A couple of weeks ago I did a photo shoot for a women’s magazine. Before you start thinking I am all glamorous, let me tell you it took place in my dining room (where I write) and not in some exotic location. It also involved much giggling between the photographer and myself as we arranged stacks of books to include in the shots and tried to dream up poses that might look quirky and/or interesting. I held up a pile of my own books and smiled; I acted as a human book end; I tried hard to look cheekily wary of the teetering pile of books we had constructed in case it fell on my head – I think it was supposed to indicate the precarious nature of the book business. Whatever it was, it was enormous fun because the photographer was a very nice guy. The one drawback was it ate into my writing time: those precious ten hours a week that I can afford to put my youngest in a crèche, and sit and write. But, what I remind myself is that it is all part of the job.
The promotional end of things is not always fun for writers. We are often, by nature, solitary beings, preferring our own company – and that of our fictional friends – to that of real people. We are OK with being on our own, tapping out imagined lives on our computers. But once the book is written and published, there is a whole slew of other stuff that we have to take part in and that can be daunting. These include readings, appearances, signings, book tours, interviews and, sometimes, amusing photo shoots.
Some writers might never leave their desks for all I know but, generally, whether we like it or not, we have to get out there and get behind our books. The wonderful thing is that we can help the promotion of our books with the internet. So, at least for some of it, we can stay at home. Marion Maneker said, here, “The success of a book is dependent upon the ceaseless hard work and self-promotion of the author. More than any other aspect of the book business, this is what constantly surprises outsiders: It’s all on the author. Sure, the publisher can add some luster and oomph, but without a strong author promoting a strong idea/story/concept, a book will just sit there, inert.”
Now, you do not want an inert book or career, so what can you do to promote yourself and your writing? Here are some tips:
- Realise that self promotion is necessary. Publishers do not have the time or money to promote new authors. It is a way for you to show your enthusiasm for your own work.
- If you are not internet savvy, take a course.
- Create a free website on a site such as weebly.com. Your website is your calling card to the world. Keep it serious and professional. Include samples of your work; a bio note; list publication in magazines and online; list shortlists you’ve been on/competitions won; include a good author photo.
- Create a free blog: on blogger.com or wordpress.com. A blog can be less serious than your website – on it you can discuss what is important to you as a writer; track the progress of your writing; your publication highs and lows etc. You can interview other writers; review books; post your work etc.
- Join Facebook: it’s a great place to meet other writers; you can join writers’ groups on Facebook; keep up to date with publishing news; calls for submissions etc. If you keep a blog, you can add links to your blog posts, thus gaining more readers. Ask writers you admire to be your friend.
- Join Twitter: for all of the above re. Facebook.
- Wikipedia: get someone to create an entry under your name.
- YouTube: video readings you do and post them on YouTube. Do a reading especially for this purpose in your own home.
- Join writers’ forums like Writing4all.ie and writing.ie
- Attend festivals, readings and workshops. Get to know your peers. Support each other.
- Make friends. Lose any ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude. Socialise with other writers and help where you can. What goes around comes around.
- Have a business card with your contact details on it. Most importantly name, address, email address, blog/website address (There are very fine free business cards available on vistaprint.ie)
- Don’t be lazy about submitting your work to magazines/journals – hard copy and online. The more your name is ‘out there’, the more your name will be recognised. The more you publish, the more you will be published. Agents read magazines and journals. Ditto managers of literary festivals. You may get offers of representation/readings through publication; it pays to get your work out there.
- Present your work professionally. Format your work correctly. (I recommend reading The First Five Pages – Noah Lukeman; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Browne and King)
- Be your own best self-editor.
- Enter literary competitions. A win can boost your confidence and spur you on; you will meet other writers if you are shortlisted or win. The judges will be professional writers who may put other work your way.
- Exploit the local: offer to read at your town library.
- Offer to read/speak at the local secondary school – Transition Year teachers often like to hear from writers.
- Believe in yourself and your work.
- Be enthusiastic, but don’t go overboard!
And if you have a book to sell:
- Let the publisher know you are very willing to take part in promotional work.
- Get to know your local booksellers – ask them to stock your book and/or give you a reading/signing instore.
- Make posters/postcards/bookmarks for your book (vistaprint.ie).
- Send press releases with a photo of you and the book jacket to the local press. Talk a little about yourself (include anything interesting/odd); talk a lot about the book.
- Have a virtual tour of literary blogs where you are interviewed by other bloggers specifically about the book you have just published.
- Make a book trailer for your book: you reading an excerpt; shots of some of the places it is set; a voiceover of a good review; background music etc. You can put this on your blog and on YouTube.
Try to enjoy it all. Eventually you will be safely back at your desk, immersed in the invented worlds where you probably feel most at home.
Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin and lives in Galway. She has published three collections of short fiction, including Nude (Salt, 2009) which was shortlisted for the 2010 Edge Hill Short Story Prize; three poetry collections – one in an anthology, one a pamphlet – and one novel, You (New Island, 2010). Nuala’s third full poetry collection The Juno Charm is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011.
Blog: www.womenrulewriter.blogspot.com Website: www.nualanichonchuir.com