Hazel Buchanan

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When you can't see the wood for the trees

Posted by Hazel Buchanan on 21 March, 2016 at 9:05

You have to have a brand.

That's the gist of all marketing advice, these days, for anything, it would seem. Apparently, if you want to be successful as an author, you need to have an 'author brand'. But what does that mean? And how can you 'write to your brand', if you've already written the book before you discover the need?

If you pare back the advertising jargon, you get down to words like 'image' and 'identity', which (am I showing my age?) make a little more sense to me. Except that the rebel in me is screaming "I'm not into image!" and "Identity surely just means 'me'!" So that's pretty much how I've ended up interpreting 'brand'. I have to market me. And that's really the crux of the problem. It's the book I want to sell, not Hazel Buchanan.

Then I get to thinking about our current world-renowned authors. I bring up names like JK Rowling, of course, and John Le Carré and Isabel Allende. And I see not so much a 'brand' as a theme running through their work. It's that theme that becomes their writing persona. So much so, in JK Rowling's case, that she had to invent a new persona (brand) to write her private detective stories that have nothing to do with children or magic. While Le Carré, who has spent a lifetime hiding from the media, openly acknowledges his anger that his writing persona, 'British spy turned writer', was entirely based on his books and created quite independently not only of himself but of the truth.

So, reluctantly, I get to work on putting into words what, instinctively, I know to be important to me. I list character traits and qualities, values and aspirations. Essentially, I write my own philosophy. And, suddenly, I'm seeing the point - not from a marketer's perspective but purely from my own. I have actually gained some greater knowledge of myself and my own beliefs from the process of writing the important bits down. Perhaps there's something in this…

(I still can't bring myself to like the word 'brand'.)

The next step, I'm told by the gurus on Google, is to come up with a marketing plan. Well, sure, I can see that makes sense. It's just that the words 'marketing plan' have always triggered a physical reaction in me which causes my brain to shut down. It isn't just that I haven't known how to make one, it's more that I've never wanted to know. And there's an infinite list of things that I'd rather be doing. Until a couple of months ago. Then, I needed a marketing plan. So I started checking out how to make one. Gradually, I came up with a list of tasks, some of which I had already completed or begun.

1.  Write a great book. (Not just any book, the professionals advise. It has to be a great one!) Edit, re-edit, proofread; offer it up for others to tear down (haha!); reduce and edit again.

I've lost count of the number of drafts Surviving Anna and I have been through. The manuscript, which was once 160,000 words has been systematically eroded to 91,000. It's been read, re-read, edited, reduced and proofed so many times, I can honestly say this box has been ticked as well as it's ever going to be.

2.   Prepare the manuscript for ebook and print format. This includes, of course, designing a cover. It also involves purchasing ISBNs for print and ebook versions; decision-making about pricing & royalties; uploading tax & bank info; writing a cover description; deciding on categories and keywords and whether to enroll in KDP Select.

Tick. (See my earlier blogs for the low-down on all of this). Huge amount of work. Huge.

Thanks to my graphic designer seventeen-year-old son, I have a unique and stunning cover. (Yay!)

3.  Set an advertising budget, strategies and goals.

Enrolling the ebook in KDP Select gives me access to a couple of Amazon promotions: pay-per-click advertising (which has so far yielded me nothing) and KDP Countdown Deals (which I don't want to utilize until I have amassed a lot more reviews.) Once the print version is available, there are many other avenues to explore, including sites such as Goodreads and BookBubs, as well as giveaway promotions. I will also be able to use selling platforms other than Amazon.

4.  Create a website and start a blog. Include an excerpt from Surviving Anna, and links to purchase the book.

Tick. Ongoing, of course, but essentially underway. An enjoyable exercise in many ways, but also very time-consuming.

5.  Create a dedicated Facebook page.

Tick. Ongoing, again, because all of these things require maintenance and updating.

6.  Compile a mailing list of everyone I know.


7.  Publish the ebook through KDP on Amazon.

Tick. This was the good bit. It took a bit of nerve - because now Surviving Anna is out there for anyone to judge. But, by this stage, I had gone so far, I couldn't really pull back!

8.  Email everyone on my mailing list to tell them about the ebook launch.

Tick. This has probably been the most disappointing part of the process so far. I did have a few very prompt and positive replies, and a handful of people have definitely gone out of their way to help me. I'm extremely grateful for their support. It's a pretty small handful, though.

9.  Seek out book reviews. Without a publishing house to draw in editorial reviews, I'm relying on multiple other sources: book review websites; Amazon top reviewers; book bloggers; friends of friends.

Very definitely ongoing. And seriously hardgoing. In fact, without a doubt, the hardest part of all.

10.  Publish the print-on-demand version with CreateSpace.

This box is very nearly ticked. I'm expecting the proof in the post any day now. Hopefully, all of my formatting efforts will have paid off and I'll be able to make Surviving Anna available to purchase as a 'real' book online. I'm certainly looking forward to holding it and turning the pages!

In a nutshell, this marketing challenge I have taken on is an enormous and hugely time-consuming task. I am convinced the key to success lies mainly in getting reviews. So that is where my energies are currently directed. Any offers of help will be most gratefully received!

Categories: Getting Published

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