What to do if your writing’s great, but your marketing sucks!

Writing a book is a lonely business. The stereotypes are true, I mean, I’ve been sitting in my office since 8am, unshaven – I use that word figuratively – and I probably won’t see another person until my son comes home from school. I watch people walking up and down the street with dogs, buggies and earphones, which doesn’t really count as social interaction.

On one level, it’s blissful, I write, dream and research to my heart’s content. I play what my husband, calls ‘whale music’ to help me focus. So far, so idyllic. But attending The Author School was a rude awakening – I need to get myself and my work out into the daylight  – IRL and online.

 

 

Who are you writing for? They’ll never read your words if you don’t market them.

To be a successful writer, which I define as someone who writes what they love and sells decent amounts of it, requires consistent and concerted marketing and PR input.  I used to work in corporate comms and PR before I became a writer. Being tangled in my love affair with words, I had unceremoniously kicked my steady former love to the curb. Shame on me! All of the tools are at my disposal but I’ve left them to rust.  But, like an autumn breeze, change is in the air.  It’s time to polish my press release writing, tinker with my Twitter and sex-up my blog. (Not like that!)

Songs of My Soul on shelves at the Black Cultural Archives

Attending the Author School reminded me to look up from behind the screen, pause my book writing and start flexing my marketing muscles.  I had fallen into the trap of building an irrational resistance to self-PR and book promotion, for fear of being too ‘in-yer-face.’ The truth is, being in-yer-face/BOLD/CapitalLetters, is what gets people’s attention. It has always been this way.

So join me in giving your book a boost. Whether you’re still writing it or it’s already published, turn some of your writing attention to writing about your book, in detail. Plot development, characters, themes, why you’re writing it etc., that is as important as the end product and will help you to sell copies when you’re finished writing it.  It’s time to work our socials, and stop hiding out at home or in Costa. My PR self is telling my writer self to GET OUT THERE! My pledge:

do more social media – keep it real – do more Facebook live – blog regularly – blog/gram/tweet on the go (so it doesn’t feel it’s a job) – write about writing and poetry, my core themes & ENJOY it. 

If it gets too much, I will call in an expert.  I’d love to hear how you get on,  and if you don’t already, please connect/follow/like me…

@radiantlady

@schoolhappyin

https://www.instagram.com/suzysongsofmysoul/?hl=en

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Interview with Suzy Rowland

Suzy enchants the assembled!

Q. Tell us a bit about your background

A. I was born and brought up in the Midlands, with my mother, a teacher. She was also an eternal student and loved to read – she studied English literature for her first degree and there was lots of Chaucer, Shakespeare, William Blake and or course Shakespeare lying around. She whetted my younger poetic appetite by encouraging me to read Christina Rossetti who I loved. We identified strongly with our Caribbean heritage and loved John Agard, Maya Angelou, Benjamin Zephaniah – all of whom we saw! Before I went to University, I worked at my local radio station Radio WM and also for the Caribbean Times as a junior reporter – the writing bug started early!

Q. Tell us about about how you came to write Songs of My Soul

A. It’s a culmination of a few year’s work – I had so written so much material it seemed a pity to leave it all in folders on my computer or dotted around on various blog posts. I really wanted to put it all together as a collection and due to personal circumstances, I had the time to do this, and most importantly the will. Shaping the book was a really cathartic and creative experience; the book is themed into three sections – Discovery, Holy Fire and Resurrection-  which I think enables readers to dip in and out of according to their mood.

Songs of My Soul launch – interview with Suzy Rowland

Q. What is Songs of My Soul about?

A. It’s a personal reflection on life with universal themes – parenting, love, passion, grief, loss. These are themes that everyone can relate to – there is a ‘song’ in the book for everyone. The reaction has been so positive – it’s brilliant to create a body of work that potentially everyone can relate to.

Q. You painted the cover of Songs of My Soul – can we expect any more paintings from you?

A. I’m a writer first and foremost and although I loved the painting experience, words are my first love. I did have a vey clear picture of what I wanted the cover to look like, a representation of a spiritual, calming place and universal landscape we can all relate to. I love the colours of dawn, when the world is just waking up so I tried to capture this on the canvas.

Q. So, the book is published now, what’s next for you?

A. I would like to make a donation to the National Autistic Society with proceeds from the book sales, it’s a charity that’s very important to me. I have a figure in mind and once I get there I will let people know as this will have been a real joint effort. There has been such positive interest in the book, that I will continue being a poet. Observing life and people and capturing it – I have also written a few short stories and will be developing these. I will continue to develop my craft, I’m a bit like my mother in that way – there is always something new to learn, another experience to write about. I’m very excited about sharing my words – I believe it’s what I was put on this planet to do.

Writing a book when you have a day job

Long before Songs of My Soul was conceived, I remember the living room floor at my mother’s house strewn with handwritten manuscripts, paperclips, highlighter pens, squiggles on note paper and lots of colour photos. It looked like a crazy unsolvable jigsaw   – it was to become my mother, Cas Walker’s, first edition of Focus on the Caribbean, published in 1988. Her book was one of a series of books aimed to assist the primary classroom teacher, to help kids in their increasingly multicultural schools, to learn and understand more about the cultures of some of their classmates.

It seemed hideously complicated to me, writing a book; I was glad it was my mother who was battling with research and deadlines and not me, as I slunk up to bed at about 11pm. She often worked well into the night, ‘burning the midnight oil’ she called it and was up early the next morning for her job as schools’ curriculum adviser at Birmingham City Council.

She was tired but she also exhilarated at being commissioned to write this book; born and brought up in Jamaica, my mother was proud of her country of origin and keen to share the rich culture of it in a simple and digestible way to help promote greater understanding. One of the remarkable things about my mother was her beautiful speaking voice – she sounded like a BBC Radio presenter – precise, yet warm and clipped, with a dash of Birmingham and the merest hint of the Caribbean! She spoke highly of the English schooling she received in Jamaica and was often shocked about how kids with Caribbean parents who were born in the UK, seemed to lack the basics in terms of English diction and grammar. Perhaps it was a Brummie thing and wanting to fit in?

Mum’s signature in a copy of Focus on the Caribbean and a photo of her holding a copy of the book in the back garden.

The work continued and the book was finished – it was beautiful and I treasure the copies I have with photos of her in them and her signature.  Even though it was hard work, there is always a sweet spot in writing – when you are immersed to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Bound up in the words, characters, history, stories within stories – everything is suspended in the thick gloop of everyday soup, but you fly in the cloudless sky of your imagination. For me, this is where bliss resides. I’m sure mum would have had a more pragmatic approach – just get your head down and keep going until it’s finished! She was a no-nonsense lady in many respects.

Colours that bind us – holding a copy of my book, Songs of my Soul, 29 years after mum’s book was published.

Who was to know that years later, I would write a book of my own, with a bright yellow cover? Our books define our differences, hers: factual and educational, mine: fanciful and spiritual – but both bound in the yellow glow of a hopeful future.

You can download a copy of Songs Of My Soul here 

I’m hoping to work with a publisher to update Focus on the Caribbean.