I had some really great reviews. Rapport last Sunday who devoted a whole page to the book. Fair Lady in July and before that the Sunday Times Lifestyle magazine. Trouble is that although the book reviewers love the book the sales are still lagging behind…because I haven’t had the time to do any marketing.
I had to read the congratulatory email twice. Yes. No doubt about it. It advised me that the Editors of Kirkus Reviews in the US had chosen The Journalist to be one of the Books of the Month for March. Also that this would mean listings in their March newsletter, website updates and their magazine. Now of course, the question is, how many books get chosen for their Books of the Month. I will soon find out, but still I feel rather pleased that the book is beginning to lift up out of the massive sea of new books published every month. I will also find out whether this has any influence on sales in the US. As things stand I believe that the only people who have actually bought my book are friends, associates and family. The total sales figure including Kindle is just under 50 and mostly the paperbacks. (Gail Schimmel – you warned me!).
Now what do I expect, considering that the only independent review I have received is from Kirkus Reviews, admittedly the largest independent Book Review company in the US. What is needed are Reviews in South Africa. So this week I contacted editorial people in some newspapers and magazines. People were mostly polite and interested, and so I have sent off a few of my books to those who said they wanted a copy. I shall continue with this project again this week. There are not that many publications with readers who would be interested in the subject matter: history – especially South African and British Empire history, the story of one of the great forerunners of international journalism, colonialism, women’s issues and breaking the glass ceiling. So I have to select the publications carefully. Once done, I then have to turn my attention abroad, where my instinct tells me there is a bigger and better market.
Good news is that I have received the quotes for a South African print run. It is just a question of deciding the quantity and the affordability. I have to move quickly, though, as my small supply of books is running out.
I can now tick off a number of “Must Do” items. I visited Love Books in Melville and left a couple of books on consignment. I phoned a number of newspapers and checked out the names of people responsible for the book reviews, and had a few good conversations. People were far more interested and polite than I expected, and they asked me to send them copies of the book. So it would seem that I can expect one or two reviews in South Africa over the next couple of months. A number of Professors in Journalism from the UK, Canada and US have been in touch with me asking for copies for their University Libraries or copies so that they could read the book. I could only oblige by sending them on-line copies. The US$ Royalty amount has now reached a reasonable amount that allows them to send me royalties. (They do not bother with bits and pieces!). So that is quite a milestone. Also I am now getting email requests to enter Book Awards and to place ads in Book Review Journals. Not that I am entering anything as it all costs money! On my schedule for next week are calls to the Departments of Journalism at South African Universities. Now that will be interesting. I am investigating the possibility of printing copies in South Africa, as the freight costs from the US are horrendous, and cost almost as much as the books. Once I have a fair amount in hand, I will be able to take up the invitations to give talks at Clubs, schools and other small groups. There appears to be interest in this sort of activity.
It is a week to look back at with some satisfaction. After complaining to amazon.com and createspace about the non-delivery of my complimentary books, on Friday I received two parcels by Priority Mail with 35 Free copies. Whatever happened to the other missing parcel of 30 books is anybody’s guess. The lesson it thought me is that receiving books by Freight from the US is a real problem, caused not by the courier companies, but by the fact that if sent by Standard Freight (and not Priority) they hand the parcels over to the SA Post Office for final door-to-door delivery. Big problem! The difference in cost between Standard freight and Priority is huge. Then I was asked if I wanted extracts from my great Kirkus Review added to the design of my back cover…and I replied “But of course!” Later the the same day I received by email a new designed back cover with part of the review. So new books ordered with have that extra “selling” factor. “Riveting” – its reads in bold type!
I sent out emails to Journalism Schools in the US and received a number of comments that were positive and a Professor Keeble of Lincoln University (UK) has asked me to write a 1000 article on my research on Flora Shaw for a journal Communication Ethics. My task for tomorrow. Then my brother received an email from his brother-in-law Ken Hodgson in London, to say that he had just finished reading my book, and that Boris Johnson (the London Mayor) has just published his new best-selling biography on Winston Churchill, and lo and behold in Johnson’s book is the story of how Flora Shaw bullied Churchill on Nigeria! I must try and find out where Johnson obtained his information on this episode as I was able to reconstruct it out of the detailed letters Flora wrote her husband Lugard dealing with the battles she was having with Churchill. I am hoping that Johnson found the information in Churchill’s diaries and memoirs, which provides a new source. I wrote a whole chapter on this which gives, I thought, good insight into the clash of political idealogy of colonialism and imperialism between two strong willed people. Maybe I will try and send Johnson an email! It would be quite something if I can break through all the secretaries and assistants. But worth a try.
I actually finished this blog a few minutes ago, and then made the mistake of hitting the DELETE button to get rid of that “p” down below. Well I deleted the whole blog, and although I receiving a note to say it was now in DRAFTS, there was nothing. So beware the DELETE button. Small progress this week. My 30 complimentary copies did not arrive, and now I am waiting for UPS to trace the parcels. Nobody knows where they are. I need them to take to a couple of book stores to sell on consignment and see what happens.
