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Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
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Claire Shaw
Features Writer
7:20 AM 19th August 2020

What Did You Do In Lockdown 3: How To Market An ebook

So you’ve planned, researched and written your ebook. You’ve created a spectacularly professional-looking front cover that impresses all your friends. You’ve successfully formatted your work so that it looks great on a Kindle device, and - drum roll, your ebook is there for all the world to see on Amazon’s global online platform.

You excitedly tell everyone you know that you have written a book and then you sit and wait for the royalties to come rolling in. You check the Report section on your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) dashboard to see how much money you have made and you are confronted by a whole host of zeros dancing before your eyes.

Yes, that’s right. Just because your ebook and your name are illuminated in the bright lights of the internet, it does not necessarily mean that it will sell. There are several other steps that you will need to take to ensure that your ebook is visible to the reading public and, without doubt, you are going to need a marketing campaign. To many writers, this does not come naturally, but can be good fun as you reach out to other people and begin networking.

Here are some of the steps that I have taken so far to try to raise awareness of the existence of my ebook, Eboracum: The Story of Roman York.

Although York is the centre of my universe and I am passionate about its history and heritage, I realise that I need to light the same fire of interest in other people too, so that they will read my book. Consequently, I went to a well-known online print shop and designed some postcards featuring a screenshot of the book on Kindle with the ‘Look inside’ arrow visible because I want people to know that it is an ebook straight away. The postcard also included some blurb about the book and a picture of me with a little biographical information. Although I am naturally shy, I decided to include my photograph because readers like to feel a connection with writers. Then I made a mental list of the places in York that I would target and ask to display my postcards.

My first attempt was unsuccessful because the music shop with the notice board would not take my postcard because they only accept publicity for musical events. I did offer to sing them a song, but that didn’t work either. Fortunately, the ‘Roman Bath’ pub, which gets a mention in the ebook, had just reopened after five months of lockdown and the kind gentleman at the desk was happy to take ten of my postcards. While there were several Roman baths in Eboracum, the one below the pub is the only one that has been found in what would have been inside the fortress. The kind attendant then generously allowed me to have a look around the archaeological remains, before I swiftly moved on to my next destination.

Walking past the statue of Constantine the Great and the enormous Roman column in Minster Yard (from what was once the basilica – a huge meeting hall), I considered whether York Minster shop would accept one of my postcards. I spoke to the manager, subtly reminding her that the Minster was built on the site of the Roman principia (main administrative area) of the fortress, but unfortunately, she was unable to accept my publicity because of constant requests from members of the public to display publicity material.

My next bet was the Visit York Tourist Information Office. The attendant kindly took twenty of my postcards to hand out to visitors who enquired about Roman York, but could not display them because all those who display advertising material are affiliate members who pay a fee to the organisation. Happy that they had taken some anyway, I moved on to my final hope, York Explore library.

Unfortunately, due to Covid 19, the library will not have a leaflet stand for the foreseeable future. However, the librarian did take one of my postcards with the promise that she would try to pin it up on a notice board. Back home I decided to offer a postcard to each of the smaller libraries of York at a later date. I doubt that my publicity run will convert into sales of my ebook on the scale of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, so I decided that I needed to harness as many other tools as I could. After investing £30 in fifty postcards, I realised that I needed to find more economical ways to promote the ebook.

One great, free way to promote your work on Amazon is to create an Author Page. To do this you will need to sign up for the service on authorcentral.amazon.com and then you can upload a photograph of yourself, a short biography and link all your books together on one page. I noticed that after I did this my book appeared immediately after I entered ‘Eboracum’ in the search bar, which it had not done previously. I then decided to overcome my reluctance to using Facebook and set up a page, simply to promote my writing.

After checking my Reports page for sales again and seeing a plethora of zeros once more, I decided to investigate the option of enrolling the book onto the Kindle Select programme. This is a monthly subscription service for people who read ebooks. For a set fee they are allowed to read as many books as they like which have enrolled into the scheme. I watched a video of the pros and cons of signing up for the service.

One of the negatives is that you have to give Amazon exclusivity of your ebook for the duration of the promotion. For me, this was not really a disadvantage because, as I have used an Amazon assigned ISBN number (ASIN), I cannot use other platforms to sell the book anyway. Being part of the scheme only lasts ninety days, so you are not signed up for life and it is a way of driving more traffic to your Author Page. With one click of a button on your kdp dashboard, you can enrol in this offer.

At one point I did consider doing a ‘giveaway’ of the book for a set period of time. I thought this could be a great way to generate interest and excitement about the work as the author sets a task or a question and the first readers to complete the task can claim a copy of the ebook for free. The only problem with this, I found, was that the author has to pay the price of each ‘giveaway’, which could work out to be a very costly exercise.

Of course, while offering to write three articles for the Yorkshire Times on how to publish and promote an ebook has been good fun, I do have an ulterior motive. Yes, you guessed it. I am trying to promote my ebook. There is no doubt that I want my work to be read because I want to share with the world the fascinating story of the people of many cultures who lived and died in York nearly two thousand years ago.

There is one particularly intriguing story that I discovered. Vercundius Diogenes had come to Eboracum from France with his Sardinian wife, Julia Fortunata, to serve as a priest in the cult worship of the Emperor Augustus. Diogenes’ coffin was discovered near the city walls in 1579. For some bizarre reason his sarcophagus was taken to Elizabethan Hull where it is recorded as having been used as a horse trough. A century later it vanished, its whereabouts now completely unknown.

By contrast, when Julia’s coffin was unearthed in 1877, in a completely different place to that of her husband, there were signs that her tomb had been moved away from its original resting place next to her other half. Additionally, when archaeologists lifted the lid, they were surprised to find the remains of a huge man with an aquiline nose, a broad forehead and badly worn down teeth. It seems that poor old Julia and Vercundius had been separated in death by another family in need of a coffin for their loved one.

By the way, if anyone in the Hull area knows the location of Vercundius Diogenes’ sarcophagus, can you let the Yorkshire Museum know please?

I have compared writing the book to giving birth to a baby and I now see the marketing of it as akin to the care and attention that a parent gives to a cherished and beloved child. After all that effort, I can’t just allow the book to languish in obscurity. Nevertheless, the marketing and promotion of it are taking some unexpected effort and dedication. As I continue considering other ways to market my ebook, I will leave you with this anonymous quotation:

‘Getting something done is an accomplishment; getting something done right is an achievement’.