Monday, 9 June 2014

Promoting A New Novel - My Experience

In March this year, I published The Night Porter. 

My friend Clive La Court challenged me to write ( :D ) something light and airy (Carla is a heavy heavy book), so I did. 

I was proud of the result. It's a nice looking, professionally presented paperback too - a great gift for someone special *plug plug*.

As I have said in many an interview, for instance, the latest edition of Indie Scribe

the key isn't in the writing, it's in the marketing, so on publication, I invested in thirty odd paperback books from Cspace with the intention of behaving like a proper publisher. 

Beanz Meanz Heinz

I advertised for readers here.

Eventually, I sent out 24 copies of the paperback. It cost me, in total, about £200. Not a lot if those readers actually reviewed the book on Amazon/their blog, but it's still a fair lick to shell out for a freebie. 

My objective was to get at least 15 reviews on UK and 10 on US. That would make the financial investment worthwhile.

I've no idea whether this has worked or not. Nearly three months have passed. I have 6 on UK and 5 on US.

Scores on the doors

So far, five people responded. 

Three 5*, one 4* and one 3* from someone who liked the writing, but didn't enjoy the story, which suits me, rather than the other way round. He even contacted me privately to tell me his thought processes, something he didn't have to do.

Three others have really enjoyed the book but have not reviewed it on Amazon for whatever reason, but at least I know what they think...e.g.

just finished The Night Porter by Mark Barry Wiz Green Brilliant book great read was a night porter myself for a year so kind of connect with it getting all my family to buy it bring on the the next one

(Graham Ashford)

That leaves sixteen other paperback books, twelve of which I sent to people I don't know. Book reviewers, readers, and a lady who runs a chain of bookshops. Nothing has happened on this front.

What's happened? Using my literary Cracker head, I can speculate.

a) They love the book but a busy life means they haven't got round to writing the review yet.

b) They haven't read it because they are too busy. I can think of three of those, perusing their timelines. In the end, though, this tells its own tale. I didn't create enough of a buzz.

c) They have a TBR list and its way down. In the end, though, this tells its own tale, sadly. I didn't create enough of a buzz to propel my book up their personal charts.

d) They don't like the book but won't give me a review out of a sense of politeness. 

That is no good to me whatsover: I'd rather have 1* on Amazon than no review, something I have made clear. 

Don't believe me?

Read the opening page on the Amazon preview of this book. Actually, you will get everything you need at the end of the first paragraph.

Now check the number of 5* reviews this book has received.

See? It means nothing. 

The two concepts - the array of words this author has thrown together to make a form of prose, and the reader's response to that array - don't match.

A phalanx of 5* reviews like this is no good to a reader unless the author has brand awareness. For an author with limited exposure, a battery of top ratings is suicide as far as I am concerned.

Honesty Blaze

At least a 1* review is - trolls excepted - an honest review. A brilliant author like Scarlett Thomas gets 1* reviews. I hated Glen Duncan's Last Werewolf Trilogy and he writes in a way I can only dream of replicating. 

Hell, Seb Faulks, who is a magnificent writer, gets 1* reviews.

If a reviewer says The Night Porter is badly written I'll laugh in their face, but I can appreciate someone not enjoying the story, and the footnotes, I knew in advance, will piss a few readers off.

That's writing from the heart. That's writing for your biggest critic - you.


I thought the novel would sell more in the early stages than it has done, but I have become resigned to being one of those authors whose work is praised, generally liked and talked about, but doesn't sell in numbers. 

Sad in one way, positive in another.

I suppose I could write a vampzombromanceroticthriller novel starring a dashing ex-CIA agent saving the world, but that would compromise everything I believe in as a writer and the best advice I have ever received is write from the heart, not the head.

Badly written, massive selling
pulp fiction and a great cover

My bank manager doesn't believe that's the best advice, I might add. 

The most financial successful writers are those ghosters who follow the trends: for example, the women who ghost Jordan's fiction make more than any ten original fiction writers combined, and those wretched potboilers are train wrecks that make Harry Potter look like Dosteovesky's Crime and Punishment. 

Still, a Jordan fiction writer is probably sitting under a parasol in Cote D'Azur sipping a Pimms having her shoulders lashed with suntan oil, while I'm digging around at the bottom of my teapot for a teabag with some remaining juice.

That's life**

Cheers, Wiz

*Actually, I applaud all those writers who look at the sales charts to see what's trending - its happened since Dr.Johnson - before they pick up the feather quill and India ink, but I just can't do it. It's not in me.

** If anyone has a spare box of peppermint tea to donate to a starving writer, I shall swap it for twenty primetime Retweets and a Facebook plug #cooldeal. 


