Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Learning to Swim


Within a fairly short time of publishing “Barricades” I realised that just publishing the book was the easy part. What happened? Well, really it is more a case of what didn’t happen! Sales didn’t go viral. The book title wasn’t on everyone’s lips. No one rang to suggest buying the film rights.

 When I’m not being impetuous and impulsive, I can be reasonably intelligent. Thinking about it, I was obviously being incredibly naive. I switched on the objective, logical part of my brain (the boring bit!) and asked myself a few questions.

 1.         Marketing! How do people find this book? It’s my first novel. No one outside my        circle of friends has ever heard of me. Amongst an enormous haystack,   how can  I draw attention to one minute little strand of hay?

 2.         If they do find it, why should they buy it?

 Whilst not ignoring the massive issue of marketing, I decided to focus on the second question first. Some years ago, I put my house on the market, but before doing so I made sure that it was as good as it could be. The antiquated storage heating was removed and central heating installed. Everything was cleaned and tidied (hoping they didn’t open the cupboards!) with a lick or two of paint where needed. The garden looked neater than it had for years.

 I think the same principle can be applied to selling most things, whether it’s a house, or a book. Before people looked at my book, I wanted it to be as good as it could be. But surely, I hear you say, that should be done before publishing? I quite agree – and as far as the book content was concerned, it was done. It was edited, proof-read, spell-checked, proof-read, edited, proof-read ….. Well, you get the picture.

 But I hadn’t attached sufficient importance to other aspects of the book. Using the house analogy again, it was no use cleaning up the house if the garden was overgrown with weeds and the garden fence sagging in all directions. If people weren’t attracted by the exterior, it was quite likely that they would turn around and drive away, without even looking at the house.  Applying the same analogy to my novel, people would have no reason to look more closely at my book, unless they were attracted by the cover and the title.

 The title had already been through several incarnations before I settled on ‘Barricades.’ I was, I decided, pretty happy with that title. The cover was something else again. I have read varying viewpoints as to the importance of cover in e-book or paperback publishing. Some subscribe to the view that it matters less with an e-book because in the first instance you are only looking at a thumbnail image. I’m not so sure of that. In order to test my own reactions, I went onto a site where a large number of thumbnail book covers were displayed – in fact, it was a screen full of thumbnail images. I found that I was sub-consciously looking for certain things before clicking on an image. The trouble with the sub-conscious is that it is precisely that, and I found it difficult to pin down what was – or was not – attracting me.

 So I am going to work on that one. More on covers next time.