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Friday, 25 March 2011

Buskers and Beggars

Beggars and Buskers.
Marketing. Publicity. These are words I never expected to use. I’m a non-corporate person - have no use for jargon, buzz-words, management –speak. In my working life I heard plenty of it, managed to let it flow over me. Like sitting in a café in Prague, listening to conversations ebb and flow all around, without understanding a word. It’s not important, just background.
Just after Christmas, I published my debut novel, Burn, Baby, Burn on Kindle. I was happy with it, had edited it half to death, liked the cover – thanks, Bradley – so I sent it out into the wide world to sink or swim.
Naturally, it sank.
Sales averaging one a day were scarcely likely to arouse the interest of those very well-dressed men in the Ferrari dealership. I studiously ignored it. Unless you’re a pedant and insist on mentioning my checking the sales figures every twenty minutes.
After five weeks, I’d sold 59 books. A few odd days in December and the entire month of January. Fifty-nine books in thirty-eight days.  Wow! Or rather, not.
All this was to change.
In the first week of February I sold sixty-two books. I was on a roll. Or so I thought.
On February 7th my book sold twenty-one copies. Three more than the previous day. The next day was a Tuesday. By the time it ticked over into Wednesday, my book had sold 151 copies. Yes, one hundred and fifty-one!
I had no idea. Still don’t. Since then I’ve had over a hundred sales every day, added two more books to Kindle, both doing well. I don’t sell any books in USA. Well, hardly any.
This baffles me rather than concerns me. I’m easily baffled. Life baffles me. Very little concerns me. Not one of life’s worriers. Been there, done that.
As of this morning, Burn, Baby, Burn is number THIRTEEN on the All Books Chart. Over a month now in the top 100.
How? What’s the secret? I get asked that a lot.
I have no idea.
What’s your marketing strategy? Er, I don’t have one.
Where do you target your publicity? Eh? I’m a lummox. Know nothing about marketing. Nothing at all.
In my time on Authonomy I met some lovely people. I also experienced massive levels of frustration. Got very annoyed. Often. With hindsight, I was probably being unreasonable. Who am I to question the methods of others? What I perceived as ‘spam’ was merely a marketing ploy. It worked. Not with me, but with many others. I never did it. Never pushed my book, un-asked, to strangers. I can’t do it now.
I’m told I should be ‘tweeting’ links to my books, sending them out, every hour of the day, using Social Network sites to push my books. I don’t do it. It feels wrong. I’m sure I’m being precious here, but it’s the way I am.
I send out links to my blog. I add a different piece to my blog every day. If someone goes to my blog, reads what I write, likes it and decides to take a look at my books – I’m fine with that.
The analogy of a beggar and a busker comes to mind. I don’t often give money to beggars. Occasionally, usually when there’s a dog involved. Even though I know the poor animal is there for that very purpose. Buskers are different. They’re offering a service. Good, bad or indifferent, I’ll probably pause for a moment. Add a few coins to a hat. In central Liverpool recently I gave £5 to a young couple. He danced, she played the violin. They were both fantastic. They’d gone when I walked back or I’d have added a further donation.
Not begging; offering something in return. That’s how I reconcile suggesting someone look at my blog. They don’t have to do anything. Like what I write, hate it, all the same. Costs nothing. I’m fine with that.
I’m a busker, not a beggar.
Put it on my tombstone.

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