Monday, 1 August 2011

Great Book...How Many Have You Sold?

It's a question I've been asked a few times.

Not many's the answer.

Here's a salutary tale. Several years ago, I approached some piddly literary agency with my debut novel, Losing It. They were Little, if memory serves. Oh, you mean J K Rowling's billionaire (ex)agents? Yes, that's them. Less than three weeks after receiving my hopeful little package, they were all over me. Loved the book, said it was a potential best-seller, that I'd be great at promoting it given my performing pedigree. Oh, could I just make a few minor changes? Here we go. All right, go on then, if you insist. So I did. They wanted more. Grudgingly, I re-drafted. What, more changes? This time I told them to stuff it lest they destroy my artistic vision.


Absolute, 100%, 24 carat cretin.

If they'd insisted I re-cast my female protagonist as a Taliban warthog with acne, I should have got on with it. They were Christopher bloody Little, J K Rowling's...who cares about artistic effing vision?

But you see, I (the aforementioned cretin) figured, if they loved the book, so would everyone else. But I made no progress with the handful of other agents I approached and, in a fit of pique - tarring all agents with the same brush - I published it myself. That'd show them. I eventually sold 400, which isn't bad, I'm told, but only after nagging libraries, appearing on radio stations so local only God was listening in, chivvying local book shops and wasting a smallish fortune on useless PR. Net financial loss? Let's not go there.

And that's when I gave up writing novels for a few years until inspiration struck and I rattled out A Song For Europe, an edgy romantic comedy more in keeping with my day/night job as a comedian and scriptwriter. I gave it to a few trusted folk to read and received rave reviews. Which is when I approached another handful of agents. This time, one came back on the same day I emailed them a sample, champing at the bit. Not quite in the Christopher Little league, but long established and respected nonetheless. Sadly, they weren't particularly set up to promote an edgy romcom and although there was a ripple of interest from publishers, nothing happened.

But I believed in the book and, rather than suffer the misery and financial flagellation of self-publishing, decided to stick it on Amazon as a digital download. Kindles everywhere would be loaded up with my David Nicholls-stylee novel within days.

Except that didn't happen. The problem is, if no-one knows it's there, it might as well not be. What to do? I've had my head buried in websites claiming to know the secrets of promoting digital books. I've started a Facebook fan page ( - 95 fans and counting - none of them have bought the book). I've started tweeting for all I'm worth (@SimonLipson). Still nothing. I'm sure I can do more, but I'm beginning to think I need to commit A Song For Europe to good, old-fashioned paper.Then... ring up libraries, contact local book shops, appear on Radio know the rest. Somehow, I have to get the 'word-of'mouth' thing going, but there are only so many hours in the day. And if I shift 400 copies, so what?

I'd love to hear from anyone who's been through the self-publishing maze and/or stuck something on Amazon Kindle. Maybe we can knock heads and work out a strategy for getting our works of genius into the hands of a deserving public. As an avid reader, I know a hell of a lot of inferior crap gets published. There's no rhyme or reason. So - sisters, brothers! Let's do it for ourselves! (ahem - sorry, quite forgot I'm British for a moment).

1 comment:

  1. I'm currently demoralised with the indie author scene, I have to say. But the only way is up (isn't it?). I can't seem to get anywhere with marketing, but I have definitely found that tweeting alongside a blog pulls a few more people to my websites. My next tactic will be to put some freebie books up and see what happens with that. I live in hope ...