Monthly Archives: November 2006

Book cover 2

Paws and Reflect

The first thing which struck me about this book cover was not the title, but the blue. Unrelenting blue – a strongly masculine colour – in seeming contrast with the subservient-looking dachshund. It’s this contrast, with its undertones of power struggle, which provides the intrigue.

If you don’t believe me, imagine this cover in pink. You see? Bye, bye tension.

It’s almost irrelevent whether the power struggle is sexual or simply a relationship struggle, but not quite. Because sexuality is brought into the sub title. Not a book about man and dog, but specifically about gay men and their dogs.

The promise of intrigue and tension offered by the cover’s visual semiotics is given a serious veneer by the font used. It is the kind of font used by serious newspapers. Although the title contains a pun, the cover persuades that there is more depth to this book.

And the dachshund? This shows how much thought does go into book covers. Co-author Neil Placky tells me that his publishers cross-referenced zip codes where gay men lived with zip codes for dog breeds and the greatest correlations was with dachshunds.

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Tuesday tips 10

Practical tips for book marketers.

Got a tip? Email me. 

Media: The best free directory of UK media – magazines, radio and TV – is here at UK Media. Have you thought about approaching a specialist magazine about your book? Or seeing if your local radio station would like to interview you? Local BBC stations or local community radio tend to have a lot of talk airtime to fill.

Sales promotion: Check which online retailers are offering your book cheapest at book price comparison website Book Butler.

Research: Add to your favourites Grumpy Old Bookman, who is the UK’s premier book trade commentator. And Miss Snark, U.S. literary agent who tells it as it is. And here’s another UK bookseller.

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Book cover 1

CC Harrison

My book cover’s gotten rave reviews, writes CC Harrison. I can see why. The setting is Monument Valley, but it could be lunar. There’s an other-world quality to the landscape with its powerfully-balanced reflection.

Red is a powerful colour and is associated with vitality and action. It grabs the attention (which is one reason why my PR business is called Red Wave Communications). It also symbolises heat, passion and danger. You would not pick this book up in a bookshop and expect a gentle read.

The font used for the title is intriguing. It has little hooks, which add to the sense I think the reader has already got of an other-world. By contrast the font used for the author’s name is deceptive. It seems rounded and therefore weak, but it is actually very strong, and enforced by being in capitals and in stark white. White can be hot too. The sense given here is that CC Harrison is an authority. I was surprised to discover that this is in fact CC Harrison’s first novel. The impression being given by the cover is that CC Harrison is someone I should have heard of already.

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Sunday interview: Anne Whitfield

Anne Whitfield

Marketing is a long term project, so stick with it, says Anne Whitfield. Anne’s latest novel, Gossamer Wings, was published last month. She also has her own blog.

1. What kinds of marketing have you done as an author?

I’ve created postcards, brochures and bookmarks featuring my books. I give these out and send them to bookstores. I’ve gone to bookstores and libraries to see if they will allow me to do book signings or sign stock. Aside from my website, I’ve also created a blog, and pages on MySpace and Squidoo. I have author days in yahoo groups. I’ve joined writers’ groups online and in the flesh and I go to conferences where I can to mingle.

2. What marketing did your publishers do?

My publishers are only small but they do send out my book for reviews and attend trade conferences to showcase the company, plus they advertise in readers’/publishing magazines.

3. What essential things about marketing did you learn that you wish you had known from the start?

That not everything you do will be successful. To have patience. Sometimes you will be let down by distributors/shipping etc so if possible have some copies of your book with you. Never leave the house without some form of promotion in your bag.

4. What did you learn during your experiences of trying to market your books?

That spending a lot of money on promotion won’t always get results. Word of mouth should never be underestimated.

5. What is the most successful piece of marketing that you have done?

Meeting bookshop managers face to face, and head librarians. In most cases they are friendly and helpful. Always leave them something they can give their customers, like bookmarks.

6. What advice would you give for authors starting out with marketing their books?

My advice would be to stick with it, even when it looks like you aren’t getting the results you want. It’s a long term project and can be hard work, but it can also be satisfying too.

Sometimes you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get sales. Keep several bookmarks with you at all times. It is amazing how often you’ll hand them out. Don’t be shy, don’t be pushy either, but find the balance. Be confident in yourself and in your book.

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Rule 11: Network!

The 11th rule of marketing for authors is one word: network! The marketing-savvy author actively engages in networking. Why? Because networking can bring:

  • access to inside information
  • valuable contacts to pro-actively improve your book marketing
  • unexpected marketing opportunities

Networking is so valuable that it’s one of two main reasons I run the marketing for authors email list. Authors can swap marketing tips here, but they can also network. It’s also the reason why, when I put together the programme for Get Writing 2007 conference we’re not simply having lunch, we’re having a networking lunch.

Networking involves making and keeping contacts, and helping others. Authors should be networking with:

  • Other authors, in their own genre and outside it
  • Staff at their publishers and elsewhere
  • Booksellers, and others engaged in book trade
  • Librarians, festival organisers and literature development officers
  • Journalists, book reviewers and other writers

And potentially also:

  • Literary agents
  • Web designers and online marketing specialists
  • Active members of clubs and associations
  • Course and conference organisers
  • Marketing and media professionals
  • Book group organisers
  • Book enthusiasts
  • Enthusiasts in book’s subject matter

Networking is not only about having a valuable address book. It’s about helping others. The single most valuable thing you can do is help other authors. If you’re free with your favours, in turn you’re much more likely to find help and opportunities offered to you.

How to network then? Online, make sure your email address is available so others can contact you privately. Offline, get yourself business cards and make sure to hand them out to those you meet.

There are a variety of places where you can network. Choose those which suit:

  • Online forums, clubs, email lists, events, blogs
  • Author and writing associations
  • Writing conferences and literature events
  • Book trade events
  • Asking friends for referrals


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Book covers

Seen a book cover that really does shout “buy me” to the right audience?* Email me, and I’ll feature the best ones here with my own analysis of their marketability before Christmas.

*Yes, you can nominate your own cover!

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Still at work over here

Happy holidays to all in the U.S.! Meanwhile, in Blighty, I got up at 6am this morning for a breakfast meeting in Hemel Hempstead. Now, it is my belief that publicists are not 6am people, despite the hype we like to promote that we’re energetic 24/7ers.

I’m certainly not a 6am person when I have a head cold as I have done for the past couple of days. However, this combination did the trick:

  • super-strong, black coffee
  • paracetamol
  • laddering two pairs of tights, which caused me to shout at myself something like ‘wake up, you idiot’

Thus, by 6.28am I am awake.

By 7.54am I am listening intelligently enough about a business book which is currently being translated for the UK, to know exactly how I’d promote it and even a specific podcast syndication service who I know would be delighted to do an interview with the author.

But something is still bothering me. It’s been bothering me since I went for a walk around one of the big London bookshops (no names mentioned) with a publisher on Tuesday.

Books. Or more precisely, what’s out on the tables asking me to buy for Christmas.  And it’s probably not even the books themselves.

Boyd Tonkin summed it up brilliantly in the Independent last week with the description of “snowdrifts of Christmas drivel”. But even avoiding the most obvious Christmas-theme titles, it seemed that every other book cover was filled with ice and/or snow. One title resplendent with shrunk-wrap tropical beach, obviously originally intended to be a summer read, stuck out like a red-nosed reindeer.

I understand that seasonally-themed marketing seems like an easy win, but books are not just for Christmas. When I take the time to browse in a bookshop, I’m looking for inspiration. Suddenly that snow-filled landscape doesn’t look so interesting when it’s one of twenty.

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Filed under A publicists life, Book trade, books, marketing