This was the talk I gave last night at Magdalen College, Oxford. I was part of a panel talking about digital strategies and social media and the like. It was organised by The Society Of Young Publishers. It was my first real event as a sort of a writery authory type of person. Apparently there were over 100 people. I was quite nervous but it went OK, I reckon. The other speakers were great, they were Liz Murray, Joe Pickering, and Alex Martin.
There’s more below than I actually said because I kept losing my spot and then just jumping to the first sentence my eyes were happy with. So this, my friends, is what is known to people who exaggerate as a mixture between a WORLD EXCLUSIVE and a BEHIND THE SCENES INSIGHT.
My name’s Ardie Collins and my debut novel was published at the start of September by Knightstone Publishing. I’ve been asked along to talk about how I’ve used the internet in the promotion of my book. And I have used it heavily in the promotion of my book. And the thing is that it was actually the use of the internet that led to the publishing deal in the first place so I wanted to talk briefly about that first because the whole process, really, has been online.
So I wrote my novel over the course of a few years and when I had finished it and edited it I decided to put it online and make it available for people to read and possibly offer feedback on it. The service I used was a website called Completely Novel that is, in a way, a social network for authors and readers. And that’s how I used it, it was a way to offer feedback to each other. You could read the books for free online or buy a copy which would then be printed. Mine wasn’t ready yet, though, so I turned off that function. It was just a way of starting to get some feedback. Because I was also looking into more traditional methods of publishing and everything I read in blogs that I scoured and books I read about the way to get published told me how you have to get a literary agent, which is notoriously difficult, and then the agent gets you the publishing deal, which is notoriously difficult. And I bought The Writer’s Handbook which has a kind of directory of agents and publishers and started sending manuscripts out to agents. And people I’d spoken to who had got publishing deals always boasted of the piles of rejection letter they have, and the persistence required. And I was game for a while, and I sent out plenty of manuscripts, but eventually, basically, I gave up.
I was writing other things, I was working full time, I went away for a bit, and I was starting my Masters course, but I started going back to the novel and redrafting and editing it in the hope I could maybe feel like I was sending a better version out to agents because the smallest thing can put agents off. Eventually, though, I got an email from a small publishing company who had found my book on Completely Novel and through a couple of emails of revisions and ideas I was offered a publishing contract. And that’s the kind of thing that just wouldn’t have been able to happen 10 years ago. That’s something that could only have happened through the arrival of the internet. I mean, yes, there were other ways to get published, but I feel like before the internet my method is the equivalent of leaving your manuscript on a bench in the hope that a publisher might wander past and read it. The internet has undoubtedly changed the book industry in many ways. It hasn’t totally altered it, it’s just increased the number of roads to publishing. So that was how the book got published in the first place, through what I would deem to be a social network. Albeit a smaller and more specialised one than Facebook and Twitter are.
But to get more to the promotion side of things, after I signed the deal I had a deadline to get my final draft in, and there were various other things going on between the publishers and myself. But I decided quite early on that I would take on the social media side of things myself. And I kind of just did that without really asking them, and then I retrospectively asked them and they agreed that that was a good idea for the same reasons that I took it upon myself in the first place. And the reason for that is because social media works best, I think, when it’s personal. It’s about interaction, and people like to interact with people, they don’t like to interact with faceless businesses or faceless organisations quite as much. I mean that goes on on Twitter, and can be effective, but I still think the personal element is better. Read the rest of this entry