Publicising Your Work


2015-04-20 13.01.14

When you’ve sold a book, your publishing house will traditionally appoint a PR for you. Sometimes they’re terrific, sometimes they’re overworked looking after a bigger author and you don’t see them. When I first started you used to have a meeting to discuss your publicity campaign. Looking back, this seems like a fantastical thing to have done. Press ads, radio and TV spots even? Wow! Of course, that was pre-internet, but at the very least we always did posters and arranged a book tour. These days it’s very unlikely you’ll tour with a fiction book, and I’ve watched as press coverage has dwindled to almost nothing.

In the US, where many older practices still survive, it’s perhaps an option – but only for the really big sellers. We now know that 1% of all UK writers earn 45% of all UK revenue, leaving the rest to earn an average of £7,000 each, a figure that drops year on year. As a crime novel reviewer I earned £60 a review and did two reviews per month (all we had space for) covering books culled from a stack of twenty per month, from which I had to skim and fully read two. I did it for the kudos, and gave it up last year.

But as an author there’s something you can do. Blog tours are now replacing physical tours and are much more fun. You handle Q&As and interviews from your laptop, and meet a wider range of readers. It goes without saying that you need social media, although when I first set up this site I planned to only talk about books – but who needs to log onto an author who’s only going to trying and flog their wares at you?

When I was a kid there was a TV show in which Jimmy Hanley ran a store and talked you through lots of products in a vaguely soap-operish format, rather like Alison Grey’s Buy-Lines in the Reader’s Digest – can you imagine who would watch or read that now? We live in a world in which video games get interrupted by ads every three minutes, so I wanted a site which would genuinely engage readers – chatty but not dumbed-down. I really only back this site up with Twitter (which I use for directing readers to interesting articles) and Facebook (for more personal photos I’ve taken). That’s quite enough sharing.

If I could – and I thought readers would like it – I’d post regular short stories, either in sections or as whole tales you could print out. Changing technology means that I only have about 5% of my output digitised, but once I have all the files later in the year I will do this if there’s any interest. And there’s the paradox; I think reading should be for all regardless of wages, but I can’t simply write for free. However, as a writer I think some generosity goes a long way, and tend to avoid writers who tell me they never do anything for free. That attitude is behind the non-appearance of quite a few authors online.

Well, times have changed, and online is now the best way of engaging minds. Although I do still ‘liberate’ books on trains and park benches, because the pleasure of finding a book you’d like to read is immeasurable! (I left a book on a bench here just yesterday.)

5 comments on “Publicising Your Work”

  1. Mish says:

    Your generosity in sharing short stories would be very much appreciated!
    I wonder if there is some way we could help compensate you. (My brain is on strike at the moment so I don’t have ideas on compensation. Hopefully others will have some good ones.)

  2. Helen Martin says:

    We would quite happily pay for the download. That’s only fair. Advertising is one thing, handing out for free is quite another.
    This, by the way, is the most engaging author blog I’ve met – well, there’s one other pretty good one in another country that I know of – and we certainly have got everything you could hope for from this spot.

  3. Matthew Davis says:

    For years Joe Lansdale, another good crime and horror writer with an output to match Mr Fowler’s, has posted a free story on his website every week which replaces the previous week’s – short shorts, novellas, award winners, earliest works. There’s no accumulating log, website visitors only get to read whatever’s been posted that week.

    At the same time he updates his website weekly to inform readers as to his next projects, imminent publication dates, contributions to forthcoming anthologies, adaptations, dates of public appearances, etc.

    It’s not the only model, but it appears to work for Lansdale.

  4. Ness says:

    The answer is obvious – set up a crowd source campaign to support a literary genius today. It’s the modern equivalent of the ‘starving authors dying of consumption in drafty garrets benevolent fund’ and every subscription includes a snazzy t-shirt (Keep calm and write?)

    Alternatively, see if Sir Bob Geldof is bored this week and would like to sponsor some British authors to help break the poverty cycle. It’s a real shame we don’t value the arts – the inhumanity of the humanities. I wouldn’t mind paying an annual subscription to your good self in return for words that challenge me, make me laugh, remind me of the absurdities of life and inspire me to visit places in London, but then Australians are notorious illegal downloaders and avoiders of pay firewalls so I may get thrown out of the country for suggesting such a thing. And I still haven’t seen a copy of Dallas Buyer’s Club…

  5. Steve2 says:

    Hiya, have you looked at Patreon? As I understand it, the idea is that fans make regular micropayments to creators to help support them as they release work on a regular basis. I’ve seen it work on some successful webcomics, looking at the site there are some writers.

    For me, ideas like this are the way forward, rather like Dickens’ Little Dorrit was originally serialised in the 1850s and then released as a collected book. It might give you a chance to develop a your relationship with readers further and make you less dependent on publishers in the long run.

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