Hi, my name is Andrew Hinkinson-Hodnett. I’m an experienced editor, journalist and published poet. I’m also the author of a new ebook, Chickens As Pets. Scrummycupcake kindly invited me to write a guest blog today. I’m very grateful for her generosity in offering me this promotional space, as independent authors like myself don’t charge a fortune for our work but at the same time often find traditional advertising costs prohibitively expensive.
I thought I’d write about the book, obviously, but also some of the challenges facing authors who go the independent digital self-publishing route.
Book promotion without £££
There are ways to promote a book that don’t cost money. This is why I’ve started reaching out to readers and prospective readers, crowd-sourcing my promotional activity by offering to name-check in my next chicken book anyone willing to stick a poster up for me in their local feed supplier, school, library, workplace… wherever. Get permission first, of course!
All I’m asking people to consider doing is to download the poster from the Chickens As Pets website (you’ll find the specific blog entry here), take a snap of it wherever it goes up and send it to me at andrew at chickensaspets dot uk dot com. I then add the sender to my roll-call of thanks in the opening credits on my next chicken book.
Whether it works as a crowd-sourcing exercise or not, I’ve no idea. Has anyone done it before? I don’t know. It’s worth a shot, though – nothing ventured, nothing gained. The Chickens As Pets website carries other promotional tools and ideas too, like the now-obvious social network links to easily post pages and blog entries to your own feeds. There’s a healthy following for the book on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as well, where my short updates often get shared elsewhere. I also use those feeds to promote good work by charities, such as the British Hen Welfare Trust or Little Hen Rescue, or highlight great articles found elsewhere on the Web.
Maintaining three social networks is time-consuming and hard work but it is very rewarding, especially as I’m keen to help answer questions people might have about their pet chickens. It’s not all about raising the profile of the book. It’s about offering a book plus support and community. When I am able to help, it’s a good feeling. I’ve said that if only one hen got a better life as a consequence of someone buying Chickens As Pets and taking advice from it, that would suit me very well, thank you.
I also publish a Storify collection of chicken-related videos, photos, news, tweets and status updates from all over the world every week. All my social network accounts get the heads-up whenever it goes live and you can subscribe here as well. It includes everything from scientific news – such as advancements in poultry medicine – through to silly videos such as the Muppet Chickens.
Sharing the link love
I’ve just started seeking out what are called ‘reciprocal links’ – otherwise known as ‘you scratch my website, I’ll scratch yours’. I’ve got a few links to chicken-related websites on the Chickens As Pets Welcome page right now but the list is modest. My idea is to move them to a page of their own, building up a resource of blogs and businesses relevant to pet chicken-keepers. They don’t have to be about chickens. They could be about composting , recycling, smallholdings, nature, veterinary care… Products, services, sharing and support that aren’t a million miles away from the concerns and values of pet chicken-keepers.
While I mention brands sometimes – say, in response to a question about worming products, I might talk about Verm-X – I take no money in the form of sponsorship. I’m not paid to talk about this medicine or that magazine. I just think an honestly-written book needs all the promotional activity around it to be honest as well, otherwise it becomes potentially exploitative – and Chickens As Pets is about enabling people to look after pet chickens, not exploitation of the needs of chicken-keepers. If an expensive product does the job, I’ll say so in the book or on the networks. If it can be done with a few basic kitchen ingredients for next to nothing, I’ll say that. Trust is important.
I’ve run some competitions for free products kindly donated and for copies of the book to download. The next will happen when the iBooks for iPad Edition goes on sale in the Apple iBookstore. Follow me on the social networks for the chance to enter any competitions I run.
Why Chickens As Pets?
Traditionally chicken books have had as their main focus the idea of these beautiful birds being livestock – indeed, in the UK they aren’t legally recognised as pets despite the reality that up to half a million homes now keep pet chickens in the garden – but there isn’t even a handful of books solely devoted to chickens as family pets: loved, interacted with as individuals, maybe even pampered a fair bit. I wanted to address this gap in the marketplace.
The book is available for download from Amazon for Kindles and Smashwords in other formats, for e-readers like the Nook, Sony and Kobo. Both these online book stores offer a free sample of the book to ‘try before you buy’. They contain an exclusive chapter not found in the upcoming iBooks interactive Edition, to compensate for the fact that the iPad supports many more multimedia features than other hardware e-readers.
iBooks for iPad
The iBooks for iPad Edition is radically different from the others. It was actually ready for publication before the Kindle and Smashwords Editions but Apple has a horrendously long approvals process that desperately needs to change. Many authors and publishers are upset about the delays they’re facing. Chickens As Pets iBooks for iPad Edition has been waiting to go live for over six weeks! Apple just doesn’t seem to have enough staff on the iBookstore for speedy turnarounds. I’ve many people waiting patiently to buy it and you can view a promo video on the book’s website to whet your appetite.
The version for iPad is like a glossy coffee table book. It’s certainly the most glamorous chicken book ever published and most definitely the first-ever in the whole wide world to be produced for a touchscreen tablet interface. It features full-colour photos, interactive diagrams, videos and short ‘just for fun’ quizzes to test your knowledge at the end of many chapters. Some screen grabs follow, just click on them for a larger view:
I’ll update this post (or ask scrummycupcake if she’d be so kind) as and when the iPad version goes on sale. You can also sign up for a one-off email notifying you, via the Chickens As Pets website.
So, have you made any money yet?
Yes, I’m writing this from my luxury yacht… As if. I have made some, yes. Not a lot. Certainly not enough to live on, not yet at any rate. I wrote Chickens As Pets from the perspective of simply wanting to. I love my chickens, I know they make a lot of sense as productive, friendly pets and I wanted to evangelise them with honesty and heaps of enthusiasm. I’ve written for other people since 1995. Now I’ve decided to write without any employer other than myself.
Writing and marketing Chickens As Pets has given me so much that can’t actually be broken down into financial terms – interaction with new people, a sense of satisfaction, a knowledge that I can and have written a book at last. It’s given me the confidence to finish the first draft of a comedy novel for adults, which is so radically different from my chicken guide that I’ll be publishing it under a pen name to avoid confusion.
Responses so far
Feedback from readers has been hugely positive and the book’s already garnered some five-star reviews and press interest (most recently, the May 2012 issue of Home Farmer magazine gives it a lovely write-up). I’m happy but the work doesn’t stop with writing a book, the real work comes with promoting it. That aspect never really ends, really. Books rarely sell themselves unless they’re the latest from internationally known authors like JK Rowling, who have millions in the bank from earlier works.
I hope this blog entry has been interesting to chicken fans and anyone curious about self-publishing digital books, marketing them and working as an author. I’m happy to be interviewed, by email is probably best, for any chicken-related blogs and websites. Just get in touch with me via the Chickens As Pets contact page. I can offer free copies of the book to go with published interviews, so that you can use the whole package to generate interest in your own site activities. Check out the press page on the website.
Thank you for reading. And remember, chickens will take over the world. They already outnumber us! Please feel free to share this article and comment on it below. x