Does diversifying your writing offer a book marketing advantage?

At the Triskele LitFest

At the Triskele LitFest

It’s generally accepted that it’s easier to market a series of novels than separate, stand-alone ones.

It’s also more fun to write as you can introduce more entanglements and conflicts across several books. 😉

But if you already write a novel series you can expand their reach further by offering stories of different lengths and in different formats within the same series, such as short stories, novellas and box sets.

Nine reasons why

Assuming that you’re writing or plan to write a series of novels, think about this…

  1. Writing in short, medium and long forms is very good for your writing muscles. It challenges you to use different techniques and be agile in applying them.
  2. You will not only satisfy your fans with different and new offerings…
  3. …you can also target new readers with enticements.
  4. You can offer good reading at different price points and of different lengths. People can be money and time-strapped and offering that variety gives them access to your work.
  5. A varied offering catches all kinds of readers: those who are voracious and those who go at a gentler pace. Some haven’t stopped reading since early childhood, others are hesitant or returning readers. Some like short and sharp, others full immersion or listening rather than reading.
  6. Carefully co-ordinated with covers and blurbs, each item reinforces your brand.
  7. More products on a table (virtual or real) reassures readers they are buying from a serious, professional author.
  8. You can give away one smaller book and still leave plenty in your range to sell through.
  9. It can be economical for you as an author – a box set only has to be compiled not written.

Case study: my Roma Nova thriller series

When I started writing my first novel of 98,000 words, INCEPTIO, I had no idea it would generate two more. When I was writing the third, I then realised I had to explore the story of the younger version of an important secondary character. That became three more books. I ended up with over half a million words in two trilogies. The stories had sprung from my heart and imagination; I didn’t write them to make money. However, I’d run small businesses at different times before becoming a writer and the entrepreneurial instinct hadn’t faded. These six books which gave me so much pleasure were also products.
The Carina trilogy

The Carina trilogy

I marketed INCEPTIO as a thriller featuring a female protagonist in a different, but modern Roman reality, but with many similarities to our timeline. Her story was one of self-empowerment – a strong theme. The second, PERFIDITAS, followed six months later as a sequel six years later. Nine months after that, I marketed SUCCESSIO as completing the trilogy and as revealing some of the secrets referred to in the first two books. All the novels stand by themselves, but I suggested (strongly) that reading all three would give the reader an enriching experience.

 

The Aurelia trilogy

The Aurelia trilogy

After the fourth book, AURELIA, came out, I risked marketing it as a historical as it was set in the 1960s. It worked; it became one of four finalists in the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award. Its two sequels, INSURRECTIO and RETALIO, covered the dark days in Roma Nova in the early to mid-1980s. Altogether, that second trilogy covered backstory to the first and revealed and reinforced events in the first, so could be cross-marketed as a prequel trilogy.

The first Roma Nova box set

Two Box Sets

As an experiment, I bundled the first three ebooks into a box set with the price at two-thirds of the individual books together.

Although a sensible decision as a marketing initiative, my fear was that it would cannibalise sales of the individual books. It did to some extent; in the first two months, the sales of the first three dropped by an averaged 50%, but income from box set sales more than made up for it. Now, they all make regular sales.

This has encouraged me to produce a second box set which will be out late November/early December to catch the pre-Christmas market.

Audiobooks

In 2016, Blake Friedman Literary Agency sold the first four books to Audible UK. Readers (Listeners?) tell me they listen on trains, at home and on holiday, but also switch between print books, ebooks and audio. And audio is reckoned to be the next biggest growth market…

Anthology story

Later that year, I was invited to contribute a Roma Novan story to 1066 Turned Upside Down, an collection of alternative outcomes of the 1066 Norman Conquest. I was known in the historical fiction community as an alternative history writer. They were all ‘proper’ medievalists, so the research was challenging. Writing short form dragged me out of my comfort zone, but it exposed my writing to a new audience. Result!

Novella

Carina coverIn the meantime, everybody seemed to be writing novellas, so I picked on an incident referred to but not described in my second book and turned it into a 35,000 story called CARINA, the character’s name. (I’d chosen that name for the heroine back in 2009 before Harlequin Mills & Boon used it as a brand!) That went out as a short, sharp read at £1.29/$1.49.

I admit that I wrote  CARINA to market, as an enticement, although I did enjoy writing it. At first an ebook released in 2017, I used my newly acquired Vellum publishing software to produce a paperback April this year. Why? Firstly, fans asked me, and secondly, it’s a perfect giveaway. The glossy cover and distinctive eagle branding are immediately obvious and I’m not ‘sacrificing’ my main books.

