The social side of selling, selling, selling your project

Steve Colgan has recently got his next book Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road to 100%. This is the third post on this blog (first two here and here) explaining the processes he went through to crowdfund his book.

To crowdfund your book You need to get yourself on as many social media platforms as you can and sell, sell, sell.

Don’t be afraid to plug the book several times a day, every day. You may, with typical British reserve, think to yourself that you’ll quickly hack people off but you won’t. Unless you have some kind of weird stalker who makes the effort to read every single one of your tweets and Facebook updates, most people will only see a fraction of your sales pitching. Think about someone you follow on Twitter, for example … do you see every single tweet they put out in a 24 hour period? Of course you don’t. So don’t be afraid to pitch your book at every opportunity. Be innovative. Find ways to link your sales pitch to current events or popular TV shows that people are talking about. And have some fun; don’t just say ‘Please help fund my book’. Be more engaging: ‘Want to know why I was naked up a tree for my 18th birthday?

Pledge on my book and find out’ (or whatever). And be more ‘glass half full’ than ‘glass half empty’; you’re not ‘85% still to raise’, you’re ‘15% funded already!’ Similarly, when you get nearer your goal, you’re not ‘85% funded’, you’re ‘Only 15% to go!’. Enthuse people and add an element of competition: ‘Just one more percent and we’ll be at 90% — who’s going to push me over the line?’

And while all of this is going on, keep engaging with people. Be active in your shed (if Unbound) or keep a blog. Release little snippets from the book. Let subscribers read exclusive content (a great way to repurpose bits that get cut during the editing process).

Guest on other people’s blogs if you can and there are lots and lots of websites and web- based magazines that are looking for interesting content. Yes, you’re giving stuff away for free but it will get you exposure. It’s all about balance and, remember, the more you give away the more you have to find new things to say. Personally, I find that makes me more creative. Another great idea is to get out and meet people. I’m lucky in that I’m quite comfortable with public speaking so I’m content to do festivals and conferences. But you can get smaller audiences at pub-based venues or local events; things like book clubs and arts festivals. I did lots of events like Skeptics in the Pub, Science Show-Off, Z List Dead List and others. They mostly don’t pay you but they cover your transport and (if needed) accommodation and it means that you can sell the idea of the book direct to potential subscribers. Give out postcards or flyers advertising your forthcoming book and asking them to pledge. Take a note of people’s email addresses and, a day or so later, thank them for coming along and remind them to pledge on the book. Make it easy for them by including a one click link to the website where the book is being funded. And yes, I know that times are tough and money is tight but light-heartedly reminding people that funding you to the tune of £20, say, is the same as ordering pizza or buying six venti lattes from a coffee shop — and the pleasure will last a lot longer!

No matter how I try to dress it up, I can’t lie to you — all that sales pitching does become a bit of a fag after a while. Things become soul-destroying slow, particularly during the Summer months, and you will hit plateaux where you can’t seem to get a single penny from anyone. It’s tough to stay motivated during these slumps; I know because I’ve been through them. But do persevere because, even though people are distracted by holidays or by having the kids at home for six weeks, your message is still drilling into their sub-consciousness and, when their situation changes, they may well chuck you a tenner or two.

Speak to other authors in the same boat as you and swap ideas. Cross-promote each other. If you’ve got any kind of link to someone popular — not necessarily famous but a prolific and much-loved Tweeter for example — work on getting them to promote your project. If things grind to a complete halt, take a step back and reconsider your selling points. Why should someone invest in your book? Why would you buy a copy? Work on developing hooks to reel people in with. Run competitions — sometimes you don’t even have to offer a prize if it’s fun enough. See if there’s something you can offer people in return and trade goodwill. Be creative. Be innovative. Have fun and make being involved in your book fun, even if the content is serious. Just keep going and don’t be disheartened.

Eventually, that magical day will come when the book is fully funded. In the case of Unbound, the ball then passes back to them and they then get on with all the things that publishers normally do: editing, designing, proofing, printing, distribution and marketing.

And before you know it, you’ll hold your book in your hands and beam proudly like a new parent.

I’ve crowd funded two books with Unbound now. And I’ve been able to say to my doubting friends, ‘You see? It works’. And because Unbound pays the author 50% of profits — the average for traditional publishing is closer to 10% — and I haven’t had to hand over a percentage to an agent, I get to keep more of my hard-earned cash. Most importantly, my books have got out there into the shops and onto online book shops, they’ve have had nothing but great reviews and have turned a modest profit. However, the very fact that it’s modest means that my books would probably never have been picked up by a traditional publisher. Crowd funding, in the current publishing climate, offers the jobbing non-celebrity writer with their best possible opportunity to get their words and ideas out there. And that’s why I’ve gone down that route.

Finally, it’s worth saying that, just because you have no agent and didn’t get picked up by some long-established publishing house, you can’t be successful. Major success comes to very few writers and there’s no way of predicting the next big thing. This very lack of predictability should mean that publishers trust their instincts and publish the best books that authors can write. However, in these money-obsessed times, profit drives the deals.

But, as they say about the Lottery, you have to be in it to win it and you have NO chance of success if your book isn’t out there. We’ve already mentioned the extraordinary success of Fifty Shades, but it’s not alone; other self-published and crowd funded books have done really well too. Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note was a Number One bestseller. Paul Kingsnorth’s brilliant The Wake was long-listed for the Mann Booker Prize in 2014 and went on to be voted The Bookseller Book of the Year. Both were crowd funded with Unbound.

And here are a few more success stories: In 1931, Irma Rombauer wrote The Joy of Cooking and her daughter used half of her life savings to pay a local printing company to print three thousand books. Over the years the book has sold over 18 million copies. John Grisham self-published his first novel, A Time To Kill, after 28 rejections. He published 5,000 copies through a small private publisher Wynwood Press. He went on to be published by Doubleday and had massive successes with books like The Firm and The Pelican Brief. James Redfield self-published his first novel, The Celestine Prophecy, in 1992, and sold the book out of the boot of his car. It was later acquired by Warner Books and has since sold over 20 million copies. Lisa Genova’s novel Still Alice was rejected several times so she decided to self-publish despite her agent advising her that it would kill her writing career. She got great reviews, upon which Simon & Schuster acquired the novel for a reported half-million dollars.

And let’s not forget Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit which she self-published in 1901 after a string of rejections. The popularity of the book made Frederick Warne and Co reconsider their rejection and they contracted her. Over two million Beatrix Potter books are sold each year.

There’s hope for us all.

Photo: Unsplash

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