British author, Psymon Henry has gone out on a limb and taken a bold gamble.
Born in London, Psymon H, as he’s popularly known, has built a digital book promotion platform dubbed the Black Caviar Book Club. It’s designed to help authors promote their work and build a brand on the web, as well as engage with devoted readers who actively browse online book clubs for their next read.
Now bear in mind that sites like Goodreads and Shelfari also offer book promotional opportunities and are quite well known. What’s more, they’re already well ahead in the scramble by innovators to develop new models of book publicity that integrate social and digital media. Nevertheless, Psymon H is not daunted. He says he’s constantly mulling over new ideas on how he can make the Black Caviar Book Club Google’s number one book club.
He probably fancies his chances because he’s no stranger to overcoming adversity. Among the challenges he has had to face, he’s dyslexic and he has stared death in the face. Each time he has beaten the odds. In fact, the Black Caviar Book Club is a direct result of his brush with death, which is why a recounting of that ordeal is necessary in order to put everything into perspective.
In 2006 while driving back home in London, Psymon H’s car plunged 30 ft down a wooded embankment and ended up on its roof. A large tree branch shot through the passenger window, according to him, “like a catapult, stopping inches away from my head.”
His partner who was supposed to travel with him that morning ended up taking a taxi because he had misplaced his car keys and she had an important meeting that she couldn’t afford to miss. Had she been in the car, Psymon H has no doubt that she would have been decapitated.
“I believe that fate put me in that car alone that morning and when I look back on variables, it did make me think that the man upstairs made sure, for whatever reason, that it happened the way it did.”
As a result of the accident he suffered serious nerve damage in his right arm and fingers and he had to undergo therapy to learn how to use the arm all over again. Out of his tragedy he found the motivation to begin working on the manuscript for his first novel. It has since evolved into the Black Caviar Book Series, a psychological crime thriller set “under the bright lights and high-rise buildings of the Chicago skyline,” in the city’s drug underworld.
“The most interesting fact was that I wrote nearly all of my first book using just my left hand. Being right handed, this did present a challenge and taught me so much about myself … But most of all, this little hurdle kept the fire and passion burning deep inside.”
He didn’t stop there. “From my early days of running an advertising company in the nightclub industry, I supported the notion that the best advertisers were the self promoters who had a long-term plan and used a range of marketing strategies to get their message out.”
He devised a game plan to not only market his work, he also realised how he could use his IT knowledge to create an online platform where writers could interact with readers and market their work.
Enter the Black Caviar Book Club.
The site was launched in August 2012. Psymon H touts it as a “free promotional platform and connection hotspot” for authors to get added book exposure and connect with readers, bloggers and reviewers. They can use it to upload book covers and trailers, photos, place book blurbs and summaries and also reply to reader comments and reviews.
The site has an Authors Billboard which Psymon H says authors can use to turn a promotional page into their own web page, so that it becomes a “connection hotspot” where readers can check out the author’s books, ask the authors questions, star their web page and leave remarks and feedback for others to read and discuss.
“As the Black Caviar Book Club’s RSS feed is networked to a huge database with up to 10 unique links which spiders from them, when your Author Billboard goes live (usually within 24hrs), our feeds will essentially “broadcast” your page to among 500+ different RSS feed sources and to our growing Twitter following,” says Psymon H.
He added, “As we grow and more of our tier two and three pages get ranked on the first two pages of the biggest search engines, the opportunities for added free book exposure becomes that much more potent.”
Psymon H says it’s a place to discover unknown authors with promise and works that readers may have missed trolling through huge websites like Amazon.
A section dubbed Book Your Seat provides the latest news and views on all things to do with his Black Caviar book series, and also gives snippets from other authors and their latest books.
“We also give you the juice on interesting views and reviews from avid readers along with extracts and links from bloggers with something to say.”
The latest addition to the site is Interview With An Author, which features online interviews with authors. They answer four questions put to them based on their responses to an initial questionnaire. The interview is posted on the site on a search-engine-optimized page along with links to the writer’s blog or website, social media and book reviews, social media buttons to attract more followers, Amazon Buy Buttons, pictures and more. It costs $20.
Psymon H is hugely upbeat about the future prospects for the Black Caviar Book Club. “We are set for bigger and better things through 2013 and beyond with the inclusion of our sister site and Kindle EBook store, Black Caviar Bookshelf.com and the release of our Psychological Crime Thriller book series, Black Caviar.”
