Why I can’t sell for toffee

Just recently I have been inundated with requests and queries regarding the formats my books are available in. The majority of them are only available as an eBook, in fact the only book available in paperback is Taking Care of Leah, and even then, this is on a “Print on Demand” (or POD) service. I knew that my books had to reach a certain criteria before being available in print, so I emailed my publisher at Tirgearr Publishing what that criteria was, and she came back with a detailed and interesting response. It was pretty lengthy, but the gist of it was that each book has to sell 180 copies within a set period of time before it will be considered for print, and that we should all consider writing as a business, and treat it as such.. Absolutely fine, I understand that. But my problem (which I have blogged about before) is that I am a writer, not a saleswoman.

My college course was on Equine Business Management, meaning I  am qualified to run a riding school and livery yard. And the business management part of that course was limited – I essentially spent one day a week for two years, mucking out stables, clipping horses, and creating posters on different types of rug. Hubby however, is a salesman. And a damn good one. Unfortunately, he sells ink cartridges, printers and laptops. He does not sell books, and he hasn’t ever read a romance novel, so while he can give me a few pointers, he doesn’t have the contacts to really push. But yeah… pointers… How do you treat writing as a business? Particularly when you have a limited budget of like… zilch.

Communicate with your readers

Sign up to every single bit of social media going. I’ve done that. I have a Facebook account that readers / writers are welcome to friend, a Facebook page, Twitter account, Linked In, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, a website, and obviously this blog. I’m active on Facebook (perhaps a little too active), and Twitter, and I try to keep this blog and my website up-to-date. I both loathe and love Instagram, but the rest of my social media accounts are hit-and-miss.

It’s also been suggested that I sign up to forums. Sadly, I’ve had a lot of bad experiences when it comes to forums, particularly those associated with Goodreads. One of which ended up with me being labelled as a “Badly Behaving Author” and having numerous blogs and posts dedicated to slating my name – all because one woman that I used to work with, got a bee in her bonnet because I quit my job before the company could go bust and leave me redundant. Plus, I get totally confused and forget what I’ve posted where. My small brain is not capable of living inside internet forums. I was a member of a chat room back in the late 90s / early 00s, and that ended up with me meeting some weird bloke, who I then married and had kids with. (We’re still married. I love him really.)

I also have the issue of connecting with my target audience. Apparently, my target audience is women between the ages of 25 and 50 years old, most of my readers will be married or separated, and have children. Apparently. Which is great – because that’s what I am! I read books, I’m married, I’m in my 30s, and I have children! Except I’ve always struggled to relate to women in my peer group. Even stood in the playground, I tend to talk to the dads more than the mums, or just stand in the corner, with my one friend having a moan about kids, money, and the weather. Introverts with anxiety issues do not socialise.

Network, network, network

As well as being active on Facebook, and being “friends” with hundreds of authors and hundreds of readers, I am a very active member of Yeovil Creative Writers, and have recently looked into joining a group a little bit closer to home. It’s all about networking. And it does work. If I hadn’t gone to the Festival of Romance a few years ago, I would never have met Lucy Felthouse, and in turn wouldn’t have thought about submitting to Tirgearr Publishing or writing for their City Nights series. I also wouldn’t have “met” all the people I have, or gone to the Smut.UK weekends and actually, physically, met some amazing writers. So networking does work, but it doesn’t necessarily result in sales.

Sadly, networking and attending events like Smut.UK, Festival of Romance etc. usually requires money for travel, hotels, food etc. And money is not something I have an abundance of at the moment.

It’s also very difficult to network as a contemporary / erotic romance author when there is still so much taboo around the subject of sex. I’ve personally experienced being disowned, ignored, and looked down on because I’ve mentioned the fact that I enjoy writing graphic sex scenes. I do feel stuck between genres. For erotica events, I am too contemporary. For romance events, I am too erotic. And then there is the fact that I can’t do book signings, because I don’t have any paperbacks to sign. Rock. Hard place.

Marketing, publicity and promoting

There are several companies that I would recommend using to marketing and publicise work: Writer Marketing, GoddessFish, BookBub,  and eBookSoda being a few of them. But, yet again, they cost money. BookBub in particular is quite expensive, although does result in sales. However, for most of these it is usually a good idea to reduce your book’s price to 99c / 99p, and unfortunately books sold that are on promotion do not count towards the 180 quota I need to get them into paperback. So while Seven Dirty Words did outsell the likes of Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series and EL James’ FSOG for a couple of days, it did so while it was on sale, and not at full price.

Facebook groups are obviously free to use, but how many of those actually result in sales? By my experience, not at all. And then there is the risk of being blocked and reported for spamming. (21 days in Facebook jail is not fun when you’re a FB addict!) But you can promote posts with both Facebook and Twitter. I’ve done this and feel that it was a waste of money. I may have reached over 1,000 people according to the statistics, but I didn’t sell a single book during that time.

SEO values and hashtags

There is a trick to getting SEO values and hashtags right, one I have not mastered yet. If I had, then my social media would be getting a lot more hits than they are! I’m a self-confessed technophobe. I know how to use popular areas of the internet, and Microsoft Word. I can’t even use Excel, never mind get to grips with ensuring that my website is attracting the correct traffic!

Money and socialising

That’s what it all comes down to. Having the money to push into titles to promote the hell out of them, and the ability to socialise and talk to actual real-life people. Neither of which I have.

Don’t feel sorry for me though. I’m skint because I have two small people who depend on me to provide them with food and a roof, and because my world revolves around them, I have the bad habit of spoiling them rotten. So the chances are that I will be skint until the day they leave home. (Ten years until university…)

Socialising, as I’ve mentioned before, is a problem for me, because I am not comfortable around people. I have qualifications in animal-related subjects because I can talk to a cat or a dog with ease, whereas people scare the living hell out of me.

So as you can see, I am doing my best as making my writing a business, but struggle on a daily basis, because, well… Yes, it is a business, it really is. I tried working in sales once, and got fired. For being crap at it. And when you get fired by your own husband for being unable to make money, then it’s probably safe to assume that sales is an area to avoid in the future! I am a writer, not a saleswoman.



3 thoughts on “Why I can’t sell for toffee

  1. Great post, Charlotte – and something I can definitely relate to. I’m still very much on a learning curve in terms of marketing and promotion and its definitely not something that comes naturally! Time and money definitely have an impact but I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to be realistic in terms of just focussing on doing as much as I can, when I can. I’m sure we’ll get there 🙂

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