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.

At Last!!

Close_to_the_Edge_Cover_for_Kindlejpg (2)
It’s all over bar the marketing. The paperback is up on Amazon and the e-book shortly follows – “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” is a reality. It’s taken around two years to get to this point and the final product is not a bit like my original idea. Perhaps that’s inevitable and I’m happy that it’s so.

There are lots of questions to ask myself when I have time to reflect a little; four big ones come to mind:
Was it worth it?
Would I do it again?
What would I do differently?
What have I learned from the experience?

Perhaps in another blog I’ll share my reflections with you. For now, I’m putting my rather sketchy marketing plan in place and I’ll be back in the UK at the end of the month to drum up some interest…well try to at any rate.
In the meantime if any of you kind souls are interested in an eclectic and occasionally irreverent history of a unique stretch of English coastline, toddle along to Amazon and have a peek.

Here’s the link (I hope) and all reviews of whatever ilk will be much appreciated.

Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast

The Gentle Art of Indie Publishing

Spurn Head

Spurn Head

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I’ve been struggling somewhat with getting my book “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” published and available to my eagerly waiting fans (yes all two of you). I have news for you…it’s much harder than I thought! I’m not the most gifted person when it comes to technology and the good folk at Createspace have tried to help me as much as possible but it has still taken 10 uploads of the text to get it right. Mostly the problem has been with the images, photographs in the main, and the complete mental block I have when it comes to pixels, dots per inch and other esoteric measurements. The cover has changed at least five times and the back cover blurb about three times.

However, it’s done; the mss is having its final review at Createspace; cover completed, distribution channels selected, keywords and pricing are settled; it’s been a steep learning curve. I don’t want to raise hopes (!) but I think it’s going to be August before Close to the Edge sees the light of day.

So now I turn my mind (or what’s left of it) to marketing.I must have read half a dozen books and a zillion articles about “how to do it and what to do” and am left feeling that it’s a full-time job. So how does one market a non-fiction, local history book?

At first I thought only in terms of a local niche market – local residents and tourists. This has now expanded somewhat and my “audience” hit list includes ex-pats in Europe who were once connected with/have an interest in the area; emigrants to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. How do I reach them? The classic answer is through social media and apart from this blog and my Facebook pages I’ve started to explore Pinterest. I think I need to learn how to use Twitter effectively too. I’d be very happy to hear from anyone who has survived their first book marketing project and is willing to share their experiences and tips.

In the next few weeks – if you happen to be out and about in East Yorkshire (and why wouldn’t you be) you may well see some tasteful flyers for the book in indie bookshops, libraries, museums and hopefully in one or two visitor centres. I have yet to discover how to persuade these cash-strapped organisations to actually buy some copies for resale and what sort of a deal can be done between us but I’m working on it.

I’ve also approached some regional and local magazines, newspapers and, when I get to it, local radio stations to see whether they would do a review or give me a few column-inches/air time. So far a deafening silence but I live in hope.

All in all August looks like being pretty hectic but, who knows, it could also be a whole lot of fun.

PS Just got a “Yes happy to review” from the Editor at The Dalesman. Thank you Adrian.

I’m Almost There!

Almost where? I hear you ask. Answer – ready to upload “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” which, at the risk of driving you into mild catalepsy is my local history book about the East Coast of Yorkshire.

The Holderness Coast, East Yorkshire

The Holderness Coast, East Yorkshire

The book has taken around 18 months of research, writing and faffing, including an abortive sojourn at a publishing house (for which, if I’m honest I still bear a grudge). On reflection a good lump of that time was taken up with editing, copy reading, obtaining permissions/rights and I still worry that someone will find a typo.

On doing yet another re-read last night it was good to remember how many people and organisations have indirectly contributed – not in the least local museums and libraries. I know these invaluable institutions are under threat from “austerity measures” in the UK so I wanted to use this space to give a shout to some of them and urge anyone looking to spend a bit of time on this eroding coastline to go and visit.

So roll of honour:

Hornsea Museum situated in an old farmhouse in the centre of the town. Don’t be deceived by the apparent smallness of the building – it takes a good while to get round and is packed full of great exhibits. (Sorry Hornsea Museum – I don’t have a photo of you.)

Withernsea Lighthouse Museum – situated – yes you’ve guessed it in Withernsea. It stands, a little incongruously in the middle of the town and has some interesting coastguard and RNLI displays and selections of old photographs relating to local history.