More about the Black Caviar Book Club – here’s Psymon H in his own words:
How have British writers and readers responded to the Black Caviar Book Club?
Psymon H: Good question. In June 2012, I started with just a Twitter account and spent two months making a nuisance of myself with funny tweets and great one-liners. Looking back, I have to say I had great fun with some of my early Twitter followers who may have just seen me as another person with a big mouth and no website.
I guess at that time my thoughts were predominantly consumed with studying authors, the book market and how Indie Authors promote their work. Understanding how fierce and swamped the book market has become since the arrival of the Amazon Kindle, I didn’t want to become just another Indie Author treading water and battling for book exposure with the Black Caviar book series due for release later in 2013.
In August 2012, I started the Black Caviar Book Club with the idea that maybe it was time to pull out the tool box and use the promotional skills I was blessed with (from my early days in the night club industry.)
At first it wasn’t easy to attract visitors because I didn’t have my book series out and nobody knew who Psymon H. was, but it didn’t take long to see a hole in the market, and that was a good quality book-promotional platform, where authors could promote their book blurbs and get free exposure at the same time. Over the last few months, the Black Caviar Book Club has been praised by not only British writers and readers, but authors and book lovers from each corner of the globe including America, where I now reside with my new wife.
Are you managing the club all on your own?
Psymon H: The Black Caviar Book Club is currently managed by Me, Myself and I; and that is where good time management and having a plan comes into play. Admittedly at the very beginning, I had no idea how fast a one man book club could grow. The website has gone through many changes in the first five months, simply because honesty and focus on the bigger picture wouldn’t let me settle on a half-ass job. I’ve made a few mistakes at the beginning and took harsh criticism from a few peeps, but I focused on the strength and resolve of a fighting spirit which helped me write my first three books even though I suffer from dyslexia. Seeing the website grow with more authors and readers jumping on board, visitors to the site have given me the motivation and buzz to always try and improve the service.
Did you design the website?
Psymon H: Yes! It’s been one of the few skills I’ve learned along with website SEO. When I lived in England, my now wife and I spent many an hour speaking on Skype about which website tools and design would suit the Black Caviar big picture; it was time well spent.
Has it succeeded in attracting many readers and how often do they participate in club activities and interact with authors?
Psymon H: Without divulging exact figures, the Black Caviar Book Club attracts over 20,000 hits per month and being the kind of person I am, Psymon H is always making room for improvement by continually setting new goals and targets. Reader participation is the main focus and is steadily improving. It is true to say that wordsmiths who share the same view as I, that self-promotion is key to book sale success, have seen more reader interaction than the few who believe that readers should find their books by accident.
To date how many books are uploaded to the site?
Psymon H: Since the launch of the Author Billboards and Readers Lounge on September 24, 2012, I am pleased to say that the book club is promoting nearly 400 books (at the time of engaging in this interview.) With the addition of the Amazon buy buttons on each billboard, it has made it easier for readers to purchase a book without having to click through on multiple links. My plan is to extend the Readers Lounge into a genre mansion full of sub-genres difficult to find on other sites.
Generally, what feedback are you getting from participating authors?
Psymon H: It was great to wake up to Twitter and Facebook comments expressing how visitors have found the website to be an invaluable tool to both authors and readers. I have now placed some of these comments on the Black Caviar homepage. When many think of the definition of a “book club,” it’s easy to conjure up thoughts of reading enthusiasts sitting around a table discussing how well a book was written and if the author used the right wording to describe a scene. My goal was not to follow in the old book club footsteps, nor was it to mirror the great website GoodReads. I wanted to focus on providing a unique promotional experience for authors and a relaxing encounter for the reader.
I’m humbled yet thankful to all my website visitors and participants because without them, the book club would just be another website in blogosphere. It’s great to see the like button, the page share button and comment number increase on a daily basis. It’s a great indication that the book club is heading in the right direction.
Thank you for the interview opportunity and I hope your visitors find my website a helpful tool in unearthing those writing diamonds in the sand. Stay tuned for the book series everyone will be speaking about this year….
Check out Black Caviar by Psymon H, The Black British Author With A Story To Tell. Read the book-one summary now http://blackcaviar-bookclub.com/bookworm.html
Black Caviar is also on Facebook