Life, and Twitter

The scream detail

‘Twitter?? Aagghh!!’

I’ve taken a break from this blog for a few weeks. This wasn’t exactly planned; it just happened, and there were two main reasons.

First, the usual: life and other stuff. Work, family. Summer. Writing: I completed the second draft of the next book in the Danny Chaucer’s Flying Saucer series, and then got it critiqued. Then there was marketing activity and obtaining reviews for DCFS.

However the second reason is more specific, and new: Twitter. Yes, after many years of resisting the allure of the tweet, I’ve finally succumbed. For a long time Twitter seemed to me the very embodiment of superficiality. I mean, how much of any substance or nuance can be said in 140 characters or less? I thought its main function was to enable celebrities and politicians to make asses of themselves more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

But finally, in my classic late-adopter style, i.e. somewhat later than the rest of the planet, I signed up. And much to my surprise, after a slow start, I’ve kind of got into the spirit of it. This is what I like about Twitter:

  • 140 characters. It can be challenging to fit what you want to say into that tiny space. But at least it’s quick, which is no small bonus in today’s hectic world. You can spend ages crafting a blog post, but it’s practically impossible to expend too much effort on a tweet. And like any limit it can encourage brevity and creativity, to focus on the very essence of what you want to say.
  • Content. Twitter is like the Internet in microcosm. Sure there’s piles of disposable junk and slicks of sleaze floating on an ocean of irrelevance. The banality of endless self-promotion is a bigger issue than the self-righteous pitchfork-waving types who tend to dominate public perceptions of Twitter, but the latter are certainly there. Yet among all that there is genuine humanity, wit and originality. There is some truly fascinating stuff being tweeted. You just need to filter out the rest as best you can. And …
  • Diversity. It’s the beauty of the Internet: whatever you’re into, or do, or think, you’ll find others who share your passions. And people who like to read books like the ones you’ve written, if you can reach them. Which brings me to …
  • Marketing. It’s quick and easy to sprinkle your output with links to reviews of your books, or to blog posts, or updates. But note ‘sprinkle’ not ‘drown’ (see ‘endless self-promotion’ above).
  • Exposure. If you tweet regularly and don’t just self-promote or re-tweet the work of others the whole time, people will follow you, and at a faster rate than I’ve experienced on WordPress. Of course, ‘follow’ doesn’t necessarily mean all those people will hungrily devour every missive you churn out thereafter, let alone buy your books. In fact, in most cases it almost certainly doesn’t mean that. But at least it gives a greater chance of a bigger audience than you might otherwise have.
  • The look. There’s not a lot you can do to customize a Twitter page, and what you can do is dead easy. You might see that as a drawback, but I like it. It’s sort of democratic. It means my Twitter page can look as professional as those of celebrities and corporations. Unlike websites or even WordPress blogs, where at least some time, design expertise and/or money has to be invested to make it look at least reasonable, let alone stand out.
  • Access. I was bowled over to get a direct message from one of my fave authors, Erin Kelly, after I mentioned her in a tweet. I can’t pretend I’m now a friend of the stars, but Twitter gives a unique opportunity for direct contact with people you wouldn’t otherwise have a hope of encountering.

But of course with the smooth comes the rough. Next time I’ll ruminate on some of the things I’m less enthusiastic about. In the meantime if you’d like to check me out on Twitter, click here.

Do you use Twitter? What for? How do you feel about it? Are you an old hand or a recent convert like me?

 

 

Why I’ve decided on hybrid publishing

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.41.33 PM

I’ve been neglecting this blog big time recently, being far too busy with life in general but more specifically with putting the finishing touches to Danny Chaucer’s Flying Saucer and completing the first draft of its sequel. But I’m resolved to blog more regularly from now on. Writing’s a solitary business at times and there’s such a great community on WordPress that’s well worth keeping in touch with.

Anyway – back to the main point of this post. When I posted my writing resolutions for 2015, high on the list (after completing DCFS) was to finally decide on whether to continue down the self-publishing route or to hurl myself into the purgatory of query letters, agents and slush piles hoping to win one of those vanishingly rare traditional publishing lottery tickets.

