Monday, 30 January 2017

The Write Stuff with... Catherine Hokin

It's time for the second of what I hope will be regular The Write Stuff with... features so today I'm handing the reins over to author Catherine Hokin who has written a piece on marketing entitled Can You Hear Me at the Back?

Entering the world of publishing as a new author is a strange experience, a bit like putting Alice in Wonderland in the middle of The Hunger Games. Getting a novel published has been brilliant and my adventures in Authorland don’t seem to be stopping just yet but, twelve months on from the launch of Blood and Roses, I’ve been reflecting on the skills that I’ve had to fast-track to stay afloat – strangely enough marketing, not writing, is at the top of the list.

Post-publication, you are an author but, far more importantly, you are a Marketing Director and I use that term intentionally. Every year sees thousands of new books appear and, unless you’re a top 5 author with a top 5 publishing house (and probably still then based on what I’ve seen) what happens to your book (traditional or self-published) is entirely dependent on you. That makes sense, nobody cares about it the way you do, but marketing and promotion can be a huge challenge for many writers. I’m fortunate that I worked in marketing for years before I was published - my novel hasn’t set the world on fire but it’s had a bit of a voice and that’s been down to a lot of graft so I’d like to share some of the things that have been useful over the last 12 months. It’s fun, I promise…

  1. Set up a website, long before publication date. It’s a place to feature the interviews and promotional articles from your Blog Tour, cover reveals, any great bits of research or teasers about your book and, primarily, to let people see how interesting you are. There are lots of ways to do it but I swear by GoDaddy – it’s cheap, easy to evolve and their customer service is amazing. They don’t speak IT. 
  2. Make connections, make them early and turn them into relationships. As a writer, networks are your life blood. Other authors are wonderful but its book bloggers who are going to make your author life worth living. They are the people who will host your blog tour (a series of articles for the 2 weeks round publication hosted on different sites), do reviews and cover reveals and widen your audience. Treat them with respect! Don’t ever ask for a review before checking their policy, follow their blogs and understand their style, ask (and I mean ask) about blog tours well before you need them and provide the content well before they need it. If you have a publicist, make sure they are behaving well – some of them don’t.  
  3. Do engage with social media. People moan about it but, used properly, it can be a lot of fun and is another way to build networks that don't consist of the cat and that nice Lauren Laverne on the radio. Choose your platforms and make them manageable - I use Facebook and Twitter and have dipped a tentative toe into Instagram as I take a lot of photos for research purposes. Join groups and, again, make relationships - some of my connections such as the wonderful Book Connectors have moved from online to the real world and saved my sanity.  
  4. Don't always be selling. Alright, everything we do is selling - I want you to read this and then check out my novel (if you missed the earlier subtle link, you can do it here) but there are ways and ways. I won't follow anyone on Twitter who just advertises their book, why would I, it’s boring! Have conversations, write interesting articles about other stuff, be funny, find good hashtags (eg. Mondayblogs and Folklore Thursday) then retweet other people using them. Be visible, don't be boring or desperate or, please God, nasty, or smug – your word count is your own business, keep it that way. 
  5. Try and work with other authors. I’m part of the History Girls author collective – we each have a day a month to blog and it’s a great way to widen your audience and learn from other writers.
  6. Do not shy away from public appearances. The main place you ‘sell’ is your books is where people meet you, even when you are not actively selling – never go anywhere without business cards! Apply to every local festival you can, talk to your local bookshop, whatever it takes – someone will say yes and then the ball starts to roll. If you lack confidence, a lot of people swear by Toastmaster courses or find a presentations/communications coach, it’s worth it. If you’re in Scotland, ask me – I’ve trained 450 people in presentation skills and I’m cheap! 

It’s a workload all this publicity, I estimate it probably takes a day a week to keep on top of all the stuff I do, and it’s not for some people. I do it because I enjoy it, because I’m a new author and I’m paying some stuff forward which I expect to do but, truthfully, I do it because I want my writing to wriggle out from the huge mass of other stuff and see a bit of daylight. Interestingly one of the first things my agent asked me when she took on last year was how comfortable I was with marketing; that I could show a pedigree was a big plus in her decision to take me on. That in itself will annoy a lot of people but it’s the way the book world is – my agent gets dozens of submissions a month and she has filters, they all do. You don’t have to do any of it – I like to know the rules of the world I’m working in and how I can get them to work for me – but, if you do, remember to make it fun. And keep spreadsheets, lots of spreadsheets…

Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a new perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.

Catherine also writes short stories - she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition  and has been published by iScot magazine - and blogs monthly for The History Girls. She is represented by Tina Betts of the Andrew Mann Literary Agency.

Social media links:

Facebook: Cat Hokin

Twitter @cathokin

Book links:

Blood and Roses tells the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-82), wife of Henry VI and a key protagonist in the Wars of the Roses. This is a feminist revision of a woman frequently imagined only as the shadowy figure demonised by Shakespeare - Blood and Roses examines Margaret as a Queen unable to wield the power and authority she is capable of, as a wife trapped in marriage to a man born to be a saint and as a mother whose son meets a terrible fate she has set in motion. It is the story of a woman caught up in the pursuit of power, playing a game ultimately no one can control...

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

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