Claire King

Claire King Edited Choices (10 of 10)

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Why we all need a First Follower

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by Claire - 4 Comments

I was recently reminded of this short (3 mins) TED talk on starting a movement, and it occurred to me how it’s a great analogy for the word of mouth that grows around a book.

So, when you publish a book, you are basically the dancing man. Out there on your own, enjoying the contents of your own head, wanting to share it with others, taking a risk.

But as Derek Sivers says, The First Follower is what transforms you from being a lone nut. You put it out there and then wait for that first person to stand up and dance with you. Maybe it’s a reviewer, maybe it’s a retailer, but more often than not it’s a reader who really loves your book and wants to tell the world about it. What’s important is they are also taking a risk, letting the world know that they’re part of your movement before they know if it’s going to take off or not. And *thank you* they start trying to get all their friends to join in too.

And you, the dancer, are hoping and praying that they will come and join in, but you can’t make them. You’ve done all you can with your funky dance. All you can do is welcome these people to the party graciously and with gratitude. And keep on dancing.

And very soon it’s not about you any more. You are just one more person in the crowd.

The perfect time to sneak off and write a new book.


On not being the most anticipated…

Posted on: December 29th, 2014 by admin - 13 Comments

I was reading my twitter feed this morning, which suddenly seemed to be flooded with links to articles listing the Most Anticipated Debut Novels of 2015! the 10 Authors to watch in 2015! and What’s going to be hot in 2015! and whilst I’m always happy to see authors being bigged-up and their books recognised and given a leg up in the sea of new releases, I couldn’t help but feel for the many debut authors who might be hoping to see their books on those lists and who are now feeling the pangs of disappointment because they are not.

I remember how, as a debut novelist in 2013, at the end of 2012 these lists were coming out and I came to the realisation that even though the launch of my first novel was MY most hotly anticipated moment in 2013, I wasn’t going to be making much of a splash in literary circles. At least not in that way.

I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years, and I made a comment on twitter to the novelists not on the lists about how it doesn’t really matter at all…and ended up having a lovely (backstage) chat with author Sarah Perry, whose debut novel After Me Comes the Flood was published this year (to much critical acclaim, by the way).

The thing is, MOST new authors go through this. MOST of us are not the most anticipated. But if your pool of debut authors is limited to you and the ones everyone is shouting about on twitter and in the newspapers it’s very easy to feel like the poor relation. It’s very easy to have your perspective skewed and your excitement diminished by things that, quite frankly, don’t really affect you that much at all.

Other people, family and friends, may unwittingly add to this feeling, because they are excited for you and they too don’t see how your book is, in fact, a drop in an ocean. Hopefully you are able to have an honest conversation with your agent and your publishers, because they have done this all before with other debuts before you, and are face to face on a daily basis with the vagaries and the difficulties of the publishing industry.

In 2013 I was lucky enough to have other authors to talk to, like Vanessa Gebbie whose debut The Coward’s Tale had been launched the year before mine, and Kate Worsley whose debut She Rises launched the same time The Night Rainbow did, also with Bloomsbury. But you’ll still need to find a way to manage this yourself.

I was going to say you can’t compare yourself to other people, or compare your book to other books, but of course you can and you probably will, in all these ways and more:

World of buzzwords

The list goes on and on and on and you can let it drive you crazy. In fact you probably have to take a conscious decision *not* to let it drive you crazy, not to diminish the pure unbridled joy of signing that book contract a year or two before (I can hear all the unpublished writers out there yelling, “Seriously? You got published! Be grateful!”).

In the end – in publishing just as in life – the noise and the superlatives and the LISTS and the rankings, they detract from what is important. From what is important to YOU.

Do you really care if you didn’t make a top ten list? Does that spoil it for you? (Because it’s not necessarily an indication of how well your book is going to sell, you know?) Does it truly matter to you if someone else’s book has more buzz around it than yours, or more marketing budget? Would those things have mattered to you when you were pitching your novel for publication? Have your publishers let you down? Have you let yourself down? Has Lady Luck let you down? Or is it, in the end, just buzz and fluff that can be the icing on the cake for those who get on the lists and win the prizes? It’s not as if you still don’t have the cake itself.

For all the debut novelists of 2015, I have three pieces of advice:

1)  Don’t lose perspective of where you are, what you have achieved, the dreams that you have brought to life.

