It’s publication day for Blackshirt Conspiracy, the second in my series of alternative history thrillers set in a Britain under the shadow of fascism. Cheerful stuff eh? Well, I’ll raise a glass to it!
Writing a novel is immense fun, but is an incredible amount of work once the research, drafting, editing, re-editing and proofing is accounted for. There is a great sense of accomplishment when that line ‘available immediately’ appears on Amazon; whether this is accompanied by pleasure, pride, satisfaction or relief depends on the author’s personality. With most of us, it will be a mixture of all these emotions and more, mixed in with some doubts: will people buy it and will they like it? Will the reviews be heartwarming or horrible?
So for a modern author, what does publication day actually involve? In the old days a novel was very much fire-and-forget. A publisher would receive the final corrected manuscript, perhaps share their ideas for a cover and the title they actually intend using then silence would fall for nine months or so. Then bingo, the book was out, a flurry of PR would be mailed out and a box of author copies plumped onto the doorstep.
Not any longer. The book business has changed since my first novel went into print in the 1990s and the advent of the internet has meant that authors must engage far more with the process of launching and promoting books. This is true whether we are with a major publishing house or with an independent publisher such as my own; Level Best Books based in the USA. Authors who are self-published or with hybrid publishers must do even more.
Preparation began while my manuscript was still in draft, when leading mystery writer Martin Edwards kindly agreed to supply a blurb. A few preliminary pieces on my blog warmed the ground, while I continued to promote the first book in the Room Z series at literary festivals. Once the publishers sent through the finalised cover it was kept on ice until the time was right for a ‘cover reveal’ on social media.
Some three months before publication I was communicating with e-zine and blog editors as most of these have one to three month lead ins. They needed the cover and my ‘official’ author photograph, and each platform had its own format and requirement for content and length. The process was assisted by my membership of the Crime Writer’s Association, which allowed access to their Case Files e-zine, the Crime Reader’s newsletter and their Hot off the Press release. I’ve also been a member of Mystery People and International Thriller Writers for several years. Some editors sent me proforma Q&A tailored to their format and readership.
Creating blogs in the run-up to publication day was a challenge to make them more than just a plug for the book, but tackle aspects of the historic period or the writing process without giving the plot away. Half a dozen blog pieces were offered to the online sites and newsletters, tackling different aspects of the book’s background. It was not a case of churning out the same stuff over multiple sites. Blogs with ‘value added’ content for people who will not necessarily be customers for my book were shared onto other platforms and receive the best engagement.
When travelling I keep my camera handy, taking shots which may come in useful to head social media items; a picture draws the eye more than text. Experience has shown that an amusing or more personal image gained ten times the engagement of a straight plug.
Around six weeks before publication, the ARC (advance review copy) was offered to reviewers, bloggers and my author colleagues. I also offered it on a few specialist forums I was a member of, careful not to spam them as this is irritating to forum members and can invoke the ire of administrators. This requires detailed attention to each individual contact, and ongoing engagement. The ARC also went up on Netgalley, which is a three month commitment and still in process.
My website front page was replaced by a new design produced on Bookbrush, and the interior pages and links updated. I also checked my author pages on Amazon’s Author Central, Goodreads and Bookbub plus my director page on the CWA’s ‘find an author’ database.
A month before publication my publisher dropped the ebook price of Blackshirt Masquerade to 79p/99c, which I then promoted widely. The ‘sell through’ logic is that readers may be tempted by the offer, and then continue to read the new book. Although Blackshirt Conspiracy can be read on its own, it will be more satisfying to people who have read the first in the series and want to follow the characters into 1936.
The big day approaches, so bookmarks have been designed and ordered. My spreadsheet is checked and updated with all completed items turned green. It’s time for the gloves to come off, and for a sustained flurry of unashamed promotional posts on Twitter and my Facebook author page, plus a few on my personal page, Linkedin and Instagram. The website front page was refreshed to feature Martin’s blurb and the internal pages updated for the first reviews.
All this is in addition to what my publisher is doing. If you are a self-published author, you will need to do the above and very much more! A newsletter is often cited as being essential, so is also in process.
In the final run-in, those ezines and writing blog articles started to appear, so these could be shared and responded to. One useful tip at this point is to make a master list of links so they can be cross-shared at a time to suit. Well-timed posts by some editors will spring up on publication day itself.
A book launch in the indie sector is not the big champagne-fuelled London bash of the celebrity authors but is more nuanced. It is many events, not just one. Publication day is here, hurrah! The work of of writing the book is done, but that of promoting it has only just begun.