“Writing your book is the easy part. Selling the book is when the hard work starts,” is a summary of the advice I had read and heard before I finally finished my debut novel REAPER and sent it off to the publishers.
Well if this is the hard part, bring it on.
After six years on and off, tapping on a keyboard, my life became a round of networking old and new contacts in publishing, retail and media – almost overnight.
The difference was huge but the experience has been tremendous fun.
Radio stations and local newspapers
I’ve enjoyed speaking to so many different people from radio stations and local newspapers to customers at book signings and even potential customers in the street during leafleting campaigns.
It has been a slog at times but to do justice to the time spent agonising over the text of your novel, it has to be done.
And it’s paid off.
Sales success opens doors at bookstores
REAPER became the best selling novel in Derby for a few weeks and its success allowed me to stock the book in more retail outlets and draw more attention to its existence.
Don’t listen to those who decry self publishing as vanity publishing.
Unless the content of your manuscript conforms to a narrow set of descriptors which match the current literary vogue, you have little chance of finding a publisher by the traditional route even assuming you can find an agent to put your case.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try – the experience dealing with the publishing industry and the extra time you will have to hone your work will stand you in good stead.
But when you’re sure you can do no more to your text, self publication is a viable option. But do your research.
Finding Matador Publishing in Leicester was fortunate.
Local publisher with a good reputation
Not only did it have a good reputation but it was reasonably local so I could meet the staff and establish that the business actually existed – taking a cheque for several thousand pounds to a person in a building is much less stressful than sending it to a distant PO box on a website.
And if you’re determined to self publish and have any notions of making serious sales, don’t be tempted to publish your work on the cheap.
If it doesn’t look like a high quality book, people won’t buy it. Your publisher can offer you cover designs but if they don’t match your expectations, get your own. My designer, Corin Page, drafted 4 initial ideas and one of those eventually became my eye-catching cover.
Don’t be shy. If you don’t believe in your book you can’t expect anyone else to take an interest in it.
Approach the media, especially local radio and newspapers who have a limitless hunger for local stories.
Approaching local independent bookstores is a given but don’t miss out the large chains.
You lose nothing by trying. I approached Waterstone’s in Derby. I was hesitant to do so as I was sure a large national chain wouldn’t consider stocking The Reaper – I’d approached WH Smith in Derby and they’d already told me their stock was ordered nationally from head office.
Waterstones and the local book group
But giving it a go paid off and I caught a very lucky break.
The manager of Waterstone’s in nearby Burton, Glenys Cooper, had successfully campaigned head office for a distribution account for the local Burton Book Group, enabling her store to carry the myriad in-demand history books unique to Burton-on-Trent’s status as a centre of canal boating and brewing.
The group not only welcomed me with open arms, but Glenys networked other regional Waterstone’s to take stock which I delivered to stores in Derby, Nottingham, Chesterfield and even as far away as The Trafford Centre Manchester, Huddersfield and Bradford.
Job done? Far from it.
Instead of cracking open the champagne, I lobbied all the stores for a signing and most were able to accommodate me.
The 250 posters I had printed for REAPER felt like an expense too far at the time but now they became invaluable for in-store publicity.
Don’t expect them to be queueing out the door at signings
But if you get this far, don’t expect to turn up and sit down for a couple of hours, signing books for customers queuing out of the door.
I was an unknown first-time author so I set myself a stiff sales target and only left the store when I reached it or the shop closed.
I asked for a space in or near the crime section and approached thriller readers to take a look at my book. Virtually all customers responded with interest whether making a purchase or not and a healthy proportion were interested in the process I had been through to get to that stage.
When you’re a real life author people take notice, they’re pleased to speak to you, and even if they don’t buy your book, they’ll remember its name and talk to others about it.
And for the age of the internet, get a website, get it designed properly with all the payment options and your novel will be available to the world.