Friday, 22 February 2013

Coming Out as a Writer ...

As those of you who read my blogs (and facebook posts) know, I've always been a little reluctant to "come out" as a writer, particularly locally, where I suppose I'm something of an active member of the community - school governor, member of various village committees etc. And then my wonderful new neighbours/friends started gently pushing me - and making me drink far too much wine. So I did a paperback as well as an ebook. And then a jewellery party turned into a book-signing...

The trouble with print-on-demand (POD) publishing, is that you don't have stock. Books are printed as and when you need them, or a customer orders them. Which is good as you don't have a huge outlay for books which - let's face it - may never sell. CreateSpace is a US company and while a customer can order a book in the UK from Amazon and have it printed and shipped in the UK, to order stock at "cost", I can only order from the US. And unless I want to wait 6-8 weeks, the postage rates are so high that it becomes almost impractical to do it at all.

A book signing is scary. I reckoned that people would have a look out of curiosity and maybe think about reading a sample on Amazon later on, so I had a load of postcards printed up (aren't QR codes amazing things?) for them to take away. And I ordered 6 books which was about all I could afford, given that they might be sitting around in my study for quite some time.

The week before, I happened to glance at my invoice and realised that the date I'd paid for delivery by was not the date they were actually delivering. Note to self: screen shot any other orders I make and always check every detail. So - book signing and no books? Help! Back to Amazon and with no time to order from the US, I had to order 6 books from Amazon UK as a customer and pay for priority delivery. Of course, these books cost me more, but I will get a royalty for each sale as if they'd been bought by any other customer.

The books arrived. And I complained. My US proof copy had been awesome, but these just looked - cheaper, somehow. The cover wasn't printed perfectly on the spine and the overall quality was inferior. To be fair to Amazon, they offered me a credit discount which I accepted. Note to self: quality control is everything! If I hadn't needed them urgently, I'd have returned them - but then if I hadn't needed them urgently, I wouldn't have bought them in the first place, would I? As it was, my profit margin dropped sharply as I ended up selling at a lower cost - but I wasn't doing it for profit.

I realised several things at the book signing:
  1. Very few people knew I was a writer - and they were impressed. I mix socially with a lot of writers so had forgotten that most people aren't.
  2. People read all sorts of things - and not necessarily what you'd expect. They weren't totally put off either my books or me when I tried to tell them I write dark and nasty stuff and not chick lit...
  3. Not everyone has an ereader. And they don't know or care about Amazon samples and "look insides" and other things. They are not even that bothered about quality - of the physical book, I mean, not the content. They just want to read a good book. I hope those who took a postcard away will still look me up online and find out more.
  4. My friends who have read my stuff really do like it and aren't just saying so to soothe my fragile ego! I'm getting pestered for the next book to be out in paperback - which will happen as soon as I get some more reviews for the ebook (so I can grab another pull-quote for the cover of the paperback)
I sold all 6 of my books. When my CreateSpace stock order finally turns up, two books are already spoken for. I've "come out" as a writer in my little Cheshire village. All in all - a success, I think!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Flashmob. Wikipedia says: A flash mob (or flashmob) is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.

So the modern version of what we all used to do as kids then? Stand in a busy place – a shopping centre (open air, obviously), park, or anywhere that isn’t enclosed – and look up at the sky. Squint a bit and point. If you’re with a friend, exchange a few oohs and aahs. Sooner or later somebody will want to know what you’re looking at, but won’t want to ask so will look up too. It then takes on a life of its own à la Emperor’s New Clothes, as nobody will want to admit they haven’t a clue what’s going on. When you have gathered enough of a crowd, walk away. It works. I’ve done it.

Of course these days with the internet and social media available to everyone everywhere, it’s easy to call up a group of friends instantly if something’s going on. So here’s an idea … take a paperback of your book, or maybe two or three if you can, into your local bookstore. Or any place that sells books, but refuses to stock your book because you’re an indie (read sub-species) and Gardners or whoever won’t deal with you. Hide said books on shelf and leave. Can you get into trouble for putting stuff into a shop, as opposed to stealing it? I don’t know.

Call up your mates. One or two initially. Get them to go into shop and rave loudly about your book. Call some more up. Of course there aren’t enough books to go round. And you’re a local author! Why doesn’t the local bookshop have more of your books?

Of course they won’t be able to pay for them as the books aren’t on the shop’s stock system. Which means they don’t exist as far as the shop is concerned. But with any luck the manager will hear all the fuss and come out, and if there’s an ISBN on the book and it looks professional, he just may be tempted to buy some stock to satisfy these fans who have met you recently at some literary event (be creative…) and want to buy your books.

You might have to persuade your “fans” to come back and actually buy the book later, of course. Or even at the time, if the manager is astute enough to facilitate this. But he might order more. And then you’re on the system aren’t you? You officially exist.

Have I ever done this? No. If you try it, let me know how you get on.