Handmade and Homegrown

I have been busy preparing for the Handmade and Homegrown Festival at Hever Castle (1st, 2nd and 3rd of September). This is all very scary – but to be honest, everything about selling books is very scary.

I happened to see an advert for the festival, and remembered that when I had been giving a talk at a local bookclub, a man had suggested it would be a good place to sell my books. I wrote to the organiser, asking if writing and publishing my own books qualified as “handmade” and was told that yes, I was welcome to apply for a stand. I then had to send a photograph, which thankfully I had because nice Mr East Grinstead Bookshop had taken some when I did a book signing there. (The photo was of the stall – not me – you don’t have to pass some beauty level before they give you a stand!) I also had to send £40, which added to the scariness, as unless I sell lots of books, it will increase my Cobweb Press debt even more. But I have learned that you don’t get anywhere in starting a business unless you take a few risks.

I received my “you have been allocated a space” email, put the dates in the diary and forgot about it – after I had booked my Mother – she is by far the best salesperson in the family. I didn’t think about it again (because that’s how I cope with scary things which aren’t happening today) until Husband (who copes with scary things by planning well in advance) suggested we needed to do some preparation. So, off we went into the garden, to make a ‘mock’ stall.

I have been allocated a 3m square space. We measured this out and marked it with lumps of wood. It wasn’t terribly accurate because the dog kept running off with the lumps of wood. We then set up garden tables in a variety of positions. I was, to be honest, a bit shocked by how big 3m is – I had envisioned one small table with 10 books on it. Probably just as well that Husband insisted I had a trial run. I then tried balancing several books in different formation on said tables. Mandy (my ‘special needs’ cat) found this very entertaining, and joined it. Which wasn’t very helpful. I realised I needed some book stands like Mr East Grinstead Bookshop has – so checked out Amazon and found some that were cheap. (Though it all adds to my ever-growing debt.)

I have one poster, but I need more as it’s such a big space, so we ordered those (more debt). We also put out some chairs. As the space is big, there’ll be room for a few people (ie bored husbands and tired mothers) to have a little sit down. While they’re there, grateful for a chance to rest, my Mum can chat to them (she is very good at chatting to people – not a skill I inherited) and they will have the opportunity to buy a book. Or at least to look at them. I think I’m sorted now. If you are in the area at the beginning of September, please pop in and say hello. I will be the scared looking author with the chatty mother. Possibly the blind one – I am wondering if I can pretend to be blind, and then I will be allowed to take my dog, for moral support. And I might get some ‘sympathy sales’. Yep, am liking the idea, will practise ‘being blind’ for the next week and see how I get on.

Other news in brief:
We went to Cambridge to visit Son 1. His flat is disturbingly tidy (disturbing because I had not realised ‘tidy’ was within his skill set, and I feel rather cheated by the previous 23 years of organisation levels.) Cambridge is very nice. It has barges, and a lock, which we had to pry Husband away from. It also has incredibly pretty buildings, lots of Mandarin speakers (good opportunities to eavesdrop) and way too many homeless people. Why? Why are there so many people begging for money? Have they gravitated to Cambridge because it’s a tourist town, are they victims of the ever-increasing rents, or are they students who flunked their exams? Very strange and rather sad.

On the journey home, heard Son 2 chuckling in the back of the car. Asked why he was laughing, and discovered he had picked up a copy of Invisible Jane. Rather gratifying. (So, it’s a ‘girly book’ with funny bits – that also makes 21 year old blokes laugh!)

Yesterday, we went to Bluewater. Shopping (not my favourite thing). We needed new curtains for the bathrooms. They were all hideously expensive, so I felt drawn to the ‘bargain bucket’. Am now regretting this, as I instead have hideous curtains, which I will have to alter. Sewing is not something I enjoy (whole family leaves house when I sew due to bad temper.)

Hope you have a lovely week. Thanks for reading.

Take care,
Anne x

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Invisible Jane – A love story with funny bits!
All profit sent to Tearfund, so please buy several copies and give them to your friends.


Selling Books Update


Hello, hope you had a good week. Mine has been busy – as usual.

