As an author, the million dollar question is how do you get more people to read your books without giving them away free.
I’ve read about some authors who spend tens of thousands of pounds promoting their book, and I’m pretty sure it must glean some sales for them. For me, however, that’s an impossible dream. I don’t have the means for paid promotions and here’s why.
I was a full-time, stay-at-home mum until my children were in their teens. My parents and my parental-in-laws worked, so if I wanted a job there was no alternative, I had to pay for childcare. I did try going out to work a couple of times to supplement what my husband brought home, but childcare expenses took three quarters of my take-home pay. Yes, that’s correct. I was left with less than a quarter of my net pay by the time I’d paid my travel expenses.
When my youngest was thirteen and I was forty, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to increase our financial stability. I decided to attend college and aim for the qualifications I should have acquired at school. Although I’d won a scholarship at the age of thirteen and attended a grammar school, I’d hated it and left before taking the final exams.
So, there I was in my forties, having passed the qualifications I needed for the social studies university degree I was just starting. Life never turns out as you expect, though, and just as I was embarking on this heady ambition, the health of both my parents was deteriorating.
At first, whilst studying, I began caring for them on a small scale, like doing their shopping and cleaning their home once a week. I had almost completed the first year of my degree and was loving it when I accidentally left all my notes in the library. When I went back for them, they’d gone and nobody had seen them. This left me devastated as I’d put in a lot of work over that year. I was wondering how I’d revise for my end of year exams without them. That’s when life dealt an even bigger, life-changing blow. A couple of days later, my husband suffered a serious heart attack which left him unable to walk even a few steps, he couldn’t even make it to the front gate.
Now we were in financial trouble! Unwilling to leave my husband unattended for fear of another heart attack, I gave up my studies to care for him. That was a frightening time. On top of worrying about his health, we were also concerned we had no income coming in. It was six long weeks before my husband received his first sickness benefit payment. He’d been a self-employed taxi driver so couldn’t claim anything from an employer. We did get some back pay too but, as they pay in arrears, we were still missing a couple of weeks payment. Re-assessing the necessities of life meant we were just about able to manage on this reduced income. Luckily, we had no debts apart from the mortgage and car, and the car was covered by insurance so that was a blessing.
The consultant told my husband to do nothing, just sit in his chair. He said if he gave up smoking he may live up to another ten years. As he was only forty-three at the time, this was shocking news for us. He threw away his cigarettes that day and never smoked again. He was determined to prove them wrong so he started to walk a few steps. Little by little, he increased the distance he walked, trying a few yards further each day. Soon he was going outside with the dog, and each day he’d aim for another lamp post, a bit further on. He still got angina, but would stop, wait until it subsided, then start walking again.
Just as he was managing to cope with his illness, we had some bad news. My husband’s mother, confined to a wheelchair because she suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, rang us. Her partner had gone to hospital with a severe nose-bleed and they’d kept him in. She was alone in her bungalow with no-one to care for her. My husband was her only child so we began caring for her. Sadly, within a few weeks, we had to give her the news her partner had died in hospital. He’d developed cancer and had ignored the symptoms. Within six weeks she too had died. She’d had an appointment to see about a blood clot in her thigh, but the hospital had re-scheduled the appointment for a later date. It was too late.
In time, my parents needed more care, so we began giving them more attention in their own home. After we’d been caring for them over twenty years and they were in their middle nineties, it became too difficult for us to carry on looking after them like that. They both went together into a nursing home where they eventually died within a few months of each other in 2012.
By this time, I was aged sixty-six, too old to re-plan the career I’d set my heart on. I did have another dream though. I resumed writing stories, something I’d done in my twenties when our boys were small. So far, I’ve written and published two thrillers and helped my mum with her autobiography. I’d encouraged her to write it while looking after her, then put her notes together into book form and edited it. I also added lots of referenced family history end-notes in the back pages before publishing it. Now, my one regret is that I don’t have the income to promote the books like some other authors do.
So what can I do to help sell more of my books?
I already spend several hours each day on social media co-promoting with other authors and building a fan base as I have with my website, but sales are slow. I guess I’ll just have to lower my expectations unless you can suggest other free ways of getting my books out there without giving them away free. After spending my life doing unpaid ‘work’, it’s about time I was paid for my work, don’t you think?
By the way, hubby’s determination paid off. It’s over 30 years since his heart attack. He still needs a four-way bypass, but surgeons won’t do it as he has a completely blocked carotid artery making surgery too risky. Looking at him, you’d think he was fine. He copes really well and is enjoying life to the full. It just shows what determination can do. Now, if I can just apply that determination to my book sale efforts, maybe things will work out.