Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Don't try this at home

As I explained in my previous post I originally intended to target the next phase of my e-mail book marketing campaign at Independent Booksellers. But there was a problem. I drew up a list of fifty or so booksellers and started checking them out. Most of them turned out to be second-hand, antiquarian or specialist booksellers. Not the kind of people who would normally stock a self-pubbed novel like A Half Life Of One.

In the end I was left with the following list of potential victims:

Crockett & Powell
Wenlock Books
The Pan Bookshop
London Review Bookshop
Simply Books
John Sandoe
The Book Depository
The Bookseller Crow
And several more who should probably remain anonymous.

Then I hit my next problem. When I checked out their websites several of them appeared to be rather serious organisations with absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever. To understand the problem you have to bear in mind that my marketing assault was going to be led by the following e-mail teaser (a sophisticated variation on my previous effort):

"Subject: Cheer yourself up

Hi Mr Bookseller Smith

It's always heartening to come across someone who is worse off than yourself. If you ever get depressed by the current state of the bookselling/publishing industry take a look
here and marvel at the efforts of a self-pubbed delusionist as he attempts to market a novel that may well be rubbish.

Don't bother if you're busy tho' - it isn't that funny. Or that clever, sadly.


Bill Liversidge
View From The Pundyhouse (blog

And the label to look here referenced my blog post titled "***Press Release*** Onanist Publisher announces..."

You don't have to be a marketing genius to figure out how this bit of advertising hokum would go down in certain sections of the more strait-laced bookselling community, struggling as they are with giant bookselling chains, high rents and rates and a deluge of new titles from traditional publishers. In the end I reduced my target list to six bookshops who looked like they could take a joke.

At this point I confess I began to feel somewhat demoralised. Even if all six bookshops agreed to stock my novel it didn't really feel like I was achieving critical mass amongst the bookbuying public. Bestsellerdom seemed as far away as ever. In the end I did what every good marketing professional does in this situation. I panicked. I drew up a random list of writers, publishers, literary movers and shakers and anyone else I could think off who might just possibly attract some attention to the book. Later that day I sent out over seventy Cheer yourself up e-mails - if not a spam attack, at the very least a corned beef attack, with the emphasis firmly on the corn. Then I hunkered down in my bunker and waited.

I didn't have long to wait. A writer responded to the sentiment in my e-mail. How could I possibly know I was worse off than he was? Didn't I know he had devoted himself to a life of writing and was living off air. I was mortified. I sent off a grovelling apology. Next a bookseller sent back a rather techy e-mail saying it was plain I hadn't ever been inside his bookshop and there was absolutely no way he would stock my book. I was shaken. It was only a joke...

And then the shit really hit the fan. Someone left the following Comment on the blog:

stanley crapbook said...

Dear Mr Publisher,as a new and upcoming auther, I would like to give you the oppertunity to have a look at my manuscript,'Hot Mountain Babes' and publish it.It is the best selling story of a man what gets done over by his wife with a rolling pin. She has found out that he made a fortune from a book what he wrote and spent the lot on a herd of sheep in Scotlandshire. It is very funny and I am surprised when I see all those other rejection letters that I have - they obviously dont know what they are talking about. Your new publishing company looks like it is the one for me and I look forward to hearing the date of my publickation and please don't give me one of those crappy covers.

Yours sinceerly

Stanley Crapbook

pee ess - Oh and sorry for approaching you in this way. I have sent over a 100 emails to you - I think you should get a new secretary, the one you have is obviously a moron.

To say I was shocked by this Comment is an understatement. I was as upset by the personal nature of the sentiments expressed as my unsolicited e-mail had obviously upset its recipient. It's said that you shouldn't dish it out if you can't also take it, and that is true. But somehow, unless I had completely misjudged the tone of my original e-mail, the viciousness of this response really hurt.

For a few seconds I was shellshocked. This guy had bothered to reply. What was the rest of the world thinking. I had made a complete fool of myself. How could I have been so unbelievably stupid. How could I.

I shut down my computer.

I needed to get out of the house at once, before I was sick. When I stopped shaking I climbed into the car and drove into the countryside to try and calm myself down. Everywhere looked grey. All I could think about was how stupid I had been. All those stupid e-mails. That stupid post. My stupid dreams. How could I be so stupid? How could I be so stupid?

I drove for an hour and returned home as it was getting dark. Reluctantly I went to my desk and switched on my computer and logged on. I didn't want to. God knows what I was going to find.

And there it was. Another e-mail waiting for me. From someone I had targetted earlier that day. A bookseller. Maybe the same one who had left that poisonous Comment. I hesitated for a long time before I opened it, my heart thumping. This is what it said:

OK - I have laughed me knackers off this morning reading through your blog. I really hope the book isn't "A HUGE PILE OF CRAP" because your blog is genius.

I run a marketing course for self-published authors, and I also deliver seminars at the Society of Authors, and I would be honoured to use this as a case study sir.

Please send me a review copy - I have someone in mind (a customer of mine) for whom this will be right up their street...

The very best of luck.

Best regards - Mark Thornton, Mostly Books

Not for the first time over the previous few days I wanted to cry. Thanks, Mark, you may never stock the book but you almost certainly saved my life.

Next post: A List of Heroes and Heroines


  1. Met him! He's the guy who ran the seminar at Soc of Authors I mentioned to you (I think) and produced the list Minx passed on to you.


  2. Hi Debi, yeah I made that connection too - which made his e-mail all the sweeter.

  3. Anonymous12:12 pm

    Ran across your blog in my "Book Marketing" Google alerts. You are a darn funny guy! As an indy publisher, I have sat in your chair many a day and perhaps we cried in the same beer. It amazes me how many people in the industry don't know a good joke when they see/hear it.

    I do wish you the very best of luck on your endeavors, and please know that it only takes one voice to spread the word...so chatter on my good man!

    Karen Syed

  4. There is a large pink thing on my blog for you.

  5. Your posts are getting funnier and funnier and I get the feeling you are in fine writing form! :-)