Self -publishing is not for the faint hearted, which is something I learned the night before my first book release. Such is the catch-22 of a writer’s life. The deep desire for sharing our work must overcome that pesky fear of visibility. All faint hearts who persevere know that, somewhere along the way, we build muscle.
Navigating marketing has very much been a process of trial and error. I recall an afternoon after publishing my first book. Riding the high of a book launch and some great reviews, a friend asked me if I had considered PR. “I have this friend, Jessica. She’s amazing. If you want to make it, you have to invest in yourself…” Etc, etc. One question was on my mind. How much is this going to cost me? This friend of mine was an ex -investment banker who traded money like paper cups. And me? Read my first book and you will find out all about my less lucrative career endeavors.
Jessica and her frightening prices were not for me, though she planted a seed. I googled a few PR companies, talking myself out of everyone until I came across a safe option. One my logic could be reasoned with. For two hundred bucks, they would send out copies to dozens of reviewers, magazines, bloggers, and bookstores and would sky rocket my sales. Mind blown. A few emails back and forth and I was all signed up. I was like a kid at Christmas. Every morning, I would wake up to check my inbox and book sales to see if Santa had delivered. Weeks passed, nothing. I got one email from a lovely lady named Wendy who loved the book, and would pass it onto a friend. If you are reading this, Wendy, thank you.
I realized that PR was a waste of time. “Never again,” I said.
Fast forward through three years of writing and self -development and I had written another book. The inevitable question faced me again. “Is marketing worth the investment?” I was feeling braver about the idea of PR. Again, I came across companies making promises, and giving me the same endorphins my last two hundred bucks had. What was it my mother used to say? If something sounds too good to be true, it normally is.
I remember what my friend said that afternoon: “You have to invest in yourself.” Feeling more self-assured, I found myself browsing the PR section of Reedsy.com. It was here I found Ben Cameron Publicity and Marketing Services. Ben specialized in book PR, and only took on a limited amount of clients per year. He wouldn’t negotiate on price, and made it clear he wasn’t promising sales. He did reassure me my book was incredibly media friendly. The Sugar Game explores the secret lives of sugar babies (women who date men just for their money) in London, and he knew the outlets it would be right for.
Ben opened my eyes to the reality of what working with a PR agent really looks like. It is not a case of kicking back and waiting for it to happen. Timing is key. It is something to plan for before a release, not three months after. Doing your homework is also key. A good PR agent is more than an email address and a cash transfer.
And did Ben deliver? True to Taurus’ form, he didn’t let me down. There were radio interviews, a successful blog tour, reviews, decent sales, and the opportunity to write a feature for my favorite magazine. Though the biggest win? Knowing I was ready to go all in on my dream.
As writers, we are all on different stages of our journey. However, when it comes to PR, remember that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take your time when searching for the right agent.
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Ashley is a London based author and writing coach. Turning her back on a career in law led to becoming a notorious job-hopper, inspiring her first novel published in 2018. She has completed various writing programs with Michelle Danner in LA and Faber & Faber.
The Sugar Game is her second novel. She believes a sense of humor is the only seatbelt required for a creative life, pursued with infectious optimism. Her writing is inspired by the world around her, fueled by coffee and an insatiable sweet tooth.
For more about Ashley and her books, head to her website. (www.ashleyloulondon.com)
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advertising and PR do not work very well, if at all, for self published books.
in rare cases when you can very specifically pinpoint your target audience then it might work.
it works best when you have a non fiction book and can target people who need that information because they gather in large groups often where you can reach a lot of them at once. after that word of mouth helps keep up the momentum.
but it works best when you self promote and have a following. giving talks at seminars you hold for paying customers and then selling books at the back of the room is best.
but for general interest books like fiction it is always a loser unless your name is Rowling or Patterson who have humongous audiences who will eagerly buy the next book when you alert them of its existence.
while you might sell a *few* more books with advertising, the *profit* from selling those books will rarely ever pay for the advertising or promotion.
I would have liked to see Ashley tell how much she paid and how many *more* books she sold because of Ben Cameron and his approach. And whether they had a system to monitor books sold through Ben’s efforts over what she would have sold..
I have had many people that would get me interviews for a fee, but none convinced me that they would get any results. I note that Ben said he would not promise results. So is he able to spot those few books that will sell well and what is his batting average??
My experience says most such helpers do not pay for themselves but are a net loss.
Would love to see harder data that shows when/how such help would work.