ACW

ACW

Monday, 4 February 2019

What does it mean for your book to "die a death"? And at what point do you stop promoting and move on? - by SC Skillman

Recently I read a fascinating book about the history of London, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and subsequently reviewed online.
Written by a Christian author and published by Lion, this book appealed to me first through its delightful, playful cover. I saw it in the shop of the Visitor Centre at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Its cover design and title attracted my eye and I bought it.

Upon reading this book I saw that it was not only about the history of London from before the Roman invasion, but also included the author's spiritual journey. And it was a journey I identified with. He described  his involvement with the numerous spiritual and occult and mystical groups with which London abounds - and I have been that way myself, when I lived in the capital from 1975 to 1982. And his epiphany was described with a disarming simplicity that was truly moving.

So here was this delightful book; I reviewed it online, and I received this comment from the author on Goodreads. "Thank you for the lovely review! This book has rather died a death, so it's a great pleasure to hear from someone who actually read it. Thank you again."

I was of course pleased to have gladdened a fellow-author's heart. But I also felt sad. Why had this lovely book "died a death"? And what in fact does "dying a death" mean for an author?

I know I have felt like this about my own books. I have thought, at what point do you bravely and honestly face the fact that "this book has had its chance in the marketplace (albeit probably not with the promotion or advertising or exposure it truly deserved), and now I need to move on and just concentrate on writing more books."

I'm aware that in the tough world of commercial publishing it used to be the case that if your book didn't meet its sales target, off it went to the remainder shop or indeed the pulping machine. And the equivalent happens today, too, after the prescribed length of time that it's given its chance in the marketplace.

Self-published authors of course can keep their books up there as long as they want. It's a different world. But what about hard economics? Are we floating along in a beautiful dream?

This lovely book by our Lion author (who has in fact got a number of other books 'up there' and can probably afford to sit lightly to the fact that this particular book has 'died a death') is capable of  giving a great reading experience to many, besides myself. But, thinks the author, who has 'actually read it?'

So what do you think about all this? A certain great statesman said "Never, never, never give up." But what does that actually mean? And how does it differ from "Gracefully letting go"? Or is there such a thing in the world of creative writing and publishing?

Over to you and I'd love to hear your comments!





10 comments:

  1. I'm at that stage. Is tough to think that all that inspiration, hope and hard work is going nowhere. I've tried several promotions to no avail and it really makes no sense to spend more on a dead duck...

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  2. Once a book is published and "out there", I don't think it ever dies completely. It may never "make it big", but it's still made some impact (as the book you read did for you). It may sit quietly for a while, when your efforts turn to other projects, and yes, we should always be writing the next book. But each published book is always available for new readers to discover it.

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  3. It must be a fine balance. Like Philip, I don't think a book will ever die completely, but what's tricky is deciding how much effort to expend on promoting it as well as other new projects. Hm ... Maybe we should take inspiration from famous writers who, once they become well-known, find that people are interested in Everything They've Ever Written Before.

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  4. Excellent, Fran! So once our Book Number Ten becomes a worldwide bestseller, then our Numbers One to Nine will be flying off the shelves. I can't wait! :-)

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  5. It's important to make sure in your contract what happens when a publisher effectively gives up on your book. Get the rights back as soon as you can and self-publish. This at least keeps it out there, and you may be able to make it work better over time.

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  6. Thanks for this, Sheila. I agree with your comments, Philip, you never know the impact your book may have made on an individual. Really appreciate your comment too, Ben. My publisher doesn't appear to 'do promotion'at all and won't let me do much apart from the odd talk etc It may make sense to take it back and self-publish before too long. At least that's a thought I hadn't considered.

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  7. Yes, that's a conundrum - how much time and money to keep pouring into a pool that appears to have gone a bit stagnant? Wisdom need there, in every individual situation.

    But, for our general encouragement, do you think maybe this is where we, as Christians, have the advantage of a different perspective? Because if we are writing out of a sense of calling, or a God-given talent, nothing is ever wasted, or dead, in God's economy. Sometimes God uses the foolish/weak things (in the world's eyes) to shame the wise/powerful. I'm reading a beautiful book just now, called 'Scribbling in the Sand', by Michael Card. At one point, the story of Mary pouring out her expensive perfume onto Jesus' feet is described. This beautiful, (wasteful) devotional act is commended by Jesus as precious and of lasting value. I think it will help if we can view our God-inspired acts of creativity in this light. God can make so much more of our books than we can ever see or measure. And your favourable Goodreads review may be one of the new seeds rising up from the supposed death of the original seed :)

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  8. This is a painful subject because I expect we would all like our books to be read by many people, given the effort that goes into writing them. Thank God for self publishing; at least it keeps the books out there for those who have the persistence to find it.

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  9. This is absolutely fascinating, and overall I feel quite encouraged! I've just taken a book back from Matador and am now publishing it afresh myself under my own imprint with a new ISBN, using Ingram Spark. I've also re-written book descriptions and am using new keyword metadata which has been repeated across all my social media platforms and my website. I was advised to do this by a reputable writing community I belong to, Jericho Writers.I do have 2 other new books in the pipeline, one fiction and one non fiction, and will be glad when I can concentrate on them instead of buzzing like a mosquito round the idea that I ought to be doing more to promote my 1st 2 books. And I think I do agree that when you self-publish, your book is always out there. The question is how much, if any, money to spend on promotion of a book which seems to be lost in online obscurity. And the oft-made comment is write more books. Yes Philip I too am looking forward to nos 1-9 selling well, once I've got no. 10 out!

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  10. I fell a Book always had value. Many people are still looking for out of print books.

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