Lake Atitalan, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Sell an Ebook the Old-fashioned Way


Today we have Helena Halme, sharing a very helpful idea she implemented for marketing her novel:

First I’d like to thank Karen for letting me be a guest on her wonderful blog to talk about my novel, The Englishman, a love story between a Nordic student and a British Naval officer.

When I published my book for Kindle earlier this month, I thought: Who is this book really aimed at? The answer came to me immediately – commuters with e-readers. I knew my readership, but I urgently needed a way to make them aware of the book and encourage them to read it.

I live in a creative part of North London, and decided a leafleting campaign would be the ideal way to reach my core readership. So I asked my cover designer, Simon Wilder, to design a leaflet. Armed with a stack of them, I went out early one the morning to talk to commuters at bus stops and tube stations, handing out leaflets and telling people to read my novel.

Advertising would have been prohibitively expensive and, besides, it’s a rather detached, impersonal way to sell books. I was keen to adopt a more personal approach to get the word out.

The leafleting was an incredibly positive experience. People were very friendly, especially when I told them I was the writer. I’d printed a short excerpt from the book at the back of the leaflet and my only slightly wobbly moment came when, standing by a particularly long queue at Crouch End Broadway bus stop at about 8 am, I saw 20 or so people, all reading my words. 

Occasionally someone would glance back at me. That made me feel a little exposed – as a first time novelist, it was quite scary to actually watch people read your work!

The Englishman is a ‘will they, won’t they’ love story between a Finnish student and British naval officer. It started off as a series of posts on my blog, Helena’s London Life, after my readers asked me how I came to be in England. The posts grew so popular, that I decided to turn them into a fully-fledged novel.

In 1980, Peter and Kaisa meet under the bright lights of the British Embassy and share kisses under the statue of the Finnish poet, Eino Leino. But they live hundreds of miles apart and at the height of the Cold War Peter chases Russian submarines while Kaisa is stuck in a country friendly with the Soviet Union. Will their love go the distance?

So why did I choose to publish digitally rather than take the more traditional print book publishing route? Well, I’ve had a few ‘close calls’ with literary agents and publishers in the past, but blogging has given me such a lot of confidence in my writing, that I decided I could do it myself. I’m also a bit of control freak and like the fact that there are no middle men between me and the readers. Besides, ebook publishing did well for E L James and her book Fifty Shades of Grey, so why not me?

However, being an independent publisher doesn’t mean you can cut corners. The Englishman has been professionally edited and proof-read, and the cover was designed by an experienced and talented graphic artist, Simon Wilder.

While still carrying on with the leafleting (I might go to the West End next!), I’m also working on a second novel, Pappa’s Girl, about a Finnish immigrant family in Stockholm, to be published on Kindle later this autumn.

Links:

Like Englishmanthebook on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/englishmanthebook
@helenahalme on Twitter http://twitter.com/helenahalme

24 comments:

  1. Lots of helpful advice, Helena. I would never have thought about a leaflet drop!

    I think you make a key point here - self-publishers still need the devices of a proofreader, editor, and professional cover designer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brave thing to do! I think here in America, most people would steer clear of someone handing out flyers as if they had the plague.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a FABULOUS idea. If I lived in and English-speaking country, I would certainly do it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bet that would work with bookmarks, too. Shame we don't have a good transit system here like they do in London.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing Helena's story, Karen.

    Best of luck with your campaign, Helena. Love the premise of the book.

    ReplyDelete
  6. what a wonderful idea. This has been most interesting to read. People pass out literature all the time at stops like this or downtown New York, but wouldn't it be great to receive a taste of a novel like this. Great idea and best luck Helena with your novel.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That is a great idea. How awesome (and terrifying) to see so many people reading your book!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you everybody for you lovely comments. I stopped leafleting for a while and my sales dropped straight away, so I know it works! I think the fact that I can say I'm a local author helps, as does the fact that I've done the leafleting in a creative community.

    Thank you again Karen, for letting me 'take over' your blog for a day.

    Helena xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Helena, I like how you targeted your specific demographic so carefully and then chose the best way to reach them. Even choosing a creative, open community environment for your leaflet-sharing rather than one that might be suspicious of you.

      Delete
    2. Thats a wonderful idea, local is often underrated in this inteternational internet age. And its lovely for a reader to have met the author in that way, a very human approach, I wish you lots of luck:)

      Delete
  9. It's a great part of London!! Yay!!! Good luck Helena!! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  10. Very brave and creative. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you! I agree with you Old Kitty, North London is fab! (But then I would, wouldn't I?)

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's such a cool idea, Helena. It's probably what I would have done if I'd stayed in London and not moved to Dallas where we have practically no public transport system!

    I'm not surprised you did so well with this personal approach. Good for you!

    Jai

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wahoo! I was just here, and then came back--and the header picture has changed to a Wasatch autumn. Lovely!

    This is for Helena: I've tried TEN times to get through the captchas on the comments to leave a comment....and STILL can read one correctly. So I'll say here what I was trying to say over there....

    Your book sounds wonderful. And with your confidence I think you'll do great with self-marketing. I wish you great success. I'm now heading over to Amazon to check it out. (p.s. I have SO many lovely London blogger friends, Old Kitty and Hilary Melton-Butcher being at the top of the list!!! I love Old Kitty's exclamation points!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meant to say, Helena, that I was at YOUR blog trying to leave a comment...and couldn't get past the captchas...

      Delete
  14. Ann Best, I'm sorry you couldn't get to comment! I get so much span I have to have the moderation…it's a complete pain. Perhaps I'll try to take it for a few days and see what happens.

    Thank you so such for your kind words everybody - I am overwhelmed by so many responses.

    Helena xx

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dear Helena, I ordered your book from Amazon and look forward to reading it. The leaflet idea is a winner. I'm going to remember that. Peace.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Karen - what a fun post by Helena .. she's certainly taken the bull by the horns ... as Dee above says the leaflet idea sounds such a simple idea ...

    I'm off to subscribe to your blog ..

    Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's a cool idea, but I'd be far too shy to approach people.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow, that's impressive. Would I have the nerve to do that? Really not sure I would.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hilary, thank you and welcome to my blog!

    Annalisa and Simon, You shouldn't be shy - you should be proud of your words! What's the worst thing that can happen? Someone being rude? That's their problem, not mine.

    Hx

    ReplyDelete