Both options have their pros and cons of course. For me, the biggest problem with self-publishing is that your book will almost certainly be lost in the crowd. And traditional / conventional publishing, despite the unbelievably high bar confronting prospective new entrants (unless you happen to be a You Tube sensation or random celebrity who may or may not be able to string three words together), is perhaps not a great deal better. Put bluntly, most books don’t sell very well, however they’re published. There are exceptions of course, but they represent a tiny percentage of the tidal wave of new titles published every year.

The fact that I’ve sold very few books so far hasn’t stopped me, mainly because I love writing for its own sake. However, I love it so much that I’d like to spend a lot more time doing it, and that’s not really possible unless I start getting a decent income from it.

So is there a middle way? Some way to improve your chances of success – to help you make your books as professional as possible and to have more chance of selling it? There is much talk of hybrid or partner publishing, and these terms tend to mean different things to different people. All I can tell you about is what I’ve decided to do, and why.

DCFS will be published by a company called Albury Books. They are not a conventional publisher but neither do they publish anything and everything that comes their way. DCFS had to be accepted in order to carry their imprint. I have no doubt that their selection criteria were nowhere near as rigorous as a conventional publisher’s has to be when confronted with a tottering pile of hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts and a budget that probably allows them to take on perhaps one of them. But the fact that Albury do have minimum standards was reassuring.

I also liked their website, the fact that they have a children’s book programme, and the appearance of the books they were selling. The covers looked quite professional, for instance. That is not the case with all hybrid publishers’ websites I’ve seen, some of which looked quite amateurish and were jam-packed with covers that absolutely screamed ‘self-published!’ and not in a good way.

I know what you might be thinking at this point. I know because I’d probably be thinking it myself: isn’t hybrid just a polite word for vanity? Ah yes, the dreaded vanity press, exploiting authors’ dreams, taking their money for over-priced services and giving poor value in return. Have I fallen into that trap?

Well, for me, paid publishing services are not a dirty word (or words) necessarily. Design, editing, distribution, marketing … these things, especially if done properly, all cost time and money. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who secures a conventional publishing deal, they won’t come for free (and even then, much is still expected of the author, especially on the marketing side). Sure, a self-publishing author can do much or even all of it themselves – but to what standard, and how successfully? Let’s be honest. Amazon is full of books that aren’t very good, or have lousy covers, or sell few or no copies. There are also many that are very good, look amazing and/or sell in decent quantities, but they are the exception especially on the sales.

So I have concluded that if I want to do things better, going it alone is not the best option. I need some help, and yes that’s going to cost me something. To some extent, how much it costs is up to me. Albury do not sell fixed-price packages or require you to buy services you don’t need. I have got the cover designed through them (see above) – they were OK with my own design but I decided to go professional this time, and I’m pleased with the result. They did require, as a condition of acceptance for publication, that a copy-edit of the text was done by a specialist children’s editor – but they did not insist that this was sourced through them. I could have gone out and found my own copy-editor. (The edit was a good thing, by the way – I’ve never had one before, and I’m certain the book is better for it.)

There are some things I’m still doing myself, and therefore not paying for, because I’m confident I can do them to a good standard. This includes the text layout and the set-up on Amazon. Albury will be handling the set-up in other distribution channels, on their own website and in POD. The standard of the POD printing of their books, by the way, is definitely a cut above what I’ve experienced with Amazon’s, and therefore I won’t be setting up this book in Create Space.

I have to sign a contract, but I get to keep a high percentage of the royalties. The percentage is higher than Amazon’s and certainly miles better than those of a typical conventional publishing contract.

But of course, a high percentage of diddly squat is still diddly squat. The idea is to sell some books. Which brings me on to marketing and publicity services. These are available through Albury but they cost, and I’m still evaluating the options here. Two things I know: there are no guarantees when it comes to sales, and even if I pay for some services the onus is still on me. If I don’t believe in the book, I can’t expect anyone else to. I’ll post more about the marketing another time.

