robert Irwin couldn’t find a home for his novel The Arabian Nightmare. It was then reviewed by literary journalists, then bought by Penguin as a Modern Classic.

  11. I share the same concerns as Dan Marvello. As my blog is currently about various routes to publishing,I think I may keep it that way. I have a separate author website that I sometimes mention on my blog, but I don’t link the blog back from my website.

    99% of my blog readers have their own blogs that I follow and learn amazing things from. They support me, answer questions and keep me on the path of writing. I’m not so sure that would appeal to readers. The reverse may be true as well – I think the blog followers are there for the process itself.

    1. Everyone’s got to find their own way – thanks, East Coaster! I looked on your blog for a name, and followed the Blogger profile, but you’re keeping yourself well incognito…

  12. Hi Roz – I totally get the closed-off media. It drives me nuts – especially when, if they do ever take a peek they go “oh, that’s actually rather good.”

    I’ve never really talked about my books much on my blogs, but they are rather scattershot at the best of times, alternating between recommendations of fabulous things I’ve discovered online, slightly weird interviews, short stories and poems, and opinionated rants. I’d find it hard to say whether I have a marketing strategy. I think rather I have a creative vision that I want to pursue in any way I can – bringing amazing underground culture to the wider audience it deserves, and finding new ways of creating a place where those of us who’ve spent our lives as outsiders can feel at home. And, personally, exploring new ways of scraping out the mess inside my head and spreading it out for the world to see. Those pursuits have taken me to some extraordinary places, both virtually (organising events like Free-e-day, and curating the eight cuts gallery shows) and “in real life” with some joyous shows, but it’s always when I’ve kept my focus most clearly on them and not worried about sales or marketing that I’ve felt most fulfilled.

    1. Hi Dan – knew you’d have an individual angle… Yes, we have to first of all create something good and honest and then think about how to sell it. And as for the media – so much has changed this year. There’s another good few months to go.

      I think many of the people who buy Nail Your Novel don’t realise it’s (gasp) self published.

  13. No, you didn’t just shoot yourself in the foot. As a writer, I am very aware of the number of successful talented writers out there who are barely selling through, or who weren’t able to get the book deal because of the market, or who spent 3 years waiting to get the deal, or who’s series got dropped, or…the list goes on. It’s really tough right now and I think it’s only going to get tougher in the next year or so. Some kinds of books don’t get deals but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do well, just b/c they didn’t fit into the high concept best seller mold.

  14. Ros, clearly you didn’t shoot yourself in the foot. I think it depends hugely, as you say, on where you are in the process, and in the industry, and so on. Of course everyone knows in principle that being rejected is part of the game. It’s more that you don’t want an aura of rejection hanging around a piece when it’s being read by someone. And

    So I’d only blog about something being rejected once I’d decided to stop sending it out, say, and once I had positive news to follow it with (many agents do exactly that in deciding when to tell their authors bad news!). Or blog about rejection in general. Or about why I had six novels rejected before The Mathematics of Love was bought.

    Like everyone here, I’ve always regarded the novels under my bed as a sign that I’d served my apprenticeship and learnt my trade, and I’ve been quite open about them, as we all are. But I learnt the – well, not hard, but disconcerting – way that the trade doesn’t see it like that. At a trade dinner a couple of months before TMOL was published, I said something about the under-the-bed novels to my editor. She said “Ssshhhh!” and looked nervously around her, to make sure none of the book distributors and sellers and journalists present had heard. At that point, of course, with the book not out there, there are no reviews or sales figures to show the book’s a success. A publisher is trying to generate an aura of success and general desirability and wonderfulness round your book, and anything which smells of “failure” to them – i.e. this is an author which someone, sometime, didn’t want – risks condensing that golden haze into chilly drops of cold water. It’s nonsense, of course – but it’s how they think.

    1. Emma, you’re right that distributors, journalists and booksellers have a different perspective. In my book’s case, that’s not going to be remotely important – because Amazon doesn’t mind how good or bad I am! So it’s just between me and my readers, I guess!

      That’s a lovely piece on your website today about the genesis of The Mathematics of Love, BTW.

  15. This was an informative post Roz, especially for bloggers. I’ve kept a mental note of your links. But what would you say to those writers (such as myself 😀 ) who don’t blog, or have a Twitter or Facebook account (and is not into social networking)? Personally I’ve promoted my previous work by talking about related subjects in articles, and also have built up a mailing list. I often encourage my subscribers to forward my messages, and that does seem to work. But are people who don’t use social networking we doomed to fail (at least one of my subscribers would say yes! :O ), or are there other avenues?

  16. TYPO/EDIT:

    Should have said:

    … would you say to those writers (such as myself ) who don’t blog, or DON’T have a Twitter or Facebook account …

    1. Ho ho, Sally… I’ve started replying and it’s become a post. I think that’s one for sometime in the next week or so, once I’ve given a proper workout to Stacy’s question about small presses. Bu before then there will be a writing post, because we mustn’t lose sight of what we’re really here for.

