Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Nicola Morgan - Interview

A huge welcome today to Nicola Morgan - Google search's top result for 'Crabbit Old Bat' - who we met in Edinburgh and spent some time chatting to. We have also reviewed Wasted - one of her many books that was loved by both of us as well as our teen daughter.

You've written many, many books - fiction and non fiction - but it's your foray into social-networking and promotion that interests me today....

How important is a web presence for an author today?

Increasingly. It has been for non-fiction for a while - for obvious reasons, as you do need to show expertise in your subject and it provides a way for potential readers to see and respect you. Then in the US it became important for fiction. And now in the UK, too, it's pretty essential unless you are very lucky. I've now heard several publishers say they won't take anyone new who hasn't got or isn't prepared to create some kind of online presence. Trouble is, half the time the publishers have no clue how the author is supposed to do this. They just say, "Do it." But you know, I'd actually say that it's quite important even apart from what publishers say, because it's about communication with other humans, and that's generally a beneficial thing anyway, isn't it? I enjoy it (luckily!), though it does sometimes become too much - but that's usually because I've let it. We need to keep control and achieve a balance. No single bit is compulsory, as long as we do something.
Does it really have an impact on sales?
Yes. But that is not why I do it and if you do it because of that then I think it will either fail or be horribly uncomfortable. I can't quantify the benefit because I can't say how many books I or anyone would sell if we weren't doing this stuff. (And I'm not at all interested in measuring it.) But I know that I have come into close contact with people who a) wouldn't have heard of me otherwise and b) who now might buy my books. I also know that they often do. But I have absolutely no intention of counting them or even wondering if any one of them has bought a book. Intuitively, I know I've got more readers because of it, but that feels like a bonus more than an intention. The times when I've joined a forum solely because I thought I should, I've not enjoyed it and have quickly slunk away.

Is a web-site enough or do you feel they need a more interactive profile such as Facebook, Google+ or Twitter?
For most of us - those who don't have huge marketing budgets from our publishers - a website is not enough. It's a start but it's not dynamic or interactive. Readers nowadays need to see us interacting, talking, being somewhat accessible. If we want to generate word of mouth, we must remember that people are more likely to talk about us when they can
see us talking and can talk to us. However, it's usually easy to embed a blog in a website, so it wouldn't be hard to move from static website to dynamic website+blog. And Twitter? Well, to me it's the best. It takes time to get used to it but the benefits are phenomenal. Like a party where you can join lots of conversations at once, an office without the office bore, an encyclopedia written only by people you trust, a source of support when things are going wrong, and a resource for any topic, a job agency, a load of fun... and all free.

Your latest book Tweet Right is all about, er, well, how to Tweet? Is it possible to do this wrongly? Surely we all just get out there and gossip wildly?

Oh gosh it's very possible to do it wrongly! Or at least to do it fruitlessly and not enjoy it. Loads of people have started and left; loads of people arrive and don't know what to do. Loads of people also arrive and manage to get the hang of it easily. But a lot of people who were already tweeting away merrily have bought Tweet Right and realised either that they were getting something badly wrong, or that there were facets they hadn't realised (like the full-stop before the @ name??), or that there were ways in which they could use it even better.

There's a proliferation of book-bloggers on the web these days. How much impact do you feel they have? How useful are blog-tours in promoting an author's work?
Hmmm, loaded question! Yes, there's a proliferation of book-bloggers. I don't honestly know what impact they have because - as with the Twitter thing - I'm really not interested in measuring such things. Lucky I'm not a social scientist, eh?! Blog tours - I do know they are an enormous amount of work for the author and for the blogger. (I didn't do one for Tweet Right for that reason.) I don't really believe they pay off in terms of sales, but I think they are an unpredictably useful and Good Thing: you just never know what might come from it. Would you like to be involved in the Mondays are Red one? :)) *

Lastly, you mentioned on Twitter recently that you'd love to have a book banned. Why? Because there's no such thing as bad publicity?
Actually, I do think there's such a thing as bad publicity. I would hate bad publicity. I'm not thick-skinned. But a book being banned is not (to me) bad publicity - it says nothing about the book and everything about the narrow-minded, mistrustful ignorance of the banner. Banned books are the coolest, most edgy, thrilling, thought-provoking books. Although I don't set out to shock, I do want to provoke mental risk-taking, intellectual challenge. I don't want safe reading. I like books that drag readers out of any complacency and electric-shock them into a new compass. And I believe that fiction is the strongest, best and safest way to deal with difficult subjects. To be banned would be an accolade. Oh and also - many teenagers love to do things that are forbidden so banning a book is the best way to get them to read it!

Many thanks, Nicola, for taking time to join us - and yes, *we'd love to be part of the Mondays Are Red blog tour. You can find out more about Nicola and 'join' her at her website nicolamorgan.com

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