Monday, July 25, 2011

Feedback required

This photograph is of a lovely young lady called Hannah Rogers and me. And this is the press release that went out with it:

" Here We Are Again ‘‘ As Deputy Head Brings to school Her Childhood Play by Local Author

Whitstable author, Lesley Cookman, was guest of honour as Lorenden Preparatory School revived her play for their end-of-term production.

Hannah Rogers, Deputy Head of Lorenden, in Painter's Forstal, Faversham, fondly remembered the play " Here We Are Again,'' about wartime hop pickers in Kent, from her own school days as a pupil at Whitstable County Junior School.

Hannah said: "As the children have been studying World War II this term it sprang to mind, and so I got in contact with Lesley to ask if we could borrow the script."

Lesley said: " I was very honoured when Hannah, who had been in the original production as a child of 11 asked if I still had the script, and could she use it for a production at Lorenden. When I actually came to see it, I was overwhelmed. The beautiful ration book programme, the shining letters above the stage, the posters - all had me quite emotional before they started, and then - well! I had a lump in my throat all the way through, and I can honestly say I've never felt so proud. And the presentation of a completely unexpected bouquet was the icing on the cake."

It's the tradition at Lorenden to invite local friends from the community to watch the children perform the summer musical, though we don't usually have them writing the script as well! '' Said Hannah.

Now to something else on which I really do want feedback. Recently on the RNA members email group we've been discussing self promotion and social networking. These days, publishers, especially small publishers, have very little to spend on marketing and promotion unless the author is a bestseller. RNA president (and friend of mine!) Katie Fforde is one of these, as is another friend, Jill Mansell. Their books go straight into the supermarket and straight into the charts, something most of the rest of us can only dream about.

So we get our internet presence. I was lucky in that before the Libby books started, I already had a website, thanks to Brian, who was one of the very first Apple trainers (Apple Macintosh, as they were quaintly known then, not Cox's Orange Pippin) in this country over twenty years ago, so we, as a family, were ahead of the game as far as t'internet was concerned.

But it was at the suggestion of my publishers that I joined Facebook, and subsequently Twitter, and as far as I remember, started this blog. Just to prove how timewasting they all are, I just went back to the beginning to see when that was (October 2006) and ended up reading several old posts.

What we all want to know is: is all this social networking helping our sales? Do people get fed up with seeing our statuses (stati?) complaining about deadlines, shopping, cats etc? And do they mind if we say "Look! I've got a book out today!"? I have to say my online launch of the last Libby went really well and shoved my launch day sales at Amazon right up the lists, but I don't do it very often.

If I see constant promotion on Twitter and Facebook I unfriend or unfollow. What we all want to know is do readers also find that a turn off, and do readers enjoy seeing our silly little status posts? I shall post this on Facebook and Twitter, and I really, really want feedback. This will probably be shooting myself in the foot, but never mind.

Please post a comment wherever you read this - if you do, of course. Or if you have. If you haven't I'm not actually talking to you, am I? Oh, dear.


Andrew Culture said...

Promotion via social networking is crucial, but I'd agree that it needs to be fairly passive in tone. Market by the sheer glorious presence of your personality and people will warm to you, but promote without subtlety and you're just another voice in the deafening cacophony that is the modern world of advertising.

Hazel said...

I agree that relentless blatant self-promotion is a real turn-off but I do think readers love to follow real people. There are several RNA authors that I follow and I really enjoy their banter and news.

Princess and the Bear said...

Difficult to say Lesley... I follow your status upates because I'm interested in whats going on in your world as a friend. I like to follow authors I like so that I can find out when they have a new book or venture so for me, facebook and twitter etc is helpful. its always nice to see that authors and musicians are 'real' people too, with the same trials and tribulations we all have. so for me, YES! keep up the twitting and facebooking Dear heart! hope that helps... xxx

Henriette said...

I'll admit I find it a complete turn-off if I'm constantly bombarded with these so-called "Look at me!" posts on Facebook, Twitter and other online groups. It doesn't induce me to buy their books, it just pisses me off something rotten.
Having said that, I do enjoy the odd news item, when a writer has a book out, say a link to their blog or somewhere they may be guest blogging, not necessarily talking about their books, but about other things of interest. This could be anything - current affairs, family, research they have to do, writing-related topics (like your blog today), hobbies they have, books they've read and would like to recommend, etc. Something that gives me an impression of the person himself/herself. People are curious about writers. Nothing wrong with using that as an angle, imho.

Sheila Norton said...

Hi Lesley. I enjoyed reading your blog. Well done with the play at the school!