If you have any views or comments on any of this, I’d be pleased to hear them. Thanks.

Should self-published authors think more about print?

reading-a-book

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve embraced e-books as both reader and author, and it’s obvious that for the self-published writer the medium has compelling advantages. It has lowered or removed production and distribution costs. It’s enhanced the ability to sell online and so bypass both bookshops and the traditional gatekeepers of publishing. For these reasons it’s been a major factor in the explosion in the popularity of self-publishing.

Therefore the temptation, for many, is to ignore print completely. I don’t have any figures to back it up, but it’s very probable that a substantial proportion of self-published titles – perhaps even the majority – are available only as e-books, and often only in Kindle format.

But are we missing a trick by ignoring the humble printed book? It’s not just that I like them – though I do. In fact I still read them, tending to alternate between physical books and my Kindle. E-books are all very well, and their advantages are obvious, but sometimes you just can’t beat the look, feel and even smell of the printed page. (You just can’t sniff a Kindle. Or more accurately, you can, but (1) it doesn’t really smell of anything, and (2) it looks even weirder than sniffing a book.) And it’s just nice to have one part of my leisure time that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. Plus, the batteries never run out and it isn’t the end of the world if you drop in the bath. And probably no-one will steal it.

To be honest, that’s the main reason why I put both of my novels into Createspace, to make them available in paperback as well as Kindle editions: so that I could see my own work in print. (It certainly wasn’t the economics – more of that below.) Seeing my name (well, my writing name) printed on a spine on my bookshelf wasn’t my only motivation for starting to write, but I don’t think I’m alone when I admit it was a pretty big one.

And the point is, paper books aren’t going away any time soon. The ‘print is dead’ mantra always struck me as over-simplistic at best, tinged by a smug techno-arrogance (look at those Luddites clinging to their dead trees!), and mixed also I think with a kind of wishful thinking, the hope that one simple world (all is print) would be quickly and smoothly supplanted by another (all is e). The truth, as so often, has turned out rather more complicated.

It’s now widely known that e-book sales are levelling off. To some degree that was predictable – explosive, exponential growth cannot go on forever in anything. It doesn’t mean that e-books won’t dominate the future of reading – it’s hard to believe they won’t. And they will continue to grow and develop in ways that are hard or impossible to predict right now.

But print has proved a remarkably stubborn old goat. Take this article, which includes the startling statistic that among 1,400 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK, approximately 62% said they preferred print books over e-books. Yes I know – all statistics need to be taken with a bucket of salt – but it does seem that it’s not just oldies who are hanging on to their paper products; even the younger generation can see the point of print. It’s a pragmatic decision – which format is best for my needs? And those needs will vary depending on the situation. I’ll happily read an e-book, but I’d rather take an old-fashioned paperback onto the beach – the sand won’t bugger it up and no-one will sneak up and nick it when I doze off for five minutes.

But another statistic quoted in this article also caught my eye: that 60% of e-books downloaded in the US are never read. The very cheapness, the sheer ubiquity of the e-book may have become one of its biggest weaknesses. So easy and cheap – often free – vast numbers are crammed onto the world’s e-readers, far more than their owners could every realistically read in their lifetimes, doomed to gather digital dust. If you’re giving away your books for free to garner attention and the odd review, that’s sobering news. Not all paper books are read either, but they’re harder to ignore for ever when they sit looking accusingly at you from your bookshelf; and if you’ve paid more for it, the perceived value is higher.

Also, we forget the fact that not everyone has an e-reader. More people have tablets, but those all-singing, all-dancing devices aren’t necessarily the best for reading. It’s hard to concentrate on a book when the device keeps pinging every five minutes because you’ve got e-mail, and there’s the ever-present temptation of a quick game of Temple Raider.

So far, I’ve sold about as many paperbacks of my books as I’ve sold Kindle editions. Now I’m pretty sure that’s not everyone’s experience, and it’s also true I’ve sold very few of either, but still. I know that some people wouldn’t have bought my books at all if they weren’t available in paperback, even if they do cost more.

