I’m only writing this blog-post because I feel the desperate need for some original thought, some new ground. I just must oil the old grey matter with my creative juices. All week I’ve been going over the first two R&M Files: reading, revising, touching up, interfering with, adjusting, tinkering – language, punctuation, grammar, structure, meaning… To be honest it’s not been a lot of fun. I just want to finish it. It’s become a chore. Two down and uploaded to Amazon with revised Amazon summaries. One to go.
It’s been a bit like how I would imagine Christmas would be if I rented a castle somewhere and invited all my immediate family to spend the week together. And they all came. And it snowed heavily. And we were snowbound. And the telly broke. And there were no books. And we ran out of booze. For a couple of days it would be great to meet them all again and catch up. By the end of the week, I could see it as a patsiche of The Shining, as imagined by Roman Polanski.
So, because there’s not much been going on with my writing life this week I’m going to fall back on something I put in the blog-post cupboard for a rainy day.
A couple of months ago I had what I thought was a good idea. I still think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good idea for me, for my books, for readers and for a certain High Street retail outlet. (Of course, I’m biased.) Here it is.
Actually, maybe it would be best if I just copied and pasted the email I sent to James Daunt the CEO of Waterstones. What prompted me to send the email was that I’d seen an online article in which he’d been interviewed and banged the we must be innovative and inventive and pioneering if we are to survive drum. I thought that my business idea fitted the bill nicely. A win/win for everyone.
Buoyed with my naive and childish enthusiasm I typed.
Dear Mr Daunt
I am writing to you with a business proposition. Books are your business. Books are my business.
You will know as well as anyone how the High Street book-selling trade needs to find and embrace new initiatives in order to continue to survive and thrive. I believe I have such an initiative and I would be grateful for your consideration of it.
I am a successful self-published author. I sell my books exclusively through Amazon. Importantly, with regard to my business proposition, I only sell my books as digital files; no physical copy of any of my books has ever been printed.
My business proposition is this: let Waterstones partner me in bringing my books to their physical form.
My books have received many hundreds of favourable reviews and ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. (I do not use sock-puppet accounts neither do I pay for reviews. The reviews are genuine readers’ comments.) I write three series, the most popular of which is a British police-procedural series set in Dover, Kent. Currently, I have five books available in this series with another two on the way.
The main selling points, if you will, that I feel apply to my initiative are as follows and in no particular order.
1) Waterstones would have the exclusive rights to sell my physical books in any or all of its stores.
2) Because no publisher would be involved we can work together to create, print and promote my books without the interference of a third party.
3) Because no publisher would be involved the retail price of the books could be kept down while still maintaining the same profit margins.
4) I would work with Waterstones to promote my books at Waterstones stores.
5) Attention that a well publicised and highly original initiative such as this would garner could significantly benefit sales of the books, not to mention bring attention for Waterstones in other positive ways.
I would be very happy to discuss my proposal further should you so wish. I would like to emphasise that my books have proven themselves to be popular with a wide range of readers. You can find evidence of this at the web links below.
I look forward to hearing from you.
That was over three months ago. There has been no response. I sent an email to his personal Waterstones email address and a general company one. I think it’s safe to say they are not interested in my kind of innovative thinking. (Or maybe they were and then read one of my books.)
Next week: how I signed a six-figure publishing deal with WHSmiths…
It makes sense to me, these guys can take longer than three months to look and weigh up the pros and cons. Do not despair just yet.
Hi David, I thought it ws worth a blind punt, just for the cheek of it. Don’t ask, don’t get and all that. To be honest I’d forgotten all about it until I saw a Post-it above my desk.
Chin up Oliver, I will never shop in Waterstones ever again. I loved the latest Romney and Marsh file, I am still in shock, how could you, one of my favourite characters as well.
Looking forward to the next file.
Hi Chris, Haha thanks for your support of the boycott. You’ll still find me in there though ‘cos they sell great books 🙂 As for you-know-who… I’m still grieving.
About 15 years ago I went into Waterstones in Brighton to look for an English/Spanish dictionary. A huge Collins tome caught my eye, it was perfect, but cost £25. I wanted it, but didn’t want to spend that much, so I thought that I’d check out Sussex Stationers to see what they had. I could hardly believe it, but they had the same dictionary, with a free CD on pronunciation, for £9.99. I’ve never been to Waterstones since.
That is a good reason never to darken their doorstep again. It often pays to shop around, eh?
Thing is these days who wants shelves of books when you can fit it all in a kindle etc. Paper books have had there day ,love the blogs and read them with as much delight as your books
Kindles have certainly made life and reading less cluttered. Good to know that you read and enjoy the blog. It’s become as important to me as my books as a diary of ‘the journey’.
talking of Dover, it was an exciting day there today, read the Dover Express and view the 92 photos of policemen
Holy cr*p! Just looked it up online. Thanks for the heads-up. I feel a blog-post coming on… Cheers!