  1. #Coolidea indeed Mr Barry! Who would 1* a Faulks novel - OMG - that is truly preposterous (love that word BTW sounds like popping corn!). I think a lot of the marketing process (is there such a thing??) has to do with reaching the right folk. TNP is a daring, superbly written novel which deserves more exposure. Give me an hour to talk Hemingway with Julian Green and I'd be a #happybunny! n x

    1. I owe you a massive bunny suit or something, N, the way you have got behind the book! Thank you. Did you like the Faulks cover? Great writer. I shall be sending you a copy of "A Week in December". You'll love it :D Mxx

  2. If you loved The Remains of the Day, you’ll love The Night Porter - best of luck with sales.

    1. Thank you, Mary Ann. Only you (and Stephanie) will know how tough this book was to produce and as such, I have got behind it more than any other book. Thanks for the good luck - and the same to you with the brilliant "Concordia". A wonderful piece of work. Mxx

  3. Like the BIG smiley BTW, Mark! hahahahahahhaha ;) n x

  4. Yes, really interesting Mark. There's the point: Birdsong, admittedly sensational writing, but I didn't like the book at all, though another of SF's ones, about an autistic man was splendid to my mind. And I'm reading your Carla and cannot put it down. I wonder if people are reticent about doing reviews because they think they have to be lengthy? A mutual friend of ours has often said a 3 line review is fine - and why do so few people realise that and and Goodreads have all to be sent separately?

    1. Geoff, this is such an accurate analysis. I am transferring this to a new post I plan to write (and may pub tonight), because I never considered this option. I am a mad reviewer - music, hotels, cream crackers, whatever - but other people might not fancy it. Thanks for that. Oh, and I am glad you are enjoying Carla. I'll have to reread it myself - it's two years old last month! John is one of my favourite characters...cheers, Mark

    2. Reviews Vs Reader Comments - there is a HUGE difference. I don't leave reviews and would never consider to do so; I am not a reviewer of books, but greatly admire those that do. I will leave a reader comment (on a positive note); would never rip a book to shreds in public, not my thing! If I enjoy a book, I feel privileged at having done so and like to let other readers know that this book is worth a look! BTW, Geoff, I have just finished Birdsong and I thought it was tremendous. Faulks dialogue was faultless and his description of working in the tunnels and those trenches, oh my, felt it with a deep sadness. But we are all different in what we like and don't like ... hope you don;t mind me commenting guys! n x

    3. You can comment whenever and however you choose, N. I am writing a post at the moment about reviewing and commenting. Reviewing is an art form and quite a tough one - your comments are always perceptive though and well worth reading. BTW, when I said massive bunny suit, I meant a COOL bunny suit, rather than oversized! :D Sorry honey...#awesomebunnysuit Mxx

  5. Fascinating reading, thanks for posting. I've considered doing what you did - getting a load printed and sending them out, but it appears not to be worth it, from what you say.

    1. RFM, you may have a more productive experience than me. And its early days too - for all I know, the readers are sitting on a decent review. Most people also have a TBR list as long as there arm. I would say one thing: I advertised on this blog - a general query. You might want to consider targeting a bit better than I did. I would DEFFO do it again, but I would search for people who I think might enjoy the book rather than aiming at random. This is what Net Galley does and this is what "trad" publishers do. I write literary/contemporary fiction, which isn't really an Indie genre too - its a learning curve, so don't let me put you off. I'm glad I tried it. Cheers, Mark

  6. All I can say is, no-one ever went broke by over-estimating the appetite of the general public for utter shite.

    Decent writers feel the same about badly written books that sell well, as serious musicians feel about the success of One Direction. The point, though, my friend, is that pulp selling well is irrelevant to our books. It's a different product. Mass produced garbage for the lowest common denominator has nothing to do with proper literature, popular or otherwise. As for the people who have accepted a review copy of your book and then failed to review it, they need telling! That's bang out of order.

    You know I get a lot of reviews? I think it's because my books are all within roughly the same genre, so my readers know what to expect. I think that's a lot to do with getting reviews and sales. If I wrote a sci-fi comedy next, I'd lose a lot of readers, and might not get them back even if I went back to relationship stuff afterwards. It's an arse pain for people who want to write in many different ways, but, alas, readers want to know what they're getting.

    1. Why, Terry, do people buy poorly written fiction when there is some beautiful stuff available the next book along?

      I've never understood it. Contemporary fiction writers never sell. I remember when Amis got £500,000 for The Information - the articles were venomous. He has STILL never earned that advance back for Harper Collins. Yet, I can think of one vastly inferior writer who earns that every six months. It's baffling. Point taken about reviews - I never considered genre as important and perhaps it is. You're right. My next book will probably be a madcap comedy. haha.
      I must say though. There are several readers who took the paperback and may not have read it yet, but fully intend to. I'll keep everyone posted, as I have charted the life of TNP in some detail, to the detriment of my other work, particularly Carla, which seems to be getting a second wind all of its own. :D Thanks, Terry. Mark

  7. I agree with you Mark about writing from the heart rather than the head. I read an article where a writer decided to try and improve their chances of achieving a world wide readership by writing their book on what was trending in popularity at the time. I can't understand that philosophy. How could you put the same passion into your writing if it wasn't something burning within you? I gathered at the end of the article it hadn't been a particularly successful experiment anyway.

    We all write different things and much as we'd like 100% of everyone to love our book we all know you can't please everyone so it's best to just write what you want to - at least you will be happy even if the bank manager isn't!!

    I like the idea of sending out copies of the book for review but I would have to build up to doing that! BTW I didn't like Birdsong - and I was pretty disappointed in myself for that but I haven't read any other Faulks because of it! Georgia x