People often ask me, “how are your book sales going?” and I rarely have an informed reply for them, as my honest response is that it has never been about the numbers. However, recently I received an email from Perfect Publishers, the self-publishing company who released Into the Mourning Light on my behalf in January 2014. I was pleased to see from the royalty statement that the book is selling steadily, although not in high numbers.
But … including the sales through e-books and direct sales which I do at occasional events, the book is averagely finding a new reader around once a week.
This is extremely gratifying. The release of a largely autobiographical book is an emotional experience. It is one thing to write intimately about grief, quite another to share it with a public who essentially do not know me or anything about me. Into the Mourning Light is intensely personal, being about the loss of my son, and my emotions and feelings surrounding that loss, along with contributions from others who have experienced the death of a child. My intention for the book was always for it to find its way to those who need it and this seems to be working. It is not a misery memoir, it is a supportive, positive grief resource and I am delighted that it is achieving the aims that I have for it. It is also an important part of James’ legacy and a positive outcome from the tragedy of his passing.
If you are a self-published author, how do you go about publicising and marketing your book? How do you bring your book to the attention of the audience that you want to read it? How do you take out the emotion from the commercial act of selling your words?
Is word of mouth the best recommendation?
As an amateur in the world of publishing, I have learned much over the past two years. Here are some key points, which are all my own observations. I hope they are helpful:
- Selling is difficult. In particular, selling a non-fiction book is difficult. Selling a non-fiction book that is about death, loss and grief ramps up the difficulty rating to the maximum. BUT there is hope in all this. If you emphasise that the book is telling a positive story, despite its content, then it will appeal to a wider audience. Although as my lovely daughter said to me, “It’s never going to sell like Harry Potter, mum!”. In other words, you are selling to a niche market, which automatically limits your readership
- Feedback from those who have actually read your words is very valuable. There is no substitute for personal recommendation. Reviews are always welcome, even if they are not universally complimentary. A one-liner, such as “thank you, your writing really helps me” is sufficient to really lift your day and make it all worth-while. You learn much from being pulled up on your errors, too. If you have done things wrong with the first book, surely you would really prefer not to repeat those mistakes in the second…
- You would be naïve to think that writing, editing and publishing the book is an end to the process. In many ways it is just the beginning. Writing is addictive and the urge to keep producing material is strong. Everything you write is fodder for subsequent publishing … if you want it to be.
- Social media is a very useful, largely free tool for keeping your name in the frame. One of the great joys of blogging is the freedom to write about your passions with no restrictive parameters and hopefully to provide an interesting and helpful grouping of words with each post. Persistence and repetition keep your book at the forefront of people’s minds.
- You may find, like I do, that it is surprisingly enjoyable to write about the process of writing and to describe the conception and evolution of your book. For myself, pitching articles at various magazines led to the publication of a feature piece in the national ‘Writing’ magazine – and I even got paid for that. There is no place for being a shrinking violet when it comes to self-promotion, even if it goes against the grain of what you would normally do.
- A short bio that appears wherever your book is mentioned is useful too. I write my own when required but it does make you cringe a bit to sell yourself. If you find it too difficult, ask someone who knows you well and don’t be embarrassed by praise. Writing about yourself in the third person can also help to get your point across without sounding too egotistical.
- Above all, being clear and concise about your book’s content and more importantly, its message is the best way to sell it. Don’t sell yourself short. Never say anything negative about your book. You are telling a story that no-one else has lived, no-one else has heard. It is YOUR story that YOU have chosen to share.
Come on! – you have had the courage to put your words out there in the world. You are sharing your innermost thoughts and emotions. That takes a deal of pluck. Be proud of what you have achieved and go for it!