750+ emails.Â That’s how many I found waiting for me whenÂ I got home last night from the UK. Of course many of them are spam, but still.Â That’s a load of email to answer,Â and I’ve spent most of today trying to whittle down the list.
My book tour in the UK was a blast.Â It reminded me yet again that my publisher there, Transworld,Â is one of the best in the world.Â It’s a small enough house so that it feels likeÂ a close-knit family, and everyone, from editorial to publicity to sales, seems toÂ have a personal stake in the success of everyÂ title they publish.Â These aren’t just bean-counters; these people love books.Â
For the first three days of my tour, I traveled to Birmingham, then to Manchester, and then to Cambridge.Â That’s a lot of driving, but much of it was throughÂ beautiful countryside.Â Â I was pleased that each event had a pretty good turnout — around 40 to 60 people.Â Â I’ve discovered that UK crowds tend to be a lot shyer about asking questions.Â In the US, people aren’t afraid to raise their hands.Â As an author, I really hope for those questions, because they often remind me of things I’d forgotten to say.Â Or they open up other interesting subjects that aren’t part of my planned talk.Â
My tripÂ also reminded me of how important non-bookstore outlets are for book sales in the UK.Â Even before my books officially went on sale in the bookstores, both THE MEPHISTO CLUB and VANISH had already gone on sale in grocery/supermarket chains, and just on the basis of those supermarket sales alone, both books hit the London TimesÂ top-ten bestsellerÂ lists (MEPHISTO CLUB AT #2 and VANISH at #4) their very first week.Â The lesson here?Â If your book isn’t picked up by Tesco’s stores, it has almost no chance of making it onto the bestseller lists.
I also encountered theÂ deep discounting that bookstores must resort to, to be competitive.Â Â Nowhere in the U.S. do you find 50% discounts on brand-new bestsellers.Â In the UK, readers expect them.Â Â Yet it means that bookstores can’t make a profit on the very titles they know they’ll sell a lot of.Â Many independents, for instance, lost money on Harry Potter sales, because they were discounting so deeply that they slashed away all their profits and more.Â Such deep discounting is great for authors, since we get our royalty no matter what, andÂ it means a lot more people buy our books.Â Â But surelyÂ the stores suffer.
Touring in the UK is so much more civilized than in the U.S.Â First, you always get the weekends off, since no stores host weekend events.Â The distances traveled are shorter, so there isn’t the rush to get to yet another airport in the morning, the way there is here at home.Â My US tours sometimes seem to be marathon endurance races.Â Up at five AM for the airport.Â Roll into bed exhausted at 10 PM.Â Repeat the next day, and the next, and the next, until you’re too tired to see straight.Â Â
In the UK, theyÂ love their business lunches.Â AndÂ they actually drink wine and eat dessert at lunch.Â I can’t remember the last time I saw that happen in New York, where everyone’s watching their weight and no one orders wine at lunch — because they all have to rush back to their desks.Â In so many ways, UK publishing seems like what publishing used to be: a genteel and civilized profession, just as much about the books as it is about making money.Â
This was supposed to be a really quick blog — all those emails are still awaiting me — so for now I’ll leave you with a link to a terrificÂ article about how to end your novel.Â I’ve got lots more to postÂ about later!Â