Withernsea Lighthouse and Museum

Withernsea Lighthouse and Museum

The Bayle Museum in Bridlington is located in the old gateway to Bridlington Priory, itself a victim of his royal humpingness, Henry VIII. It is dedicated to the history of the town of Bridlington.

The Bayle Gate, Bridlington

The Bayle Gate, Bridlington

All three museums give a great flavour of times past on the coast and are open now, for the season. Check websites for details.

In addition to the museums I made shameless use of three libraries when researching “Close to the Edge” – these were Hornsea, Bridlington and Beverley libraries. Since libraries seem to be becoming endangered species I’d just like to say that without their helpful staff and the ability to plunder their resources I wouldn’t have been able to write “Close to the Edge.” Thank you one and all.

Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast is scheduled for publication as an e-book on 1 June and will be available from Amazon – that is gremlins permitting.

Quick Update

Just to let you all know that after considerable faffing on my part – techie ignoramus that I am – I’ve changed the blog a bit. NOW you can read about the progress of my mag. op “Close to the Edge”if you click on the eponymous header at the top of the page. This, if my extensive calculations are correct (and the lovely people at WordPress are right) will take you to a separate page dedicated to my book about the Holderness Coast. It’s coming out as an e-book in May, larded with piccys taken by my long-suffering friend June Berridge as well as images from times of yore and will answer burning questions such as:

Why did Fat Willy give land to found a monastery?
What happened to the port of Ravenser Odd?
Who murdered the Rev. Enoch Sinclair?
Who were the naughty nuns of Nunkeeling?
Why is the Holderness Coast shrinking?

All will be revealed; stay tuned.

My general blog page will mainly have my meanderings about life in France. Oo La La!

Those Were the Days

Today, the village where I live musters around 500 souls but roll back the years and more than three times that number lived here. The place was a hive of industry with spinning mills, comb making and jet working factories.

At the bottom of my street there is a huge building, now empty and crumbling away that was used for spinning and carding wool. Built in 1827 to replace an earlier building, it presents an imposing front which was the family’s home together with workshops behind for spinning and carding wool. What you might call a Queen Anne front and a Mary-Jane behind.

spinning mill and masters house

spinning workshops

Initially the work was done by hand and often in the workers’ own homes but by the mid-19th century after yet another change of ownership, the newcomer modernised the mill and installed spinning, carding and combing machines. These were powered by water from a canal that runs alongside the building and on through the village. The workers at the mill ranged from age13 to 70. During the late 18th and 19th century this mill churned out finely combed and spun yarn later used in carpet and cloth manufacture.

The working of jet – a type of lignite – was another local occupation from the 16th century onwards. By 1800 there were six jet mills in the village, three of which had been seized from the Marquis de Puivert (he didn’t fare too well during the Revolution) and sold on. The mills produced jewellery and rosaries for export throughout Europe, the Middle East and America. Again, the canal running through the village powered the jet working machines for cutting and polishing the stone although the finer pieces were finished by hand using a mix of powdered limestone and charcoal from willow trees. As jet became less sought after the industry fell into decline and by the end of the 19th century was finished. The mills remain, some converted to other use, some left empty.

jade workshop

Our third industry – dating from the Middle Ages in this region- was the making of combs. In the village there were 10 comb-making establishments employing around 300 people. Originally the combs were made of boxwood but as that material became scarce holly, service tree, hawthorn and beech were used. Later, in the mid-19th- early 20th century ivory and horn were introduced. One factory alone produced, in a year, 42,000 boxwood combs and more than 21,500 ivory ones and all that through the labour of 8 men, 1 woman and 3 children.
As hair-style fashions changed the demand for these combs lessened and today the combs are mainly found in the brocantes and at car boot sales.

boxwood combs

Close to the Edge? Close to Meltdown!

Long time no write! Since my last post I’ve been eagerly awaiting a verdict from the publisher about my book Close to the Edge. Finally, after getting all excited and talking turkey with the publisher, I get it kicked back with a comment that as they’re going to publish another book about East Yorkshire, they don’t want to take on a second one until sales figures are in. Did it really have to take eight weeks for them to tell me this? So after a week sticking pins in my voodoo doll, I’ve recovered my equilibrium and am on the move with the first version of the book – a Kindle version.

