Tag: publisher

Misadventures in Marketing, Part 2

Misadventures in Marketing, Part 2

It’s been a bit more than a week (cough, cough, two months) but here are some more results from my author marketing survey. A quick recap – the survey grew out of my own misadventures as a newly published author. I thought I might have learned some things about what to do and what not to do, but I also thought I’d call on the wisdom of the collective author brain. This next part of the survey focuses on what many have expressed concern about – the way marketing impacts on the capacity to write.

How much time do you spend marketing? (By author type)

The labels here represent a slider where authors positioned a tab between 1-100.

  • Mostly writing = 75% or more of their time spent on writing
  • Some writing = 50-74% of time spent on writing
  • Some marketing = 26-49% of the time writing
  • Mostly marketing = 25% of the time or less spent on writing.

Note, the 100% on the chart represents respondents, not time!

The average time spent writing was 45% – that is, across all respondents, the average time spent marketing was 55%.

How much time do you spend marketing? (By publisher type)

All up, according to chart 1 emerging writers get more time to write (red and blue bars) than anyone else. Mid-list authors get the least, so they appear to be the ones most likely to get caught up in marketing misadventures.

Chart 2 shows that there’s not a lot of difference for those who self-publish or are with a small press. Both spend between 50-60% of their time marketing. For those with an international publisher the picture is quite different. Sixty percent say they get to spend most of their time writing.

The push for social media

The biggest development for new authors in the last ten years, from what I can see, is the push for them to have a social media profile, and to be actively promoting their books and their ‘author brand’. This is a big shift from the days of big publishing companies doing the marketing work for you. I frequently hear that this requirement applies to ALL authors too, not just those who self-publish or are with a small press. Even the big publishers expect authors to do a lot of their own marketing.

So marketing is increasingly outsourced to the author. There are some fundamental problems with this, such as that many authors are VERY unsuited to marketing (see my post on The Introvert Paradox). Also, the marketing profession itself recognises that only about 10% of marketing will be effective.

So what do authors think of this push? Personally, I hate it. As with many authors, I have a family and a life, as well as a job that pays the bill. Which means I barely get enough time to write my fiction. Add to that the expectation that you will do significant amounts of marketing, and something has to give. Usually the writing.

Anyway, the results are pretty clear – between a quarter and a third of authors hate marketing. Many do it because they have to and some feel fairly neutral about it. Very few enjoy it or love it. So authors are now in the position of having to do something they don’t enjoy, that takes away from their time to write. At the same time, they’re expected to churn out books faster and faster. The question (which I am not going to answer here) is what impact does this have on the lives of authors, and on the quality of the books published?

In my final post about misadventures in marketing, I will reveal which marketing approaches authors find most effective, and their tips and hints about marketing.


Creating Harlequin: Developing a Book Cover

Creating Harlequin: Developing a Book Cover

The book cover for Harlequin’s Riddle receives a lot of compliments. I’ve had people tell me they read the e book first, then had to go and buy a paper copy because they wanted the cover on their bookshelf. It’s a stunning image. But how did it come about? In this post I’ll take you on the journey of development that led to the cover. I don’t think it typically works this way, but this is Harlequin’s story…

Step One: Approaching an Artist

By the middle of 2016 Harlequin’s Riddle had been rejected by all the ‘big’ Australian publishers that I could get access to (which wasn’t many since I didn’t have an agent). Although I had received personal, detailed feedback from a few, which is unusual, it was ‘close, but not close enough’. I decided I’d look at self-publishing. To do that I’d need a cover, and I had come across the work of an incredible artist called Nadia Turner who lived close to me, and who painted gypsy wagons and pictures that had a real storytelling feel blended with folkloric elements. I already owned one of her prints because I loved her art so much, and I thought her style and themes would suit my book perfectly, so I made contact with her. She agreed to read Harlequin’s Riddle. Fortunately for me, she felt inspired by it and agreed to do the cover. I did a HUGE happy dance, I can tell you. We negotiated cost and timeframes, and talked about possibilities for images. We both agreed that book one had to feature Harlequin.

