Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Faux Pas or How To make Yourself Unpopular In A Few Easy Steps By Helen Hollick

Today, I have Helen Hollick, one of the kindest authors on the planet, sitting round my pool talking about, the faux pas or how to make yourself unpopular in a few easy steps or, in other words, how an author should not do things… So please help yourself to a glass of bubbly and make yourself comfortable and enjoy meeting my lovely guest.

I’ve been writing professionally for over twenty-six years, so there’s a lot of mileage behind my novels (and three non-fiction books). I started out in 1993 with the first part of my Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy (The Kingmaking). Back then, the Internet was still barely used, emails were rare and Social Media had yet to be invented. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., the first mass-used site was MySpace (anyone remember that?)
Add to that, there was no Amazon! (I know, incredible isn’t it?)

So when The Kingmaking was launched I had to rely on the publisher’s marketing department. Alas, for book two (Pendragon’s Banner) and book three (Shadow of the King) the efforts by this department was abysmal. The trilogy didn’t sell well. Bookshops were not interested because there was no interest in books that no one knew about. My fourth novel, Harold the King did better – because I had a few weeks of good marketing by an enthusiastic young lady. The next book flopped: it received no marketing at all. Soon after, I was dropped.

Determined not to be beaten I republished as an ‘indie’ writer. I also produced my nautical pirate adventures, the Sea Witch Voyages. (Which have now been picked up by a US traditional publisher.)

The one big lesson I learnt is for your books to do well you have to do your own marketing. That means tactfully shoving yourself to the fore so that avid readers know you – and your books – are ‘out there’. Make full and effective use of Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs… You don’t like these things? Fine, you do not have to use them - but don’t expect to sell many books. You’ll not do very well, either, if you become an overkill bore. Constant Tweets or mentions here, there and everywhere of ‘Read my book’, ‘buy my book’, ‘ look at this wonderful review about my book’ etc will lose you followers and potentially interested readers faster than Alan Sugar can sack someone from The Apprentice.

Instead, make yourself interesting: write articles about things (other books, events, history… steer clear of politics and religion, though.)  Comment as much as you can (nicely) on other author’s blog articles  Take an interest in others, and others will take an interest in you.

Reviews: good reviews (and this includes 4 star comments on Amazon, Goodreads and such) are useful, particularly if your book collects one of the prestigious ‘stamps of approval’ from sites like Pauline’s Chill With A Book, Indie BRAG and my own Discovering Diamonds. But don’t twist the arms of your friends and family to leave glowing 5 star reviews on Amazon: they can be easily spotted as ‘put up jobs’. Genuine 4 stars mean much more than slightly dodgy 5s. (Of course, genuine 5 stars mean even more!)

What if a review is less than glowing? The old saying ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’ is the answer to that one. Smile, if appropriate say a polite thank you and move on. Sh*t happens.

Ah, but what if the reviewer has made some errors? Spelt the lead character’s name wrong, for instance, or put the book as romance when it is actually a thriller? Simple: politely email whoever posted the review, say thank you and ask politely (yes, I used the word twice, deliberately) ‘is it possible to correct a couple of errors that have slipped in? I would be so grateful.’ As far as my own Discovering Diamonds is concerned, yes, I and my team do get things wrong, but I am more than happy to correct inadvertent mix-ups – providing the author is courteous and polite. A rude rant directed at me will, I guarantee, get a result… the review will be deleted from #DDRevs, ditto the comment posted on Amazon UK and .com, and Goodreads. The link to the book deleted from Facebook and Twitter. If that was the only comment you had received on Amazon – too bad, it’s gone.

Blog tours, which are virtual on-line tours hosted by a variety of bloggers, and usually spanning a few days, a week, or even longer, are a fabulous way to get noticed. You can organise these yourself (it’s hard work, mind) or pay one of the many companies to find suitable hosts. But again, there are buts. Big Buts.

