As a rookie indie crime writer I've spent the last few months doing lots of reading on how to market my books. It's all been very interesting and pretty encouraging as well. But I've recently realised that my marketing has taken a slightly unexpected turn. The best thing I've got out of marketing my books is finding other authors to read. Take Twitter. A couple of posts netted me some interesting followers - such as Jungle Red Writers. So now I'm reading some great books from crime writers I'd never heard of here in New Zealand. Goodreads is the same. I went into that to market my novels and came out of it with more books than I have time to read. And Smashwords is just brilliant - a one-stop-shop to publish your own novels and find a host of new authors. Last but certainly not least - right here in NZ www.letsbuybooks.co.nz is a sales portal and bookstore all in one. Marketing is not something I find easy - but the benefits of my forays to date are incalculable. After all, I always said that if the price of being an author was to stop reading the books of others I'd stop immediately - but I'd stop writing not reading. Thankfully I've never had to make such a choice. And it's still a great thrill when people find my novels because of (or maybe in spite of) my limited marketing skills. I'm enjoying writing my latest Philippa Barnes mystery set in the limestone landscape of Paparoa National Park. But I have to admit I'm enjoying the growing list of titles on my Kindle every bit as much.
There's nothing quite like a local market when you're a newly published fiction writer. All those years of sitting on the press benches in my days as a reporter paid off for me last month when I launched my second crime novel, Glacier Murder, in Hokitika on New Zealand's West Coast.. It wasn't about the stories I told back then but the people I met along the way ... Hokitika did me proud with 50 people turning out on a wet autumn night to listen to me telling stories again - this time they were pure fiction! My novels belong on the Coast and I had a real sense that they belong to the people there as well. Next day my launch made it to the front page of the Hokitika Guardian but the paper just got better the more I read. There was my old neighbour and friend telling someone they might like to go and live in Hell, a small Norwegian town, if they really couldn't stand the noise of his microlight. This gem was on the letters page. And then, in the court news, there was the account of a punch up at the Franz funeral which left a bystander unconscious. The miscreant was represented by a guy we'd had dinner with the night before the launch (best night out in ages it was!) who said the assailant was truly sorry. Then just last week the Greymouth Star gave Glacier Murder a generous review - and put it on the same page as a review of the wonderful Kate Atkinson's new novel Life after Life. What's more my review was the lead one - Kate's was smaller. I'm under no illusion about who is the better writer here - Kate of course! But only on the Coast could a rookie crime writer hope to secure the best spot on the reviews page when they are up against someone of the calibre of Kate Atkinson. Local support is generous, quirky and totally biased in favour of local people. Long may these newspapers go on.
When I started out as a writer being published was all. I'll never forget the thrill of seeing my first published article - a feature on a mountain hut - in the Greymouth Evening Star. A small town newspaper it might have been, but the editor had liked my story and printed it. There were hundreds of copies out there! I felt rich and it had nothing to do with money.
Lots of newspaper reporting and feature writing followed but I never recaptured the same level of excitement again. If you'd told me way back then that the way to the future was self-publishing I wouldn't have believed you. I wouldn't have wanted to. To me the writing was only the start - the affirmation of being published by someone else was crucial.
This was fine while I was working as a journalist. I did get published by someone else even if it was only the editor of the smallest daily newspaper in New Zealand. Known as the "two minute silence", derided as being too small to use as fish and chip paper, 10 years as the one-and-only reporter was hard work and something that was never going to make you big headed! But it was a fantastic training ground. 2000 words were needed by 11.30 every morning. And if there was no news you had to go out and find it. Even if it involved pulling something you'd discarded the day before out of the rubbish bin.
It wasn't till I started writing fiction that I realised just how damned hard it was to get an editor, a publisher, even a personal letter from the person to whom you'd entrusted your manuscript. One of my NZ "how to write and be published books" listed the ways to go about things (I already had) and patronisingly concluded that at this stage you should let go of your dream, give up, do something else with your life.
Give up? No way! I didn't know it way back then, but when I read those words I began my first steps to becoming an indie writer ...