The Holderness Coast in days of yore

The Holderness Coast in days of yore

The book has a great selection of images both old and new (you’ll probably have to magnify this one to see it clearly) and I’ve learned that copyright is a minefield even for items that are over the prescribed time limits. I’ve spent so much time trying to track down owners, owners relatives, owners best friends and owners dog called Poochie that I’m beginning to think it isn’t worth the candle to include anything other than my own images. Still, ’tis done now as best I could.

I’ll by posting some of the images that didn’t make it into the book over on Pinterest – look for the Board called Close to the Edgeand over the next few weeks I’ll add to it. I’m also going to be making a few short clips for youtube so watch out for those as well.

So lots of final details to deal with whilst at the same time, I’m pressing on with a selection of spooky short stories – four written and three to go…oh and of course celebrating the anniversary of my first year in France (any excuse for a party). Suffice it to say I came, I saw and was conquered. It’s definitely home now.

Indie or…?

The editing is finished; the photos all ready and the whole book “Close to the Edge” is ready for uploading to CreateSpace…or is it?

I was extremely uncertain about using an editor but I am willing to admit there was no need for concern. The whole experience has been helpful and positive. Caroline High (my editor) has worked through the mss and combed out all the nits – the odd or inconsistent spellings, the bits that didn’t flow well or where I’d left the reader a bit at a loss because I’d forgotten to tell them something earlier in the book. No matter how thorough and careful you think you have been I would recommend that at least a “copy-edit” is a worthwhile investment.

Now comes the snag albeit an interesting one. Not only did Caroline do a sterling job as editor she also approached a publisher on my behalf. Now I’m in no-man’s land; sample chapters and an outline are now with the local history commissioning editor. Today, she has written and said she Likes It and is putting the mss in front of the sales team and has asked a few questions about the potential market. There’s a long way to go and nothing is at all certain but do I “stick” (with indie publishing) or, if I get the opportunity, do I “twist” (with traditional publishing)? I have to say it’s one of the best dilemmas I’ve ever found myself ruminating about and, if you haven’t guessed already, I know which way I’ll go.

So, a waiting game for a week or two. Indie or Trad? It’s a cliff-hanger!

Aldeborough Road End 3.jpg

Long Live the Revolution

There’s nothing like local politics for heating the blood and bringing together partisan groups…at least so it seems here in France. Recently my village, Ste. Colombe, has elected a new Mayor (a powerful office in a small village). The election was fought by two candidates and the new Mayor’s regular news sheet is swiftly followed by an independent bulletin issued by some of those who supported the unsuccessful candidate. This latter news-sheet is intended to give us all the real skinny about what’s going on in the mayoral offices. It’s funny, ironic and even satirical. This comes as no surprise as the village has a history of revolution and counter-revolution.

In the latter days of the French Revolution what was then the town of Ste. Colombe was joined, administratively, with a neighbouring large village, Rivel. Ste. Colombe held firm for the new Republic and its citizens were a mix of moderate republicans and anarchists. Citizens of Rivel on the other hand had always taken an opposite view. Administratively it was intended that the two villages would each have representatives on the local council.

Chief in the brouhaha that followed were the Rolland brothers, Pierre batting for Rivel and Etienne for Ste Colombe. The Rivel camp was bolstered by the Viviès family, notably Jean-Marie who had been the agent for the local aristocracy. This gave rise to the insult that they had sold out to the aristocracy.

In March 1797 the citizens of the two villages met in Ste. Colombe to elect numerous officials to form their new administration. The chief posts, President and Secretary went to Ste. Colombe men but this did not meet with approval from the Rivel faction and especially Monsieurs Rolland and Viviès. Quickly the Rivel group headed, with malice aforethought, for the President and Pierre took the opportunity to hurl a few insults and threats at his brother Etienne. So the newly-elected president adjourned the proceedings and disappeared precipitously.

This was a mistake for it gave the Rivel group time to put in place a crafty plan to overthrow the election results. Pierre Rolland (who seems to have been leader) sent men to all the hamlets and tenant farms of Rivel to tell the people of a dastardly plot on the part of the newly-elected President and his minions to expel their beloved village priest. Naturally this was thirsty work and wine flowed in abundance. Next day, the electors of Rivel headed for Ste Colombe armed with staves and rocks, oh yes…and with a large skin of wine.

At Ste Colombe, the assembly formed again and voting began to yet more official posts (the famous French bureaucracy). During the vote count the Rivel faction spread out into the town taverns to pass on the rumour. Some hardy Ste Colombe citizens tried to tell them that they had been duped – their priest was safe and it was all a ruse, but to no avail.

