To Market, To Market, To Sell a New Book

I’m back from a whistle-stop tour down the East Yorkshire coast where, with copies of my book about the coast “Close to the Edge” in hand and hope in my heart, I did the rounds of libraries, museums, indie bookshops, tourist offices and (thanks to a brill idea from photographer June Berridge) the large caravan parks.

It was an enjoyable if exhausting experience with lots of learning points to reflect on. So here goes.

1. You can’t prepare soon enough for your marketing activities. I had a rather fixed idea that it would be better to see people in person (and I still think so) but with that wonderful thing hindsight, I should have at least dropped an e-mail to some of the people I wished to meet. As it was, several were on holiday so I made double work for myself in having to contact them on my return. However, I’ve still managed to get the book into the three relevant libraries. I donated a copy to each of them (received with thanks in these austere times) and they will appear in the local history section. Note to self: in future go direct to the Library Acquisitions person based in local council offices.

2. Be as clear as possible about who will be likely to buy the book and think “out of the box”. June’s idea of the caravan sites, packed with tourists was a brilliant one and I was able to leave wodges of leaflets and sell some copies at those I visited.

3. Places that sell books are not likely to appreciate any promo that says “available from Amazon” on it. Doh! I made the mistake of having some flyers printed featuring the front cover of the book with just that written on it. Only the caravan parks were willing to accept them. It’s obvious now I come to think of it but the original purpose of the flyers was a different one which leads me to…

4. I had intended to use the flyers as mini-posters believing that the local supermarkets and visitor centres would let me post them on their notice boards. However, they turned out to be more useful as ‘grab and go’ leaflets so the large box of drawing pins and a wodge of blutack were redundant.

5. Be aware of the space that some potential outlets have for displaying books. The tourist offices I visited were small with little shelf space. However, I have been able to do a “sale or return” deal with one of the larger ones but even so, they don’t want to stock more than a half dozen. They take 10% of the sale price by the way.

6. Check opening times! I would have saved myself time and the price of several lattes, if I’d checked earlier for some of places I wanted to visit.

7. Have some sort of ‘pitch’ ready. I’m really uncomfortable trying to sell anything and found myself gabbling away to some poor soul that I cornered. After the first day, it went a bit smoother and by the last day I had it down pat. I wish I’d thought out what to say sooner. Be upfront about price and not apologetic and squirmy. The price is the price – take it or leave it…in the nicest possible way.

8. Listen to what potential buyers/stockists say to you. I picked up quickly on the fact that although the book covers the whole East Yorkshire coastline, the buyers/stockists wanted to know specifically whether the contents covered their specific town/village and was able to adjust what I said to them accordingly. I also found that they were able to suggest other places and people to contact that I wasn’t aware of (see 1 above) so I came back with a load of new contacts. I also learned more about stockists’ buying process and how that works.

9. This is a point I’ve read a zillion times elsewhere – it’s the cover that counts. Even if you’re doing the whole publishing shebang on a shoestring I would suggest that the biggest and best investment to make is in the cover. My cover features a photo of Spurn Point which spreads across front and back and drew a lot of positive comments – I think because it’s quite striking and a bit intriguing. But it’s the cover that buyers/stockists look at first, last and in between. They’ll riffle the pages a bit but they always come back to the cover.

Photo of Spurn Point - adapted for the cover

Photo of Spurn Point – adapted for the cover

10. Finally, if, like me, you have to travel around to do your marketing bit, have a good friend with a comfy sofa where you can flop out at night.

George Ripley and the Philosopher’s Stone

In researching my book Close to the Edge I came across all manner of weird and wonderful people who left their footprint on the sands of the East Yorkshire coast and whilst wondering what to give you as a New Year offering I remembered George Ripley, a Canon at Bridlington Priory who worked something of a portfolio career in the heady years of the 15th century. He pursued not only his religious vocation, but also became an “expert” alchemist, chamberlain to the Pope and financial backer (allegedly) of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Rhodes when they were hassled by the Turks. In between times, he fitted in a marriage (permissible in those days for churchmen) and sired two sons.

George left the Priory, where he studied the Physical Sciences and legged it to Europe, living for a while in Rome where  Pope Innocent VIII took a shine to him and created him Chamberlain and Master of Ceremonies. In 1478 he returned to these shores and, wrapped in his bony bosom, (OK – poetic licence here – I just picture him as tall, thin and bony) lay The Secret – that of Transmutation.

He made known this secret in his best known alchemical opus – The Compound of Alchemy in which he discloses “the right and perfectest meanes” to make the Philosopher’s Stone – that elusive stuff that magicks rusty old scrap metal into gold and silver bling and, as an added bonus, produces The Elixir of Life. This work, written in verse, describes the twelve stages or “gates” of the alchemical process. A century later his recipe is translated into pictures known as Alchemy for Dummies, no, sorry I mean the Ripley Scrolls.


Ripley shuffled off his own mortal coil around 1490 and  achieved post-mortem stardom when The Compound of Alchemy became a best seller. That and his other works contributed to a resurgence of interest in alchemy particularly in the following couple of centuries.

You want in on the secret too?

Here’s the first verse from the first of the twelve gates. You will find all the rest at


Calcination is the purgation of our stone,
And restoration also of its natural heat.
Of radical humidity it looseth none,
Inducing solution into our stone most mete.
Seek after philosophy I you advise
But not after the common guise,
With sulphur and salts prepared in diverse ways.

Good Luck and a Very Happy New Year to you all.

P.S. Click on the image if you want to see it in all its glory. It’s part of the Scrolls and ta very much Wikipedia Commons.