Think of the best books that have ever been written – Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, I am Legend, some of the books by Charles Dickens – how many of them are still read today outside of the classroom? People might tell you they love the story (meaning they have seen the film) but surprisingly few people actually read them. If no one is promoting a book, it doesn’t sell. Which is why many of the books we enjoyed as teenagers are no longer in the shops (You never see Desmond Bagley on the shelves.) This is true even of contemporary fiction. Having a book on the shelf in a bookshop does not sell it. Ask even the most famous of authors (Stephen King and Lee Child to name two) and they all seem to say the same thing, that authors spend 75% of their time promoting their books. So, being someone who likes a challenge, this is what I have done so far.

Firstly, I have listened to a lot of advice. Lots of it. Some has been excellent, some has been dismissed on the grounds of “that is too scary” and some was just plain silly (I won’t waste your time with that.) Son who knows marketing, told me that people have to be prompted four times in a month for advertising to be effective. So, short intense bursts of advertising are better than a long drawn out one.

One excellent piece of advice was to decide which niches my book fitted into – to enlarge the stereotypes if you like. So, Hidden Faces includes details about schools, about women, about motherhood, about church, plus it was written by a local author (me.) So, which of those could I use to market the book?

I took the church aspect. Lots of people are Christians, attend church, and read books. I therefore sent copies to relevant magazines, asking them to review it. I contacted Christian bookshops, asking if they would stock it. I advertised it amongst the Christian community. Now I have to just wait, which is difficult, to see who will respond.

I took the school aspect, and advertised it amongst the parents at the local school. The story begins with a nativity play that goes disastrously wrong, so I felt it had appeal for both parents and teachers. It also means the book will be an ideal Christmas gift. I plan to contact teacher-training colleges and ask if they have a newsletter where the book could be reviewed or advertised.

I was asked if I would do a ‘book signing’ session at the local community cafe, and I advertised this amongst the parents at the local school. I will also ask if I can sell them at Christmas fairs.

I am the author and I have a locality (yes, obvious, I know, but we have to use what we can.) I contacted the editor of the free newspaper in our area and told him I had written a book. He interviewed me, took a photo (really embarrassing one) and wrote an article. Since then, lots of people have stopped me in the street, saying they have read about me/the book. The reporter said he would also cover the book signing.

I made some small posters, and most shops in the town were willing to display them.

I am attending a lunch in London, where the guest speaker is a famous author (the kind that has had her books made into television dramas.) I mentioned to the organiser that I had been inspired to start writing at a similar event and she then asked if I would also be willing to speak. (This will be terrifying – I will let you know how I get on.) I can provide comment on the other end of the spectrum – how someone who knows nobody famous can write a book, and what happens next,

Sometimes, while doing all this, I felt like a little boat on a big sea, being pushed in all directions by massive waves. It was all way outside my comfort zone. Prayed about it, and realised that if I never sell another book, in the grand scheme of things, does it matter? What was important was that I lived each day as well as I can. Husband also gave me some advice. He said that every ‘job’ that needed to be responded to, needed to be graded. They were either ‘not important’, or ‘important but not urgent,’ or ‘important and urgent’. I could therefore decide where in my week I would deal with them. In other words, I could take back control, not simply react to everything as it appeared in my emails. (I now have great fun when he asks if there any clean socks, telling him that they are in the ‘important but not urgent’ pile.)

I have seen some results already. A bookshop in Streatham agreed to take some books. They were willing to stock more books than I could post, so I had a very traumatic morning driving into London – so many people walking into the road, unexpected red lights and cars passing on all sides. Then when I finally reached the shop, there was nowhere to park. Nowhere. It was by far the most stressful part of being an author to date.

I will let you know how the other avenues develop as I get there. I still have a few ideas on my list, such as contacting the library and asking if they would like me to do a reading. Attending book groups, and explaining the journey to producing a book, or telling them about Hidden Faces and why I wrote it. Sometimes one idea leads naturally to another, sometimes something doesn’t work and I forget about it. I have a naturally compulsive character, when I meet friends in the street, I have to remember to greet them and listen to their news, not rush up with, “I have written a book!” I have to try and be a nice person while doing all this.

After the initial burst in August, my sales have become a steady trickle. Which is okay – it means I have time to edit Joanna (my next book.) I have nearly sold a quarter of the number I had printed (not bad for one month.)