So… now in the series, we have six full-length novels, two trilogies, a contribution to an multi-author anthology and a novella. What was missing?

ROMA NOVA EXTRA paperback

Short Story Collection

Ah, yes, short stories. Heartened that I had got over the barrier of my short story reluctance with the 1066 Turned Upside Down contribution, I decided to put together a collection of moments and incidents outside the main stories.

Eight stories – four historical and four modern – they would be previously ‘hidden’ events, but still stories that could be read and enjoyed by new readers. Again, they would maybe draw in those new readers.

At 60,000 words, ROMA NOVA EXTRA has just gone out this month at £1.99/$2.99 (ebook). But I have not made the same mistake of delaying the paperback version; that just irritates fans. That’s available at £5.99.

In summary

To sum up in marketing-speak, “the supply of different and better goods allows for deeper fulfilment of consumption needs.”

In English, with variety, you are handing choice to the reader who is, of course, is the most important person in this whole scenario.

Based on a post written for the Alliance of Independent Authors’ blog

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Calm down, dear, it's only a novel!

Today I’m delighted to welcome writing friend Carol Cooper to the blog. She’s an author, family doctor, and medical journalist. After a string of health books, she turned to writing fiction. Her novel Hampstead Fever featured in a prestigious front-of-store promo in WH Smith travel bookstores. Carol lives in Hampstead and Cambridge and is working on further books.

Writers are always threatening to put people who’ve upset them in their next novel, but rarely do. Sometimes a coincidence is just that. But convincing people it’s not intentional? Over to Carol!

I’d always wanted to be an author, but my debut novel turned out to have unforeseen consequences.  As soon as One Night at the Jacaranda was out, people asked if they were in my book.

Some assumed they were and went straight for, “Which one am I?” One reader believes she’s the stunning but self-doubting lawyer, and half a dozen friends insist they’re Karen, the single mother of four.

As for the doctor I’ve called Geoff in my novels, my husband Jeremy remains convinced it’s him. This despite the fact that Jeremy isn’t a medic and has no discernible similarities with my fictional GP, though someone did once mistake his name for Geoffrey at a party.

The bottom line is that none of the many characters I’ve written is anyone I know. Novels are fiction, goddammit. Yet no matter how often I repeat this, or point out the dinky disclaimers at the front of my books, some people still expect to find themselves in there, at least in a cameo role.

But why would an author put real people in novels, when it might be deemed to infringe someone’s privacy, or bring the risk of libel suits? Libel is a false statement – presented as fact and concerning a person – that causes damage to their reputation. Pointing out that a novel is a work of fiction may not even be enough to keep an author out of court, I’m told, so I’m not chancing it.

The closest I’ve got to using a real person is in Hampstead Fever, where I have a Jeremy Paxman lookalike striding into the lobby of Broadcasting House one late night, while Dan, my fictional chef, waits to be allowed into the studio with the platter of fish he prepared earlier.

Book signing at Foyles

Signing books at Foyles

I admit it’s tempting to incorporate people I know, like one particularly memorable patient from some thirty years ago. “You should write a novel about general practice,” said my then tutor as I returned from yet another house call.

Nonetheless, it would be wrong to use Mrs X or another of the other quirky characters I’ve met since I trained as a family doctor. Writing patients into books isn’t just breaking medical confidentiality. It’s stomping on it in hobnail boots, throwing it on a bonfire, then scattering the ashes to the four winds.

Then there are colleagues past and present: devoted, brilliant, arrogant, eccentric, disillusioned, or just drunk.  No surprise I’ve included a doctor in both my novels to date, and there’s one in the next book too.  My Geoff is going through a mid-life crisis and wonders if he really does make people better.  I like to think he comes across as genuine.

All the same, he’s not based on any one person in particular.  And he’s definitely not you, even if you’re burnt out, divorced, and estranged from your only child.

It’s as if readers can’t believe that anyone can conceive a novel with a multiplicity of characters and viewpoints without recruiting real people.

But the truth is, authors have fertile imaginations. We can sit all alone at our desks all day and dream up not just a cast of motley characters but entire worlds. My novels are contemporary and the worlds I create tend to be rooted in the here and now. I’ve squeezed yet another upmarket eatery into Hampstead’s iconic Flask Walk, without so much as a whisper to the planning authorities. That doesn’t make Lolo’s restaurant, where chef Dan toils in Hampstead Fever, any more than a fantasy.