Step Two: Choosing a Design

Nadia came back to me with pencil sketches for several different designs. I thought they were all marvellous, but there was one that stood out. These are the designs I didn’t choose (below). I loved them all but felt they weren’t quite right. In the first one, Harlequin was a bit too noble. He’s a trickster who causes a few problems now and then (no spoilers…) so he needed a bit more ‘edge’ to him. A similar image (the one I ended up choosing) also had him on the other side of the cover, with the wagons and castle off to the left, so they would show on the back of the book. This felt like a better reflection of the long journey the travelling players take. The second cover has a glorious mask and beautiful embellishments, but wouldn’t show well as a thumbnail sketch on Amazon. The final one is striking, but doesn’t give a sense of story – and story telling is key to Mina’s abilities.


Interlude: Finding a Publisher

Once I had chosen the design, Nadia went off to do a colour rough, so we could work out the best colour palette. Around the same time my writing angel, Wendy Dunn, encouraged me to try a few small publishers, so I sent Harlequin to Odyssey books, and finally received that wonderful email all writers dream of: “we love it and want to publish it”. Odyssey is well known for having stunning covers that sit alongside the best of the big publishers, so I was a little bit nervous to say to my publisher – by the way, I’ve got this book cover design…

Step Three: The Colour Rough

While I was building up my courage to mention the book cover artwork to my brand new publisher, Nadia got back to me with the colour ‘rough’. As far as I was concerned there was nothing ‘rough’ about it. I thought the colours were perfect – not too bright, a beautiful tonal palette. My husband, who does a lot of photoshopping for me, will tell you I’m pretty fussy when it comes to design, but in this case all I asked for was a little more gold to lift the brown. As a result, the flowers now have gold centres, and Harlequin’s cloak pin is outlined in gold.  I also asked for the scroll design to be separate. That way I had the option of using or not using it.

Step Four: A Final Image… and the Design Process Begins…

When Nadia told me the painting was done it was like a whole bunch of Christmases all coming at once. When I picked it up it was sandwiched between boards and taped up, and I had a long way to travel, so I didn’t untape it. But I was twitching to have a look. That was one of the longest train journeys I’ve ever taken! Finally I got to open it up and I was SO thrilled with the final image. Fortunately, to my huge relief, I showed the image to my publisher and she loved it to.

Step Five: The Words

My husband, Jamie, is a whiz in Photoshop so my publisher agreed that he would do the lettering. By this stage, looking at the final image, we both thought the scroll wasn’t necessary. It would cover up the artwork and wouldn’t be able to fit much anyway. Book cover titles and author names need to be easy to read. So the scroll went. I hunted around for fonts for the title and found one called Fairy Dust. We got permission from the font designer to use it, then played around with placement, colour and size. I pretty much drove my husband mad at this stage. We discovered that Harlequin was a little too close to the top of the image to fit the word ‘Harlequin’ comfortably, so Jamie photoshopped some extra sky in with Nadia’s permission. Finally, after many cups of tea and a great deal of ‘no, a little more to the right’, ‘can you make it two points larger?’, and ‘can you add a drop shadow?’, we had a book cover. I sent it to Odyssey for final tweaks – my publisher did the back cover blurb and interior design, including stunning embellishments. In a master stroke, she chose to print the books on matte stock.

Afterword: My Precious….

It was beyond exciting to receive my author copies and to see the final cover on a real book. I was thrilled to be able to give Nadia a copy.

I’ve been told an author should buy themselves a special gift to commemorate publication day. What I did was to frame the original artwork. Now, as I sit and write, I can look up and see Harlequin, the wagons and Mina’s journey, which lies at the heart of Harlequin’s Riddle.

Want to see more of Nadia’s amazing artwork? Go to Wayward Harper. Or to by prints, necklaces and other Wayward Harper goodies, visit Leaf Studios in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.

Want to be one of the first people to see the cover for the second book? Sign up to my quarterly email newsletter (below) for a sneak peak…