You have a list of interested bloggers who will be delighted to post something for you about your book on their blog; maybe they will simply post a review, or just give details, but quite often they will want a guest article. Something about you, your book, how, why you wrote it. Who the characters are, what genre is it, blah blah. This means writing articles. A different article for each host.

And this also means getting said article delivered in plenty of time (at least two weeks before a scheduled date, although four would be preferable). It means following up when the post ‘goes live’ by thanking the host, keeping an eye on whether anyone has left a comment for you, linking the day’s article to your Facebook/Twitter/Whatever page. In a nutshell: a lot of work that is your responsibility to undertake.

So to sum up with some dos and don’ts:

·       Review sites are just that – review sites. Most will post an honest review of your book for the benefit of potential readers. Review sites are not there as an author’s ego-stroking service!
·       Being rude to a reviewer or blog host is the quickest way to get deleted and probably blocked.
·       Mistakes happen. Don’t whinge.
·       Overegging the pudding about you and your book puts potential readers off
·       Not submitting a promised article in plenty of time doesn’t go down well
·       Not submitting it at all means you won’t get a second chance
·       No marketing may mean no sales

·       Be polite at ALL times, even if you’re spitting feathers! 
·       Add nice comments to blog posts, or at least click ‘like’ – if you bother to respond to bloggers or other authors they will (should!) respond to you.
·       If you are invited to submit an article, submit it in good time and always follow up.
·       If taking part in a book tour alongside other authors – promote them in addition to, in fact more than, yourself. Just turning up for your part in the tour will probably result in not being asked back a second time.
·       Retweet. Share. Promote others more than you promote yourself. Honest, it works!
·       Did I mention? Be polite at all times. No one, especially potential hosts who may participate in helping you promote your book, will tolerate  a rude or ranting email .
·       Rudeness results in being rubbed out.

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Twitter: @HelenHollick
Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog (submissions welcome)


Helen Hollick said...

so following my own 'rules'... thank you, Pauline, for inviting me onto your blog!

Richard Tearle said...

The only thing I take issue on is the comment in the introduction that 'Helen is one of the kindest authors on the planet' - she is THE kindest. I have seen her go far beyond the lengths others will go to encourage and advise fledgling authors (myself included, so I know what I'm talking about!). And I have also seen her politely replying to unwarranted responses from authors who cannot distinguish between criticism and and advice or suggestion. Fortunately her help does not always go unrecognised, but she receives no payment and gives that time freely and willingly. Her advice here is based on experience, some of it bitter, and when someone like Helen offers such advice, it is the wise author who takes heed....

Helen Hollick said...

LOL - Richard was agreeing with you Pauline, but with a cherry on top of your icing! Thank you for the kind words both of you! *blush*

Bronwyn Elsmore @ said...

Helen, you say “one big lesson I learnt is for your books to do well you have to do your own marketing.” That is true, unfortunately for those of us who squirm at the thought of pushing oneself and work. My first few books were published the traditional way through good publishers who put them through the regular marketing steps. But publishing firms are businesses. As they bring out new titles they concentrate on those, and your book goes on the backlist. After an initial flurry of sales comes the drop off, and any active marketing after that is up to you. A sad fact of the writing world for those of us who just wish to write.
Thanks for your insights.
Bronwyn Elsmore

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Richard, thank you for stopping by, sorry I seem to have caused you an issue.

Pauline Barclay said...

Thank you Helen for taking time out of your manic schedule to guest on my Blog, very much appreciate it. Have a fabulous day.

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Bronwyn, thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. Have a great day.

Richard Tearle said...

Hello Pauline - my apologies: I have no issue really; I wanted to underline the kind words you said about my dear friend Helen! Thank you for the interview - it is extremely useful to listen to the opinions of experts ...

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for that informative and interesting post, Helen - lots to take away and think about (or do!).

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Rosemary thank you for stopping by and enjoying Helen's post. Have a wonderful day. x

Lucienne Boyce said...

Very enjoyable post, thanks Helen!Lots of good advice here.

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Lucienne, lovely to see you here and thank you for your comment. Wishing you a fabulous weekend.