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  • Writer's pictureMichael Parker

Picking and choosing

I’ve come across a lot of Q&As this week about which is the best way to find readers? Which advertising platforms? Are stand-alone authors fighting a losing battle? There are answers to all these questions, right answers too if you happen to make the right choice. But what is the right choice? One best-selling author whose interview I read on Nick Stephenson’s 10K forum advised focussing on a single strategy: one that works for you, and binning everything else. Don’t waste time writing a blog was one of her suggestions; they achieve nothing. Nick put a little note in at that point about the value of blogs. I remember reading of two writers, both women: one American and the other an English writer, who found success by writing a kind of diary of their daily routines. One, I think, was about cooking and just keeping up generally around the house, and the other about trips to the hairdresser and that kind of thing. In both cases they were encouraged by their ‘readers’ to put the work into book form. Then bingo! Best sellers.

So what works for me? I wish I knew the answer to that. One query on the Mark Dawson’s SPF community today was about the difference between stand-alone authors and those who write series novels. The answers were mixed: some authors were enjoying success with their stand-alone books, while others found the opposite. The answer to any question about finding the right audience has to be promotion and marketing. Of course, you could become instantly famous by attempting to attack a public institution with a gun, but the future would be very bleak. I was going through my old contracts the other day and came across my first royalty statement from Macmillan in 1980. I sold 2000 books in the first nine months of publication. For an unknown first time author, that was good. And it was unexpected according to my publisher. Macmillan didn’t keep me on though, but that’s life. And in those days it was more or less down to the publisher to push the book. I was too naïve to know any different.

The other suggestion I’ve seen is to write more books. I don’t see that as the answer though. I have eleven books in print, which should be plenty for my readers to get their teeth into, but not all of them want to read stories set at different times and in different places. It’s a real challenge, and the increase in sales, even when they are marginal, are always pleasing and always puts a smile on my face. I’ll be advertising on Amazon from tomorrow and hope to see that rise which will make me smile. Seeing my bank balance go down as I pay for the ads won’t though, unless I get a decent ROI.

I met up with an author friend of mine during the week: Paul Asling. We talked about the speech recognition software, Dragon. Paul showed me how it worked. I was impressed, but knew that if I bought the software, there was no guarantee I would use it. It isn’t expensive, but then I could spend the money on promotion. So while we’re all struggling to come up with the answer, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way; it’s all down to being prepared to spend and wishing for a good dose of luck.

Remember, April 1st. tomorrow — April Fool’s Day. I wonder what made-up stories will hit the newspapers tomorrow? Of course, it could be: Michael Parker hits the one million sales on Amazon. Who knows? Wish me luck!

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