sparFirst off, I have to say I'm by no means a marketing expert. I'm still not comfortable with Twitter, despite having bought Nicola Morgan's wonderful guide, 'Tweet Right' and read at least the first five pages. And I'm never entirely sure whether my promotional activities are worth the time I've spent on them (apart from one example I'll come to later), because unless there's an instant leap in sales, it's hard to know what's worked and why. But, caveats aside, here's an account of my first hesitant steps into the marketing maelstrom. Experienced marketers may dismiss my efforts with a lite larff (as Nigel Molesworth sa) but fellow novices may find something of use, or perhaps one idea that will spark off another. Apologies in advance if they seem hopelessly basic.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my main and most profitable ploy has been to leapfrog on the back of an existing media phenomenon, Downton Abbey. Because my Swallowcliffe Hall historical trilogy is very similar in theme and subject matter (though published several years before DA, I hasten to add), I've gained access to a whole range of readers who love the Victorian and Edwardian country house world, plus some new converts. So I've liberally metagged my ebooks with 'Downton Abbey' and sprinkled my blurbs with the same magic words. I've also set up a weekly Google Alert to tell me where and how DA is mentioned so that I can keep tabs on who's watching and what they think. This leads me on to the next ploy: guest blogging. Besides having the luck to blog for Authors Electric, I've also written a few guest posts on the blogs of people who are DA fans (Downtoners? Abbeyites? Crawlers?), which has been a hoot. For example, I have eavesdropped on the 'Ladies of Elegance' in New York at Sarah O'Holla's charming blog, who have been gathering to watch DA every week in fascinators and flowery hats, then avidly dissecting each episode. (Scroll down past the book covers and the adorable babies to find the Downton picnic, complete with projected Highclere Castle background.) Sadly series 2 of Downton is now over in the US but hey, maybe 'Upstairs Downstairs' will take over and I can shamelessly add a new metatag.
Another thing I've done is set up an Author page on the Goodreads site. I've had one particularly lovely review for the print version of my first Swallowcliffe Hall book, House of Secrets, which makes me love Goodreads. Thanks Stephanie! Yet it can be a bit scary because here you come face to face with your readers, so to speak, and when you get a review or rating on this site that's not so good, it seems more personal. (Tip that I learned the hard way - don't try to message someone who's given you a good review or 'friend' them. It comes across as pushy, rather than just hugely grateful.) But Goodreads is great for showing you the kind of person who likes (or doesn't) your books. It's very hard to get data from Amazon on who is buying your ebooks, but Goodreads will give you a clue. You can set up giveaways there, too, join groups to discuss your favourite kind of fiction, post your own reviews and generally waste hours when you should be writing...
I've also made a Swallowcliffe Hall Facebook page. I really don't know whether this is a waste of time, but I've quite enjoyed it, and at least it's given me some photos for this post. I'm trying to give off a sort of Edwardian London/arts and crafty/domestic vibe (if you can imagine such a thing), so I talk about my research trips to the London Library, country house articles I've read, and er... for some reason I've put cake recipes and pictures up there too (see above). Later on, if I ever manage to finish the next book on the series, I can post news of that. In the meantime, if you have a minute to spare, do visit my Facebook page and try a cake or two. I'd be delighted if you liked it!
I've also recently discovered the wonderful world of Pinterest - the site that allows you to make online collages of inspiring photographs. By using my book cover as an avatar, I'm getting it out there, and maybe a few people who like my photo choices may be interested to find out more. I can also make a mood board for my current work in progress which may whet readers' appetites as well as helping me. (Anyone who's been to a creative collage session with Katharine Roberts will know how powerful this can be.) For example, I've found the most gorgeous photograph for my next Swallowcliffe heroine, Eugenie, which has given me a great clue into her character (see left). Even the tilt of her chin is just right - and look at her teeny tiny waist! Unfortunately I've been distracted by making a mood board devoted to my dog, but I'll start on a work-related one any minute now, I promise - just as soon as I've finished checking out everyone's dream houses and chocolate peanut butter cookies.
Finally, and perhaps most usefully in immediate-result marketing terms, I invested in a paid promotion with a company called Kindle Nation. I have to say, this might not work for everyone (and I've spoken to an author for whom it definitely didn't), but I saw an immediate upturn in sales in the US which seems to have lasted. In the first couple of months after publication, I was selling more ebooks in the UK than the US, but now I'm selling roughly 4 times as many in America as in Britain. It's hard to know how much of this is directly related to Kindle Nation, but it certainly hasn't done any harm and so far I'm a very happy customer. And as of an hour ago, I've signed up with Backlist eBooks, too: a US-based promotional group for authors who are epublishing their o/p work.
Of course I know that what would really drive up sales of my Swallowcliffe Hall books would be a new title in the series. And just as soon as I've finished making cakes, writing reviews, trying to tweet, photographing my dog, reading blogs, going to the London Library and drooling over other people's Pinterest boards, I really will get down to some writing...