After the count finished, it appears that 346 votes had been cast but there were only 343 voters. Uproar followed as the President tried to declare the vote null and void. Pierre Rolland and Agent Viviès set on the President closely followed by the rest of the Rivel faction. Ste. Colombe citizens came to his aid and a right old set-to followed. Folk got hurt, blood flowed “staining the council table”. Agent Viviès so far forgot himself as to belabour some poor soul with his sword-stick, finishing him off with a wallop with a stone for good measure. He then nicked the ballot box and ran off with it “for safety”.

In the aftermath two entirely different sets of minutes documented the affair and were sent to the public prosecutor, regional governor and the Ministry of Justice. In these documents each party naturally accuses the other of being the aggressor, of creating “scandalous scenes” and of “raising the standard of revolt”.

The outcome – the newly-elected President feeling his life in danger resigned as did the secretary and one of the deputies. Quickly, the Rivel faction acted to call a new assembly and vote in their own candidates including M. Pierre Roland and M. Viviès. No-one appears to know where those extra 3 votes came from!

The Ministry of the Interior hearing of these shenanigans in south west France demanded of this new administration a full report. In response they provided a detailed account, refuting all allegations against themselves and describing the Ste Colombe faction as being responsible for disorder, anarchy and creating civil war in the canton. They described adherents of Etienne Rolland (the Ste Colombe Priest in case you’re totally lost) as “ferocious beasts calling themselves republicans”.

The success of the Rivel faction was not long lived but at least the next elections, two years later, were conducted with a little more sang-froid and possibly less wine.

The street where I live c.1900

A Salty Tale

The village I live in was one of about a dozen situated in what, up to the French Revolution, was known as La Terre Privilégiée where citizens enjoyed not only exemption from the hated Gabelle or salt tax but they could also purchase their salt at much reduced rates. This latter privilege was probably due to the ease in which inhabitants of these villages could nip across the Pyrenees and buy their salt in Spain.

The tax was the result of a 13th century opt-out clause…pay up or fight in the army and, even in peacetime it was imposed supposedly to pay for a “professional” army. By the 15th century it was a well established bit of fiscal finagling. The collection of the tax was “farmed out” to a bunch of more than usually avaricious folk known as tax farmers general who paid great wodges of cash for the privilege of becoming tax collectors.

Applied across France with a breathtaking disdain for consistency it was probably the most detested of all the taxes, bringing as it did poverty and starvation and adding yet another straw to the haystack of ills besetting France until the revolutionary fire broke out with the storming of the Bastille (14 July 1789).

The Gabelle officials were…well, officious, using stop and search tactics to prevent the smuggling of salt around the country. They poked and proddled merchandise with long metal augers and even, in one town, subjected a funeral cortege to a thorough search. They were given extensive and intrusive search rights including house searches. However one quirk in all this harassment existed – if the master of the house was sitting in his chair (he would have a relatively large and quite grand chair as generally only the better-off could afford to buy salt) he could not be moved or forced to leave the chair regardless of the tax collector’s (probably correct) suspicions as to what he was actually sitting on. Hence, such chairs became known as salt chairs.
salt chair

Salt warehouses opened up in towns across France where those of the local populace who could afford salt were obliged to purchase their ration. However, in some areas every man, woman and child over 8 years old was forced to buy salt (whether they wanted or needed it or not). This duty to purchase salt was known as “duty-salt for the pot and the saltcellar”.

English traveller John Locke saw the bullying and threatening behaviour of the Gabelle officials and heard about the severe penalties applied to tax dodgers. He warned ordinary citizens of the danger of buying any salt from anywhere but the warehouses. The penalties for being caught with “but an handful” that had not been purchased and paid for at the rate set by the tax collectors was to be sent to the Galleys – otherwise known as certain death. As a result, careful buyers would insure themselves against inadvertently buying smuggled salt.

In the years just before the Revolution, over 3500 people were arrested for having contraband salt more than 1500 were actually imprisoned and around 300 men were sent to the galleys for smuggling salt and tobacco. Come the Revolution and le Gabelle along with several other taxes was abolished and many of the Gabelle tax collectors visited Madame Guillotine.

However, taxes are a Government’s get out of jail card when finances look a bit under the weather and Napoleon himself reinstated le Gabelle so that he could fund the invasion of Italy. It remained until after World War Two in 1949 when it was finally given a state funeral.