Here are 7 inspirational self-publishing tips we should learn from her career:
1. Build an author brand (in Barbara’s case, look improbably fantastic)
Barbara was always impeccably turned out and above all had a distinctly recognisable look, which was right on-brand for her romantic writing. Lesson? Use an image to help build an author brand. These days, and as an author, you have more choices when it comes to building a recognisable image – so what could you use?
- Use a standard shot or logo. In this case, consistency is key. If your logo or image is unremarkable, repetition is what will make the image memorable.
- Alternatively, you may have a recognisable and highly individual look that you can change but still has consistency of message (this was Cartland’s approach. For a modern equivalent, think Lady GaGa.)
- Another option for authors, particularly multi-title authors, is to use a book series name or author name, with a consistent font and colour treatment, as primary branding.
2. Build a platform and buzz before writing
Cartland built a following as a newspaper columnist before publishing her first romantic novel. It meant that she had proved her entertainment value and built a readership and following before the marketing of her novel. Modern parallel? Building an author platform. See the most excellent Kimberley Grabas for advice on how to build an author platform.
3. Don’t be afraid to be contentious and provocative
You should always be genuine in your opinions, honest and forthright. But what if you opinions are a little confrontational? Don’t worry, it shouldn’t hurt. Cartland’s column and reputation was built on racy society gossip. Lesson? Be authentic and have courage when you blog. See the Book Designer, Joel Friedlander for advice.
4. Work with a collaborator
Cartland worked almost exclusively by dictation and used a secretary to take down her thoughts. These days we would probably call this collaboration. There are plenty of models for writing collaboration out there. At its very simplest, collaboration in the form of a simple proofread can improve any writing, but paired writing can speed up book development significantly. Lesson? Plan your writing as if it were a business, and look for partnerships and collaboration to speed up development, or just for fun.
5. Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas
Cartland was accused of stealing names, character traits and plot points from the novels of Georgette Heyer. Despite a detailed written analysis by Heyer, the case never came to court. Lesson? Ideas are everywhere and its the execution that is the difficult part. Don’t plagiarise but don’t be afraid to mashup, build on and collaborate. Fan fiction is an obvious example.