Thursday 20 January 2011


This is the title of an event I'm involved in today. The event is organised by the Association of Scottish Literary Agents for their clients and I'm chairing a panel of three authors with a wide range of published work and a variety of promotional methods to propel their books and careers to success. I have specifically been asked to add my own experience and comments, rather than simply chairing.

(Edited to add; unfortunately, illness forced me to pull out, but all my detailed notes went to Kathryn Ross, who stood in for me, so I think it happened more or less like this. I'm asking the other participants to add some comments below later. Do come back!) 

Since you won't be there, I thought I'd outline what we're going to talk about. You can start to think yourselves what strategies you could use to promote your careers, both before and after publication. And one thing's for sure: none of us can or should attempt to do ALL of these things. The key to having a successful career AND maintaining sanity, is to select those things that will work for you and which, above all, will allow you to keep writing. That's what I lost sight of last year: that writing must come first. I'm delighted to be able to tell you that so far this year I've been utterly brilliant at putting the writing first, despite a silly schedule of events 'n' stuff. I deserve a pretty major reward, frankly. It's in the fridge.

A quick plug for my fellow panellists:  Barry Hutchison, Janet Paisley and Sara Sheridan. Go see their websites to see what they do and please follow Barry (@barryhutchison ) and Sara (@SaraSheridan) on Twitter. I'll be asking Janet about her very sensible reasons for not using Twitter! And do follow our hashtag #ASLAAuthorDay.

I've divided the discussion into two topics: Income Streams and Promotion. The ultimate aim of both is to create a successful career in which we sell enough books to be allowed to keep being published. Can't argue with that. (And if you can, don't, OK?)

Here are some things I'll be bossing encouraging them to talk about.

Janet will talk about diversifying away from our core writing and how to find opportunities in other fields, such as screen-writing or radio. I'm going to ask her about other ways of earning, such as tutoring and workshops, festivals etc. And I'll be especially interested in how she would advise newer writers to acquire those opportunities especially if they don't want to (or can't) use social networking methods.

Sara writes across many genres, adult and younger, and also writes for print journals, as well as being involved in such things as museum projects. I'll ask her about strategy vs opportunism in her career, and hope she'll give lots of practical examples of how to manage this.

I'll ask Barry to talk about the particular opportunities for a children's writer in terms of earning through events and teaching. Barry also has some other income streams from collaborative writing and series writing under other names. How can we do this too, I'll be asking?

And I'll add something myself about earning through doing critiquing for other writers and show how my blog led to a book deal and the Pen2Publication consultancy.

I'll get Janet to talk about how she promotes herself and her work without using twitter, blogging, Facebook etc. Janet's career began with her first publication in 1979, but what advice would she have for writers now if they prefer to limit use of the on-line world? I'm expecting her to mention the various organisations that help writers, though the next panel also covers that.

Barry will have some really interesting stuff to tell us about his very strategic (it seems to me) marketing for Invisible Fiends. I hope to find out how much of this was publisher-generated. If you read his blog, you'll find a very interesting story about how he got started - the Curse of the Bog Women really should have made it to the screen! He'll be talking about things which authors for all ages can do, but I'll also want him to outline specific points for children's authors.

Sara has to promote herself as an adult writer and a picture book writer. She says that more than half her promotion plan will be off-line, but she's also a self-confessed Twitter evangelist, so I'll be interested to hear how she plans what she's doing, given that she is two different authors that would seem to have no connection.

Then I'll add something about how my YA books and my Write to be Published marketing will be completely separate. I'll say why and how.

Then we'll talk briefly about:
  • Opportunites for marketing collaboration with other authors
  • Twitter
  • Blogging
  • Facebook / LinkedIn
  • Ebooks - are we exploiting those opportunities?
  • Fear of public speaking - suggestions
  • Selling more books - how far will we go?

But I'm going to sound a note of caution. We must not forget that we are writers. Yes, we do have to engage with all this stuff but we must rule it and not let it rule us. We must not panic or be overwhelmed. We must also not forget that it is our publishers who should be doing this, too, and but we can look at ways to help our publishers understand how they could use us better.

Then it will be over to the audience for Q&A. Finally, I'm going to ask each of the panellists to say either something they feel hasn't been said or something that they are looking to improve in their own "booklife." What do they feel they could do more? Or less...

Would you like the chance to talk about author promotion and marketing in much more detail? And for me to help you with your own publication plan? Then why not check out Prepare for Publication, my Write to be Published event in April? You will be part of a small group so there will be plenty of chance for specific attention. I plan to reveal the secrets of working with your publisher - or without, if they are less than forthcoming. I've done a vast range of promotional things for my books, including setting a world record for separate school events in one day, and I have discovered many things that work and some that don't... So, come and join me: April 4th, in Edinburgh, luxury hotel, goody bag, small group, refreshments, wine, chocolate - a chance not to be missed! I will be mentioning it today properly for the first time and I know that the agents there will be recommending it to many of their authors, so, don't delay. And if you can't come but you know any author with a book out this year (or next, or any time), do send them my way.


Mike Jarman said...

Sounds fascinating. Clearly, you have put an enormous amount if work into this event.
Good luck Nicola and I hope your voice returns.

catdownunder said...

May I say two very important words? - "support network". That is what I have gained from you, Jane, Emma etc and all the people who comment. The things you are talking about are part of that support network because writers do not normally get together on face-to-face basis during their working week.

Leela Soma said...

As always a great blog Nicola. You are working and blogging at an incredible pace, 'awesome' as people say! Thanks for setting out all that you hope your other guests would contribute to your event today. I'll follow the blog and learn.

Hope the fridge is well stacked with choc goodies!

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, all. As you may know, my voice and stupid cough eventually prevented me from chairing this event. I went along for a bit and coughed over everyone at lunch time and there were some great writers there - mostly ones who had been published several times themselves, all wanting to know more. I've asked Sara and Barry to add a comment later, mayeb saying what they learned or something. Give them a chance to get their breath back, though!

Sara Sheridan said...

It's always interesting to look at the same issues from different perspectives and see how other writer's solutions differ from your own. I am an experienced writer for adults but it was great to get Barry's take on promoting children's books as my first picture book will be published in a month. The importance of school events really struck home. Sorry you didn't make the Chair, Nicola - they did a great job filling in but we missed you! Sara x

Nicola Morgan said...

Sara - without school events, I'd probably halve my income apart from anything else! And with picture books you get the delights of young kids, who are so easily pleased. Unlike teenagers... Though I LOVE talking to teenagers.

Kath McGurl said...

I agree with Cat - a support network is all important, if only to feed you wine and beer at teh end of a gruelling day's marketing!

I must ask though, is 'marketing for Invisible Fiends' a typo?