2) Keep on hoping, but focus on the things you can affect: Writing the next book. Reading other people’s books. Improving your work.

3) Talk to other people. Talk to other authors about their experiences, because all of this is the tip of the publishing iceberg and after all this launch business dies down, what you are left with is this – you’re a writer, and somewhere, some readers are already anticipating your next book. You need to sit down and write it.

Happy New Year to you all, and may 2015 be wonderful for you in a myriad of unexpected ways. xxx

We Need to Talk about Amazon

Posted on: November 27th, 2013 by Claire - 15 Comments

While my first year being a published author has been going great guns in the UK, things have got off to a fairly quiet start in the USA.

That’s pretty much par for the course for a debut British novel, I’m told, and The Night Rainbow hasn’t done too badly. Considering there was no ‘launch campaign’ as such, around release time in April there was some great coverage in book shops, and I’ve had a modest royalty cheque, so hurray!

Then this week, chose The Night Rainbow for their Kindle Daily Deal. I don’t know how that works, but I am thrilled they did.

As a rule I don’t follow my rankings on Amazon, because

  • a) Frankly, I can’t actually affect them.
  • b) The numbers swing wildly about and it’s pretty unfathomable how they relate to actual books sold.
  • c) They change every hour. Can you imagine how distracting that would be to a writer if you let it?

But yesterday I made an exception, because I was interested in how the promotion – which saw the ebook price fall from around €9 to $2.99 for 24 hours – would go. Looking over the months since launch, sales on Amazon of both the printed and the e-book appear to have been close to non-existent. Yesterday my sales ranking in the Kindle Store shot up by 954,681%  (apparently*). From roughly #250,000 to #25 in the paid kindle store. That’s pretty close to the top of the list.

And at the end of the day I got to see this, which although a fleeting phenomenon, is no less exciting and, most importantly, gets The Night Rainbow noticed by readers who otherwise wouldn’t have ever come across it:

2013-11-27 at 08.40.53

Amazon USA Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #2

And also this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 16.42.31

Amazon Canada Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #6

I don’t know what my sales were for the day exactly (they certainly didn’t increase by a million percent) but they did shoot up quite remarkably and continued for a while after the Deal had finished, when the ebook was back to full price.

The Daily Deal was November 26th 2013, so if you’re interested in seeing how the ebook is ranking now, click here.

I also followed the ‘noise’ around the promotion. And it’s not just Amazon who market it. They publicise the deal onsite and send out emails to Kindle users, but I also noticed that on twitter and on the web in general there are lots of accounts set up to catch these deals and shout them out to their followers and readers, magnifying the effect. *It was one of those accounts that tweeting the amazing 954,681% leap in ranking. It’s a machine that works very effectively.

So far so good. Has anyone got to this point yet without screaming,

  • “Yes! But it’s AMAZON!”
  • “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Franzen etc”,
  • “Bookshops closing!”
  • “Death by ebook!”

Or something similar?

Well, yes. So to the thorny question of Amazon. As a reader, I’m a bookshop girl. I love bookshops. I love choosing books in bookshops and chatting to people who work there. As an author I also love bookshops. I love the warm welcome you get from the dedicated, passionate independent booksellers and from their customers, who they often know by name.

But Amazon have about a 30% market share of books in the USA. Many people now go straight to Amazon when they want to buy a book, and an even greater percentage when they want to buy an ebook. And obviously book shops don’t sell ebooks for Kindle (although Amazon are offering them the chance, which is a whole other debate).

Some people do prefer reading books electronically and the people that took a chance on my book yesterday because of a promotional price point and a big shout out from Amazon are not people who would have bought a paper copy from a book shop. Otherwise they’d have done it sometime in the last 7 months, I’d have thought. They are, however, people who will read it, hopefully be delighted by it, and hopefully tell that to other people.

Sometimes, as authors, it’s suggested that when we ‘self-promote’ we should limit that to encouraging people to go to bookshops. When the question of Amazon, or indeed supermarkets, comes up, even if they’ve helped market and sell actual quantities of our work, we are expected to hum and ha and shuffle our feet nervously. I did tweet several times yesterday to let people know about the offer. And every time I did, I must admit I felt worried that people might judge me for inadvertently ‘supporting’ Amazon.

