I, Writer.

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
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Cornwall, UK
As I emerge from reclusiveness, to share myself and my crime novels online, it occurred to me that part of my self-promotion campaign should include personal appearances.

From reading how debut authors achieved success, one of the best ways of getting anywhere is attending literary festivals and residential training courses. It's not as if writers, editors, literary agents and publishers wander around looking like their job or wear helpful placards hanging from their neck.

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The second question commonly asked, after learning a stranger's name, is: "What do you do?" I've long referred to myself as a writer, simply because it's what I've done more than any other job. It's how I've thought of myself, even when working in a factory, as a dispatch rider, teacher and librarian.

After being a hermit in a hovel for ten years, I'm pondering on how to be a public performer. I'm a long way from being shy—and the world of books is genteel—but how do I infiltrate it? Maybe my ambition is showing on my face, somehow, for three unexpected incidents yesterday set my brain whirring.

Firstly, I bumped into an old lover. She lives locally and though we don't socialise, we've chatted amicably enough on the street. Back in 2013, when I mentioned to her that I was returning to creative writing full-time, she was dismissive, saying I'd never make money at it—which I already knew would be hard. Puzzled by her negativity, I later recalled she'd written an autobiography that she couldn't find a publisher for. This time, when she asked about my writing, she was joyful and encouraging that I'm going to begin self-publishing my Cornish Detective series this summer. A pat on the back beats a kick up the arse, so I felt buoyed up.

I wandered into the library. The assistants know I'm a writer and have been helpful offering advice about Cornwall Libraries policy on buying books by local authors. I've shared some of my experiences about querying agents, editing, blogging and putting myself out there on social media. The librarian smiled at the requested titles I'd come in to collect, which were three books in the 'For Dummies' series about Facebook, Instagram, GoodReads and Twitter. Although I've used social media for twenty years, there's a big difference between being a casual surfer and using it to run a business. She asked if I'd be interested in talking to their readers' group, which meets once a fortnight to discuss a set book. Sure, said I, panicking about how to describe being a writer without sounding like a merchant of doom! :angry-face:

Wondering if my status as a writer could grow from grassroots, I went to shop for food at the Co-Op supermarket. At the till was an employee I've talked to about writing. When writing my last novel, which features thieves who use a bulldozer to steal the ATM from the foyer of that very supermarket, I'd spent time eyeballing the security cameras and monitor screen hanging from the ceiling as a deterrent. The assistant looked at me suspiciously, as if I was about to rob the place, so I explained why I was being nosy.

Since then, we've chatted about writing and publishing, as she totalled my bill at the till. I said I was about to self-publish the first two novels, whereupon, she asked for my profile name on Facebook, offering to promote my crime series via several book groups she runs. I was very surprised. I'm hopeless at asking for help, preferring to assist others, so receiving three boosts to my efforts inside an hour gladdened my heart.

I'd better get on with things. People think I'm a writer, even I feel like I'm a bumbling impostor at times! :rolleyes:

How do you handle being a writer with your family, friends and the public?

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A writer? Who me? Nah, can't be. Being a writer is not something I discuss with people around me. But then Italians aren't much into reading books - well not compared to UK people. The only close relative who shows an interest is my niece who when sending me a copy of "The Da Vinci Code", placed a note inside saying, "I know you can do better than this." But then she lives in England and is a human resource analyst at one of the biggest mobile telephone companies in the world. So I value her opinion.

BTW Paul, I've noticed supermarkets are great places to stock and sell books- not all kind of books, but yours I'm sure fits into that kind of category where shoppers would be interested in "picking" up a copy as they peruse the baked-beans and Kellogg's cornflakes shelves. Ask them if you could come in and set up a little table there on a Saturday morning." Don't forget the posters.
 
Everyone seems to want to know if you're 'famous' and how much you make. I can't think of any other profession where questions of your income are one of the first things people ask you about.

