What makes a book or e-book sell? That’s a question that every publisher, agent and writer would like to be able to answer. Of course, at present, due to the rise of e-books, the answer is changing daily. But still you would assume that the big publishing houses must have an extensive knowledge of who buys books and why.
But they don’t. How can they? They might notice that the sales of a book or e-book rise after an article in the paper, a radio interview, or a flurry of tweets, but still they have no means of knowing anything much about the people who bought the book, or why exactly they bought it.
Amazon, of course, claim to know which books we all like. Hence all those annoying messages which say - because you like ‘A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing’ you may also like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Uuuum.
So does anyone know? Yes, strangely, I do. That’s because I’m publishing a book with Unbound and in order to get the publication process started I have to sell a certain number of copies in advance. Every day I’m checking how many I have sold.
I’m up to 60% now, which means I have raised over £6,000. That figure is on the Unbound website for everyone to see. But there is a part of the Unbound website which only I can see and which looks scarily like a complicated Maths problem. All sorts figures and graphs indicate exactly who bought my book and when.
I also get a weekly updates from Unbound telling me the names of those who signed up and how much money they put in. I even get messages in my ‘Writers’ Shed’ from subscribers themselves. I want to hug all these people – and though Unbound I can send them the e-equivalent of a hug. And on top of all that, because the subscriptions come direct to Unbound, they can e-mail people and ask them why they signed up – and they are doing that.
I can look at those scary graphs and match them to moments when a flurry of new people subscribed. Oh yes, that was the day when the article was in The Independent. That was the Mumsnet blog day. That was the day when that amazingly generous Hollywood producer put information up on his very heavily used Facebook page.
Unbound is a strange sort of publisher. Their main ambitions seems to be to introduce the reader to the writer and then get the hell out of there. But then isn’t that really what we all want? After all, who cares about publishers? The only people that matter are the readers and the writers.
So will Unbound work for my book? Will it work overall? Let’s hope so. But whatever the future holds, I do think it is interesting that one small, independent publisher has such a huge knowledge of who is buying their books and why. Shouldn’t other publishers be worried? I think so.
The link for my book is here: http://unbound.co.uk/books/dead-babies-and-seaside-towns