Having watched my previous publisher, Chicken House, completely wreck my book, Killing Sound, sticking a cheap Letraset cover on it, removing all grownup content, stretching out the edit of the book into years (the editor had a nice sinecure on the side telling writers how to write for her own company, so was quite averse to actually doing any work on mine), then failing to get it into shops or get it reviewed, I was quite committed to trying a different approach. I set myself a challenge of getting more reviews and more sales than them, to see if it could be done. Of course, I didn’t have their monetary resources or their list of contacts, so that was a problem. Finding reviewers was very time intensive. But I had several things on my side. I was very angry and very determined, and I could write emails. I also had a lovely cover designer (who promised not to use Letraset). And Daddy Dearest was a great story.
To begin, let’s get the covers up. Not sure what was going on with the original Chicken House one.
When I gave them ideas which conveyed the Gothic supernatural elements of the book, I suggested the wonderful original cover of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.
I imagined the circle to be a Tube tunnel and the devil come riding out of it. I am not sure if their cover is an approximation of that, but it fell a little short. I eventually got them to move to this.
I did tell them that those weren’t sound waves on the front, but they ignored that, too.
So, that was the cover I was up against.
I gave some initial ideas of Daddy Dearest to my cover designer and he came up with these.
I really liked the blue and white one, but it put the book firmly in the horror camp, so I plumped for the more commercial burgundy one. The colours were really sumptuous. Armed with this and some decent blurb, I used Google to find every psychological blog thriller reviewer I could. Over two hundred emails were sent, fifty-seven came back and said yes. Of course, I had to politely chase some up and some failed to review, but the results were stark.
After nearly two years, Killing Sound garnered 40 ratings and 15 reviews with a total of 80 adds and marked-to-reads.
After two months, Daddy Dearest garnered 41 ratings, 36 reviews and 99 adds and marked-to-reads.
I sold more eBooks on the first day of release than Killing Sound has sold to date. Okay, Killing Sound has only sold 13 eBooks, but it was still a moral victory. If I include free promotional downloads, I have shifted more copies of Daddy Dearest than Chicken House did of Killing Sound. Not quite a victory, but we’re only two months in.
Don’t get me wrong, this is all a pyrrhic victory - all I’ve really proved is that an individual can do as much as a small publishing house (albeit, one with an international reputation) if that publishing house does not do its job, or doesn’t know what it’s doing. Selling books is a fiendishly difficult process and you really need the right people on board. Even then, you need a lot of luck. You need to invest a lot of time getting reviewed, but it can be done. I benefitted from Amazon KDP, which gets you to a big marketplace at no cost. Some of the reviewers were the most enthusiastic and thoughtful readers I’ve ever come across. If writing is about communicating and getting people to read your work, then the Amazon route really does work. If you want to make a living from it, realistically, it doesn’t.
I’m not sure I’ll release something myself again. Doing all the publicity took my time away from the actual writing. That said, with the industry changing so much, I may have no option.