Cost. That brings me neatly onto one of the main drawbacks of Createspace and other ‘Print on Demand’ book programs. I know something about print technology, and it’s an unavoidable fact of POD that the cost per copy will always be that much higher. The very ability to produce single copies cost-effectively precludes any economies of scale. That’s why you can’t price your Createspace paperback as low as you’d like, and why you’ll never match the price points of the mega-sellers from James Patterson and J.K. Rowling. Their books are printed in thousands and tens of thousands at a time, on monster printing presses a world away from the glorified photocopiers that serve the POD market.

I’d love to be able to price my paperbacks lower than they are, but until recently I’ve had to put out both BASIC Boy and Falling Girl at US$5.99 / £4.99, much more than the Kindle editions, and that’s still making very little royalty per copy. The only way I could possibly price much lower would be to commission a high speculative print run, outside of POD, which would mean significant up-front costs running into thousands of pounds – and a house crammed with boxes of books. And how would I sell them? I think we all know that getting self-published books into the average bookshop is mission impossible.

Perhaps there are other channels though. I’ve toyed with the idea of a market stall, or perhaps a collaboration with other local self-published writers. But I haven’t yet been brave (or stupid?) enough to take that kind of risk. I have however donated copies of both books to my daughter’s high school library (much to her embarrassment). I figure that any exposure is a good thing, even if I make no money from it.

One thing I have done recently is to reformat the paperback edition of BASIC Boy. By reducing the text point size and margins and removing the table of contents (not really necessary in the paperback) I’ve managed to knock almost 20% off the page count, without compromising readability too much I hope, and that has enabled me to reduce the price to US$4.99 / £3.99. I plan to do the same with Falling Girl next. I’m not kidding myself that this will kick-start mega sales, but I just like the idea that people can buy my paperbacks for a slightly more reasonable price. And if I do want to buy any more books to sell on or give away – perhaps to more local libraries – then it’s become more affordable to do so.

At the same time I refreshed the covers, having noticed that the bright on-screen e-book colours became darker and murkier in the paperback, so I made the paperback edition colours lighter. The new cover designs are below (feedback very welcome!).

BB cover kdp March 14      FG cover 24mar14

I’d be interested to hear of other people’s experience of selling their print books. How have sales compared to the e-book versions, and how and where have you sold them? I don’t have the answers; I just believe that there’s still a place for both the print book and the e-book, and the print may be able to offer additional opportunities that would be unwise to ignore.

Revealed! My Writing New Year’s Resolution for 2014: I’m going to, er … write …

Idea

OK I admit it’s a bit late, being nearly the end of January and all that, but believe me it took a full month of heavy-duty mental gymnastics to come up with that one.

And yet, all joking aside, it’s not quite as obvious as it sounds. During the past three months or so I’ve been wrestling with the reality that being a self-published author involves a lot more than writing. Or more precisely, a lot more than writing the ‘real stuff’, the stories and the books, those things I always wanted to write which is why I ended up doing all this in the first place.

Those of you who also self-publish will know what I’m talking about. It’s not just the editing, the cover design, the setting up and optimising your books’ online presence. It’s also the other bits and pieces – author platforms, review requests, blogging, the general trying to get your writing noticed.  Of course you can pay for someone else to do some or all of this stuff, and I’ve no doubt there are many skilled and enthusiastic people who will do a decent job of that. But I’ve also realised that there’s no sure-fire way of making people buy your books, at least not without spending more in the process than you’re likely to get back in sales.

I confess that while beavering away at my first two novels, I cheerfully ignored most of the above. I just concentrated on making my books the best I could make them, and that was time-consuming enough without worrying about anything else. But all that ‘else’ was always there – the elephant in the room, if you like.

