How on earth can giving away free copies of my book boost sales? I know, it seems bonkers doesn’t it? Let me explain further…
Years ago, I wrote a book, Weekender. When it was still a rambling, sprawling opus hiding in the recesses of my hard drive, I launched a guerrilla marketing campaign to get it noticed. I had tried and failed to elicit the support of agents and publishers by conventional means.
It was time to rally the troops and go underground...
I set up a website with videos, music, samples from the book and, of course, a synopsis. Then I printed off flyers, thousands and thousands of them, promoting the website. These were distributed in clandestine fashion around the city of Edinburgh during the Festival.
The trouble was the flyers and the website weren't really selling anything. All they did was highlight to people that some guy had written a novel and couldn't get it published. Needless to say the campaign was a disaster. Most of the flyers ended up in the gutter. Many more remain in my hall cupboard to this day. Weekender remained unpublished and in obscurity.
With that chastening experience in mind, I am now embarking on another campaign that will cost me even more money. The difference this time is that, thanks to the lovely people at Comely Bank Publishing, I now have something tangible to offer. A real, physical book. Something that people can touch and feel, and maybe even read.
I plan to leave secret copies of Weekender around the city in the coming weeks. Each will have a message inside congratulating the finder and asking them to read the book and then leave it somewhere that someone else will find it. A coffee shop perhaps, or on a bus or train.
In this age of social media people will be able to log and track Weekender on its journey. The aim is to get Weekender travelling around the world – although to be honest if one copy gets across the river to Fife I will be happy.
The self-published novel is a delicate flower. Neglect it and it will die very quickly. Indeed, the only thing that will keep it healthy is publicity. Lots and lots of publicity. I think Weekender is a cracking read, but it has to find its way into the right hands if it is to truly bloom. I want it to make the leap from local tale to global phenomenon, so its name (and mine) needs to embedded in the consciousness of as many people, in as many places as possible.
Like any successful, self-published novel not only must it be visible, it has to constantly shout and jump up and down waving its hands manically above its head. The biggest arts festival in the world would seem an appropriate stage for it to do so.
The campaign will run over a weekend (obviously!) as follows:
Friday 19th August 2016 – Leith
Saturday 20th August 2016 – West End/Gorgie
Sunday 21st August 2016 – Edinburgh City Centre
So look out for secret copies of Weekender on those dates and remember – a lot can happen in a weekend...
Weekender is available to buy at Blackwell's, South Bridge; The Edinburgh Bookshop; Elvis Shakespeare's and also on Kindle.
Roland will be posting occasional updates on the campaign here.You can also get involved on Twitter #discoverweekender @weekendernovel and @comelybankpub