Last Sunday I and four others spent the day at the table you can just see through the window. We were given delicious and copious cups of tea and coffee all day (rudely I brought my own teabags ‘cos no caffeine’s allowed on my natural building-up-my-calcium-to-get-rid-of-osteoporosis regime) … and we were given a lovely lunch and the chance to browse among Mostly Books’s shelves and Mark Thornton (prop.) was seriously generous with his time. (Especially as it was, see above, a Sunday.) But the most important thing we were given was the chance to find out how best to find our own books on these shelves, one day in the not-too-distant future, or on the shelves of the indie bookshops where we live.
All the course members bar one were published or about-to-be published authors, and all were either published by indie publishers or about to self-publish for reasons of trouble at big-publisher mill. But the trouble about being published by an indie publisher, as I’ve said here before, is that it’s difficult to persuade the liteds to review indie-published books. In fact, as Long Barn Books’s blog wrote yesterday:
It is assumed by the liteds (with honourable exceptions) that small independent
publishers either publish the unpublishable, supported by Arts Council grants,
or publish what the Big Six have all rejected.
But we who’ve been published by indie publishers also know that that’s not true. My indie publisher, Beautiful Books, published my first novel because they loved it, were moved by it and the one review it’s managed to pick up so far, from Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book, not only judges it as anything but unpublishable, but has done the book the honour of adding it to his 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About. Beautiful Books are doing everything in their power to get my book out into the world and Simon Petherick, the publisher, keeps reassuring me that it will be a ‘slow burn’, that he isn’t giving up, and that he’s publishing the paperback early next year … however in the meantime sales are slow because without broadsheet literary-page reviews bookshops don’t know about the book, so don’t stock it.
AND SO, back to the beginning and SHELF SECRETS, Mark Thornton’s innovative course for writers which concentrates on how writers can get their indie-published books stocked by indie bookshops. It’s simple really, and I don’t think he’ll mind me saying what his fundamental message is: it is that what we writers have to do is think like booksellers. Which is obvious, as soon as you say it, isn’t it, but it wasn’t obvious until Mark said it. But everything flows from there. You’ll have to go on his course to find out what his specific SHELF SECRETS are, but if you have a local indie bookshop and you have written a book that hasn’t managed to get any literary-page reviews yet, I seriously recommend SHELF SECRETS. I think the next course is in September, see here for course details.
So … tomorrow I’m off to see the nice people in my local bookshop.