Two books are better than one

I have read that publishing only one book isn’t such a good idea when it comes to marketing. However good that book may be, having a second title already published or on the way gives added credibility. Some authors work hard to build up interest in their next title, using their blogs to announce ‘cover reveals’ and publishing extracts in advance – sometimes to seek reactions which may lead to edits but also to whet the reader’s appetite. How effective all this is I don’t know.

I think I agree with the basic theory, though. If an author has a website listing only one title then prospective readers may not be so interested. The site will probably look sparse and they know that even if they like the only title on offer they can’t move on to the next if there isn’t one.

And if the website looks sparse so will the shelf in the bookshop. A single title can easily go unnoticed: the author will plainly have greater presence if more than one title is visible. My local bookshop was already selling my first book (by which I mean that it was both on sale and being bought) and is now taking the second as well.

My Titles Blackwells

It’s good to see them snuggling up like this and I entertain the foolish fantasy that being so close and personal they might breed, saving me the trouble of writing the third.

Fantasy seems to be a popular genre right now, so if I can contribute in however small a way . . .

Two scams in one day

The first was from someone who claimed to like my work because of its ‘snappy dialogue’. The message was fairly long but generic in that it could have been sent to any author of fiction – unless there are some who don’t use dialogue at all. While laudatory in tone it was entirely lacking in specifics.

A little research brought out several things, but the most notable were that an author who wrote only in French had received this message, as had a man who didn’t write fiction of any sort. Producing snappy dialogue when you don’t write is quite an achievement.

How had the sender found me? Through Goodreads where, it turned out, he had read nothing, reviewed nothing, rated nothing and had no friends. Since mentioning all this on a Goodreads group I find his account has been deleted.

Why had Emmett Moten (a real name, but not the real name of the sender) bothered to do this? What was his game? He was directing authors to a website which would publicise/market their work. Only quality writers like us need apply. At some point down the line money would change hands.

Hi Roderick Hart.

I just want to say hi and introduce myself – I’m a huge fan of your books! Your dialogue is snappy and it’s like I could physically hear every word. Thank you so much for sharing your talent.

As an aspiring author myself, I thought I’d send you a quick message to share a recently discovered website specifically designed for authors to increase the sales of our books. I’ve personally tried what’s offered on that website for the last month and honestly, I was blown away with the results I got! I love your work and admire you as an author, I want more people to experience your books! Everyone deserves to hear your stories so I’m excited to share this website as friendly act of kindness.

You can find it here: This website features only the absolute best products for independent authors and publishers.

I want quality work to receive the audience it deserves – nowadays it’s so hard to increase sales. P.S. I assure you – I’m not affiliated with this website in any way. Good luck, Roderick Hart!

Reply to this message


The second scam came in a phone call. The caller said his name was William. While there may be some gentlemen in the Indian sub-continent called William, I’m fairly sure he wasn’t one of them. According to him, I had been mis-sold insurance with my credit card or, failing that, a loan I had taken out. He could reclaim this on my behalf.

Firstly, I hadn’t been mis-sold insurance and secondly, even if I had been I could have reclaimed the money myself without paying him to do it for me.

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Signed copies of your book

If a book is good, having the author sign it will make it no better. So why all this signing?

I can think of two possible reasons. The first is that readers get to the meet the author in the act of having their copy signed. Words are exchanged. The reader can truthfully say, ‘I have met her. We spoke.’

To come clean here, I have two books signed by the late Gore Vidal, so you could say I have fallen for this myself. I have spoken with the Great Man.

But authors sometimes sign copies in advance. For example, signed copies can often be picked up at book festivals in the absence of the author, who has since departed the scene.

And then there is the case of Margaret Attwood and her ‘long pen’. I do believe I feel a quote coming on.

The Long Pen, for those not privileged enough to have seen it work, was a project unveiled by Atwood back in 2006. It involved Atwood sitting somewhere, presumably in Toronto, with a stylus and tablet and video chat window open. A mechanical arm was then toured around the continent and booked for signings. (From ‘The efficient new way to pay Margaret Atwood to sketch your dog’, Dustin Kurt)

Another entirely different reason for having signed copies of books, especially first editions, is that their re-sale value increases if the author is well-known. Something I saw two years ago may support this.

My wife and I were sitting in a signing tent which also boasted a café. Our table was near a signing station and we were surprised to see a man with an armful of books take up position at the head of a non-existent queue. He was just shy of an hour early, which meant he was missing the author’s presentation. (Graham Swift, who won the Booker prize in 1996.)

In due course, the presentation wound up and Swift was ushered in by his minders. (What must that be like, I wonder to myself?) And as soon as the author was ready, pen in hand, the waiting gentleman pounced. By then there was a queue.

I’m guessing here, but I assume the man ran a book shop and was having several books signed for re-sale purposes. Yea, verily, patience isn’t always its own reward.

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Buying your way to success

I have been following a discussion lately which started with the observation that E L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, has got where she is today by spending £100,000 of her own money promoting her book. I have no idea whether this is true or not – perhaps she revealed it in an interview or maybe it’s an invention – but for the sake of this post I am going to assume it is true.

Some people thought, ‘Good luck to her’. If that was how she wanted to spend her money, fair enough. But others complained that it was hardly fair that one author could buy her way to success when another, just as good or better, with only five pounds in her pocket and a second-hand thesaurus out of a charity shop, could not afford do this too and so was doomed to languish unread on the physical and electronic shelves. It was not a level playing field.

Dealing with those who complained, two thoughts occur. Whoever said it was a level playing field in the first place? Taking authors as a whole, some are more intelligent than others, some have wider experience than others and, here’s one to think about, some have a better way with words than others.

But, the argument goes, money is different! Unlike having a winning way with words, having money is not a talent. It is not an authorial skill.

This is true, but surely if a book is unmarketable, no amount of money will make it sell. There has to be something to market which people will want to buy.

We don’t have to like this state of affairs, it may not be fair, but complaining about it won’t change anything. I think we should all just relax and have a bad time. That’s what we enjoy, isn’t it?


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