The uncorrected bound proofs of Ravenscliffe have arrived at Sanderson Towers, which means they’re also now on their way out to the trade – reviewers, retailers, all those individuals on whom the fate of my new novel now hangs. After all, if the booksellers don’t stock it, the book buyers can’t buy it, can they? So what we need is for all of them to love it as much as I do, and buy it in its thousands, and pile it high in extremely visible locations in their shops, up and down the country.
When I was promoting Netherwood, in the early days of its introduction to the world, I did a book signing in my local Waterstones and – because I was there, doing my bit – they had ordered 25 copies, all of which sold (she modestly mentions). But behind me, where I stood at my special little table, were a gazillion copies of One Day, which happened to be The Big Thing at the time, and it struck me how very chicken-and-egg this book selling lark is. The trade seems to decide on our behalf what the big sellers are going to be, and by stocking them in huge quantities, the message to shoppers is: buy this! everyone else is reading it! don’t be the one person who hasn’t! It makes me think of the summer a few years ago when everyone in our bit of Cornwall was reading The Da Vinci Code. Not that great – dare I venture? – but very much the book to be seen with.
As a result, every year, there’s a handful of books that sell in the hundreds of thousands, and bus loads of books that don’t. Some of the ones on the buses are utterly compelling, beautifully written, unputdownable, and yet they never seem to build up the head of steam they deserve. Netherwood sold well, as it happens. For a debut novel by an unknown author, it notched up respectable figues, and (I hope) is still being bought. But I’m convinced it would be bought in great quantities if only it was stocked in great quantities too.
Ho hum. Anyway, now it’s Ravenscliffe’s turn to fight its corner out there in the big, bad, book buying world. It’s a hefty tome. I think it can stand up for itself. I really, really believe in it. So I’m visualising towering piles in high-visibility locations, and I’m keeping everything crossed. Watch this space.