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  • Writer's pictureMichael Parker

Cut to the Chase

They say there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. There’s something else too: when you’re an indie writer, whatever you’ve tried with regard to promotion and marketing, it’s been done before by most of the others, and all with the same results — it inevitably ends up back at the drawing board.

I read a post from an author during the week about her attempts at whatever is ‘flavour of the month’. I found myself reading, nodding my head and smiling. Yes, I’ve been there, done that, same result, move on to the next best thing and finally back to the drawing board.

So what’s the secret? Write more books? Nope; an author acquaintance of mine has her sole, fiction book up in the top 5000 on Amazon, and in the top ten in other categories. So what’s her secret? P&M: promotion and marketing — at least, having the skill and knowing where and how to pitch. That means more books is not the answer. So what is? This is where I say that if I knew that, I would be a best-selling author.

Undaunted though, I press on, ignoring all the sales talk from other authors who will sell you the ideal package to boost your sales. It’s tempting, but there is only so much money in the pot to spend on P&M. I am making some progress and like to think I will build my sales to a healthy level while adding more titles to my bookshelf. This month I will be sending out emails to my subscribers and other platforms with details of the cross promotion I’m running. With luck those authors will encourage their subs to have a look at my books, and maybe I’ll see an increase in my sales.

But that isn’t the whole story; selling books is fine, but the reality really, is to establish yourself firmly as a trustworthy writer who turns out books that are worth buying and reading. That’s what I want: to be known as the kind of writer people will recommend to others because of the quality of my work.

Which brings me on to book jackets. Who said, ‘Never judge a book by its cover’? Isn’t that a mantra that underpins a lot of what characterises the choices we make? But we are being told my so many experts that the book jacket is what really sells the book. I think that’s tosh. I’ve seen covers I wouldn’t have as one of mine, and I’ve no doubt there are people out there who might say the same about my covers. But if I can establish myself within the world of our readers, then the book jacket is secondary; it’s what’s between the covers that count.

I’ve reached the 5000 word count in my latest WIP. I actually like what I have written, with one or two minor reservations. But the next step, the point at which the story begins to take off, is eluding me at the moment. Ideas pop into my head and fall out just as quickly. Hopefully one will lodge firmly in my brain and give me something to get my teeth into.

I actually read up a couple of pieces of advice about creating the novel recently. After a while I realised I’d been doing this since the year dot, ten books published and some very good reviews. If I didn’t know how to write a story, then what was I doing seeking advice? I shall fall back on the old, failsafe advice from some of the old writers like Hemingway and Fleming: go with your instincts and write the story.

F.Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) had this said about his best-selling novel, This Side of Paradise: “one of the most illiterate books of any merit ever published…full of English words misused with the most reckless abandon.” (literary critic Edmund Wilson).

So I’ll go with my instincts and write. Wish me luck!

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