Death of the book trade: more anecdotes released

Throw a paperback at a room full of writers, and chances are that it’ll hit someone with a grievance. Writing is a lonely trade, and success – the genuine life-changing success which follows a major literary hit – is astonishingly rare, not least because so very many books are published these days. There were more than 170,000 new titles in 2012, up almost 20,000 in three years. How many of these were hits? And what’s a hit anyway?

I’ve never encountered an industry as subjective as book publishing; we who work in it, and particularly we who write books, are dangerously prone to the fallacy that because we have observed something, it must be both true and a signifier of something wider. Because isn’t that what we try to do with our books – speak some larger truth, comment on some aspect of society, make the story resonate beyond the page? But when we write an opinion piece based on those beliefs, things come dangerously unstuck.

To quote the old saw: the plural of anecdote is not data.

Take Robert McCrum in the Observer today: he has written a piece with the provocative title ‘From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life’, which  caused me to fear it was going to be about the suicide of a scribbler. But no, it’s about how certain authors are struggling to make ends meet. Three authors are cited, two others (Paul Bailey and Hanif Kureishi) are yanked out of the cuttings file, and the general tone of the piece can be summed up by this paragraph:

To writers of my generation, who grew up in the age of Penguin books, vinyl records and the BBC, it’s as if a cultural ecology has been wiped out. For as long as most of us can remember, every would-be writer knew the landscape of the printed word. This Georgian square was home to publishing grandees (now retired). On that high street were the booksellers (now out of business). In those twisting back streets, you could expect to find literary agents working the margins with the injured innocence of pickpockets at a synod. It was a mutually dependent ecosystem.

Publishers were toffs, booksellers trade and printers the artisan champions of liberty. Like the class system, we thought, nothing would change. The most urgent deadline was lunch. How wrong we were. The years 2007-2010 are pivotal: first, as Thomson has described, came the credit crunch. And it occurred at the very moment that the IT revolution was wrecking the livelihoods of those creative classes – film-makers, musicians and writers of all sorts – who had previously lived on their copyrights.

This is asserted, without any supporting evidence or data. It is just fact. Computers killed books. We’re all going to hell in a handcart. But on this specific point – that technology is killing content because of piracy – McCrum is, at least when it comes to the UK book trade, just wrong. I looked at the numbers, and I wrote about it in the Literary Review. Here’s the piece, and here’s the Ofcom report that highlights the minuscule amount of book piracy in the UK.

Now, we might be hell-bound. But at least let’s be hell-bound with the facts straight. At least let’s point out that more books are being published than ever before, that just as many if not more are being bought (don’t believe me? Check the Publishers’ Association figures – they’ve got charts and everything). Let’s be honest that writing is and always has been a precarious business, that making money from it has always forced writers into queasy compromises with themselves and their art. Glen Duncan wrote a whole host of brilliant and critically-acclaimed books that didn’t sell particularly well. He decided to do something about it, and wrote something that did. What specifically is wrong with that?

I look around me at the writers who had their first books come out around the same time as mine. Some have been successful, others less so. Broadly, they’re being supported by their publishers (thus giving the lie to the old ‘publishers don’t support new talent’ canard). They’re all having to look at their bottom lines, calculate affordability, wonder where the next cheque is coming from. That’s freelance work, friends, and it always has been. So my anecdotes are entirely different to McCrum’s anecdotes. Who is right?

There was another (infinitely less egregious) example of this in the Telegraph, in which Jamie Fewery, a publishing fellow who knows of what he speaks, wrote that there was a crisis in reading amongst young men. It was actually an interesting piece, but it opened with the following thunderous bellow of subjectivity:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that men read fewer novels than women.
Or, at least, that’s my experience, based on over ten years of working in the book industry.

Yes, Fewery’s experience is valid (and it’s a lot more trustworthy than McCrum’s misty reminiscing). And this was, after all, a comment piece, not a piece of data journalism. But Fewery’s central point – that there was once a category of books one could broadly define as commercial fiction for men, or chaplit (my horrific neologism, not Fewery’s) – is surely provable with data. Can’t we show how Tony Parsons’ books are selling?

And as for the assertion that ‘young men are reading fewer novels than they used to’, that, surely, is also demonstrable. It may even be true, though if one were to say that one should also point out that young men are probably reading more than ever, it’s just the format that has changed, from novels to games and social media.

But that isn’t the point I’m trying to make. The point I’m trying to make is that we should not continually play The Last Post over book publishing, particularly those of us who make their living out of it (such as Sunday newspaper literary editors). Being able to write books for even a semi-living is a privilege, not a burden. And finally, our individual stories of failure or non-success should not lead us to state, categorically, that everything is failing. We all of us sit on the precipice of obscurity and disappointment and the great majority of us, sadly, fall in.