And then, soon after completing and publishing BASIC Boy, that hulking great cliché tapped me on the shoulder with its trunk, said ‘Excuse me? Haven’t you forgotten something, old chap?’ (Yes, it was a talking elephant. Bear with me.) It then proceeded to scare the cat, ransack the refrigerator, and finally sit on my laptop and refuse to move until I’d promised to create an author profile on Goodreads.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve found I quite like having my own website, and I’ve very grateful to those who’ve liked my posts and followed my blog. But I’m under no illusions that I’m creating more than the tiniest ripple in the huge Pacific Ocean of the Internet, and – bottom line – it all takes time. And so I haven’t written very much – you know – real stuff recently.  A couple of short stories, yes, but that’s all.

I’ve begun to feel a bit like a car factory, the owner of which had the bright idea one day of taking almost its entire staff off the production line and sticking then in sales, marketing and publicity. Which quickly led to two big problems.  First, too many people tripping over each other, not really knowing what they’re doing because they’re skilled at welding or painting or electronics and don’t know a thing about selling stuff. Second, no-one’s making any cars any more. Which, ironically, really becomes a problem if and when, somewhat miraculously, the people who don’t know much about sales actually start getting quite good at it, at which point they’ll be taking orders they suddenly can’t fulfil. ‘Result? Bankruptcy all round!’ (That’s a quote from the superb 1951 Alistair Sim version of Scrooge, one of my favourite movies of all time. Yes, my brain really is that random.)

I have tried to write. I’ve had three or four new novel ideas bouncing around inside my head, but none has kept still long enough to do much with. For each one I’ve got as far as sketching out a rough outline, even writing the first few hundred words – and then it’s gone. My enthusiasm for the idea, that is. It’s ridiculous, because I know I can do it. I have written two novels already, after all. I know how many hundreds of hours of work it takes and I’m not afraid of that. I enjoy the process, however much of a slog it might be at times, and I get a real buzz from it.

So what’s the problem? I’ve concluded that I just need to give concentrated blast of good, solid time to at least one of these idea, to really get my teeth into it, to keep pummelling away until it starts to morph into something I can really work with. Last year, between the last two drafts of BASIC Boy, I did make a good start on a third YA novel. I churned out a fairly detailed outline and nearly 20,000 words of the first draft. That’s a pretty solid start. So why didn’t I stick with it?

Because I started obsessing about the fact that BASIC Boy, despite positive reviews and encouraging comments, wasn’t selling. Neither was its predecessor, Falling Girl. I’ve done much in the intervening couple of months that’s been of value. I’ve now got the website, the Goodreads presence. But so have zillions of other people, and I keep feeling that I’m running like hell and still falling behind. I really don’t have a clue how to sell more books. It’s not a nice feeling.

I could of course give up on selling books and write for the sheer joy of the art, which is basically what I’ve been doing anyway. But my dream is to write full time, which would mean giving up the day job, which means selling lots and lots of books, which isn’t happening.

So I’m going back to that third novel, at least unless and until I have a better idea. (It’s a dystopian virtual reality fantasy; provisionally title Upland, but I that doesn’t really grab me and I’m hoping I think of a better one.) And if I get any bright ideas about how to promote my writing in the meantime, I’ll follow them up. I know I can’t just ignore that side of things.

But in 2014 I’m going to write more and worry less. I just hope that elephant sits quietly in the corner and behaves itself.

 

My five worst book marketing ideas

Balloons image

Giant ghost hands! Eighties pop stars! Helium-filled balloons! It’s all here!

By making the borderline-certifiable decision to become a self-published author, I have embraced the joy of writing, of creative freedom, and the satisfaction of seeing the product of hundreds of hours of hard work actually on sale. But I have also taken on the sole responsibility for marketing and selling my work. Which isn’t exactly easy when your books are like microscopically tiny needles in a planet-sized and rapidly-expanding haystack of self- and conventionally-published books.

And while I’d like to be content to remain at number 11,467,232 on the Amazon sales ranking (OK, I may have made that number up, but it’s too depressing to check what it actually is), I do continue to cling to the deluded fantasy of one day actually making a living from writing. Which, however you look at it, means shifting some books, preferably sometimes in return for actual money.

