Book Week Scotland 2017 is taking place from Monday 27 November – Sunday 3 December.
Welcome to our Book Week Scotland 2017 special. Every day we are featuring guest posts from various Authors with a variety of genres to suit every reader.
Book Week Scotland is a week-long celebration of books and reading that takes place every November.
During Book Week, people of all ages and walks of life will come together in libraries, schools, community venues and workplaces to share and enjoy books and reading. They will be joined in this celebration by Scotland’s authors, poets, playwrights, storytellers and illustrators to bring a packed programme of events and projects to life.
Today Alan Jones is here with a guest post for our special Book Week Scotland Feature.
Self-publishing and the art of promotion
(For all budding writers, including those bloggers who fancy giving it a go.)
I’ll say first that I’m not the best at promoting my books – I can think of a few writers who have got Facebook and Twitter down to a fine art, but I do my best. And by promotion, I’m taking it as given that if you are self-published or not, you are already making the most of all the wonderful book bloggers who bend over backwards to be helpful, and write very kind things about your books. I’m also assuming that you’re are already a member of some of the marvellous Facebook book clubs, whose members support their authors with passion and knowledge, and whose admins work tirelessly, and sometimes give us a chance to flagrantly self-promote our books.
No, I’m talking about physically promoting our books, and for me, it was difficult to get into bookshops. No-one in my local area knew that I was an author; I chose to keep my life as a writer separate from my working and home life, so I couldn’t approach any of my local bookshops, and why would someone like Waterstones in Glasgow allow me to launch of a book that they were never going to stock?
At first, I didn’t even have any physical books to sell, just an e-book called The Cabinetmaker. I scratched my head, trying to think up a way to launch it that would catch readers’ imaginations. The book’s plot revolves around a Glasgow Cabinetmaker whose only son is brutally murdered. I thought about re-enacting the murder and quickly decided that this would probably end up with us being arrested, so instead, I came up with a cunning plan – we would make furniture in the street!
As the Dundee Literary Festival was taking place soon after the book went live, and my daughter was at Art School in the City of Discovery, we cobbled together a few of her friends, and mine, and we set up a workshop in the Art School car park in Perth Road, entertaining passers-by and talking to them about the book.
When the time came to publish the paperback version of The Cabinetmaker two years ago, a couple of the bloggers had told me about the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival in Stirling, and I thought it would be a great idea to capitalise on the crowds of crime fiction lovers who descend on the city in September, and repeat our Street Cabinetmaking event for this launch.
The only thing was, I didn’t know how the festival organisers would feel about me hijacking their festival with a pop up furniture-making workshop! I needn’t have worried – Bloody Scotland were brilliant! They said that, as long as Stirling Council didn’t object, I could do what I liked, within reason. They even told me there was a great spot near one of their main venues that would be suitable, so I checked out the venue a couple of weeks before – it was ideal.
On the day, my son and I loaded up the trailer and headed up to Stirling on a beautiful September morning, setting up our ‘workshop’ at the entrance to the Albert Halls, the main Bloody Scotland venue, where we made furniture and talked to festival-goers all day. It was busy, and we sold a good few books, and passed out flyers. What amazed me was how friendly it all was, with readers, writers and festival organisers all really enjoying our unusual pop-up book launch. At the end of the day, we ran a competition on Twitter and Facebook, and gave away the furniture that we made. Most of all, it got me noticed at Bloody Scotland. You can see a video of some of the action at www.alanjonesbooks.co.uk.
I’d already released my second book in the interim, so the following year, when I published Bloq, my third book, I decided to return to Bloody Scotland, and do another pop-up book launch. When I contacted Bloody Scotland, there was a new director, Bob McDevitt, and I was worried that he might not be as keen to be hi-jacked, but when I bumped into him at a book event in Paisley, and explained what we wanted to do, he was all for it.
Bloq’s story is centred around a nightclub in London of the same name, and the iconic sleazy entrance is on the front cover of the book, so I made a mock-up of the entrance, and set up a bar with some seats and a table, and on another sunny day, we served ‘mocktails’ to the Bloody Scotland punters, sold some books, and chatted about crime writing. Bloggers Sharon Bairden and Noelle Holten even made cameo appearances as glamourous cocktail waitresses, Bob McDevitt showed up for a ‘Shirley Temple’ and James Oswald popped in to see what all the fuss was about. We would have liked to have dished out alcoholic cocktails, but we didn’t want to fall foul of Scottish Licensing laws about drinking in public places, and the lack of proper alcohol quickly drove Sharon and Noelle to a ‘real’ pub! 😊
It was a great day, and once we had packed up, I was free to enjoy the rest of Bloody Scotland’s hospitality. The next day, fragile after a night of revelry, I was speaking to Bob McDevitt again, and the words ‘Festival Fringe’ were mentioned to describe my street cabinetmaking and open-air nightclubbing. He had the idea of having some free events the following year on ‘the Fringe’, which would give smaller publishers and authors the chance to be on the Bloody Scotland Programme without too much work on the part of the Bloody Scotland organisers.
Bob was also lamenting that the Scot’s had been ‘humped’ in the annual Bloody Scotland Auld Enemy football match between Scottish crime writers and their English counterparts, and that they’d been a bit short of players. ‘Don’t suppose you play, do you?’
I hadn’t played for a couple of years, but I told Bob that I’d played a bit of football in my time.
‘If you play next year, I’ll give you a slot on the fringe.’ He said. I’m pretty sure he had decided to give me an event anyway, but it seemed like a good quid-pro-quo. I suggested a panel of self-published crime writers, and he thought that sounded good.
I knew just the people I wanted to join me. I’d met David Videcette in London at The Book Club on Facebook birthday event, and I’d bumped into Alison Bailley-Taylor at the previous year’s Bloody Scotland. Both had done extremely well with their first books, The Theseus Paradox and Sewing the shadows together, and they were people whose company I really enjoyed.
There was never a doubt about who we wanted to chair the panel, so, after two or three prominent bloggers had turned it down, I called Sharon Bairden, blogger at Chapter in my life, and offered her the job. A few EEEKS later, and she accepted. Joking apart, she did a brilliant job of moderating us!
So, I, along with David and Alison, became the first self-published authors to appear in the official programme at Bloody Scotland. We had a great crowd to see us at our event in The Curly Coo, and the brilliant Bob McDevitt showed up to see us in action. We had a great time, and the panel went really well. I’m not sure, but I think it may also open doors to other events – it seems to make a difference when you can tell organisers that you have already appeared at Bloody Scotland.
So, how do you finally get a slot at a prime crime writing event when you are self-published author?
Firstly, get noticed – it doesn’t matter how, but you’ll have to use a bit of imagination to stick out from the crowd. Then, be persistent. It won’t always just happen immediately, so do have patience. Thirdly, network – talk to readers, writers, and event organisers, but don’t be too pushy, or you’ll annoy the hell out of them. Lastly, be a little lucky. I got a break when the weather was fantastic for both outdoor events, it was fortunate that I bumped into Bob McDevitt at another book event, and it was lucky that I’d played a bit of football in the past.
By the way, we won the Bloody Scotland football match 6-3!
A gritty crime thriller. Glasgow man Bill Ingram waits in the city’s Central Station to meet his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train pulls in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why. His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.
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