You send your book out into the world. But unless readers know it’s there, they can’t find and buy it. Without promotion, the work dies. I’m not a natural at promotion. In fact, I don’t even like it. But my experience is that there are things you can do. Some of them depend on seizing opportunities. Others just rely on doggedly working through the system.
I was lucky that there was a news event linked to the theme of the book—the opening of hearings in the UK’s official enquiry into undercover policing. I timed the production of the book to coincide with this date and was able to get some press coverage.
The other opportunity has not yet come to fruition. But I’m part of the way there. I entered the novel for various literary prizes. And it has been longlisted for the McKitterick Prize. Judges won’t begin shortlisting until 2021.
Press launch and reviews
Tears was published on 24 September. Review strategy and pre-launch promotion concentrated on the paperback, paving the way for sales boosted by the press launch in November. I secured 20 reviews across various platforms. NetGalley, from which I was hoping for great things, was disappointing—only two reviews. And I only managed to place two pieces on book-blogging sites.
The press launch produced a significant boost. Forty two copies had been sold by launch date on 6 November. Five days later, an additional 54 copies sold.
The launch made a small splash, which died away quite quickly. It wasn’t enough to generate sustained sales. The good news is that you don’t need to despair—you’re not in the hands of fate. There are things you can do that will make a difference and raise your book’s profile.
Principal among the things that can make a difference is advertising. Amazon advertising, targeting the US market, began in early December. It worked, adding another 10% to sales.
By 22 December, Tears was number 666 in the Kindle rankings for terrorism thrillers, and 1,062 for magic realism. Overall, its ranking climbed from number 1,683,775 to 99,986 (of over 14 million books) on Amazon.
But it’s a little like succeeding in coaxing a spark into a handful of kindling. I need to find ways to get a warming blaze going and keep it alight.
I don’t yet know what these ways are. It may simply be a matter of more advertising. But I’m hoping book discovery sites will make a difference.