Sunday, 19 April 2009

On the Joys of Self Promotion

This post is a guest article written by novelist and blogger Fiona Robyn. If you're interested in contributing to the Preston Writing Network blog - check out our submissions page.

I used to hate the idea of marketing my novels. I wanted to do the writing, and then hand the books over to someone else to flog them – an agent, my publisher, the bookshops. I hate the idea of blowing my own trumpet. I hate the idea of nagging people to buy something they don’t really want.

This all changed when I became self-employed and I was forced to learn how to market myself. I read books about marketing, and discovered that it doesn’t have to be all pushy elevator pitches and cold-calling. The books advised me to choose a few marketing activities I felt comfortable with, and to do them consistently.

Funnily enough, as a writer I’ve always felt comfortable with the written word. I’m also very impatient, and so blogs are perfect for me. One click and it’s out there! Six years ago I started my first blog, and I also started building up a list of subscribers using Constant Contact. Some of those early contacts are still in touch with me today, and some of them have bought my novel.

Over the years I’ve had great fun and I’ve met some amazing people. Marketing online gives you a broad reach, and I’m in touch with lots of readers in the US and in other parts of the world as well as across the UK. I went on an extensive blog tour with The Letters, which involved stopping at different blogs and being interviewed or reviewed. I had a ball.

Today I use a variety of tools to help me promote my books. I find networking very helpful – especially once I realised that I only had to network with people I genuinely liked and would want to stay in contact with anyway. I keep several blogs, a website, and I’m active on Facebook. I’ve just started a new project to promote my next novel which will interview 100 readers at 100 Readers.

How do I get time to do all this and still write? That’s a good question. Promoting my books can be much more fun than writing them, and I need to be careful that I’m getting the balance right. My main rule is that I try and do my writing in the morning, before I do any blogging or other marketing. This doesn’t always work, but there are always lots of excuses not to write, including doing the hoovering…

One final question - does it work? Who knows. I can be sure that I’ve sold a few extra books, but I imagine having my book in the 3 for 2 section in Waterstones probably blows these sales out of the water. What I can be sure of is that I have enjoyed connecting with new readers, and using my blogs as a form of creative expression. I’ve made some firm friends, and I’ve learnt a lot about myself and about marketing. I’ve enjoyed writing this article – so it doesn’t

really matter if it leads to any more sales or not. I try to apply this philosophy to as much of my life as I can. As Ibn Arabi said, ‘If you engage in travel, you will arrive’.

Fiona Robyn lives in rural Hampshire with her cats and vegetable patch, and blogs at Planting Words. Her debut novel The Letters is out now with Snowbooks.

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