Book Marketing Q&A with Fox Spirit Books
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Do you have a favourite social media channel? Why?
I actually love Twitter. I know it has its problems—the instant response, fast moving nature of it can mean storms in many a tea cup—but it’s a great way to be reachable and build relationships. Long before I started publishing I used to visit blogs, leave comments, go back, and see if they had been responded to. It took weeks or months to start to have a conversation. There is a charm to that, but it’s not terribly practical to do as a major source of networking.
On Twitter, I can dip in and out when I have a few moments. I can communicate with our readers and the Skulk (a group name for foxes and how our writers and artists identify themselves). I can get a feel quickly for what does and doesn’t interest people and I can drop in and be myself. It’s important not to be all business on social media, and Twitter makes that easy.
In your opinion, what is the best way to communicate a negative review to an author?
There is no good way; it’s always going to feel personal to them. Hell, it feels personal to me because I believe in the books we put out! Knowing the authors’ different personalities helps. It’s easy for authors to focus on the one negative in an otherwise positive or at least well balanced review, so being prepared for them to start with that helps. If it’s a true hatchet job, I usually head over to instant message apps so they can vent in private to me.
Sometimes reviewers make fair points and you have to just say, “ok, not for them and not unfair,” and sometimes you wonder if they even read the book. However, the first thing I do once we spot a bad review is tell the author not to respond in public and to rant at me—it’s what I’m here for. We have on occasion used lines from largely negative reviews as recommendations, because it takes the sting out, and also, sometimes, just because someone hated the book doesn’t mean their description isn’t a perfect selling point to our target audience.
As a small publisher, what are the most difficult aspects to marketing your titles?
Reach. We don’t have the funds for major advertising campaigns, or to send out a hundred paperbacks in the hope of ten reviews. Book selling is largely word of mouth, but all those ads at railway stations and the positioning on tables at Waterstones—those things give a feeling of familiarity, so at some point you think people have recommended it. Word of mouth can be very expensive to develop. We have a small and very loyal base of readers who get us as a publisher and love what we do, and will take risks with us because we are all in it together. Getting beyond those people, though, is a real struggle. No magic tips on that I’m afraid, but if anyone else has any I’d love to hear them. In the meantime, it’s hard work and a long tail.
Have you ever held a book signing or launch event? How important are these in your overall marketing plan?
We’ve held a number of events, mostly within conventions, but earlier this year we did a launch of African Monsters at Forbidden Planet London. I love doing signings and launches and we tend to treat them as a chance to charm our potential audience rather than sell a lot of books. I always say if people are talking about it afterwards and saying nice things, we did what we set out to do. It has to be about building relationships, building the brand, letting people know what we are about. Launches are rarely financially worth it for small press if taken at face value, which is why we look at them differently. We try to make them a bit of a fun event rather than a hard sales pitch.
It is important to us to get out there and be seen and approachable, though. We also run Fox Bites reading evenings in Leicester, with DMU bookshop, where any local author (not just ours) can do five minute readings. It’s good to get out and have contact with readers and potential readers.
How valuable are book reviews for your authors? How do you leverage them to encourage sales?
Book reviews are about the most valuable thing you can do to thank an author if you enjoyed their work. You need a minimum of ten reviews on Amazon to even apply for some of the e-book offer circulars, and more to get anywhere with the Amazon algorithms. The fiction market is busy and noisy and if a book is to sell people need to talk about it! If you like a book, tell people, put a few lines on Amazon or Goodreads, help us spread the word.
We’ve taken to posting pull quotes from reviews on Twitter as well as quotes from the books. It helps to let people know what other people thought. In the small press world every positive review is a huge blessing and every sale is hard won by the press and the authors.
About Fox Spirit Books:
Adele Wearing, known as Aunty Fox, runs award-winning indie press Fox Spirit Books, based in the UK but working with authors and artists all over the world to publish fantastic tales of mystery, magic, and mayhem.
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