This topic about self-promo is very timely I think, as there are so many writers on FB etc now, all doing our 'bit' and we're in danger of suffocating people with it if we're not careful! Will be interested in any feedback - either on your blog or mine!

Sheila Norton said...

Hi Lesley. I enjoyed reading your blog. Well done with the play at the school! The topic about self-promo is very timely I think, as there are now so many of us writers on FB etc 'doing our bit' that we're in danger of suffocating people with it all! I'll be interested in feedback, either on your blog or mine, if we get any!

Judy Astley said...

Certainly on Facebook there are people who kind-of collect writers so I don't think there's a problem mentioning when you've got a new book out.

Twitter has worse offenders - those who constantly retweet all their good reviews are just plain annoying. I like Twitter though - I find it a friendly place and love to hear the odd domestic goings-on of everyone. If you then drop in that you've got a book out - without going berserk or self-congratulatory - well it's just part of the general exchange of information.

Lesley Cookman said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments, here and on Facebook. It seems that "real" people, that is, other than fellow authors, don't mind the odd mentions of books and writing. Hazel's right, I think readers do like to follow us as real people. (Like them!)

Talli Roland said...

To me, it's all about interaction. I've built up my blog by spending hours each night replying to comments, visiting other blogs and commenting there. Same with Twitter - it someone tweets me, I make it a point to always respond. Social media helped me massively when it came time to launch my first book - bot because I tweeted about it constantly, but because my followers were my friends and took it upon themselves to spread the word (and buy!).

Loubags said...

What I particularly enjoy from those I follow are the updates that include domestic detail along with interesting, maybe even trivial stuff about what they are working on at the time. Worthiness and blatant self promotion are always a turn off; promotion with slight self deprecation is easier to swallow (I hate the retweeted adoration too). Lx

Anonymous said...

I concur that blatant self-promotion is abhorrent, but I also confess to loving the chance to sneak a look at people's real lives - and with writers that has to include their writing and their publications!

I think you get the balance right, Lesley, and I am endlessly fascinated by the experiences you have. The play at your local school is just one example of the richness of your life and I am so glad you share.
Best wishes

Cotswold Bookstore said...

I'm annoyed by those who seek help reaching their 500th, 1000th etc follower. Some who follow our bookshop sell cheese or funeral insurance. What value are they?
The other bug is where the same title keeps coming up yet nobody seems all that interested. Right now it's that 'Goon Squad' thing.
However, I worry about overdoing it myself with Justin Thyme but we really are keen for other people to sell it, not just publicise it for our own selfish reasons. Perhaps we should all have a 'You're overdoing it' button.

Sheila Norton said...

Hey, Lesley - some really good feedback here, very interesting and helpful! (I thought you said you didn't get many comments - these are great!).

I think we've all learnt something from this topic - as I said on the Facebook discussion - we need moderation and common sense. Hmm. Have I got either of those?! x

Lesley Cookman said...

Never had so many comments, Sheila! Thank you all very much. Wish the offenders would read them, but of course, they won't.

And special thanks to the daughter - thanks, Lou!

Jean said...

This subject interests me, though I think I'm saying more or less the same as what others have said. I don't mind authors promoting their work as long as that's not all they're doing on facebook or twitter. If they do it too often (we have to decide what is 'too' often) I find it really annoying. I think just now and then is fine. I like to hear about the work of authors, what reviews they've had and when they've updated their blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lesley

I just recently discovered your mystery novels when my local library introduced all your paperbacks.

I read 'Murder To Music' and 'Murder In The Green' and enjoyed them immensely. I was interested to find out some more about the author and I was pleased to see you maintain an active blog. And now I'll visit your blog on a regular basis to find out the news, etc.

I guess what I'm saying is that something like a blog or Facebook or Twitter encourages interaction with your audience. It kind of builds a community around your books which must be a good thing.

New Zealand

Lesley Cookman said...

Jean, nice to meet you and congrats on The Dark Threads.

Steve - how lovely to see a reader from New Zealand. I know the books have distribution in Australia and New Zealand, but I didn't know I was in the libraries. Thank you for your comments.


Lesley Cookman said...

Just to say thank you again for all your comments. It has proved to me and all the authors who've contributed that we, at least, are doing the right thing. And if anyone who commented isn't following me on Twitter or Facebook, please come and find me. I'm on both under my own name.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lesley! I've never read your work but I'm reading your blog because I'm an avid follower of Nick Campbell's and Paul Magrs' blogs. I now want to check out your books so, yes, online presence does help!

Phil Hansen said...

I've never read your work Lesley, but I've come to your blog from Nick Campbell and Paul Magrs' blogs and now I want to read your books! So online presence does help!