As 2013 draws to a close and we are treated to many a best-of-year list, it’s time to reflect on some of the lessons the year has taught me about publishing a novel.
1.There’s nothing like holding your book for the first time. As I said at the launch, it’s like holding a new-born. I now think it might also be like pulling something out of the oven in The Great British Bake Off.
2. There’s nothing like getting a good comment or review (proof of the pudding etc in Bake Off terms). As soon as the book was published I regressed, becoming a primary school kid seeking approval. Every reader was my teacher, every positive comment a bright gold star stuck at the end of my work.
3 You have to forget all sense of dignity and self-respect if you are to market your book as shamelessly as you need to. If you had told me a year ago that I would stand at the Farmers’ Market handing out bookmarks I wouldn’t have believed you.
4. Having been told that you need Facebook and Twitter for promotion, I soon discovered that the most irritating thing about both is being bombarded by the self-promotion of others.
5. The support of my local bookshop made a huge difference. Barnes Books were fantastic – many thanks for the poster in the window.
6. For someone who has no idea how Amazon rankings work, I check them far too often. I have figured out, though, that one person buying ‘No Regrets’ either as a real or e-book leads to a disproportionate spike in its ranking – a little like the butterfly effect. I have also learned that if you think you’ve hit a high spot you should take a screenshot. The ‘No Regrets’ ebook was ranked 792 in April but you now only have my word for it.
7. Your book becomes a little like a rare bird. Sightings of it in public are the cause of great celebration. Here’s one seen on a table in Daunt Books Holland Park.
8. A sighting on a charity shop shelf produces mixed emotions – disappointment that someone chose not to keep it or press it enthusiastically into the hands of a friend, but satisfaction at seeing it nestling between the books of more famous writers which have suffered the same fate.
9. Titles matter. I had no idea when I chose it how many publicity ideas could be spun out of references to The Walker Brothers and Edith Piaf or out of the idea of ‘having no regrets’ (see some of the early shameless self-promotion eg ‘buy it now and make sure you have ‘No Regrets’). Covers also matter.
10. Sales are nice, but opinions matter more. So huge, sincere thanks to all those who have read ‘No Regrets’ in 2013 and let me, or the world, know they liked it. That has, without doubt, been the best thing about the year.