But in the end, is it we authors who are responsible for the struggles that bookshops face? I don’t think so. Most authors I know would happily do signings at bookshops, support library reading groups etc., even if they find public appearances rather painful (the authors not the reading groups).

Nor are we responsible for where readers choose to shop. We have excruciatingly little influence, quite frankly, over who buys our book and from where. We can tweet our little hearts out, but unless we seriously set about a time-consuming social media campaign, it’s just not our call. The greatest influence we have is in the quality of our writing.

So, if a retailer stocks our books and readers buy them, enabling us to feed our kids and write more books, then we are happy. And if we can give that income a little boost along the way, then generally we will, as best we can.

Yesterday’s Amazon promotion was a great opportunity to boost awareness of The Night Rainbow in the USA and Canada. It’s the kind of novel that thrives on word of mouth recommendations, and as many authors can tell you, it can be frustratingly difficult to kick those off.

I hope the people who picked up the e-book for $2.99 yesterday will love it, and that they’ll consider giving it as a gift (wherever they choose to buy it) or just tell others what they thought.

And also that they will want to buy the next book. Speaking of which I’m off to finish it. Hopefully there’ll be news on that soon.


Since posting this a couple of good articles have shown up on this topic, so links are here:

New York Times tongue in cheek, what Amazon is to a modern author 

New online retailer opens up in UK to offer online alternative to Amazon (The Bookseller)



Paperback Launch and Marketing!

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 by admin - 10 Comments

It’s paperback publication day for The Night Rainbow. I didn’t think I could possibly be as excited as I was in February when the book launched in hardback, but I really am!

Before I forget I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Bloomsbury who has been working hard on the paperback launch – updating the cover, planning the PR and marketing campaigns (of which more in a second), championing the book so enthusiastically with retailers and basically just crossing their fingers and being so lovely and encouraging to me.

The Night Rainbow Paperback

So, the paperback is out today – a nice small supple book at a lower price than the hardback edition. Perfect for summer holidays, reading in bed etc. There are a lot of exciting things happening, but what is *VERY EXCITING* for me in particular is that there is a marketing campaign running for The Night Rainbow paperback launch, which should get it noticed by more people and help get them into book shops to buy it.

As a debut novelist, having a marketing campaign was thrilling news that I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it all happened quite recently. Thanks to the hard work of Bloomsbury’s sales team, they won really strong advance orders and enthusiasm for the paperback from retailers, including The Night Rainbow being the August Book Club pick at Sainsbury’s; being selected for Tesco’s new New Talent slot; being promoted in WH Smiths high street, train station and airport stores.   I know already there are plenty of amazing independent book shops stocking it and Waterstones too.  So do pop into your local shop – there should be paperbacks aplenty. And of course ebooks are available in all the usual places.

Here are a few places you might spot Pea this summer:

  • At railway stations: There is a huge poster going up around London and South-East England. Here are a few examples. If you keep your eyes peeled over the next few days and send in photos, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy. Follow @BloomsburyBooks and #NightRainbow on twitter for more details, and find Bloomsbury Publishing UK on Facebook.
  • On The Daily Mail online – Takeover of the Books page, it’s worth a look! (I think you can only see this wondrous juxtaposition if you’re in the UK)
  • On Mumsnet  – the giveaway is closed now, but the discussion thread is open. Hopefully spoiler free!
  • At The Reading Agency where reading groups could win copies to review.

I took the opportunity to ask Tess Viljoen, who has been responsible at Bloomsbury for the marketing around The Night Rainbow, including this beautiful book trailer to answer a couple of questions about marketing books in general.

1) Would you say it’s true that publishers expect authors to ‘market’ themselves and their books now more than ever? What does this mean in reality?

The shift towards social media has, brilliantly, put fans directly in touch with the authors they love. It’s a powerful way of communicating with readers and exciting for everyone involved. The downside of this, given it would be disingenuous for a publisher to try and impersonate an author online by running a social media stream on their behalf, is it has shifted that responsibility back on to authors. Social media can be very rewarding but it can also be immensely time consuming and doesn’t appeal to all authors. At Bloomsbury we encourage our authors to have a go, and support them as much as we can from our social media platforms but ultimately, it’s up them if they feel it is a medium they can work in.

