The Suffolk Press Press, a local paper serving the Sudbury, Suffolk area (circulation about 8,100) and beyond published a feature on me and my book, The Stones of Judgment last week. Yes, that’s me resting on the fence outside my sister’s cottage. I come from Suffolk and as some of the action takes place there, the newspaper was interested in the story. The exposure may even help to sell a few more copies, which was the reason for doing it. I am much more confident holding the pen and notepad than answering questions.
Word of mouth, going viral, spreading the news: there is no quick way, beyond super-celebrity endorsement, to get people to take notice of a new book by a first-time novelist. Even those who receive the praise, and plenty of media coverage, often don’t get the sales to reflect this. A good friend of mine has released a superb memoir (Mother, Daughter, Me) this spring that was selected by Oprah Winfrey as a best book for the summer and received rave reviews everywhere. It is selling well and always gets many-starred, enthusiastic reviews on Amazon but despite all this, it is not top of the bestseller lists yet.
The problem was follow through: the publisher did not take the good reviews and recommendations and push them with further advertisements and promotions. Why? Because at some meeting earlier in the year they must have identified the books they were going to support whole hog and this was not one. So even though my friend is doing a great deal of self-promotion and has trekked across the US talking at bookstores everywhere, she did not have the clout she might have gotten if her publisher was fully behind her. This is a great pity.
So where does that leave the self-published Kindle-only book: on the virtual shelf, I’m afraid, sadly waiting for someone, somewhere to hit the download button. It is a full-time job (and I already have one of those) drumming up the support and publicity that you need to start the recognition ignition. Approximately 2.2 million books are published annually, with about 20 per cent of those in English, according to UNESCO – and that doesn’t even include eBooks. Bowker, a US company, estimates that there were 3 million books published in the US in 2012 (including eBooks) and that very few sell more than 250 copies each.
That is both encouraging (I am not alone!) and really disappointing. eBooks are super cheap. Mine sells for less than £3, what you would pay to board a bus twice in London, but, depending on traffic, it can give you hours more fun.
I am grateful for Barbara Eeles of the Suffolk Free Press for taking an interest in the book and me. I hope that a few more people will go online, Google it and opt to download. My son was amused that my royalty statement for 2013 won’t allow us to splurge on a new X-Box 360 for him as my readership is still struggling in the low double digits. But I was encouraged this weekend when an acquaintance of mine won a Kindle and promised to buy it. So I am expecting to see a slight up-tick in sales over the coming week but probably not enough to change my tax status.
I am glad I made the effort to publish. I do have other books planned, full-time job permitting, and the fact that I can search for myself on Amazon is rewarding in a small way. However, I won’t be retiring to a writing life just yet — too many responsibilities — though I am certainly looking forward to the time when I can.