  17. Really interesting post, and something I’ve been considering lately. My blog began as a place to put my fiction, but now has reviews and thoughts about writing and all kinds of things. I was concerned about this at first but my feedback has been very positive! I make sure I tag all my posts so that someone wanting to read my fiction but not my ranting doesn’t have to and equally someone looking for reviews doesn’t have to trawl through my fiction! The great thing about blogging is it’s so easy to experiment with. I don’t need to know what my endgame is for my blog from the beginning, I can just kind of… stumble upon it along the way.

  18. To be honest I do not think there is a hard and fast rule on how we should promote ourselves and our work. Whatever suits the individual and how confident they are with that side of promotion is important.

    What is important is the quality of promotion and not the quantity in my humble opinion. Daily promotion on Twitter is fine but it should be done differently each time. If I receive the same old link half a dozen times, I switch off from reading. Keep it interesting as best you can, is my thought.

  19. This topic has given me fits for months. I’m in the same position–have built a successful writing blog but now that my debut is coming out in January, I’m left trying to figure out how to reach readers and not just writers.

    And I agree with what you said about people coming here for writing topics not pianos. This has been my quandary. I’ve read Kristen Lamb’s book and love her advice and perspective on writing about whatever topics you’re passionate about and not keeping it so specific. However, I also know that people come to my blog expecting writing topics and that a good percentage of my followers would not appreciate my romance-y topics (like boyfriend of the week where I post pics of hot celebrities, often with their shirts off, lol.) So I’ve been maintaining two blogs since April. The writing blog and then a blog on my author site that is more general and geared towards readers. It’s honestly a pain to have two separate blogs and eventually I will probably figure out a way to merge the two. But I haven’t figured out a better solution yet.

    Good luck with your new plan and your book!

    1. Hi Roni! I think it comes down to expectations. I’m taking my cue from magazine publishing – if you have a formula that readers like, stick to it. Hence my spinoff approach that won’t harm what’s working well for everybody. It also helps that I genuinely enjoy blogging about writing anyway and I’ve given myself a lot of useful insights while mulling a point for a post.
      But feeding two blogs with quality material is hard work. Although the site for my book is built from a blog, posts there will be more haphazard, as I get the inspiration. I think of it like building a bank of ‘extras’, like on DVDs, for people who have the curiosity. Nail Your Novel is where most of the action will be. And that’s fair anyway. I adore my book, but I’m not the book – I’m a writer.
      Roni, how are you going to organise your blogs?
      Thanks for the good wishes – and the same back to you.

  20. Roz – This is a very interesting post – it’s good reading about how somebody else is balancing the blogging conundrum. One thing that Kristen Lamb also recommends that I’ve started to do is to have specific topics or themes for different days of the week. That way readers will know what to expect and can easily tune out any given day they want or make a special visit when the topic that most interests them will be up. I’m still experimenting with this and I’m not generally a high volume blogger so it’s been a bit difficult. But it’s an approach that seems like it will work if done right. I’d also throw out that there was a lot of discussion about Goodreads at the Indie Book Event (on July 30) and some book reviewers strongly encouraged writers to join in discussion groups on Goodreads to connect with readers.

    1. Hi PJ – that’s a good suggestion of Kristen’s because it’s honouring your relationship with your readers, but *crumbs* different days of the week? Although I suppose I do that too in a way. I try to put a writing post up at weekends because I feel that’s the real core of the community here. If someone asks me a question about publishing, or I’ve got a guest post elsewhere, I post those on weekdays.

      Goodreads… I have to say I don’t know much about Goodreads.From the emails I get, it mainly seems to be writers trying to sell their books, which seems even less worthwhile, marketing-wise, than blogging only to writers. I would love to see someone write a post about how they use it and whether it has truly helped them connect with readers.

      1. According to this article, Selena Kitt had a significant surge in sales when her book was chosen by the Goodreads group Kindle Smut. I use Goodreads to find recommendations – readers are the harshest critics of books, after all – and I often find the opinions on there refreshing after the “lets sell books” rather than “is this worth reading?” reviews you get on lots of other sites.

      2. I have an account on Goodreads, and I can tell you that most of the groups are absolutely RABID about not wanting you to promote your books in any way. You can identify yourself as the author of your books in your profile and post items related to your books into your news feed, but if you participate in any group discussions, you’ll want to participate strictly on-topic and without any promotion. On the other hand, if you are lucky like Selena was, a group might choose your book as their reading selection, in which case you can participate directly by answering questions about your characters and story. They usually set up a separate thread like “Questions for Roz” just for this purpose. It can be a great way to connect with new readers.

  21. Hello Roz,
    it’s useful for all of us(writers)..and yr suggations are true..but i will like to add some thing in suggations..on net we can make twitter/face book accounts/websites…but what about print?i think first of all we can try to publish our fiction’s some or more in any reputed magazine of our language…or in any news paper.This fiction could be serialised alson in magazine or news papers….this will create quriacity in readers to purchase the books after publication. and your opinion is right that readers on internet are limited…so we could make our publisity through print medium…this is more effective in comprision of net..
    thanks for shaering this..

    1. Thanks, Hemant. Fair point about print, but it’s hard to get into established journals when you’re starting. Good luck if you can, though. And as you say, anything to create curiosity is good.

        1. Roz,
          in my 30 years career of writing for print and electronic i do’nt remember that i had ever paid to any publisher. i always get paid from publishers.

          Best wishes.

Your turn!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.