One of my next moves is to enter into a trading agreement with a wholesaler. If I do this, Waterstones will sell my book (it is already listed in their online shop.) I can also approach other shops, further afield, and ask them to stock it. At the moment, I have seen their standard agreement, which asks for 60% discount on all books. This would mean I received less than my production costs. However, all big businesses are used to negotiations (little ones aren’t – I have found that if a small business asks an unreasonable mark-up, they will not budge!) I will try to lower them to something more realistic. One thing I have learnt is to set up my supply network, ie make sure people can actually buy the book, before I advertise it. I lost sales initially because local shops had sold out and took ages to restock, so it should have been in more than one shop in each town.

Of course, the best way to sell my book is for the people who have enjoyed it to tell their friends and family (NOT to lend it to them – which happens a lot of times and is very frustrating!) Some people have already told me they will be buying a second copy for someone for Christmas. A few people have already bought more than one copy, which is rather thrilling. Thank you everyone who has bought it – have you….?


Thank you for reading.


Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson is in a growing number of shops….and on Amazon:


Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Next week, I review someone else’s book. But things did not turn out as planned….

Selling Books – Letter to a Sister

Hi, how was your week?

I am feeling like bit of a plonka. Someone – a complete stranger, never met them before – asked me to sign their book, which I was very excited to do. So, they told me their name, I wrote a little message, then signed it “Love, Anne”. As you do. Except, when you are an author, signing a book, I imagine that you don’t write “Love, X” I bet JK Rowling doesn’t sign books for strangers “Love, Joanna”. Realised immediately it was an amateur mistake, but what could I do? I could hardly snatch it back and put a line through it.

Most authors have a ‘book launch’. I am not brave enough to do this. This was bit of a mistake. I hadn’t realised that local shops (possibly bigger ones too) are quite slow when restocking. They have lots of suppliers, there is no sense of urgency. So friends were going in to buy my book and being told it had sold out. I took a fresh supply, but was told by the shop that they couldn’t take them until they had done the paperwork and paid me for the books sold. There was no way round this system (I did try). The process took three days. I have no idea how many sales I lost in those few days – some people will go back, but not everyone will bother twice. Very frustrating. If I had organised a ‘book launch’, all my friends could have come in one go, seen the book, and if they liked it, they could have bought it then. This would leave the shops for the slower, less definite customers. Next time…

I also realise now how important it is to make sure my supply chain is working properly before I start advertising. (Hope you are noticing all the clever marketing phrases I have been learning.) I have now put it into more than one shop in each town, so if one sells out, the other will hopefully still have some.

A few things went badly this week actually. I also lost the chicken who thought he was a duck. (I am pretty sure he was a ‘he’ as his tail feathers were getting worryingly long.) Every day when I let him out the chicken cage he would run to the pond and peck all the ducks so they went back into the water (nasty bird.) In the evening, when the chickens all went to roost, he would try to stay by the pond, but if I chased him (dog helped) then he would follow his sister (who might be a brother, not sure yet) into the chicken cage, where he would safely roost all night. This went badly wrong on Saturday, when we met friends for dinner in London and arrived home later than expected. All the chickens were roosting, so I could just shut their door – all the chickens except for that one. He was asleep at the top of the ramp into the pond, which is as near the actual water as he ever goes. When I woke him up to move him to the cage, he charged off. Not sure if you have ever chased a chicken around a pond on a dark night with only a torch with weak batteries and an overly excited dog to help, but it’s not great. Eventually he darted into the middle of a prickly bush and refused to budge. We couldn’t reach him and he wouldn’t come out. I left him and hoped if he stayed there he might be safe. He wasn’t. Found a heap of feathers the following morning. Feeling slightly guilty (though not sure what I could’ve done differently.)

Also this week I was interviewed by the local paper. This is so not me – I’m quite a private person really. Son came for support. The reporter was very nice, but he did tend to chat about me, and I just wanted to talk about the book. You can’t “not answer” when someone asks why you stopped teaching or where you lived and when. Of course, when the article appeared, it was more about me than the book. But it was nice of him to include something. He even took a photo (which is awful, I am wearing my “I feel really silly” face.) I hope it’s a good way to let people know about my book. I loved writing it, now I would like to hide under the bed and let people buy it and recommend it to others. But no one will buy it unless I advertise it a little, so I’m forcing myself to publicise it. I have to keep reminding myself, it’s not about me, it’s about the book. And it IS a good book. It has strong, realistic characters, so by the end you feel they are real people, and you might have met them, and you want to give them some advice about the terrible decisions they are making…

Have you bought a copy yet?


Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Thank you for reading.