You might assume that, if a writer comes up with a brilliant idea for a novel and executes it masterfully, the result will be a guaranteed best-seller. But one of the things I’ve learnt in years since becoming an author is that a great book is merely the minimum requirement for terrific sales. You also need a magical combination of factors that includes, among others, a hard-working sales team, compelling publicity campaign, inspirational marketing and widespread, strategic distribution. You need your book on the shelves in all the right places and glowing reviews from readers who’ve loved it enough to spread the word. All of this takes creativity, passion and hard graft by a whole team of people. And it means that, whether a book ever threatens the top 10 is, to some extent, beyond simply the author’s influence.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that our job is over once we’ve produced the goods in the first place. As publication approaches, it’s time for an author to do their bit to promote a novel – and that’s exactly where I’m at right now. With fewer than two months before You Me Everything goes on sale in the UK and Germany, followed swiftly by the USA and a dozen other countries, I’ve had to come out of hibernation, i.e. lift my head up from the Macbook. Instead of spending each day holed up in my writing room with nothing but the dog and my own brain for company, there have been lots of train journeys, meetings, events and feature writing, all designed to raise the profile of my novel.
One highlight of the last month was a media breakfast with authors Louise Candlish (Our House), and Catherine Steadman (Something in the Water). Aside from a spectacular breakfast at the Riding House Café in London, we met journalists from Red, Cosmopolitan, Bella, You, Look, Good Housekeeping, Radio Four, Marie Claire and Fabulous. A formidable list of publications, I’m sure you’ll agree, but somehow it was a very relaxed affair in which we all got to talk about our passion for books over excellent coffee and scrambled eggs. (As a side note, I must tell you that Louise’s and Catherine’s books are brilliant. I loved both, but Our House is my stand-out read of the last 12 months, so do check it out when it’s released in April).
Next was a trip to Swindon to meet the books team at WHSmith, along with fellow Simon & Schuster author Sarah Vaughan, whose thriller Anatomy of a Scandal came out last month. The WHSmith team were an impressive and friendly bunch, whose knowledge and passion for books really shone through. It was fascinating to hear about the way books are presented and marketed to readers in their stores, and it was a real privilege for Sarah and I to answer all their questions about how we each came to write our novels.
I’ve also been doing a little feature writing recently for my publicity teams in the US and the UK. As someone who spent many years as a journalist before I became an author, I always enjoy this – it feels like a treat to be able to end a piece of work after 1,500 words, instead of the usual 100,000 I write for a novel. For my US publicity department at Penguin, I’ve written my take about blended families in the light of my own experience. I have three sons, two from a previous marriage, and they all live with me and my husband Mark, who is such an incredible step-dad that my two eldest boys actually prefer his company to mine. I’ve also written a piece for YOU magazine about what it was like growing up with a mum who was wheelchair-bound. I thoroughly enjoyed writing that one and it’s due to appear in April, so watch this space.