As regular readers will know, one of the hardest aspects of being a self-employed author is the marketing. It’s not the time it takes so much as summoning the ongoing enthusiasm and imagination – particularly in such a crowded marketplace, when every author and his dog (probably literally) has a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and an Amazon profile, all screaming “Buy my books!” (or, in the case of the dog, “Take me out for a walk!”). Marvellous though it is that anyone can publish their books these days, it does mean that you have to work so much harder to be spotted in the throng. But it sometimes seems that the old ways are the best.
I mentioned a little while ago (or did I?) that next month I am doing a talk at the latest bookshop to stock the Sam Plank series – Hart’s Books in Saffron Walden (just the other side of the Cambridgeshire border, in northern Essex). The shop has its own website with an events page, and I have also listed the event on Sam’s Facebook page. But what else to do? The manager of the shop suggested asking the local newspaper, the Saffron Walden Reporter, to publicise the talk, as – if you can believe such a thing still exists – this local weekly paper is delivered free to every address in the town. Thankfully I have some experience of writing press releases, which I know reporters like as it saves time and fills space, and so I looked up the paper online, checked which reporter’s name was on the book-ish stories, and counted how many words were in the average piece before crafting my press release and emailing it to her. I also suggested that it would be jolly helpful to have the story appear a fortnight before the event to give people time to get to the bookshop to buy tickets, and then of course we would need to print more tickets and hire a marquee and a warm-up act and lay on extra buses… I may be straying here into the realms of fantasy.
But, dear reader, it all worked – and here is my press release (with a few improvements, I must admit) in today’s Saffron Walden Reporter. The bookshop is on standby for the hordes of ticket-seekers, although my own husband has now dropped out as something better has come up. (To be fair, he’s had a bellyful of Sam over the years. It can’t be easy sharing your wife with a dead policeman.)