Hampstead Fever Facebook page

All novelists use elements of their own experience to lend authenticity, which is different. That’s why my dramatis personae includes a struggling freelance journalist, anxious new parents, a young man diagnosed with cancer, a single mother who rarely has energy for anything more strenuous than lifting a glass of cheap wine, and a dazzling actress who takes part in clinical scenarios to help medical students learn bedside manners.

Novels aren’t real, but they should, I believe, be relatable. It’s what makes readers smile in recognition and keep turning the pages.

Thank you, Carol. I couldn’t agree more! And I loved ‘One Night at the Jacaranda.’

What’s Hampstead Fever about?

In a sizzling hot summer, emotions reach boiling point.

The lives of six Londoners overlap and entangle as each of them searches for love, sex, money, or just a respite from squabbling children.

Set in Hampstead, North London, this slice of contemporary urban life will especially appeal to fans of the film Love, Actually.

Amazon     Kobo    Apple/iBooks    B&N Nook

 

 

Find out more and connect with Carol:
Blog: Pills & Pillow-Talk           Twitter: DrCarolCooper   Instagram: drcarolcooper
Website: drcarolcooper.com   Facebook author page: Carol Cooper’s London Novels

 

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA, INSURRECTIO and RETALIO. A Roma Nova novella, CARINA, is published 23 November 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter

Funny old business launching a book

First you have an idea, then you think it through, conjure up characters or sometimes try to stop them yammering at you, then you imagine a setting and stir all together into a really sticky problem. 

Several months later or sometimes a year later, out comes a typed manuscript. If you’ve chosen to go the indie publishing route, give up a social life, television and sleep. Now you enter the world of running a business or at the least managing a complex major project. Think ‘Grand Designs’. 

Commissioning a cover
Ah! First you need to think about what image you want to project, what brand to create for your work. What concept is behind your book? What image or idea will the cover convey?

Eight Roma Nova books

Eight Roma Nova books

The design will kill or make your book, so you need to be clear about these things. This is your chance to wander into bookshops and surf online book stores to see what is attractive in your genre and call it ‘work’. 

Next you will need to listen to your chosen cover designer who may want to do something different. The professional ones tend to know what sells and what doesn’t while still producing a creatively satisfying window into your work. But you will need to work with them, contributing without being insistent or protective. You will need good communications and an eagle eye to check each round of cover proofs. Oh, and you’ll need to work up some super-enticing back cover copy, and, if possible, some supportive endorsements.

Editing and proofreading
Realistically, schedule 4-6 weeks, depending on whether you have booked your editor in time. You will have self-edited anyway and sent out the manuscript to your critique partner, beta readers, street team or writing circle, before the final version goes to the professional (paid for) editor. I usually have three rounds before going to the copy editor. This takes time and concentration; none of it should be skimped. After the copy edit and revisions, your book is formatted and then comes proofing. By now, you are so fed up with the manuscript, you want to hide under the table, but no, you have to gather up your grit (as my heroine Carina says) and get on with it, meticulously. If you really, really can’t bear to face it, commission a professional proofreader.

Formatting 
Now your book is taking shape. You can use a formatter (human being) or risk uploading it as a Word document to a distributing retailer and let their software produce a file, or format it yourself with publishing software. Set aside time for this and for making cups of tea to refresh your patience. 

I use Vellum software which does all the hard work for you with a range of pre-set templates, but which you can (if you are fussy geek like me) tweak to produce all kinds of different effects.The beauty is that you can play with it before you buy. Although you can use the same Vellum file for ebook and print versions, I use separate  files as I like things in different order in the different formats.  I allow plenty of time for this stage, but I have to say, it always takes less time than I’ve budgeted for. 

Now you have to proof the files Vellum has generated before you upload them to distributors and retailers (see above).Your eyes will go into bulge and red-rim mode again and you may have to do corrections and last minute tweaks. When completely sure (and I never am, but time presses), order your print proofs.

Pre-launch stuff

Tony Riches' The Writing Desk blog

Tony Riches’ The Writing Desk blog

While you’re waiting for copy-edits or structural edits or beta readers and at least 4-6 weeks before publication date, you spend days at the email coalface contacting all the friends, fellow authors, bloggers and reviewers you know to ask for their help launching your treasure. You will have set up a spreadsheet, of course, to track it all to include name, email, website, what you agree on after a little negotiation (guest post, review, Q&A), date agreed, date drafted and date sent. 