So how do I sell enough books to make my dream come true? How to find a market beyond my immediate family and friends? In fact, how on earth do I even get my books noticed?

Of course there are lots of conventional answers. Hone your craft, become the best writer you can (completely agree). Don’t publish until you think it’s really good enough (ditto). Try to make your cover not look like it was thrown together by a colour-blind Photoshop novice who thinks Comic Sans is cutting edge typography. Try to get unbiased reviews which are hopefully broadly positive yet don’t look like they’ve been written by your mother. Blogging, your own website, social media … hmm.

Putting aside the fact that I’m currently writing a blog on my own website, I do have an issue with the whole social-media-as-a-marketing-strategy thing. For one thing, I can barely find enough hours in the day to write – which as all writers know is absurdly time-consuming – on top of my full-time day job, family commitments and other extraneous stuff like food and sleep. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that most of those authors with zillions of Twitter followers or Facebook friends got most of them because they were already successful, either as a writer or (frequently) something completely different. Now I’m sure there are other very good reasons to do social media beyond its sales-boosting potential. But, frankly, given the choice of how to ration my strictly limited time, I’d rather be writing my next book.

All this preamble is really just to set the scene, and perhaps provide a smidgen of justification, for the insanity that follows. You see (confession time): sometimes, late at night, my brain befuddled after hours of hacking away at the eighth draft of something or other, I allow myself to fantasize that maybe, just maybe, there’s another way. That there’s some amazing, quick, fail-safe, brilliantly successful way to promote my book that, miraculously, no-one else has ever thought of. That the very next day, when I get up, I’m going to make it happen. Whereas actually, that very next day – and sometimes much sooner – is when I realise that the reason why nobody else has ever tried to promote their book that way is because it’s dumb, bizarre, suicidal, ludicrous and/or borderline illegal.

So, in the interests of full disclosure, and to cleanse my guilty soul, here are the five worst book marketing ideas I’ve ever had. I have actually entertained these ideas, with varying degrees of seriousness, for upwards of several minutes. Which amply demonstrates what a deeply strange and disturbing place my mind can be.

So here they are, in all their, erm, glory, along with the glaringly obvious reasons why they would never work. (Aside from the common factor of complete impracticability.)

1. The big hand on Big Ben

The front cover of my first book, Falling Girl, features a ghostly white hand. (Which actually belongs to my eleven-year-old daughter – though she’s made me faithfully promise never to reveal that embarrassing secret … oh, whoops.) So obviously I thought – why not get / hire / buy / borrow one of those flood-lights that often light up famous and / or historic buildings at night, create an overhead projector transparency of that white hand and – hey presto, a giant ghostly white hand is projected on the side of – well, the Tower of London, Big Ben, etc. etc.

… and then, just to ramp up the sheer ludicrousness of the plan, what about arranging for it to happen on New Years’ Eve, the state opening of parliament, or any other event where TV cameras are present? And then everyone asks what that giant white hand means, social media is a-buzz, and I sell truck-loads of books.

What would actually happen

  • The chances of a shabbily-dressed, suspiciously-behaving individual with something under his jacket getting anywhere near Big Ben – especially on New Years’ Eve – are vanishingly slim. I would most likely end up in a police cell being interrogated by a terrorist squad cop armed with wicked electrodes and halitosis.
  • And the plastic hand picture would melt on the hot flood-light. The smell of burning plastic – yuck.

2. Balloons over England

I’m sure everyone has had this idea, right? Print of loads of cards bearing mysterious ghostly white hand motif (see above). Attached to dozens / hundreds / eight (depending on budget*) helium-filled balloons. Release. Eventually they all come down. And then everyone asks what all those mysterious white hand cards mean, social media is a-buzz, and I sell truck-loads of books.

(It even occurred to me that a west-north-west wind would be ideal, so as to carry the balloons from Oxfordshire down across London. Result: the spent balloons would rain down on grateful and intrigued publishing industry movers-and-shakers. Probably.)

