Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Would Virginia Woolf Have Made Of It All?

I use Grammarly's for proofreading online because if it just picks out my repeat words just once it'll be worth it. 
Happy Christmas! 

I hope you had a peaceful, special day - alone, with friends, with family - wherever you found yourself. I had a lovely lazy day at home with my partner, daughter and all the trimmings. 

I gave, and received, several books of course, and was absolutely blown away to receive this one from my friend J:

J and I visited this 17th century house and garden, now run by the National Trust, back in July. It was a perfect midsummer's day and we managed to get her Room Of My Own bedroom (complete with her hand-bound Shakespeares) to ourselves for a bit.
Virginia Woolf's Bedroom, Monk's House Photo c.  Stephanie Zia
And her (see it and weep) 100% magical Writing Hut.

Virginia Woolf's Writing Hut, Monk's House Photo c. Stephanie Zia
If you love poking about into great writers' lives, or just love gardens, it's in Sussex, an easy day trip from London by car.
Virginia Woolf's Writing Hut, Monk's House Photo c. Stephanie Zia
Go midweek, out of high (school holiday) season, if you can. If you're lucky you may get the house and garden virtually to yourselves as we did.
Virginia Woolf's (lookielikie) teapot. Monk's House Photo c.  Stephanie Zia
As it's all a bit quirky, double-check that it's open before setting off. Or, if you are the booking-years-ahead, money-no-object, sort, you can even stay there!

Garden, Monk's House Photo c. Stephanie Zia
In other news, my boomer lit novel The Widow's To Do List is currently part of a special Awesome Indies Holiday Bonanza 99c sale (26th - 30th December). Awesome Indies, based in Australia, evaluates independently published ebooks and gathers them together on one site under their individual categories, making it easy for readers to browse quality ebooks in their favourite (English spelling there Mr G/favorite) genres.  Earlier this year The Widow's To Do List was awarded their special gold seal for outstanding independent fiction. It was  heartening to see that, whilst posting her 5* review on US Amazon, the Awesome Indies reviewer, Tahlia Newland, noticed a run of low* 'dislike' reviews and began her considered review thus:

"The lower starred reviews here seem to be by people disappointed because the book is not what they expect..."

She went on to talk about genre, placing it in Women's Fiction or Contemporary Fiction rather than Romance or Comedy, though there is both romance and comedy. It is difficult to place a new-genre book - boomer lit is still in its infancy; but with Hilary Boyd's Tangled Lives #1 Contemporary Fiction and Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones, Mad About The Boy #1 Fiction, the future looks bright.

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk, Monk's House Photo c. Stephanie Zia
What would Virginia have made of it all, tucked away in the leafy folds of the Sussex downs with her flowers, pens and paper? 

The Widow's To Do List is 99 cents in the US until 30 December 2013. Check out all the titles in the Awesome Indies sale & win gift voucher prizes here:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Psychology Of Book Marketing

Descruffed from writing slops into Zara jacket & pencil skirt a few weeks ago to attend the Business Startup Show. Dressing up is not needed at all but it was a good excuse to feel a little sharper around the edges for a change. This is an annual free event held at Olympia, London, a kind of London Book Fair for startup businesses. Lots and lots of free seminars, bags, chocolates, iPad competitions, exchanging of business cards and all of that. A good day away from the computer.

This is the third or fourth year that I've been (I live right close by) so I knew I'd have to get to my top pick seminar early if I was to stand a chance of getting a seat. I was prepared to queue for an hour to hear the Facebook advertising talk but, when I arrived, there were still seats going for the earlier Caprice talk on how she started in business. It's all very friendly, one of the few places in London where you don't have to have a dog with you to talk without being introduced. I sat next to a man who worked for a student travel firm on one side. On the other, a man who had just set up his own trophy and awards business. When student travel firm man left he was replaced by somebody who sold One Direction calendars. Caprice was lovely, delightfully frank and honest. It's an up and down process was one of her main messages. Her worst time was when the US exchange rate crashed.

The Facebook advertising seminar was useful as was the following talk, given by a lady from Saatchi and Saatchi X, market leaders in marketing. More than anybody, they make it their business to know about the psychology of selling. So, here are a few notes.

1. The driving keyword 

Emotion. Emotion was mentioned a lot. Emotion sells. Your message must appeal to hearts and minds but it is the emotion that leads to action.

63% of car sales are driven by emotional decisions.

25% of food sales are driven by emotional decisions.

What would book sales be then? 100%?

2. Branding

Define what you want to be known for. Be single-minded. Be a brand that does not a brand that says. What is your purpose as a brand?

So I woke up the next day (good old subconscious) with a brand definition for my publishing company. Instead of "Ebook & POD Publisher", my flag line now incorporates our USP: "The publishing company run by authors for authors. We're fair and we care."
Blackbird 'eye' logo designed by Jennifer Copley-May at Armadillo Central

3. Understand your audience
Build your brand through love and respect.  Have a point of view before you send out our material. Not too much copy. Less is more. People shop visually online. Ask: how people can interact with your product. The biggest threat to a brand is deselection.

4. Create Your Own PR
Blog your brand POV (remember what your cause is). Send out free products to bloggers. (So bloggers most definitely mainstream targets now then.) Richard Branson was the example given. When Virgin airlines started they were tiny compared to British Airways but by using clever visuals and stunts like Virgin hot air balloons, they looked a lot larger than they were.

5. Say thank you
I don't know what it's like now, but there used to be a strange culture of non-communication in the old mainstream publishing model. I'm old school BBC-trained so that's all in hand. Where the 'we care' bit comes in to the brand identity.


Facebook advertising has been going through some changes recently. Promotions are now allowed (eg 'like' or 'comment' to win a prize). It's an art that has to be studied and learned, as with Google Ads. But the talk was a good general introduction:

The potential Facebook advertising audience is 8 x the readership of The Sun.

Lesson no. 1: complete the page. Have you filled in your contact details (if you want them out there), your links, your Twitter handle etc? Obvious but apparently so many don't.

Lesson no. 2: Use images. The more emotional the better. (that word again).

Lesson no. 3: Be responsive. If anybody comments, respond... Again, obvious but sometimes it slips.

Lesson no. 4: Use Page Insights (button at top of page). Another recent development.

Lesson no. 5: Target your ads. The order of importance she put them in was 1. age  2. demographic. I learnt elsewhere that this is the crux of it. If you don't target your ad but let it go out to all ages, sexes etc all over the world, you're wasting time. You can take it right down to precise areas. Think about the content of your book and target accordingly. eg if you have a novel set in London, try targeting London audiences. If it's a novel about first-time mums, target women of first-time mum age etc. We were also told we must remember to think differently at Christmas when 84% of spending is done by women. On which note...