Writers, enthusiasts, and those wanting to work in the literary industry were treated to expert advice during the ‘Author Marketing and Online Presence’ panel as part of the 2020 National Creative Writing Industry Conference.
The event, run by Comma Press and The Manchester Writing School, aims to support authors to break into the industry and features a series of free online panel discussions.
Poet and Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metrolpolitan University Andrew McMillan, chaired the event. The panel of experts included: Naomi Bacon of Tandem Collective, Kat Mckenna; a freelancer in marketing and brand development, and Hamza Jahanzeb, who is a marketing executive at Ikon Books.
McMillan was joined by Comma Press Publicity and Outreach Officer Zoe Turner, who asked questions on behalf of those watching online.
Turner introduced the event, explaining they aimed to support writers breaking out into industry. She said, “[This event] will give you tips on how to push yourself online as an author, how to put yourself out there, how to harness all of the socials [social media platforms] that are available to us.”
McMillan captured the essence of the event by saying that the ‘demystification of the whole process is great,” going on to explain how confusing elements of the online marking and self promotion can be for writers.
The panel was particularly refreshing, in that it focused on many of the positive aspects of 2020, something which has been missing in much of this year’s media coverage. Over the past few years, the online presence of authors, publicists, agents, and booksellers has grown, but the ‘new normal,’ as life is often referred to now, has catapulted the online side of the writing world in unprecedented ways.
Bacon, talking about an online event she had been part of the previous week, said: ‘This really excites me that events that we now do online can have a global audience, which we couldn’t have done before and we had authors zooming in from all over the world.”
Tandem Collective, who now specialise in Instagram ‘read-alongs,’ was established by Naomi Bacon and Rob Cox in 2016. Bacon, a previously self-proclaimed social media avoider, is now a huge advocate for an online social media presence, particularly through the medium of Instagram.
Bacon spoke of the positivity of the ‘Bookstagram’ community and how accessible this was to all. She recommended short online courses as one of the ways to become “Instagram-literate” and admitted to herself learning about social media through a low-cost online course.
Mckenna, a freelancer at Kat Mckenna Marketing, specialises in children’s and young adult brands. She talked passionately about not putting pressure on authors and recommended doing only what an author feels comfortable with.
When it comes to social media, Mckenna suggested choosing one platform that works well for you and putting time and energy into that, rather than working over lots of platforms in a smaller way.
Discussing the various social media platforms, Mckenna said: “My main advice to publishers and authors would be to do what you can do and do what you’re comfortable doing.”
Jahanzeb has been working in the publishing industry for four years, both Beijing and in the UK. He is now the Marketing Executive at Ikon books and talked about the importance of authenticity as an author. Jahanzeb suggested that “sleek and polished” wouldn’t appeal to prospective readers in the same way that a legitimate, genuine and creative voice would. He suggests that authenticity is key and, “as long as you’re authentic and your voice is show how you want the world to see you as an author”.
The experts went on to discuss how to build a community and a social media presence. They detailed how to market yourself successfully, the role of publicists and the various online platforms utilised. Virtual promotional events, including book launches, were discussed with positivity and passion.
The National Creative Writing Industry Conference ‘Author Marketing and Online Presence’ panel is available to stream online in full over on the Comma Press YouTube channel.