David JB Smith very kindly interviewed me for his blog.

The full interview can be read here but below is an excerpt. I’d been intending for sometime to post a blog entry on how to market using social media. This extract saves me having to type out the same ideas twice!

Has social media been a benefit to you as an author and do you have any tips for budding authors on the use of social media to self promote?

Lower barriers to entry for publishing a book and marketing it through social media are both a blessing and a curse.

Blessings first: my books may not have made it into the public sphere without these revolutions (mine are released by an ebook-only publisher called Endeavour Press).

Endeavour can thrive because of the lower costs social media and ebooks allow, along with other factors like first mover advantage and traditional larger publishers being slow to move into the arena. That’s the blessings.

The curse is obvious: lower barriers to entry means increased competition. Twitter can often seem like 20,000 people all stuck in a room shouting through megaphones at the same time. Lots of noise and no-one is listening.

So, how do you get noticed? On to the tips.

These are hard to give. It’s not that I’m reluctant to divulge state secrets; it’s just that I genuinely believe giving tips on this is misleading and perhaps even counter-productive. The market is so fast moving that what “works” changes – quite literally – on a monthly basis.

What made a successful author stand out in March of this year is totally different to now. It’ll change again before the year is up (probably several times).

You read a lot of rubbish out there about how to do it.

One successful author, for instance, says it’s all down to writing review submissions to Websites that are clearly set out. It’s great that that has worked for them… but if they really think they were the first person to have the idea that clearly written review submissions is the answer then they are deluded.

There are so many people and so many books out (and it’s always increasing) that you won’t come up with a new way to market.

If what you do works for you, well done! You had the right combination of timing, skill, hopefully a good book and the key ingredient: luck. Don’t let anyone tell you that luck isn’t a huge component.

Having a good book isn’t enough. And plenty of terrible books go on to be successes.

For those who say “you make your own luck”, well… yes, there’s an element of that. But everyone thinks they can make it if they work hard enough. I honestly believe hard work (or even smart work) isn’t enough. How many creative types died impoverished and alone, only to be “discovered” after they were gone? We’ll never know how many weren’t discovered at all.

“You make your own luck” is a particularly pernicious form of “Survivor’s Bias” and not really helpful.

So…what is helpful?

1. Write a good book (it definitely increases your odds over a bad one)

2. Pick a brand name for yourself you think stands out. Jack Hayes works for me. JF Penn is a great one and works for her. Lee Child (short, snappy, sounds like no-one else and stands out). Ngaio Marsh… terrible name… excellent brand. Will you ever confuse her for anyone else?

3. Try to get published the traditional route first. If you can make it that way life is much easier.

4. Don’t underestimate the advantage being published by someone else gives you. Sure, your margin self-publishing an ebook is higher but two heads are better than one… and even a small ebook publisher has many more than two heads there.

5. If you absolutely have to self-publish you need the oxygen of publicity and a business model. Would you start a restaurant without knowing the industry? Read, read, read. Pick a model that you think will work for you. Copy another author’s plan. If that doesn’t work, tweak it or change to what someone else is doing. Like I said, the industry moves fast – so stay on top of it. Better, learn to predict it

6. Actually, this goes right back to the beginning and should be what you think before you write your book: come up with an idea that can be sold in a single sentence.

Point 6 needs a little elaboration. Blood Red Sea sells because in a single sentence the plot is: “What if the Nazis got the atomic bomb first?” That’s the hook. That’ll get you reading it (I hope).

My third book to be published, Overtime, doesn’t have a biting, single sentence hook. It’s a great novel (my mum told me so) but I can’t grab you in with a single sentence because it’s a complicated story about a Russian Billionaire buying an American Football Club to escape being thrown in jail by the Russian President.

The issue is that the club is going to go bust because America’s taken a swing to the evangelical right and the club’s constantly having its twenty-something players caught doing drugs or sleeping with hookers. The sponsors threaten to pull out if another story hits the papers. So the billionaire hires a guy called Ritter to keep stories out of the press and if Ritter is unsuccessful, he’ll end up in the Florida Keys as an alligator’s dinner.

Now, I’m not saying you wouldn’t read that, I’m just saying it’s a bugger to condense into 140 characters, including spaces, with a link to Amazon and hashtags.

How does this fair: “PR is Easy: Keep News Out of the Press or Die.” Sure, the hook’s not as good as the one for Blood Red Sea… and that’s why you should think about these things before you start writing.

For more from the interview, please visit David’s excellent site by clicking here

posted by Jack Hayes
on May, 24