2) When I worked in consumer goods marketing (years ago!) there was a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ situation with smaller brands, whereby advertising support was minimal or non-existent until (hopefully) word of mouth took off. This also meant it was harder to get those products stocked in shops and positioned well. Does this apply also in publishing/book retailing? If so what factors help get the ball rolling?

The percentage of books that receive advertising spend is in fact very small and so the majority of books are sold into bookstores without that support which makes it a much more level playing field. We have sales reps that go into bookshops around the country and pitch our titles directly to the booksellers and with word-of-mouth still being the most powerful form of recommendation this gives our books a strong chance to being taken by a bookseller and in turn, recommended to their customers.

3) What is more important in book marketing, the author or the book?

They are entirely inextricable. Obviously an author who is happy to do events, to be active on social media and be widely available for publicity is a strong asset for a book, but we regularly work with authors from foreign countries who for all sorts of reason cannot give us their time or physical presence and we have found ways of working around this and still build strong marketing and publicity campaigns.

Thanks, Tess!

For more information around paperback launches specifically, see this post  for an interview with Trâm Anh Doan, my paperback editor at Bloomsbury, when I talked to her about the launch last year of another Bloomsbury novel, The Cowards Tale.


£1000 to spend at Writers Mart today! Kerching!

Posted on: December 4th, 2011 by Claire - 25 Comments

Here’s how it works. Imagine you have £1000 / €1000 (US $1500 or thereabouts), and you have to spend it on your book. The aim is to get your book to market, and make as much money as you can out of it. Here’s a selection of products available to you in Writers Mart:


Money tunnel


1. Make your Writing Better! Is your work even ready to be presented to agents and publishers?

– Get a professional critique of your work. For a full length novel expect to spend between £500 and the whole £1000. Here’s a good article on critiques. You could spend less than that of course, but is a critique of the first three chapters going to help you if something is broken in your plotting or character arc, for example?

– Go on creative writing courses, such as Arvon Courses. Most people have heard of these. A week working on your novel will cost you around £625 plus travel. For me That’s £750, for you maybe £650.

– Try a Writing Festival. Get workshops on writing and sessions with agents and publishers. Expect to spend about £350 -500 for a weekend, including your accommodation, meals, talks etc.

Writing Mentors  – pay for the services of a published and experienced author to coach you and help edit your work. You could easily spend the whole £1000 here, buying around 4 hours of mentoring from top authors through to quite a lot more time with cheaper outfits.

– Take out  a subscription to a writing magazine, such as Writers’ Forum or Writing Magazine, for a steady flow of hints and tips. Or  else literary journals such as Mslexia, Granta etc. £30 a pop.

– Read more contemporary books. Learn from other successful writers in your genre. Buy a big pile of books to read. £100 for enough to keep you going.

– Try something like the Faber & Faber Academy. A three day course on bringing your book to market –  like this one with Ben Johncock and Catherine Ryan Howard costs £425 plus travel and accommodation.

– Practice writing. This costs nothing. But if you’re struggling for time, treat yourself to a weekend writing retreat for £250/£400 plus travel like the one I did in September. Or a week long retreat somewhere like Anam Cara, with or without workshops.

– Get your book copy edited before you submit. Expect to pay in the region of £750.

– Get writing advice free online. If you don’t know where to look, network with writers and publishing professionals on Twitter. Also free.


1b. Blame your Tools!

– Scrivener £30 ish

– A new computer, or an old classic typewriter £500

– A better printer £200

– Moleskine notebooks, for the authentic author longhand experience. £7-10 each


2. Is your book astonishingly good? Make your Submissions Better!

– Writers & Artists Yearbook, for the tailoring of submissions. £16.99

– Pay for help with your synopsis. £150 – 200

– Use fancy stationery and include chocolates personalised with the literary agent’s initials and date of birth. £250.

Just kidding


3. Is your book excellent and your submissions splendid? Raise your profile as a credible writer, boost your CV. 

– Raise your profile by winning competitions or submitting to radio programmes like BBC Radio 4 . Competition entry fees in the £5-£15 range.  Consider The Bristol Short Story Prize, Fish, Sean O’Faolain, Bridport, Willesden Herald, Manchester…there are so many! And if you win, they actually give YOU money!


4. Self Publishing!

– Design the cover £200 – £700

– Interior design & layout £750

– Also see costs of editing, above.


