Some of you may have noticed my attempts to garner publicity for my new novel Timed Out. What follows is a revised version of a little article in The Oxford Writer. I must stress that I am no expert on the subject and I hated the whole business at first. But I am beginning to see this as an interesting challenge and I am growing a thicker skin.
First I filled an exercise book with ‘Things to Do’. The lists included information about libraries, local bookstores, media people, and literary festivals within easy travelling distance from Oxford. And contact details of everyone I thought might be able to help.
Some of my approaches got a ‘yes’, but an equal number got a courteous ‘no’ or silence. The only rude, hurtful responses have come from bookshops asked about a possible event or signing. ‘Nobody would come. I advise you to get a mainstream publisher.'(Who knew?) ‘No, because you are self-published’ – when I said I wasn’t the woman just shook her head. One posh literary festival organiser informed me that Timed Out was ‘not appropriate.’
I have managed to get interviews on local TV and radio and two small radio stations, and talks in five literary festivals, two libraries and an older people’s lecture programme. Writing Magazine, Writers Forum, Scribble, Humanistlife and The Oxford Mail, the Oxford Times and Oxfordshire Life have published items by or about me.
People who run contests where I was listed or a winner, people who run creative writing courses I once took, my present college and my old college have all helped too. Then there are the internet communities – OAPSchat and gransnet published articles from me and these attracted book blogger offers of interviews or reviews.
Yes,I have been lucky, and I am under no illusions – my two USPs (Unique Selling Points) have certainly helped: my great age, and the fact that Timed Out is partly about Internet dating in one’s sixties – I have done it myself and am happy to talk about my experience. One journalist said, ‘I’m not really interested in the book, but I’m interested in the dating.’
So I haven’t done badly so far. But I have struggled compared with writers who have the backing of a big publisher. No one to arrange a blog tour (have only recently discovered this idea), or a speaking tour. No one to promote Timed Out to bookshops. And Timed Out is print-on-demand. Bookshops can order it, but they don’t want to stock it because they cannot get their money back on unsold copies.
I wish I knew what (if anything) has worked in all this. I travelled to one festival where I had a hotel stay; I sold four books to fellow authors whose books I bought in return. ‘But think of the exposure you’re getting!’ said the organisers. Does exposure sell books?