Thursday, 6 May 2010

Coincidence? I think not.

As someone, who for twenty years, was involved in the offshore industry, I know what it’s like to have your heart skip a beat when the evening news reports an accident on an oil rig. My heart goes out to the families of the eleven men killed on the Deepwater Horizon.

Drilling and transporting oil comes at a high price, and there are times in our lives when we become too complacent.

We repeatedly ignored warnings by environmentalists, the Coast Guard, and other agencies that using single hulled, single-engine tankers to transport oil was asking for trouble.

On March 18, 1967 these agencies were proved correct.

The Torrey Canyon, a super tanker carrying a cargo of 120,000 tonnes of crude oil struck Pollard’s Rock between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles in the UK. Oil spread on the sea between England and France, killing most of the marine life along the south coast of Britain and the Normandy shores of France, blighting the region for many years thereafter.

Did we learn the lesson? Sadly, no.
Twenty-two years later, on the March 24, 1989, Exxon Valdez hit the Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. We were horrified at the images of dead seabirds, otters, and marine mammals covering the front page of nearly every newspaper in the world. These same images were beamed nightly into our living rooms.

For many years, the offshore oil and gas industry was convinced that it had adequate safety measures to ensure that oil and gas rigs and platforms operated with little or no risk to personnel. But on the night of the 6th July 1988, Piper Alpha, a production platform in the North Sea, exploded into a fireball, killing 167 men. To date, it remains the world’s worst offshore oil disaster in terms both of lives lost and impact to industry.

After a protracted investigation, all three disasters were attributed to human error.

I had hoped the world would never experience another disaster on the scale of the Exxon Valdez and Piper Alpha, but sadly that was not to be the case.
This week, another oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, sank in the Gulf of Mexico, with the loss of eleven men. Unlike Piper Alpha, the thousands of gallons of oil pouring out of a fractured pipe is already devastating the marine environment and fragile barrier islands and marsh of the Louisiana coast. It will take months, if not years to recover.

It is therefore somewhat eerie that my short story, ‘Man’s Complacency,’ should be released at this time.

Written nearly two years ago, ‘Man’s Complacency’ deals with an oil spill in Washington State’s Puget Sound, and features Joe McCabe, an important character from my novel, Three Weeks Last Spring. Joe is the head of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is partly responsible for the cleanup.

I think it’s it about time we became less complacent and developed systems and procedures that not only protect the men and women working on rigs and production platforms, but the wildlife that makes our planet so unique.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Promoting your Book.

Congratulations! Your book has been published. The hard work of writing, editing, and sweating over just the right word, are over. You can sit back and relax.

Or can you?

Now is the time to take off your “writer’s” hat and put on the “marketing” hat.

But surely marketing my book is down to the publisher?

Not quite. You, the author, are expected to promote your book. Publishers, even the big houses like Penguin and Simon and Schuster, have only so much money to spend on marketing, and most of that goes into a few big, blockbuster titles. The more you can help to promote your book and increase sales, the happier you and your publisher will be.

Remember, marketing is about building relationships—with readers, bookstore owners who often recommend books, with the media, and with others who can help you reach them.

So how do you promote your book?

1. Create a website.

Every author should have their own, preferably with a domain name that people easily can search for. Your site can be as simple or as detailed as you like, but make sure it includes your name, the cover of your book, a news and events section, a contact section, and most of all, a link to purchase your book.

If you don’t have the skill to design your own site, there are many web designers who will build a site for you for a fee.

2. Hold a book launch.

Independent bookstores and local libraries are often willing to host book launch parties for local authors. It need not be an expensive exercise, but be sure to contact the local media and let them know. There are also many web sites where, such as, you can list events for free. And don’t forget social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn etc.

If your budget can stretch to it mail out invitations. There are numerous online printers available. Vistaprint’s marketing postcards make excellent invitations, or if you have the computer skills, why not use Photoshop or Microsoft Publisher to design your own? Make sure you display your book cover, book title and your name in large print. I would also suggest you include some one-liners from positive reviews your book has received. (More on reviews shortly).

Don’t go overboard on catering. Most people will be happy with a cup of tea and a bun.

Make sure your book is in high profile – centre stage on a table. It’s also helpful to have a friend or relative willing to act as booksellers and manage the money.

3. Bookmarks, flyers, and business cards.

Bookmarks are a great way of getting details of your book out there. Again, if you feel confident, you can design these yourself, or if you’re like me and don’t have an artistic bone in your body, I can recommend Mae at Baby Fresh Designs,

4. Blogs, Social Networking Sites, Twitter, and Author Forums.

Choose ones that work for you, are enjoyable, and reach your target audience. A quick search on Google will pull up hundreds of sites.

5. Book Reviews.

It is essential that you get your book reviewed. Most publishers are happy to send out review copies of your book – just ask. You can also check out your local newspaper to see if they have a book section. If they do, consider sending the reporter a copy of your book. There are numerous online review sites, such as Apex Reviews, and Front Street Reviews, who will accept galley proofs of novels, the review being published on their website.

6. Book signings.

Not to be confused with book launch parties. Book signings are usually held in bookstores. They can either be very successful or complete flops. I know—I’ve experienced both ends of the scale! Most bookstores are happy to host signings as it helps draw customers into the store. The store will usually advertise the event and put up posters. Some will even contact the local paper. Chat with the store manager to find out exactly what his/her requirements are and what he/she expects of you as the author.

Saturday morning is usually best. Too late in the day, and people are busy doing other things. Try to avoid clashing with the local football team’s home game! Surprisingly, the weather can also influence the number of potential sales. Everyone wants to be outside on a hot sunny day. If the weather is bad people are less likely to drive to the bookstore.

7. A final word.

There are hundreds of ways to promote your book. The above are just a few ideas to get your started. If you’re serious about marketing your book, be sure to read all you can about book promotion. I can recommend “A Seriously Useful Author’s Guide to Marketing and Publicising Books” by Mary Cavanagh.