It was definitely worth a punt, though Waterstones seem to be trying to differentiate themselves from eBooks and eReaders as much as possible nowadays. I think they’ve abandoned selling Kindles and it probably benefits them to fix their attention as much as possible on diverting things on to writers who probably sell better on paper than eInk. Doing your own Print-on-Demand paperbacks will probably garner you a few more readers. You do appear to have a decent number of regular readers judging by your sales figures, Oliver, which means that many probably recommend your novels via word of mouth to friends and family. Not all of those people will have an eReader/Kindle, and of those, not everybody will ever want to buy one, or read on a phone/tablet, which is why having some POD versions makes sense. You’ll only sell a fraction of your ebook sales, but you will grab new readers who might just become regulars.
Thanks for your thoughts. I know you are right about the POD. I know that I’m probably hurting myself commercially by not getting involved with POD. It’s a case of vanity for me. Vanity and the dream.
One of the few things I’ve ever really wanted out of writing is to have my books in a physical form. But I don’t want to be the one who commisions that. I want my books to have a recognisable publisher’s name on the spine. I’m not completely away with the fairies – if it was going to happen it would have probably happened. I know that. I’ll give it a while yet. I also have quite definite ideas about what I’m after from being a CWAP these days and POD isn’t part of that, yet.
I’m thinking of having my collection of three short stories – samples from each of my series – put into a physical book and using that to garner some attention for the series. Still planning that.
In the few years I’ve been at this I’ve hardly spent any time or effort trying to get noticed. This year I’m going to have a real go at that. I’ll take stock next year.
Best wishes and thanks again.
PS One of the good things about being a CWAP is the control.
Fair enough. Thought it was worth a mention. I ceased to care about publishers (and their thoughts and opinions) a long time ago. No publisher is ever going to take a second glance at my stuff. It doesn’t fit an easily marketable demographic (and if it can’t be easily pigeon-holed by the marketing department, it just isn’t worth their time). It has an audience – just – but I doubt it will grow to the point where I can make a living as a full-time writer. So, with that in mind, POD makes sense for me.
However, your R&M books have a regular audience (garnered without a great deal of pushing on your part), and sit within the procedural genre, which means that a concerted effort you could actually pick up a publisher – or at the very least hit the Top 100 on your own with some judicious use of Bookbub or BookHippo. Publishers do take notice of reader sales and popularity. I have a feeling it could happen for you. Good luck!
I absolutely understand your views and reasons. In truth, I think I was just fortuntate that when i started writing, I naturally gravitated towards something… popular, something mainstreamy. I say fortunate because I do want to earn from writing – enough that I can continue to write full-time and for that, as you know, there’s got to be a popular appeal. If I can get the income to be regular and useful then I can start on other projects I have in mind.
I’ve been very lucky to have the support of a good number of loyal readers. Very lucky.
Funny you should mention Bookbub – I submitted to them for the first time last week. Waiting to hear. Not heard of Hippo, so I’ll look them up. Thanks. And thanks for your words of encouragement. Much appreciated.
All the best.
It’s every writers dream to have a hard-back or paper-back with our name on. But I gave up that dream a long time ago to concentrate on another career, teaching. After starting writing again 6 years ago, I now write what I want, with no particular genre in mind when I start writing a new novel. I do not make a lot of money from my eBooks but that is not my intention, I am just happy to have a few people reading my work and making some very positive comments. If someone offered me a book deal at my age I’d probably have a heart attack. But you, Oliver, you are still young enough to forge a good living from your writing, and as you have a loyal fan-base I feel you will make it one day. Just keep plugging away and you never know, I just might be in the queue at Waterstones waiting for you to sign my copy of your latest R&M.
All the best,
Didn’t Kipling say something about not letting dreams be your master…? It’s still fun though, to dream.
The book is the dream. You are quite right. We write beause we love books and so, I suppose it is normal that we want them of our own work. How special would it be to have your own books on your own bookshelf with a proper publisher’s name on the spine? And hardbacks, with gloriously, glossy dust-jackets? Like Mr Kipling I should probably stick to cakes (eating them as comfort food.)
I am fortuntate to have a very supportive group of readers who follow my output. That’s a wonderful thing. And I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone for me being a CWAP.
Might be a while before we see each other in Waterstones, though. 🙂
Have a great writing week!
I have just started my seventh novel, so am hard at it from six in the morning to about ten when Hubby decides to stir himself. Have a good week yourself.
All the best 🙂
You’re turning into a machine, Pat. 🙂 I’d like to write at that time but my 4yr old gets up about then… my wife doesn’t 😦
Machine out of operation today: babysitting ill granddaughter. Even when those 4 year olds grow up, you still end up looking after their children. That’s life 🙂
I bet you’re still thinking about writing. 🙂
How’d yer guess: I did map the next chapter in my head, but, guess what? when I came to write it this morning it took on a life of it’s own. Also, still administering my Florence Nightingale skills to granddaughter. Can’t wait for what tomorrow might bring, though, my mind goes in one direction, and my fingers go in the other. Weird 🙂