What would actually happen

  • Not much.
  • I’d feel too guilty about littering the countryside and choking wildlife with bits of latex and card. Publishing industry movers-and-shakers don’t tend to take well to that kind of thing.

(* Probably eight, let’s face it. Looked up the equipment on Amazon. It’s expensive.)

3. Guerrilla bookmarks

Bookmarks are boring, right? Wrong! While browsing through the shelves of hyper-selling paperbacks in a major store one day, brooding on the massive unlikelihood of my books ever rubbing shoulders with such exalted company, I hit upon a brilliant wheeze. I’d print out some high-quality bookmarks on my inexpensive inkjet printer, featuring my book. Then I’d slip them on the shelves while no-one’s looking. Result: while leafing through The Hunger Games or The Hobbit, unsuspecting punters would stumble upon free advertising for my book – and obviously, inevitably order them from Amazon in their thousands.

What would actually happen

  • Not much.
  • In big stores, someone is always looking. It’s called CCTV. And said stores would probably be less than enthused by my cluttering their shelves with tawdry smudged bits of card printed on a cheap inkjet.
  • Two words: store security. I have no desire to become the first person ever to be apprehended for putting stuff on a store shelf. Kind of the reverse of shoplifting. I’ve no idea whether that’s actually a crime. I don’t plan to find out.

4. Getting shirty

A sinister, distorted space invader image adorns the front cover of BASIC Boy. I do think it (and possibly the title too) would look quite good on a tee-shirt. It’s easy to get your own designs produced relatively inexpensively. What if I produced some and gave them away or sold them very cheaply? (I’m looking to make money from books, not clothes.) All those people walking down the street, mobile adverts for my book. It could even become a cool brand it its own right.

What would actually happen

  • The economics don’t work too well unless I deal in any great volume. Tee-shirts may be relatively cheap, but it would still be a significant expense to give them away. (The same goes for branded USB sticks, baseball caps, umbrellas or surgical support stockings. Big money, not much hope of recouping it.) So this little enterprise would have to pay its own way at least to a degree, but …
  • In the world of fashion, I’m not just out of my comfort zone. I’m on a different continent from my comfort zone, and that continent’s on a frozen far-flung planet in the outer reaches of the next galaxy but three. There are probably zillions of budding clothing entrepreneurs hoping that their design will be the next big thing, and many of them will have far more reason to be hopeful of success than I can be.
  • So the net result is likely to be that instead of being an obscure wannabe in just the book industry, I get to be one in the clothing industry too. Great …

5. Eighties-pop-star-holding-my-book.com

Pretty self-explanatory, this one. I send free copies of BASIC Boy – which has a 1980s theme – to various pop stars of that era, especially those mentioned in the book. I ask them to send me a picture of them holding my book. Possibly I offer to make a donation to their chosen charity in return. I put the images on the above-named website. Pretty soon it’s the latest thing. Famous musicians, the young and trendy as well as the grizzled veterans of yesteryear, practically fall over themselves to take part. Harry Styles from One Direction literally begs me for a copy. My daughter finally admits I’m totally cool and not embarrassing after all. Social media is a-buzz, my books sell by the truck-load, etc. etc., you get the picture.

What would actually happen

Given that celebrities are not generally known to be especially fond of self-publicising nutcases asking them for favours, we can comfortably conjecture any or all of the following:

  • Not much.
  • And if it did – very slowly.
  • Might start to cost me a small fortune in donations (so at least someone might benefit I suppose).
  • Restraining orders.
  • Psychiatric assessments.
  • My daughter will not admit I’m totally cool and un-embarrassing.

So there you have it. Feel free to mock – I probably deserve it. Though as I said, I wasn’t quite crazy enough to actually do any of the above*. But would you be tempted to pull any of these stunts? Have you done anything similar? Did it work? Did you sell a ton more books? Or is your next title a scintillating expose of jail conditions – from the inside?

Oh well … back to the social media I suppose. Now where did I put those balloons …

(* OK … I did hide half a dozen bookmarks on the shelves of Asda Walmart in Milton Keynes. What happened? Not much …)