Friday, 4 April 2014

2014 The Matador self-publishing conference

Last Saturday I attended the Matador Self-publishing conference in Leicester University’s excellent Stamford Court Conference Centre.Talks were as follows:
Keynote speech: Alysoun Owen, Editor of the Writers & Artists’ Yearbook, (the bible of all writers)
Alysoun gave the keynote speech and talked about the history of self-publishing from Jane Austen onwards, stressing how modern trends had meant that the despised ‘vanity publishers’ were different to many modern self-publishing companies, and, as it says in the Writers and Artists yearbook, there is “a new breed of self-publishing companies who offer authors a kind of halfway house between conventioinal self-publishing and the commercial kind.  Of these, the company that has gone the furthest is Matador.”and stressing how well respected Matador were within the book industry because of their high standards and of the work they put in to ensure that their author’s books were successful.

Work successfully with booksops and libraries to sell your book: Sarah Taylor of Matador,
Sarah explained how Matador worked together with bookshops and libraries to promote books. Unlike most self publishing companies Matador have a dedicated sales representation team who liaise ‘on a daily basis’ with bookshops Waterstones and WH Smiths and they also use Star Book Sales to represent them.
The basis of a good publicity campaign (apart from writing a good book in the first place) was:
·         to have good bibliographical data available via the ISBN which should be produced 22 weeks in advance, includes pricing: ensure that bookshops can make a 30-60% mark up, ie. at least £7.99 for a paperback.
·         Ensure distribution lines are set up and are clearly defined in all publicity: you should arrange an account with Gardners and Bertrams. She also mentioned Askews in Hull who supplied booksellers. Maggie Boyd mentioned Holts. Bookshops will not buy print on demand books as they are not available on a sale or return basis.
·         An advance Information sheet produced 20 weeks in advance of publication so that bookshops can be aware of the book and can order it in advance so that they can have it in stock before the launch. This should contain an image of the final cover
·         Liaise with the Bookseller magazine to see if you can get the book listed in ‘category previews’
·         Cultivate a relationship with your local bookshops
·         Try to get listed as part of Waterstones’ or WH Smith ‘core stock’ (quite difficult)
·         Arrange events and book signings
·         Arrange reviews and media marketing

Maggie Boyd of Leicestershire Library Services took the second half of this section: she said that very few librarians these days are involved in stock selection since most was bought systematically through the library supplier Dawsons. She had bought a book recommended by one author through a series of lucky co-incidences: the book was relevant, the self-published author had phoned her and followed through on her offer to send a review copy enclosing a stamped and addressed return envelope, Maggie had happened to have the book in her bag when she was stuck in a coffee shop, the book was relevant to a campaign that the library was running (books by prescription.) Another author’s offered book was relevant too: magical vets fitted exactly  with the Big Read theme for that year and the library put it on the Big Read reading list and ordered 92 copies (but that was published by Penguin).
She also stressed the importance of appeal, respect, trust, partnership and determination:
For books of Local interest authors could supply a review copy for approval, thorugh the Local Studies Books for Consideration procedure.  There was some County wide support for local authors and publishers through a local authors and publishers group SALT. If books were likely to attract media interest they would be bought. Email publicity was not effective though and would be deleted.
Books had to be in a format that made it easy for libraries to use (not spiral bound) and should be relevant beyond the author’s immediate circle. Libraries were wary of ordering material that might have a hidden agenda such as certain religious propaganda. Library champions were particularly welcomed.

Polly Courteney From Self-publishing to mainstream and back again. (see my previous post)

Promoting your book to online booksellers. Steve Potter from Wordery
Steve explained that once your book was available via online bookstores (this happened automatically with Wordery as they linked from ISBN data, for Amazon you could take part in the Amazon Advantage program, where books were listed at an agreed discount). Play,com and Kobo (both owned by Japanese company Rakuten)   were other very important worldwide sites. Ebay was another important marketplace.
Marketing hard copies should be aimed not only at libraries and booksellers but also gift shops, garden centres, National Trust shops etc.
It was important to get a book prominently reviewed on the site
The English Speaking book market included not only England and America but also Ireland, Australasia, India and South America.
Patience and perseverance were vital.
If you send an email to a newspaper journalist you should contact them again to see if they read it.
Web pages could include a lot of media content and this was the vital part because the more readers could find out about a book the more likely they were to buy it. It was particularly advantageous to have the “look inside” content (he called this online video content) which could include a first chapter. Bookshops also liked to be able to offer bookmarks and flyers and should be shown a copy of the press release. On ebay you could and should customise a wholeebwbpage to promote your product.
Authors should interact with industry news hashtags such as @twitteruki-sme. @newscred, @marketingUK and @lisaDMyer and @kingarst and should keep retailers informed of any developments relating to a book. Radio interviews were a very powerful way of reaching readers and retailers should be informed of such events in advance so that they could stock up.
Authors should be aware of any anniversaries or prescient events relating to their books and should utilise this in their publicity materials. Digital Marketing conferences and Social media were important too and all publicity should link to a route to buying the book.

Lucy Mansfield the Wordery Marketing Manager led the next section: she mentioned affiliation schemes where online bookstalls such as Amazon paid you if someone linked to your website. Social networking media included pinterest, twitter, facebook, (she mentioned the advantages of shortening your URL’s using Tinyurl) bookmarking sites such as stumbleupon, reddit for social news feeds, and tweetdeck and hootsuite( which helps you pre-schedule tweets), blogger, wordpress, tumblr and Media sharing sites included Youtube and vimeo.
Posts should be a third industry news, a third personal information showing your human side and a third about things you want to promote.

Clive Barker of Nielson Bookdata spoke next and I have blogged his post In my blog Anna Martin’s Library Spiel.
Over lunch I met Cambridge based editor Cressida Downing, and during the lunchbreak I met some authors: @DJBowmanSmith who explained how she was publicising her book using Twitter and Blogger, also fiercely eloquent retired school teacher Robin Chambers who was passionate about his own child wizards books which he described as “Far better than Harry Potter” – although he had been a published author in the 1970’s he found it impossible to even submit his manuscript to any publishers and described the inefficiencies of the three agents he had tried to persuade to read his book. All of the people I met seemed like sensible people with good products to offer, and the self-publishing option did seem like a very sensible move forward for them.

There was a select amount of free and helpful publicity material available from related companies, from short run book printers such as Orbital Print of Sittingbourne, 40 years old company TJ International book manufacturers, cornerstones literary consultancy (somewhere between structural editors and pre-literary agent agents) University Of York Online postrgraduate diploma in creative writing, and, of course, lots of information from Matador themselves including the very excellent indeed ‘Guide to self publishing with Matador’ which was a free 57 page beautifully produced little book (purporting to retail for £3.99) which really was an excellent description of all the stages involved in self-publishing and explained how Matador would handle each stage of the bewildering process

I was sorry not to have attended the session on how to (or whether to) choose your self-publishing company but delegates over lunch told me that the talk had described how a few of the old vanity publishing companies were still around who advertised for authors, just told them that everything they wrote was brilliant and did not need changing at all, and did not provide many services.

At the end of the conference I was left inspired but rather overwhelmed by the difficulty of making a name for oneself and one’s product in the wide world. The world is a big place and it is very difficult to do all these things in person, particularly marketing and distributing to booksellers on a bulk basis for several authors at once. so it did indeed seem to make excellent sense to employ a company who can schedule everything and help you through the complicated process. They stressed that it was important to ask around and get a sense of which services were offered and to get some quotes. I asked Matador if they offered any promotional activities in America, such as those offered by Merrimack, the company I have had some dealings with, and he said that Matador books are available in America

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