Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hoping for publication? Get selling! by Marsali Taylor

copyright 2012 Marsali Taylor

As an aspiring writer, you're focused on getting an agent. Beyond that isn't your problem - your agent will find a publisher, who'll advertise and sell your book, then send you a cheque, so you can you stay at your desk doing the writing you love - right?

Wrong! I soon discovered that selling myself, twenty-first century style, is crucial - and when you too get your agent and publisher, they'll expect it.

Start right now, being organised. I am ... yet I still find myself flicking through files to find something I know I stored here - or if not here, then in one of these folders. Label files and photos clearly, including a date. Open a mailbox for your agent, and another for your publisher, and file everything as soon as you've answered it. Open a folder for each of them, and store copies of everything you send. You'll be glad, when editions 1 - 23 of your masterwork are flying back and forward.

Another thing you can do now is get a professional mugshot of yourself, with permission to use it from the photographer. I was lucky there; a local photographer was doing an exhibition '100 Shetland Women', with photos like Elizabethan portraits, the person surrounded by what was important to them. I posed aboard my beloved yacht, and the 'thank you' was 5 star-quality shots. He's happy for me to use these for author publicity, suitably credited.

Next, sharpen up your approach to presenting yourself as a writer. Attica Press, my publisher, set me up a session with their creative writing consultant, Beth Barany - on a transatlantic conference call, how cool is that! - and here are two of her ideas. Create a one word sentence with a short answer to the question, 'So what do you write?' I write crime novels that let routine-weary city dwellers enjoy solving puzzles in Shetland, Scotland, where everyone’s a neighbour, and the sea’s a highroad to adventure. Learn it, practise saying it until you stop feeling self-conscious, use it as a signature on your e-mails. Write short biographies: 25, 50, 75 and 100 words. I've had regular requests for these, and you can use them for the 'about' section on websites.

Most importantly, how can you use who you are to sell your books? My detective novel, DEATH ON A LONGSHIP, is set in Shetland, and has a sailing narrator, so there were three selling points right away - the Viking connection, Shetland, sailing. Like my heroine, Cass, I'm a keen sailor, with a few hair-raising adventures in the past, like sailing to Norway in a 32 foot yacht in a flying gale ... We share our Shetland background, this sea-indented archipelago half-way between Scotland and Norway, this country life where everyone knows everyone else, and I'm involved in drama, ponies, and tourist guiding. Plenty of 'copy' there!

Attica Press recommended Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest as good sites to begin with. I didn't have a Facebook account, so setting one up was the next step. My Facebook friends circle is like a Shetland-west gossip group, including the minister's wife, the postman and several of my teaching colleagues, so I wasn't very surprised that our kittens got far more likes than I did ... but I've also created a public-access Author page, and that's where I can post anything to do with my new literary career. Of course the stunning cover of DEATH ON A LONGSHIP went up, along with the launch date, but I also put a video of the long-eared owl who chose to grace the garden on the night of our World Book Day party, brief accounts of our writer group meetings, an announcement of the DEATH ON A LONGSHIP launch, as well as things to do with the book's Shetland setting - a video of me sailing Karima, and photos of our Shetland ponies ... anything that might attract readers to the world of the book.

Goodreads is a book reviewing site. It links to Facebook, so my reviews appear on my Facebook page too. Goodreads also creates you an author's page, and there I am, along with a thumbnail of the cover of DEATH ON A LONGSHIP. I'm so looking forward to my first reader reactions. I've also created an author page on Amazon.

Pinterest doesn't have such an obvious connection with writing, but again you're trying to sell the world of your book, without obvious advertising. Some authors use it as a storyboard; warning, if you do this, put up your final picture first, and work backwards. I've gone for a Shetland approach: every week or so I upload another couple of shots showing the changing seasons here, and those photos also appear on my Facebook page.

Attica didn't want to scare me by asking too much too fast, but they did emphasise that a website is crucial. Again, I was lucky here - my husband actually likes computers, and he's happily building my website. First, though, I had to do a 'map' of the site: the categories on the home page, and what was to go in each sub-page. Then I had to supply the text: a list of what I'd written, with web links - a short blurb of each book - descriptions of my principal characters, Cass Lynch and DI Gavin Macrae - and lots of photos. I'd been thinking about this as I'd worked on my Pinterest page, so I already had a folder. I just had to add captions like: busta.jpeg Busta House, once owned by the richest merchant in Shetland. Now it's a hotel, and the film stars and crew stayed there in DEATH ON A LONGSHIP.

Finally, my blog tour was organised by Carissa Weintraub. This was a totally new world. I'd only ever come across one book blog - I know the blogger's parents! - so I had a lot of homework reading to do. Then, when Carissa gave me my blog list, a lot of writing: nearly twenty short articles to be written in the next month. Luckily, as a magazine journalist, I'm used to deadlines, and the topics I've been given are inspiring and interesting.

So, the next time inspiration fails you, or it's within half an hour of lunch (always a dead time for me) then do some of this other stuff. Try writing short blurbs for your book, or a 25-word bio. Join sites that will help you publicise your book when your time comes, and read some blog sites ... but then, if you're reading this, you're probably a lot more computer-savvy than I was three months ago. Maybe you're already a social media success. Me, I had to be dragged into the twenty-first century - and you know what? I'm loving it!

Death on a Longship

When she talks her way into a job skippering a Viking longship for a Hollywood film, Cass Lynch thinks her big break has finally arrived - even though it means returning home to the Shetland Islands, a place she hasn't set foot on since she ran away as a teenager to pursue her dreams of sailing. When a dead woman turns up on the boat’s deck, Cass, her past and her family come under suspicion from the disturbingly shrewd Detective Inspector Macrae.

Cass must call on all her local knowledge of Shetland, the wisdom gained from years of sailing, and her glamorous, French opera singer mother to clear herself and her family of suspicion - and to catch the killer before Cass becomes the next victim.

Giveaway Info
Marsali is giving away THREE prizes; a copy of Death on a Longship at each blog stop on her tour, a 1st place grand prize giveaway at the end of the tour of some silver Viking-inspired jewelry from the Shetland Islands, and a 2nd place $15 Amazon gift card. 

1)    To win a book: leave a comment on this blog post to be entered to win a book (open internationally for ebook or the US, UK, and Canada for a print book). Be sure to leave your email address in the comments so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. This giveaway ends five days after the post goes live.

2)    To win Viking-inspired Jewelry OR a $15 Amazon gift card: Click the link to go to the contest’s website and enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post. A first and second place lucky winner will be selected on October 1st. First place person gets to choose which grand prize he/she wants. The second place person gets the remaining grand prize. Open to every country. 


Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland’s scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland’s distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  


Kim Smith said...

How wonderful to have you here on our blog today! Thank you for sharing such great insight to the life of a published author too. Good luck, Marsali!

jack welling said...

Thanks so much for this bit of insight. I just found this blog and your entry is very much appreciated as I try to transition from "writer in the dark" to "author."

I'm meeting some folks on Wednesday who will indeed ask "what do you write ?" and without your post I would have been under-prepared. [ uh ..I write about murder and stuff sometimes ...uh ].

I'm content and not marketing. Of course, this post has shocked me into "I'm the brand, package, and content." I don't know why I don't like to think of writing as a business. It certainly is, if I want to publish.