I lost one and a half days because a lightning strike took out my office router and we had to get a new one. Then we had to phone Telkom to assist with the re-connection and after waiting over 4 hours for a consultant to answer their phone we gave up. I then phoned them at night and after a 45 minute wait, finally a lady answered and sorted us out. In between all this we received material to deliver for Scharrer Advertising, and Longtom Foods is now busy with enquiries every day, and so it was Thursday when I finished my list of email addresses of the UK Journalism Schools. Friday I sent out a flyer to them and by 5.00 pm received two positive replies. One was from a Professor of Journalism at Westminster University, who wrote to say that the book sounded most interesting and he would be recommending it to his students. Next week I send to the US Schools of Journalism at the American universities. I have over 400 email addresses.
This week two sales popped up in Euros. My first Euro sales! My report shows 24 paperbacks sold and 5 Kindles. I am not sure if this includes the November sales of which there were a few as CreateSpace report on a monthly basis in US$, English pounds and Euros.
Now I really have to start publicizing my Blog…not a single visitor. Oh! I nearly forgot. I received an email from Jonathan Ball Publishers to say: “Sorry. This is not their kind of book.” I didn’t really expect anything else. Onward we go.
The first thing I learnt after posting my launch blog is that nobody could see it. That means zero visitors. All that came up was a blue screen with strange information and icons. Luckily I learnt about this from Len Koosman in Australia, who is well advanced with publishing his successful books – one of which deals with the war in Angola. (Len went to Dale College with my brother in the late fifties – so that connection helps!). He sent me an email, telling me that I had a glitch. Then my website designer, Liza, took a look at this problem. “Honest, Jos, I have never created blogs before, I only do blogs, but I will see what can be done.” The result was that the blog link is now on my author’s website, and when I type the my blog WordPress address in Google, up it comes. We might not be out of the woods yet, but it is a good start.
The next important piece of information is that I finally worked out what the cost of my book would be if I had CreateSpace print it in the US and ship it across by courier at Standard Freight Rates (takes 6 weeks). Result: each book (paperback 360 pages) would cost would R63 and the Freight per book would cost R33.67. Total cost to me R96.67 per book. Plus of course Vat at 14%. So the cost to me is R110.20. The book shops take 40%…so that is another R44..and the balance between R154.28 and the selling price would be my profit. Now I am going to whip around a couple of book stores with these figures and see what they think. Am I going to make a lot of money and be able to retire in style? I doubt it. But a little always helps.
Then in between doing some work for Scharrer Advertising (looking at a new brand identity, and new stationery for an existing client) and following through on queries and bookings for Longtom Foods (talk about having several irons in the fire), I paid attention to journalist schools in the UK. They are definitely not as easy to contact as the journalist schools in the US and clearly for some reason are highly suspicious of emails. I persevered, however, and at least noted one email address per school. So starting Monday, when most of the Universities will be back in their stride, I will commence contacting them and see what the result will be. I have the email addresses of over 400 Journalism schools at universities…so it will take a few days. South African universities I will look at next week. Sales to date to friends and family are about 24 paperbacks sold and 8 Kindles. Will I ever reach my target of 1000 paperbacks? Only time will tell.
I am new at this. For some 40 years I wanted to write the story of a great-aunt of mine, Flora Shaw, as I was brought up in a family who often spoke about her success and adventures as the Colonial Editor of The Times. How she broke the glass ceiling to become one of the world’s leading journalists in the 1890s is what this book is about. I have spent three years gathering information for this book and another two years writing it. Not all the time of course, mainly at weekends as I still have my ad agency to run and I am helping build my son’s new business Longtom Foods – a mobile catering company in Johannesburg. So when I was on about my fifth draft, I hopefully but naively sent submissions of my book (now called The Journalist) to South African publishers. Needless to say nobody was interested. Then I tried about 20 literary agents in the UK of whom about three were encouraging but the economic conditions were not right. Ditto for literary agents in the US. So then my former advertising colleague Neel Muller, who now lives in Malibu Beach pointed me in the direction of CreateSpace, an independent publishing company in the amazon.com group. Before I knew it I had bought one of their publishing packages, paid in US$ and at the end of November my book went live on amazon.com and Kindle. Wow! I had finally succeeded in getting my book published! But little did I know. All of this is nothing more than STEP ONE I’ve discovered. STEP TWO is to try and get all your friends, family and anybody you have ever known to buy the book. Not easy when everybody is rushing around for Xmas and about to go on holiday and British Empire history, especially their colonial history, is not everyone’s cup of tea! So STEP TWO has to start again in earnest in January, to be followed by STEP THREE which is more serious marketing. Now I will be using this blog to track my success, or lack of it, the ups and downs, and will keep everybody posted. The score to date: 18 paperbacks sold of which six were bought in the UK and 5 Kindles – all bought in South Africa. So we will see what happens and whether I will be able to break through the plethera of hundreds of thousands other new books out there. This is a whole different kind of challenge.