5. Your book is with a publisher, or self-published. Get those sales up! Marketing!

– Get a blog up and running. £75 for your domain name and hosting, then it’s just your time.

– Get people who have read it to review it on Amazon. Very valuable. Costs nothing.

– Look the part. Get an author photo professionally done. £500

– Advertise. Facebook lets you pay per click. Meet the Author charges £400

– I also heard recently of an offer where you could have your work featured somewhere on a writing competition’s website, with claims that it will provide ‘visibility’ to agents and publishers (though no footfall data, or qualitative data about the site readership was available at the time of writing). Cost £995 for a year.



The above are all just ways in which you could spend your money. I’m not endorsing them, just showing you the opportunities to spend your cash! Also all prices are approximate. I’d be interested in which ones you would endorse though, and any feedback on costs. Please tell us in the comments.

I would also like to apologise for the profusion of exclamation marks. It’s not really my style, it’s more a nod to the “Get Published Now!” sales pitches we see so often, offering to take our £1000 in return for a few months of deliciously raised hopes and then an opportunity to spend the same amount again, and more, on what is essentially vanity publishing. Look at some of the cheaper – and free – options above and weigh up the relative benefits before spending lots of money, I suggest.

Remember Yog’s law – “Money should always flow towards the writer.”


Tick Followed Tock

Posted on: February 3rd, 2011 by Claire - 28 Comments

I’ve had a few conversations this month with Indie Authors who are baffled by my willingness to sign up for a 2013 (yes, a full two years away) launch of my debut novel.

The main question is “Why Wait?” –  Not why I decided to stop approaching other publishers (who may have offered a 2012 launch) when I got the offer from Bloomsbury, but why, in this day and age, I could wait so long. If I had chosen the Indie Author route, I could have my work out there, being read by others and making money (hopefully) six months from now.

That is a really good question, but first, this:

For me, making the decision to wait is a mix of heart and mind. The heart part is easier to explain because the rational part of the decision still offers more questions than answers. Here are some of the questions that concern me, as an author, and which have guided my decision:

  • The number of books being published is increasing rapidly, but what is happening to the number of books being purchased or read? Is it keeping pace?
  • If not, does supply vastly outstripping demand mean a strong downward pressure on prices and if so is this across all books, or does it depend on how they are published?
  • In this context, what is the best way to get a literary novel to market, to ensure the widest readership and the most royalties? Is this different to genre fiction?
  • What are my aspirations as a writer?
  • Can I do this alone? Do I have enough money, do I have enough experience?

I’d also really like to point you to this excellent article here, about literary fiction, advances and e-books.

Is there a right answer or is it horses for courses? I’d love to hear your points of view on this.

Writing what we love

Posted on: August 26th, 2010 by Claire - 5 Comments

I got some great food for thought from a writer friend this week.

This friend, a very successful author, has written in a couple of genres under two different names. The second of these genres, which at the time had just been a sort of side project, was the one that his publisher jumped on and said “Yes, yes! Write this, lots of this. This will sell books. Lovely.”

Imagine if you wrote, for example, science fiction, and suddenly you were handed a three book contract for historical fiction. On the one hand it’s all very well, but on the other hand, if it’s not really where your literary heart lies, can you spend the next three years writing historical without getting some sort of personality disorder?

Do you write what you love and accept it may never get published or read? Or do you snatch off the hand of the publisher for your three book contract and write what they want instead? Both, as it happens.

Geoff might have had to cross the ocean, but he did it his way.

Yes, my friend obviously wanted to be published, make a living and so on. But like most of us, he writes because he loves it. So he found a way to write the books the publisher was asking for, but in a way that he was still honest to himself as a writer.

What he told me was that even if the genre is set for you, it is the author, ultimately, who creates the characters. It is the author who throws conflicts at them and tests them time and time again until the resolution of the story. The characters and the themes are still yours. You can have your wicked way with them. You can, effectively, have your cake and eat it.

It doesn’t mean that the itch is gone for writing what your heart wants to write. On the side my friend continued writing novels in his preferred genre, in which he enjoyed past success but with no current publisher interest. He has a nice stack of unpublished novels. What now for those? That is another story.

Language is a funny thing

Posted on: August 17th, 2010 by Claire - 6 Comments

We found this in the market today.

We’re looking forward to drinking it.