Self-promoting authors urge 'creative freedom'

Self-promoting authors urge 'creative freedom'

Authors should “think outside of the box” when publicising their books,  writers have told The Bookseller, and leave publishers to conduct more “traditional publicity”.

Last week Nikesh Shukla launched a lamb chop into space to promote the paperback release of his novel Meatspace (The Friday Project). A video of the stunt has been viewed more than 225,000 times on YouTube in less than a week.

It was the second time Shukla had made a video to promote Meatspace—his first featured him rapping to promote the hardback release of the novel.

Shukla said that with both videos he was given “creative freedom and a quizzical eyebrow” by The Friday Project and was left to “get on with it”.

The video was a “brilliant thing to do” in terms of “buzz, awareness, profile and giving a sense of the tone of the book and what I’m about as a person and an author”, said Shukla, who claimed that Meatspace was “the most talked-about book in the world” for three days.

Shukla added that in publishing people were still making “badly shot book trailers” while industries such as music and film created viral videos.

“All [my videos] took was one strong idea, and the execution was classicly me—charmingly lo-fi and warm and silly and embracing of its silliness— and I think that carries it a long way,” he said. “It lets the publisher do all the traditional stuff, such as get you reviews and talk to the shops, while you’re in a field at dawn, holding onto a weather balloon for dear life, hoping that the helium tank that has spent three hours juddering about on the M4 won’t explode.”

Entrepreneurship is also key for self-published authors, who should do something different to stand out, according to Gordon Bloor, who self- published Go Swift and Far under the pseudonym Douglas Westcott. Bloor decided to only sell his book in Bath, the town in which it is set.

He targeted local shops, hotels and the Bath tourist office as sales points, and concentrated on selling his book to tourists by targeting niche sales channels, such as printing pamphlets (featuring a map from the book) for every bed and breakfast in Bath.

“I am not and never will be a classical writer, but having taken eight years to research and write my book I believed that I had a good tale to tell and people, especially in Bath, would enjoy it,” he said.

Traditionally published author Emma Chapman, who organised a tour of independent bookshops to promote the paperback of How to be a Good Wife (Picador), said it was important for authors to not be solely motivated by self-promotion. She said: “I asked myself: ‘How can I do something which benefits someone else as well and gets them on board?’ That’s how the idea for Indie Book Crawl arose and it worked wonderfully, creating a great symbiosis between myself and the shops. We both gained from that relationship and I think that’s what made the tour a success.”

While Picador was supportive of Chapman’s book tour, it did not help with the organisation.

“I don’t believe it’s completely the publisher’s job to promote the book,” said Chapman. “This is my career and I take all aspects of the process seriously as I want to ensure my survival as an author. Once you’ve earned your stripes, I would imagine that self-promotion wouldn’t be as necessary, but as a first-time novelist I think it is.”

Chapman said that there were long-term benefits to her book tour, as “hopefully readers and bookshop owners will remember me when book two comes along”.