When Grandma’s Poetry Book was published, I was the greenest, most self-absorbed, self-published author on the planet.
Surely a website, a listing on www.troubador.co.uk and a basic marketing package was enough.
Things would all happen ..............
Ha ha, big joke. Briefly, I mused if I could have secured an agent or a publisher. They would have done it all wouldn’t they?
Well .... actually no. Even traditional publishing houses cannot ‘do’ this for you. A writer friend of mine was told firmly by two agents at Winchester Writers Festival to do social media before seeking representation.
So what happened to me when Grandma’s Poetry Book was published?
I surveyed my boxes of books with pride, but was unable even to log on to check sales. Such was my technophobia. Previously known as a tech aware person, I was floundering.
I had a website, praised by writers and graphic designers alike www.dicastle.co.uk. I did do Twitter much to the abject horror of friends. In November 2014 I had 150 followers but I didn’t understand hashtags, other author posts with weird abbreviations and I had never seen a DM – isn’t that something to do with being tied up?
In October I did have a Facebook page with about 100 friends and a writer page with about thirty likes. I had tried getting on LinkedIn without success as passwords were repeatedly rejected. On Facebook I thought I was quite a wily bird until I looked at the number of likes some authors had – whaaaaat! How do they do that?
Fortunately, Matador staff patiently answered all my newbie questions and provided advice about how to increase likes on my writer page and how to get more Twitter followers. They tweeted my website when it was launched and told me to put @matadorbooks in my tweets so they could RT. What was an RT? No, I didn’t really understand retweets either.
I began tweeting, struggling with 140 characters, finding people to follow and my list of followers began to grow – slowly, so slowly I could easily fall asleep at my computer. I gather pace. I follow everything! Regardless. A few days pass. I reach the 2000 figure. Suddenly Twitter stops me following anyone new. No reason.
Then I remembered a workshop in 2012 at Winchester Writers’ conference run by Sally Tickner http://www.sallytickner.co.uk/workshops.html. I resumed contact and she looked at my twitter page. I can only guess her initial reaction. I suspect I may be used in future workshops as an example of the dumbest way to use Twitter. I was following too many people. I needed to prune my list and beef up my followers, produce good content in posts and blogs and interact with potential readers. The object was to be followed not to follow.
So I trawled my tweets and unfollowed many. Sally’s link to www.Justunfollow.com showed me who I was following who were not following back. I pruned the waste-of-space accounts. Oh all those holiday places, tourist offices, publishers, famous authors, actors, Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry!! Hoards of accounts which are NEVER going to follow back. A daily trawl takes time. There are about ten accounts connected to the Edinburgh Festival, several for the Lake District, more for the Peak District and anything to do with Swanage doh I lost count! I am also following several accounts connected to the Deaf community. Now, I AM passionate about raising deaf awareness but, at that time, I wanted to get people to buy my Book. My WIP on a hearing and deaf sibling in the 1950s is on the back burner for now.
Grandma’s Poetry Book was the task in hand. I needed to get followers who spread the word, read the book and buy for themselves or a relative. So I spend evenings tweeting some non-followers, pleading ‘pls follow back’ followed by a link to my website. Much later, I appreciate the importance of providing the link to the BUY page on the site. I’m still learning. Gradually my following numbers drop and I am allowed to follow more people. Now, a hardened tweeter, if this happens I put a funny tweet out saying ‘thanks for the follow, will follow back when Twitter lets me’. This gets many retweets by people I am not yet following and more followers.
Come the end of November and I am now in twitter fog, with head spinning and my rear stuck to the chair. I dream about @, # and notifications.
I panic. I haven’t written anything for weeks. My blog is about to die. But I want to sell books. Ha! I read that to sell books I should write a second as quickly as possible. I have millions of words on my computer in various manuscripts, drafts and redrafts. I must get to work. But I have lost the will to live where writing is concerned. Actually I have a severe case of Writer's Block. My life is consumed by Twitter.
Then I remember another workshop. This time, in 2013, by Emily Benet @emilybenet. An energetic one-hour race through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and more. I fish out the notebook, indexed for later access. I experiment.
I still need training; a morning here, a full day there. I learn what SM means and write useful snippets in my notebook. I’m networking, giving out author cards. I learn about interaction! Hmm. I read, read, read .... web content on using social media. I scour advice, pore over author forums. Start conversations? How? There is a reply button, yes? Where? One of my followers begins a conversation. I hit reply ... She buys two copies, one for each grandmother. I think I have found my target audience.
Eight months on and in 2015 I was becoming a cheeky tweeter but followed Emily’s rule on promoting my books only every 10th tweet.
One day I tweeted a newspaper about where I would be signing my books. A simple event an hour’s drive from home. A young reporter arrived.
At last, a chink in my foggy curtain.