And other valuable lessons
Whether you are published traditionally or independently — like me — you increasingly need to spend significant time on marketing. This is especially true for debut authors in the middle of the global pandemic. According to some estimates sales of ebooks surged by almost 20% and audiobooks by more than 40% in 2020. But that was for established authors — debut authors, or those establishing a reputation have had a much harder time. So, when I self-published Blood Libel in January 2021 I was delighted to be asked to talk about it at the Emirates Literature Festival. And it was a real thrill to see the paperback on sale at the Magrudy’s stand.
ELF was the only live event I was able to be at — unsurprising in the current circumstances. But I did take part in a ten-date blog tour. A blog tour is where you take your book on a virtual tour, hosted on various book blogs. These tours allow a book to gain more exposure to potential readers. Depending on the tour, your book could get in front of hundreds or even thousands of potential readers. I organised mine through an historical fiction specialist. She identified and communicated with the bloggers, designed a tour banner and provided all the promotion on social media. I paid around 600AED for this which seemed like very good value. However, I had to provide content for six of the ten stops on the tour in the form of interviews and articles on specific historical aspects. This probably took about a day and a half of my time. The other four stops were supposed to be full reviews of my book.
On each day of the tour there was frantic activity on social media, particularly Twitter as various bloggers and authors cross posted. It was great to see Blood Libel getting exposure in this way. The reviews by bloggers were highly variable: from the detailed and astute to the very short. So short I wondered whether the blogger had even read my novel. I grew my Twitter following and also found a number of authors to follow. I’ve since been contacted by another blogger to provide an interview for her blog. I’ve also been approached by an author who has written on similar themes in a different time period.
But what about sales? Frankly, I don’t think the blog tour made any appreciable difference. Am I disappointed by that? Yes. But the big lesson for me was around setting my expectations. I learnt that bloggers are a variable bunch — some are highly professional in their approach and some are just fitting it in around all their other responsibilities. I hadn’t fully appreciated that. It’s also quite a lot of work for the author — it’s definitely not a sit back and let it happen activity.
Would I do it again? Yes, I think for the investment of time and money it’s just about worth it for the networking and exposure. I intend to publish Book 2 of the Isaac Alvarez Mysteries in July. It’s provisionally entitled, The Apothecary and I’ve already booked a blog tour for the launch. This time I will go in with my eyes wide open and expectations appropriately set.