English thriller writer Alison Morton describes her collaboration with a trade-published author, steampunk novelist Liesel Schwarz, to build the audiences for both of their books via joint in-store events.
Liesel Schwarz and I had fun at Rossiter Books two weeks ago, and so did the audience of readers and fans. Well, they nodded their heads, smiled and laughed in all the right places. Talking about your work, motivations and craft with an audience is always fun in my book!
But this event was a little unusual. Although we both write alternative worlds, Liesel with steampunk, me with alternative history, and we obviously share a sense of the offbeat, there is one big difference between us: she is ‘mainstream/trade-published’, and I am ‘independent/self-published’. I deliberately put these in quotes because these terms are becoming less significant.
Why We Joined Forces
Liesel and I met through the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Our books have boy-meets-girl emotional relationships, which is the crux of the matter for the RNA. As we write in speculative settings, world-building is at the forefront of our writing craft. It goes beyond setting, as we have to create a whole new world, although the characters in our books remain very human. You can imagine the discussions we have!
Although Liesel has been hailed as the ‘new high-priestess of steampunk’ by The Independent newspaper, and I’ve had a fair bit of success in historical and adventure fiction, neither of us is a household name, so we decided to band together to do some author talks.
How We Did It
So I set up one of my spreadsheets, and in October 2014, I contacted about 20 bookshops in the west of England. Liesel lives that way, and so does my brother (I hear cries of ‘cheapskate’ on the accommodation front!) Two replied, and I carefully built up relationships with the respective events mangers over the following months.
Now, I appreciate that there is some nervousness among bookshops about accepting indie authors for events. Even the most optimistic advocate of indie/self-publishing knows that although their own books are good, a vast percentage are sub-standard. And not every indie author adopts a professional approach, so building the bookshop's confidence in you is key.
We knew were were a good match for a joint event: similar enough subject areas, both outgoing communicators with successful books. Of course, having the mighty Random House PR officer helped in terms of ‘clout’; we were in The Independent's ‘i’ supplement diary under ‘cultural events not to be missed’! It was also a great opportunity to draw attention to my newly-launched novel Aurelia, the fourth in my Roma Nova series.
Blurring the Boundaries
Indie publishing has been and is an exciting ride for me, hard work sometimes, but very worthwhile. I’ve sometimes faced prejudice, but I snap my fingers at it. Readers don’t care who publishes a book, or how it’s published; the colophon is an irrelevance. They buy an escape, an insight, an adventure.
Reaching new readers through the ALLi #Authors4Bookstores campaign can be nothing but good, but all indie writers should consider working with others in their field/genre/interest area who are published differently.
OVER TO YOU
Have you ever done a double-act like this with a trade-published author? Does this post inspire you to try joint events with authors or any kind? Please feel free to share your experience via the comments box!