Category Archives: Book trade

My feet hurt

A whole day, in heels to, from and at the London Book Fair today. Normally I’m at my desk (with a bit of pacing up and down while I’m on the phone).

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London Book Fair

Next week, publishers, agents and all folks involved in the business of publishing, will have their minds and bodies focused on one thing: the London Book Fair, which kicks off on Monday.

If you’re going to be there, dear blog reader, do come and say hello in person! I’m at the Fair all day Monday and Wednesday, representing UK inpdendent publisher Myrmidon Books, on stand V900. Myrmidon Books published their first titles in 2006 and are committed to a programme of publishing orginal and imaginative fiction. Their latest titles are The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (cover picture below) and The Painted Messiah by Craig Smith.

The Gift of Rain Tan Twan Eng

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Bye bye Borders

The news that Borders book chain plans to withdraw from the UK is really not good news for authors, nor book publicists. Borders have 71 stores in the UK. My local Borders at London Colney is a delight, a haven, a place with the best selection of fiction short of having to go into London.

Is high street retailing of books really in trouble? If so, it means that more books will be sold online (and in supermarkets). So unless you are a big name author (and can get in supermarkets), your opportunities for promotion and sales look increasingly to me as though they will be online.

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Pack is back

Scott Pack is back blogging and reveals what was behind his sudden disappearance.

If you have not come across Scott Pack, you obviously don’t follow the UK book trade, and if you’re a UK author serious about having a career in this trade, you probably should do some reading about what’s going on in the newspapers, trade magazines and blogs. Multiple magazine subscriptions are indeed expensive so if you can only manage one I’d recommend The Author, which always covers any book trade news with potential impact on authors in an intelligent and informative way. The Author is the Society of Authors‘ magazine.

Any international recommendations for required reading for authors – please comment below.

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Self-publishing, a publicist’s perspective

I often get calls enquiring about my publicity services from self-published authors.

Usually, these calls come too late. The author has gone down the self-publishing route, produced a book, tried to market it, and has reached the point where they are despairing what to do about the hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of copies sitting unsold in the garage. These calls break my heart, not just because they represent broken dreams (and probably bank balances), but often there is a great book inside the whole project simply dying to get out. And it’s simply too late.

Yes, it seems a good idea at that point to make the call for some outside help, and I have successfully worked with self-published authors and will continue to do so but the whole offer must be right. The book must be properly edited. The cover and production quality must be up to a standard where book retailers would be prepared to stock it. The price must be reasonably competitive. Yes, as a self-publisher the economics of bookselling mean you’re unlikely to be able to produce a B format paperback with a recommended retail price of £6.99. So, be clever and choose instead trade paperback at £9.99.

Book marketing starts a long time before a book is finished, and unless you are planning a very specialist non-fiction book, or a title you intend to literally hand-sell every copy yourself, decisions like title, cover, distribution, recommended retail price should only be taken after you’ve done your market research.

So while I have kick-started success for self-published titles post-production, I’m much more likely to be able to help you if you call me before all systems are go.

I had a call from a self-published author about a B format paperback, printed on exceptionally heavy paper, with a retail price of £15.99. Worse than that, the novel was actually funny and the author could write. But the cover was completely, utterly wrong.

Another self-published book I was sent to take a look at had a lovely, attention grabbing cover and good enough production quality. The subject-matter was unusual and also the author’s own background. I was concerned about the title, but was quite excited nonetheless that it was a book I could do something with. Until I opened it. It had not been edited, let alone copy-edited. Howling spelling and spacing errors jumped off the page. I couldn’t read it, and the author could not at that stage afford to correct the problem.

The bottom line is this: self-publishing is expensive, risky and unlikely to make you much (if any) money anyway. If you are thinking about it, put your vanity/author ego to one side, do your research and write yourself a business plan, just as you would were it any other business venture. If you’re unsure about about any part of it, get advice. I’m always happy to look at self-publishing proposals and business plans and one the services I can do for you in advance is provide you a tailored book marketing plan with my realistic suggestions, based on experience, of how you might best market and publicise your book.

There is an excellent article on self-publishing from Simon Haynes, author of Hal Spacejock. (Thank you to Grumpy Old Bookman for the heads up).

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Bookstore promotions

An interesting post from Scott Pack, former head of buying at Waterstones, about bookstore promotions and store level compliance. Is this the case in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere?

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Book cover 4

Jenna Black

Jenna Black’s cover got changed after feedback from a retailer. Yes, this often happens. If you’re interested you can see the old cover here on Jenna Black’s blog.

But let’s look at this cover on its own, since this is the cover the book buyer in the book store will see.

What I like about this cover is it’s cinematic quality. The title is almost painted – big and bold – as if it’s a film poster, not just a book. This gives the impression that here we have a big story. There’s a flag top left alerting us to the fact that it’s “paranormal romance”. Perhaps this is necessary as there is nothing in the cover itself to indicate that is a romance. There’s a woman, some intense-looking eyes and a moon. And further back in the purple background, some dark birds in flight, and a high-rise building. Combined with the title, every cue is that this is a dark tale, full of mystery. The high-rise building says “urban”. The woman intrigues as her eyes are closed and her head held back. We get the impression that her mind is somewhere else entirely.

Purple has a long, historical association with royalty. But here it’s a more contemporary purple: a purple associated with the psychedelic 1960s, associated with music artists from Jimi Hendrix to Prince. This purple warns us that things may not be as they seem. Infused into the darkness of night, it warns us we should be afraid.

There’s a sophisticated veneer to this cover which makes a change from the usual “vampires = blood” cover formulae. However, I find it a little text-cluttered, and this distracts a little from the impact of the imagery. The endorsement (puff) takes up three whole lines.

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