Joining a Writing Community
Writing is a lonely business much of the time. While the other people in your household are getting together and enjoying themselves, you are shut away behind closed doors, beavering away at your latest novel. And when you emerge at last, tired but elated, to announce to your family that you’ve finally reached The End, too often you just get a pat on the back and a brief “Well done!”. Alas, only other writers really understand what makes you put all that effort into creating something that – unless you’re the next JK Rowling – may only reach a handful of readers.
Those lucky enough to find a mainstream publisher will at least have an editor to share their successes and failures with, and possibly an agent too But for Indie authors, the thought of having to wrestle with marketing and promotion when all you want to do is write the next book can be dispiriting.It certainly was for me when, having published an ebook version of my first novel, Eye Spy, I realised just how much hard work lay ahead of me and how much I had to learn about the process of publicising a book.
It’s almost two years now, since my book first hit the virtual shelves and I’ve learned so much. I’ve also, rather to my surprise, thoroughly enjoyed myself. I may not have sold a great many books, but I’m now a part of a very active local writing community where I’ve made many new friends, and also a local writer’s group which contains some very talented and successful writers. I’ve given my first public reading, and started selling direct to the public at book fairs and literary events. And what I’ve learned from all this is that, as an Indie author, you shouldn’t try and go it alone. The secret is to join communities, both real and virtual.
My first big break came whilst I was searching for promotional websites, when I came across the site for Leigh Writers Group. I got in touch to see if I could put details of my book on their website. To my surprise, I was invited to join the group, who meet once a week in a local church hall. It seemed like a good opportunity to meet other writers, so I signed up.
When I sent details of the book to a contact at the local library, he suggested I join Southend Writers and Artists network. I’d never heard of this group, and it was only after I joined that I found out just how many writers and artists were living in my local area. It’s a real creative hub – a bit like Paris in the 1920s – and yet I’d never realised that before. After I posted a notice about Eye Spyon their Facebook page, the lady who runs SWAN, got in touch and suggested I give a reading at an event she was organising. My first ever public event – scary! I practised reading the passage over and over again, and on the night I took my son along with me for moral support. The reading went off without a hitch and, much to my surprise, I enjoyed it.
That was in September 2014. In March 2015 the Essex Book Festival, which is normally only interested in authors published in the traditional way, agreed to let SWAN stage a Local Authors Day as part of the festival. I signed up immediately because even though you can’t sell ebooks directly to the public, you can still advertise them with posters and press releases, and get yourself known to potential buyers. I learned a lot from the other authors about how to go about promoting and selling books at festivals and fairs. I also realised that, if I wanted to sell to children, I needed a paperback version of the book. In September, with a paperback version in production, I did some more promotion at a Literary Fair at the local community centre. This year, 2016, we have been allocated not one but two days at the Essex Book festival to sell books, give talks and run workshops. That’s people power for you!
Whilst all this was going on, I was also exploring book promotion on the internet. This is where I came across yet another community: the Alliance of Independent Authors, or ALLIA. A yearly subscription gets you regular newsletters full of advice on all aspects of writing, publishing and promotion, and access to a yearly online conference, as well as the chance to showcase your book promos and events. I also registered with a few of the free promotional sites, such as Bee Zee Books, (whose authors form yet another online community) and ran a couple of price reductions. My experience so far has been, however, that selling to children is better done in person . At the moment younger readers – in the UK at any rate – seem to prefer paper books to ebooks, and from now on I will be spending more time promoting these in the real rather than the virtual world.
So my advice to Indie writers, is to join a community. Real or virtual – it doesn’t matter which, preferably both – and if you can’t find one locally, start one yourself. Not only will you lose that sense of isolation which is so discouraging, but other writers understand the need to get the word out about books and will happily tweet or post on Facebook on your behalf, or buy your book as a birthday or Christmas present for friends and family, if you do the same for them. They understand the need for reviews too, and will remember to post one on Amazon, unlike non-literary friends who invariably forget. That’s the main thing I’ve learned on my publishing journey – we can achieve so much more if we act collectively.
To buy or see more of Eye Spy by Tessa Buckley click the Amazon store