It’s been a really interesting week since launching Evie Woolmore’s first two novels, trawling the internet to see how other independently published novelists are promoting their books. There are reams and reams of tips, guides and advice out there, not to mention the rhythmic twitter of tweets to read, buy and review. One of the aspects I don’t want to get into in this blog is sharing advice on how to indie-publish – there are plenty of other people doing that very well – but I am keen to explore more specific and subjective experiences. And I would like to start with a matter of cultural identity.
In addition to tackling the world of social media head on, I have been emailing my friends directly, one at a time, with personalised messages promoting the new launches. But it has taken me a fiendishly long time to find a way to phrase these emails, particularly to those of my friends who didn’t know I was a writer. Despite facebook and twitter allegedly breaking down boundaries around traditional social codes, I still find that putting myself and my achievements forward, and thus asking people to fork out money on my behalf, feels very uncomfortable. I wouldn’t think twice about singing my own praises in a job application. But though this ought to be no different, it does somehow feel very much so.
When I was building my twitter strategy,I contemplated some new hashtags, and in a moment of introspection I came up with “It’s not vanity, it’s business”. I’m sure other indie-published authors would agree with me. I have a talent and I want to earn money from it. It’s not a question of fanning my own ego, but genuinely believing I can offer the service of an enjoyable reading experience. That ought to be a valid reason for why it’s perfectly OK to ask everyone I know to buy books from the allonymbooks project.
But – and here is where I suspect my Britishness comes into play – I would prefer the books spoke for themselves. I don’t want to be a boasting mother at the school gate. I find it excruciating to challenge my friends to spend their hard-earned cash on Evie’s unheard-of novels rather than others in the Kindle top 100. To say, like an Olympic athlete, “I deserve to be here because I’m good enough so measure me by the competition” feels like speaking a foreign language. It’s not about fearing negative criticism – I have been dumped by agents and had endless editors love my books but say they aren’t remotely marketable, so I am immune to that! – but rather fearing being thought brash, inappropriate, ostentatious and pushy. The promotional world of indie publishing feels disorderly and chaotic beside my British respect for patient queueing. Yet why shouldn’t I be undertaking on the inside lane? If the road is clear, shouldn’t I be driving on it?
I’d like allonymbooks to tackle promotion in a subtler, more careful way than the six-tweet-a-day model. One of the reasons I set allonymbooks up in the first place was because I was writing novels which were blurring generic boundaries (and troubling editors at the same time), yet I felt sure that receptive readers are to be found roaming the marketplace of indie-publishing. So I’d like to see if it’s possible to find scope in that same marketplace for a different kind of promotional style. And perhaps in some way it will be a more British one too.