Geoff Turner sought several literary agents before landing with a publisher. He discusses his journey and explains why even traditionally published authors need sound marketing strategies.
1. Tell me briefly about your book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
Archie’s Mirror is about a young boy’s search for his missing father. It’s a journey that takes him through the magical mirror of the title and into the mysterious Land Beyond. It’s a book for older children along the lines of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy or Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I also wanted to write a story that explored the idea of story-telling itself. So, for kids, there’s what I hope is a rollicking fantasy adventure, but there are additional levels there that adults might want to explore, alongside a heady mix of jeopardy and humor.
2. How have your sales been?
Put it this way, I won’t be quitting my day job just yet. The thing I’ve realized about being an indie author – and I guess the same is true with self-published writers – it’s very much a marathon not a sprint. It’s very rare that you’ll find instant success. You have to keep at the marketing, you have to keep at the promotion, and you have to keep searching for your audience. Keep the faith and, with a bit of luck, that audience will be out there, somewhere.
3. You’ve gone the traditional publishing route. Tell me more about that and how you got into it.
By chance I saw that Prospective Press was looking to increase their roster of writers and was asking for speculative submissions. Archie’s Mirror was finished, and I was toying with self-publishing, having received a raft of rejections from literary agents. I figured there was nothing lost by sending Prospective the manuscript. At the very least I thought I might get some feedback on what was wrong with it – the agents had just sent me their standard letters – but, as it happened, the book struck a chord with them and they offered to publish it.
4. What are some of the pros and cons of traditional publishing you’ve experienced?
Traditional publishing means that someone else is handling the logistics. They’ll sort out the ISBN number and arrange a professional edit (this is invaluable to any writer!). They’ll also come up with cover artwork designs and book production (both paperback and ebook).
While not exactly a ‘con’, I think, in my case, there’s an issue with the publisher being based in the US while I’m in the UK. Prospective Press attends a lot of book fairs and Comicons and are often joined by some of their US-based writers. I think this certainly helps their sales – readers are more likely to buy a book if they can talk to the author.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
Setting up a website and blog has been essential. The blog means that you can raise awareness about yourself as a writer without constantly referencing your book(s), which can become tedious and put people off. I tend to write about writing in all its many forms, covering a range of subjects including the risks of artistic license, the appeal of short stories, why fairy tales aren’t just for kids alongside previews of my books.
6. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
You can’t just take a backseat when it comes to marketing and promotion and expect the publisher to do this on your behalf. Indie publishers are great because they take chances on new and often struggling writers, but they’re small and often don’t have much of a marketing budget. Don’t expect success to just happen – get out there and tell people who you are.
7. New authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books, whether they go the indie or traditional publishing route. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
Keep at it and don’t get disheartened. Launch a website, start a blog. You have to work hard at putting your name in front of potential readers and keeping it there. If people are interested in you, your thoughts and feelings, and what you do, there’s a better chance that they’ll start to take an interest in what you’re writing.
8. What other projects are you currently working on?
Archie’s Mirror is the first part of a trilogy of books set in the Land Beyond. I’ve just finished the second part, Dragonspeak, which takes Archie deeper into the mystery of his father’s disappearance and pits him against dragons, pirates and a growing evil. This is currently with my editor and I’m hoping it will be published in 2019. I’m now working on part three, Darkness Risen, which is kind of like The Hobbit meets Agatha Christie and pulls together all the loose threads from the previous two stories into what (I hope) is a satisfying conclusion to Archie’s adventures.
9. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Twist the real; embrace the fantastic.
10. How can readers learn more about your books?
Check out my website and blog and sign up for my newsletter MirrorWalker for a chance to win a signed copy of Archie’s Mirror.