Reaching Out Overseas

Reaching Out Overseas from October 2013.

A frequent concern of new and existing authors/writers, including me, is how to get readers to read our books preferably having purchased a copy from any retailer. The endless methodologies for marketing have been discussed in lots of blogs and forums. The independent and self-pub writers are just as desperate as mainstream publishing houses but without their advertising budgets. Of course those budgets are limited both in value and access and talking to some properly published authors the ability to access those funds is limited to an elite few.

I have previously commented that publishing houses seem to be little more than glorified marketing companies. Despite the constant streams of abuse about how poorly edited/written self-pub books are mainstream books still suffer from the usual round of problems. David Jason biography in a Bridget Jones novel anyone?

But I digress, this is not a rant about that endless argument over quality, the cost of editing etc, this is supposed to be about one aspect – getting overseas customers.

My books have not been translated into non-English languages, they haven’t even been translated into US English, they are in what we British like to call proper English – no comments please about grammar, typos, dialects, etc – actually comment all you want. There is a very large English (in it’s various forms) speaking/reading population, so how can I access these readers? My various retail outlets, Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu provide the self-published author with lots of sales statistics and each time I look – it’s a habit I should break.

I can see where my books are selling or more frequently not. I now know that Australian and New Zealand sales are included in Amazon.com, Canada has its own site as does India. Regardless of where the sale is registered how can I reach these readers and potential buyers? Is there something in my stories I should include much as the BBC include American actors in its dramas so that they can sell to the USA? How do I generate more readers in these countries? Amazon.com won’t even list reviews from other sites and those other sites only show reviews from Amazon.com after the description. It shows the book as un-reviewed.

Surely, a review is a review! A star rating is a star rating, but on all the other Amazon sites the book appears as unread, un-rated and un-reviewed regardless of it’s sales or reception elsewhere in the world. Amazon are losing out as well, after all a sale for me, is a sale for them.

For the readers out there (ther must be some) do you look for a setting, a scene or a character from your own country that might make the story more appealing? It doesn’t matter to me where a book is set although it might limit the scope of the story. For a character the main concern for me would be dialogue or cultural references, but that can apply in country just as much as overseas. Is there any point to running an advert in those countries. trying to generate sales or should I have to wait for a groundswell of US and UK reviews to attract attention? Yes, social media can spread the word but there are lots of words being spread in a very thin layer.

Do I have an answer? No. I include scenes and settings in locations that fit the story that I want to write. My third book, The Persuasive Man, has multiple international locations and extended scenes in Honk Kong, Dubai, and Caribbean locations along with New York and for non-English France and Shanghai. It’s not a travelogue but a tale of dodgy business. My other books vary, the first, An Agent’s Demise, has several international locations, whereas my second To The Survivors barely has any. Excluding free downloads my second is the best seller worldwide. Why is that, it is very UK focused in its story? Perhaps that is what attracts it to other English speaking parts of the world.

The whole conundrum of what attracts readers continues to baffle me and the tens of thousands of new writers out there. Overseas sales just adds to the bafflement.

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What Is Persuasion?

What is Persuasion form 2013

Since I launched my third book The Persuasive Man, I have been contemplating the reality of persuasion rather than my fictional account. This is also prompted by my experiences so far of marketing the book. Quoted in my book are the three types of Persuasion

Ethos: The credibility of the speaker or author, their authority, reliability, integrity. It makes the reader or listener believe what is said or written.
Logos: The logic that is used to support a claim by induction and deduction or the facts and statistics used to help support the argument.
Pathos: An emotional or motivational appeal by the use of vivid language, emotional language, and sensory details.

We all use all of these things to get our own way, whether it’s a teacher trying to persuade a class to be quiet or, in this modern age, advertisers and marketeers persuading us to buy their products or subscribe to their viewpoint.

Now as a new independent author I have to persuade as well. I want you the reader to read my book, to do that I need to get the book in front of you and preferably have you pay for the experience so that I receive a reward for my efforts. Of course my reward can also come in the form of a nice review (or not), a following on this blog, a comment from a friend or a relative but it all starts with persuading you dear reader to pick up/download my latest missive.

So lets look at each of the three types of persuasion.

Ethos

My credibility as a writer needs to be clear, this is fine when dealing with something that I have direct experience of, an auto-biography literally comes form the horses mouth, but if I write fiction it is by its very nature not true. Of course I can ground my story in facts, places, technology, and so on. I can use my experience of ife and perhaps direct professional experience. An ex-policeman may have the technical background to write a police procedural, but doe an ex traffic cop know how a murder investigation operates, maybe, but would the ex-traffic cop knowledge devalue the writer’s ability to persuade you. What if the Police Procedural is written by a former refuse collector. Credibility down – maybe. As a voice in the persuasion stakes I have to convince the reader that my story is worth their time. For an example of how not to do it try any Political Party Broadcast in fact many advertisements work purely by brain washing repetition, not by convincing people of the value of the product.

Logos

Lets get to the facts, the Number One Best Seller moniker is shown on brand new, newly launched books all the time. A best seller where? I have the Number One Best Selling Book in the Henley household, can I legitimately claim that in my marketing and accidentally neglect to mention “in the Henley household.” I was Number One on Amazon’s list for my first book for a couple of days as I persuaded, by financial inducement, thousands to download my free book. I could claim that my books provide unrivalled story telling but I doubt you would be convinced. I have plenty of rivals, 9,000 new books per month apparently. So for my first book An Agent’s Demise, I can claim that there are real facts mixed into the fictional story, although one of my reviewers thought it was far fetched. I did say it was fiction. My facts for my second book, To The Survivors, were in the research into viruses and several other bits that I used to make the story of surviving a catastrophe more realistic. Judging by it’s sales I was persuasive, or I just wrote a better story.

Pathos

Finally we get to the heart of the matter an emotional plea, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE buy my books. Did that work? If you buy my book, world peace will break out, all starving children will be fed and a cure for cancer will be discovered – working yet. It will change your life or just like TV adverts get you that incredibly non-airbrushed attractive partner, fast car, holiday, jewellery or just a nice meal. Of course I could quietly mention that you might just enjoy my spy thriller, dystopian catastrophe or fictional memoir, but would that persuade you because after all…

“No one can withstand the charm of such a mystery.”
Jane Austen, “Persuasion”