Authorial anxieties meet Top Gear
I am now, as I write, flying back to Berkeley from my 4 day British book launch. The vast pot of frequent flier miles I have recently acquired means that I am able to do this in unaccustomed luxury (I’ve cashed them in for an upgrade in other words). So in this quiet cabin of the plane (turning left as you go in) peace is reigning.
Behind me, Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the Top Gear team are, uncharacteristically, slumbering or tapping in their lap-tops. To tell the truth, neither me nor the other middle-aged lady I got talking to were quite sure it was them – but we checked it out on my iPhone while we waited on the ground for the luggage of someone who hadn’t showed up to be found and removed. (How is it I wondered that this happens so often? How can so many people turn up at the airport, check their bags in, and then not actually make it to the plane? Or is it some ready-made airline excuse.)
Anyway, so far as the book goes, all I can now do is hope people buy it. Quite what ensures that they do is difficult to say. It would be naïve (and plain wrong) to think that it was simply quality. Some bad books sell millions, some really excellent ones don’t get into four figures.
Some publishers put a lot of money into buying preferential space in bookshops. You may imagine, like I used to, that those books on the front tables of Borders or Waterstones are there because the staff in the shop think they are good.
No, they are there because big publishing houses have paid for them to be put there.
Even that isn’t guaranteed to work -- though of course I’d be quite happy if you’d take some direct action along those lines, and move any of my books you find languishing at the back onto those front tables.
Reviews aren’t the answer either, good or bad. On the other hand the poor author does read them obsessively, and with much greater attention than any other reader. So far I’ve been very lucky – with a great review in the Financial Times, The New Statesman and even (as I found reading the free copy on the plane) in Condé Naste Traveller. Now I’m waiting for the book review section this weekend.
Of course, the real snare for the eager author are those Amazon ratings. The temptation to check how you’re doing several times a day is almost irresistible, but it does one no good at all. The other day I was over the moon when I discovered that I’d got into the top 100 (OK at 96!...but still..). Sure as anything I’d slipped back to the 120s in an hour or two, and then on down.
Someone has even told me that the Amazon website is so clever that if you repeatedly click on your own book, they actually lower your rating. How paranoid is that?
Any that's the last book blog -- I promise. In my next post I hope to go further down the celebrity route....with a trip to LA.