I'm only recently able to tell people I'm a writer without bursting into tears. The transition from my previous career to writing was emotionally difficult for me--my identity was so rooted in my career, that though I've written and published since the 1970s, identifying as a writer seemed to me an admission I'd given up my true self. A year ago, I ran into a former colleague at a writing workshop, and when I expressed surprise at seeing him there, he said, "But, it's all the same thing [writing and heritage interpretation, my previous career]--telling stories. They're just different stories for a different audience." It helped me recognise the natural progression from one to the other and adjust my feelings about the shift.
 
A writer? Who me? Nah, can't be. Being a writer is not something I discuss with people around me. But then Italians aren't much into reading books - well not compared to UK people. The only close relative who shows an interest is my niece who when sending me a copy of "The Da Vinci Code", placed a note inside saying, "I know you can do better than this." But then she lives in England and is a human resource analyst at one of the biggest mobile telephone companies in the world. So I value her opinion.

BTW Paul, I've noticed supermarkets are great places to stock and sell books- not all kind of books, but yours I'm sure fits into that kind of category where shoppers would be interested in "picking" up a copy as they peruse the baked-beans and Kellogg's cornflakes shelves. Ask them if you could come in and set up a little table there on a Saturday morning." Don't forget the posters.

Approaching supermarket stock buyers is something I should do @Eva Ulian. I deliberately wrote my crime novels with a target demographic in mind. That is, older readers, probably 45+ and mainly female, as they make up the bulk of fans of crime fiction. Also, I hoped to tempt impulse buyers with intriguing titles—Who Kills A Nudist? and The Perfect Murderer—supported by teasing blurb on the cover. I think that supermarket book purchases are made on a whim, so it's crucial to catch the eye and plant a seed of interest to get shoppers to part with cash.

I was just reflecting on how much my attitude to selling has changed in the last six years. When I started out, I barely knew anything about eBooks and the different digital publishers and aggregators. My initial ambition was to sell eBooks online, staying away from POD. Since transferring my energies to Amazon recently, I've been looking into POD, audiobooks, getting my digital books into libraries here and in the USA (via their OverDrive scheme) and also selling my Cornish Detective stories in translation...I don't know how I'd get them translated, but Cornwall is popular with Germans thanks to Rosamunde Pilcher's books.

Such grand plans sound like pipe dreams to me, for all I really want to do is sit at my laptop and create stories. I keep reminding myself of what Michelangelo said:

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Yes, Paul, trying to sell yourself to people can be quite exciting- one idea leads to another. It's like playing catch ball, it can only turn sour if you drop the ball and don't pick it up again.
 
OverDrive scheme) and also selling my Cornish Detective stories in translation...I don't know how I'd get them translated, but Cornwall is popular with Germans thanks to Rosamunde Pilcher's books.
Umm, someone recommended www.fiverr.com to find all sorts of freelance people. While I was searching for a possible cover designer, I found the section of translators. The prices are very reasonable, but I have no idea how good they are. A few friends have used the fiverr website and are happy with what they've got. Might be worth looking into.
 
@Paul Whybrow remember, once you publish, you'll be accessible worldwide. Readers are often on their phone these days (my daughter is), so anywhere someone can access a phone, they can access your book.

But you need for Amazon's algorithms to recognise your sales. So, 2-3 months out of your release, start promoting your release date, set up pre-orders; try to hit the highest spike of sales on your release date. Hopefully, Amazon will recognise your sales and promote you. I've read/watched on YouTube (from a number of completely different sources) when Amazon promotes you, things happen overnight. And you don't want family and friends to buy your book, that screws up 'also boughts' with Amazon. You want crime readers.

I think in order to self publish successfully, you need to learn to make Amazon work for you. Check out Derek Murphy on Youtube, he has some good advice about Amazon, and he successfully self publishes.
 
They know I write.
What I think about writing, how I feel about writing--all of that nonsense, they don't know about that. They probably don't need to and it's probably a good idea I don't spend any time mired in that spot.
 
Imagine you are looking at investing in one of two stocks and investigate the charts on each to decide which one to buy. The first one shows a huge spike on a single day but has come back down. The other chart showing a steady tick trending upwards. Which one would you (in this case an algorithm ) be programmed to help? I would try to spread sales over x amount of days , but that of course is one opinion of many.
 
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