11th October, 2023
8 min read
Beyond 'The End'. A Romance Writer’s View of Publishing
Sophie H. Morgan is a romance writer who loves humour and heart in equal measure. She is the author of the genie romances Her Wish and His Command and her latest The Witch is Back was published by Mills and Boon in the UK on 12 October 2023. As well as being a mainstream published author, Sophie is also Troubador Publishing’s Senior Publicist, working on marketing campaigns and PR for self-published authors. In this article, Sophie looks at why a romance writer’s work is never done – and how writing ‘the end’ is only just the beginning when it comes to selling and marketing a book.
Writers are no longer just writers…
If you took a poll, I think you’d find that there is still this idea of an author being somebody who does nothing but write their book, plot and plan for their next, and read others when they need a break. Life is awash in words and that is all we need to focus on, right? Wrong.
Perhaps that was how an author’s life used to look, but when we moved into the digital age, we also moved the promotional ball back into the author’s court. Promotional opportunities are now thriving, online and in person, and every author, from the ones published with a big five house (like myself) to those that have chosen the self-publishing route for a variety of reasons (control, time, preference) are now charged with the responsibility of doing their own publicity, at least in part.
Many of us might think this unfair. We are, under it all, a lot of us hermits, cracking open the curtains after a long writing session and blinking into the sun before opting to stay in our writing cave. The idea of putting ourselves out there, talking to people about our book, and encouraging people to buy it, read it, and review it, has us cringing in the way only British people can when asked to talk about themselves.
Promotion is the key
Sadly for those of us who squirm when self-promoting, this is a cultural mindset we need to break free from. Think of it this way: you spent a phenomenal amount of time writing, editing, revising, drafting and redrafting to get your book into its best shape; now it’s your responsibility to give it its best chance. A publisher only has so many resources – this applies from the big houses to the small independents. You are your book’s best advocate and if you don’t want those hours and that effort wasted, it’s time to put your best foot forward.
The most crucial task moving forward is to make your own publicity plan. This is vital as it will help you determine how you are going to move forward. You need to identify your strengths and your weaknesses. What do you enjoy or don’t, what do you mind putting time or money into and what do you think will be a waste of time? This will also depend if you are publishing overseas – you may be limited by geography, in one sense, but with so much online, there are still multiple opportunities you can exploit to your benefit.
Publishing in a digital age
We are living in a digital age and whether you hate it or love it, the internet is going to be one of the best resources for your publicity, from social media to websites, online advertising to podcasts. Social media is constantly debated but one only needs to look around at the thriving book communities on Instagram (Bookstagram) or TikTok (BookTok) to see how powerful word of mouth and getting the book out there online can be. I suspect this will only continue to grow, so it may be a fact of publishing soon that no matter what your personal preference is, all authors will be strongly encouraged to get out there online and find their readers. This is incredibly important no matter what genre you write in – and especially so for romance authors.
This plays into the next component you need to be thinking about – who is your target audience? This will affect how you’re going to be promoting and where best to spend your time, energy and potentially money. If your readership is younger, then perhaps it would be best to invest your time in social media, building up a platform, engaging with the book community, and making valuable contacts (and hopefully friends) that will help to promote and sell your book. If your readership will be more academic, you would need to consider approaching universities, conferences, and business fairs to find those who will be more likely to find your book appealing. Each approach should be bespoke to the book.
My journey to being a published romance writer
As an example, I was lucky enough to secure a summer publishing deal with Harlequin, a US imprint of HarperCollins, and Mills & Boon, the UK imprint, also chose to publish it at a later point (12.10.23) The Witch is Back is a witchy romcom set in Chicago, so immediately we have a problem: my book and its main readership are based in America. This meant no in-person events such as a book signing or launch, meaning everything that I could do was online. And while Harlequin/M&B would do some promotion, I still viewed it as my responsibility to draw potential readers in and increase the book’s visibility to its targeted readership.
So, in-person events are out and online is in. I then looked at everything I could do online, and as I mentioned earlier, there are many opportunities you can take up. I opted for social media being the easiest, cheapest way of increasing my following and expanding my author brand. Over the course of many months, I have increased my engagement with other readers, mainly on Instagram, ensuring I am contributing back to other authors and other readers’ accounts, making meaningful conversations and developing relationships. It’s a slow, steady process but I do enjoy it and that is also important as, if at all possible, you should try and enjoy every aspect of publishing!
My publisher and I also ran independent giveaways, which always bring more eyes to your page, providing you make one of the conditions that they share the post or tag someone else so they also see your book. Of course, it was costly to send five books to America, but I considered that an acceptable spend of my marketing budget and hopefully will yield more in terms of promotional value.
I’ve also been lucky enough to take part in an online author panel with other authors, which was a lot of fun, discussing romance books with people who also love the genre. Post-covid, many conferences and fairs will host online events so no matter where you are in the world, not only can you attend, but you can also potentially take part. It’s definitely worth taking the time to research and see if there are any online events you might fit well into. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no (this applies to everything in publicity!) Online events also have the benefit of showing off your personality, with the idea being that if a reader connects to your sense of humour or your arguments, they’re more likely to pick up your book and consider it.
There are other opportunities that I may decide to take part in later (things like Facebook advertising or advertising on specific websites, ebook promotions, or further competitions/giveaways) because the other lesson that authors need to remember is that promotion doesn’t have an end date and the farther you get from publication, the harder it can be to keep ideas continuing. Again, this is where a publicity plan can come in handy as you’ll have already sat down and collated a few thoughts and ideas to keep the promotion steady – at least until book two starts to draw your attention to its promotion!
It's not the end
It's a privilege to be an author, but as I have said, we also have a responsibility to our book. Gone are the days when we could consider our work done when we typed ‘The End’. Publishers expect us to get involved and to wear many hats as we navigate the murky waters of publicity. You are a brand now, and whilst we began this path because of creativity, it is important to also try on a business hat, a sales hat and any other hats you can think of that might help sell your book and get the word out about you as an author.
As we continue to move forward, the author’s role in publicity campaigns, no matter how they choose to publish, will only continue to develop, and I suspect more and more tasks and responsibilities will be placed in the author’s hands. My final advice? Publicity and self-promotion is a simple fact of publishing now. You may as well throw yourself in with both feet and enjoy the entire ride from start to finish.’
Learn more about how Sophie and her team can help market your book
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