When the post is published on that person’s blog, you then should tweet, post on Facebook or wherever and check back for comments, especially if you offer a giveaway of your book. And enter the URL in your spreadsheet so you can repost/retweet in a few weeks’ time without scurrying around the Internet.

Next, write those guest posts, and send them in with appropriate images at least a week before the due date. Nothing annoys bloggers more than receiving the material the day before!

Write posts on your own blog about research, motivation, character studies, and post short extracts. Set up tweets and posts, etc. in the week or two before publication date including little graphics sporting a ‘Pre-order now’ sticker. And if you have a spare moment (falls over laughing), set up tweets, etc. for publication day itself. 

The day or two before publication….
Get some sleep. You’ve done the heavy lifting for now. The odd tweet, a last minute blogpost, chatting in groups – these are all pleasures of the ‘lull’.

Publication day
And breathe…

You’ll post on all your social media that your book is out, chat to fans who bought your book on pre-order, perhaps host an online party and generally bask in congratulations. A glass of bubbly is completely allowable even at 10 a.m.

There are zillions of books and tons of advice about publication day events, so I won’t duplicate them here, but for indies, this is just the start. Your blog appearances are beginning, and you’ll need to keep up with those hosting websites. Reviews will come in and you’ll move onto he next phase of marketing.

What?

Post-launch marketing
This phase lasts years, possibly into infinity. ‘Long tail marketing’, or continuous marketing, is normal in the indie world as you control it. Your work is not sidelined after a few weeks to make way for the next author’s launch. You are the star of your own show. I still market my first trilogy, especially my first book, INCEPTIO; that’s five years old and it still attracts five star reviews from new readers. 

But you’re still going to have to keep up the hard work. Oh, and write the next book at the same time.

 

ROMA NOVA EXTRA paperback

ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short(-ish) stories ranging from 270 AD to 2019 is available now as an ebook on Amazon, B&N NookApple/iBooks and Kobo

The paperback a few days afterwards through your the usual bookshop and online stores.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is now available in print and ebook.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Five quick and dirty writing tips

Writing friend Keith Dixon asked me in one of those round robins on Facebook to share five writing tips, but without copying his (curses!).

After nine, soon to be ten, books you’d think it would be easy, but the problem is that over that time, I’ve gathered a jumble of writing dos and don’ts. It probably did me a lot of good to sit down and write down some of the essential ones! Here are my five:

1. Bash your story out. We know that editing, refining, honing, etc. are crucial for a good story, but you have to have something to work on. First drafts are always crap, to use a technical term, but give you an initial framework. And it can be fatal if you stop to edit as you go as you can easily lose the flow of your story. and it’s the story that always counts.

2. Research round your subject, period and environment but don’t get caught in research thrall. When you have a good general grasp of these three, start writing. You will inevitably need to look up specific things (how different is a Glock 17 from a Glock 26 and does it matter?) but just mark the place in your text with something (asterisks, emojis, different coloured text, whatever) and go back at the end of your writing session to fill these in.

3. Avoid long passages of description. Readers are not daft and half the pleasure of reading is forming your own picture in your mind of what the author is writing. The convention these days is to start right your story in the middle of the action – ‘in media res‘ if you want it in Latin. I have to confess that having to wade through a lot of verdant forest or dull city streetscape for two or three pages before anything starts or a character pops up does put me off a book these days.

4. Get your money’s worth out of your characters. I have a lot of characters, but none of them is there without a purpose and I often bring them back later in the story or in another story in the series. Doing this with secondary characters (e.g. Lurio, Flavius, Paula Servla in the Roma Nova series) reinforces interactions with the main ones, and the world they live in. As a reader, I love glimpses of such ‘old friends’.

5.Give your characters food, rest and a loo break. They need to wash themselves and their clothes, change shoes, put on a warm jacket. Readers like characters who, however clever or courageous, do stuff they do. Habits help define and reinforce characters and their emotional reactions; Aurelia reaches for French brandy, Carina for coffee or Castra Lucillan white wine, Conrad for whisky. But be very sparing; you can use these actions as beats, pauses or in place of dialogue tags. But no cups of tea every chapter, please.

So, do you have any favourite ‘quick ‘n’ dirty’ writing tips?

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA, INSURRECTIO and RETALIO. A Roma Nova novella, CARINA, is published 23 November 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.