Well, the business side of things is pootling along quite nicely. Gradually, more people are reading and recommending my books, and I sell on average, 10 a week. This is enough for me to continue (which is good, because I like being an author!) I have more or less given up on big bookshops, because the economics just don’t work. Although it’s lovely to know people can buy my book in Waterstones, they will only order books through a wholesaler. I have to post books, on demand (so singly) to the wholesaler. So, the postman wants to be paid, and the wholesaler wants to take a cut, and the bookshop wants a cut. Which means, in effect, I make a loss on the basic cost of producing the book. Smaller bookshops are different, because they’ll take a few copies on sale or return, and although they take quite a big cut, I still cover my costs.
The best way, by far, is to sell books face to face. I’m managing to do this by booking a space at local fairs and markets, and having book-signings in local bookshops. This means I meet new people, and can tell them about my books. It’s a bit scary, because books don’t sell themselves, and I have to invest time describing them to potential buyers, but mostly people are polite, so it’s okay if exhausting. I long for the day when enough people buy my books with no effort from me (other than writing them) but that is unlikely to ever happen. I have a few more events booked for the winter, and am hoping people will buy books as Christmas gifts. (Now, have a think: who do you know who would like one of my books for Christmas….?!)
I have also been invited to speak at various groups. Sometimes these result in sales, sometimes they don’t. But I think they are a good use of my time, because if nothing else it keeps me in touch with what different people are reading and thinking. One thing I have learned is that if you want to sell books, you need to be aware of your audience. People like happy endings, older people don’t like swearing (even if that is how the character would speak in real life), some readers want ‘action’ and are disappointed by literary fiction (which is all about the characters and nothing really happens) so I need the cover and blurb to explain exactly what is inside the book.
Did I tell you that I wrote a new book, about having a brain tumour? I belong to several Facebook forums, and am often moved by people’s stories, how they feel lost after the initial diagnosis, and find it very difficult to find information. The book is specifically for people with brain tumours, though also has a chapter about family, and dying, and living with stress – so actually would be helpful for people who are terminally ill too. I tried to be very honest, and to say the things that no one likes to say, the things that, when you have been diagnosed with something serious, you want to talk about. I advertised it on Facebook, and people kindly shared the link. As I published it directly through Amazon, people can buy it in any country that has Amazon, and I’ve sold copies in various countries. I was contacted by someone, whose brother had just been told he had three weeks, possibly a month, to live. They said the book had helped. It is a huge privilege to be able to write something for people in that situation.
As we go into Christmas, I need to market my books appropriately. I have therefore invested in some tissue paper and gift bags. (You have no idea how hard it is for me to spend money on marketing! I am struggling to cover my costs, to spend money on something which would make no difference to me, as a consumer, is very difficult; but son-who-knows- marketing says that I must.) Am hoping it will show people that books make good gifts. No idea if it will make any difference or not.
The main thing that all authors must do is read. Everyone says this, from Stephen King down. I have recently read Mindhunter by John Douglas. He was an FBI operative who interviewed lots of serial killers and started the idea of criminal profiling. The book is a bit clunky to read, more a diary of what he did than anything else (and he appears to be rather proud of his own achievements) but I was interested to read about what he discovered. I was also surprised by the number of authors who base novels on his work. Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs) has based several characters on John Douglas and the cases he discusses. Harris’s work is barely fiction, it so closely resembles the cases and methods described by Douglas. I recognise ideas and themes later used in books by Val McDermid, Jeffrey Deaver, and others. This is a bit surprising. Do most fiction writers base their stories and characters on real people? Perhaps they do. Sometimes the characters are so close to a real person, the author has done little more than change the name.
I have also recently read the following books, and have written a mini review of each one:
#A Case of Need by Michael Crichton – very interesting. The novel is very pro-abortion, which I found difficult, but it’s usually good to read viewpoints that differ to your own, because it helps you understand what others are thinking. Whilst I found Crichton’s very biased approach slightly annoying (he didn’t address the alternative views at all, other than to ridicule the extremist stance) the story was interesting enough for me to want to read to the end.
#The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – well, this was surprising! I sort of remember the story from the 1970’s, when my parents banned us from watching it, and my sister and I used to sneak episodes when they were out! But I have never read it. McCullough writes in a very descriptive style, and she uses all the adverbs that Stephen King advises writers to avoid, but she certainly writes a good story. I was uneasy with the ages of the main characters – a priest in his twenties becomes besotted with a girl who is a child. Anyone who has ever does any child protection courses has the word ‘grooming’ looming at the back of their mind. I enjoyed the story though, it was compelling reading.
#The Death House by Sarah Pinborough – not as compulsive as ‘Behind Her Eyes’, but still a good story. I’m not sure if it was intended as a YA book, as it read like one (but there was nothing in the blurb to indicate it was). Some unnecessary sex scenes (perhaps that’s what YAs like to read), but an interesting story idea.
#City of Friends by Joanna Trollope – I usually enjoy Trollope’s books, but this one felt a bit forced, as if she hasn’t written anything for a while and felt she needed to produce a book whilst not actually having anything to say.
I hope you have a good week. Do remember to make time to read something. (And no, if you’re a student, text books don’t count!)
Love, Anne x
Thank you for reading.
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