Where does it all come from?

I’m just back from a session at the marvellous Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (disclaimer: my better half is chief executive) to see a truly fantastic talk by David Almond. The audience were primary school teachers (and me), and David gave us an insight into how he writes books that was at once modest and genuinely inspiring.

‘I’m going to give you a word,’ he said. ‘A four-letter word. When I tell you the word, you have to keep it in your head, but it can only be the WORD. The letters of the word. It can’t be anything else. Just that single word. Ready? Here it is. T-E-N-T.’

The point being, of course, that you can’t. Those four letters become so much more than a word – they become sights and smells and pictures and memories and sounds and everything you’ve ever thought or that ever happened to you that involved a tent.

And that was the theme of the talk: how our minds are vehicles for imagination and creativity, two words which, David said, he was scared of as a child, because they seemed to sonorous and difficult. I still remember my granny saying to me the morning after one of my regular nightmares ‘you have them because you’ve a strong imagination,’ so that imagination became a condition, like asthma or myopia, that made your life more difficult.

David Almond is one of those people who’s not afraid to talk about the magical side of writing, the spark of inspiration – catch his anecdote about when and where the first line of Skellig came to him, and I defy you not to shiver. I’m emotionally hardwired to be sceptical about this stuff, to poo-poo those writers who talk about the mystical side of creativity. But I’m wrong. It’s right to talk about that stuff, because sometimes what we do as writers does feel magical, or at least inexplicable. This morning I wrote two chapters, one after the other. One was great, the other so-so. I have no idea why.

But then, as a counter-balance and a mild name-drop, I did get the chance to chat briefly with David before his talk. What did we chat about? Freedom, the software which allows you to turn off the Internet on the machine you’re working on to allow you to write. So yes, even magicians like David Almond need the right environment.

One other Almond anecdote – when he writes, he writes in Page View, with the numbers of the pages and the title of the book at the top of each page, so he can see the book physically coming to life as he goes. I think that’s brilliant.

A fantastic writer and a wonderful fellow. He signed a book for me, too.

Andrew Wylie’s return from the Amazon

I missed Andrew Wylie’s interview with New Republic when it came out last week. I’ve just read it now, and have come away with two strong impressions: that he is profoundly anti-Amazon these days (for reasons, rather spectacularly, of style as much as business); and that he is incredibly optimistic about the future of publishing:

LB: Do you feel as hostile toward Amazon as you used to?

AW: I think that Napoleon was a terrific guy before he started crossing national borders. Over the course of time, his temperament changed, and his behavior was insensitive to the nations he occupied.

Through greed—which it sees differently, as technological development and efficiency for the customer and low price, all that—[Amazon] has walked itself into the position of thinking that it can thrive without the assistance of anyone else. That is megalomania.

via Andrew Wylie Interview: Literary Agent Makes Millions Off Highbrow | New Republic.

Read the whole thing. You won’t agree with all of it, or perhaps even most of it. But if you believe in book publishing and its importance, you’ll applaud the energy, ambition and refusal to be anything other than true to your own beliefs.


Sell, sell, SELL – thoughts on self-promotion


I was out and about yesterday and so missed a flurry of online activity sparked by this article on, in which Nesrine Malik described Mohsin Hamad as ‘a thoroughly sound and pleasant man who wears his literary triumph lightly’ when encountered in the flesh, but (says Ms Malik) when Hamad goes online he morphs into a praise-retweeting, review-linking-to ‘monster.’

This, it seems, is a Bad Thing:

Most of us expect writers, especially novelists of a certain stature, to be, ascetic, lofty creatures, occupied with the intricacies of the human condition – which explains our surprise when they turn out to be hardnosed publicists seeking to maximise book sales by promoting their product as aggressively as one would push a new shampoo.

Ms Malik finishes with some advice for us writers who frequent Twitter (and, presumably, other online social media platforms, and The Internet Itself):

Literature is a commodity, but can’t be marketed as such. Writers need to either acknowledge this and assign themselves a PR detail, or refrain from unleashing themselves on Twitter if they lack the skills to operate it – a book is too inextricably linked to its author to be promoted flat-footedly and without nuance. That said, it can be done. Here are my tips:

• Do tweet events, book signings, public readings, links to interviews etc

• Don’t exclusively tweet about your work

• Have a personality. Develop a character and a Twitter profile that is not merely a bludgeon wrought of your own brilliance

• Don’t retweet compliments. Ever. Not once

Failing that, walk away from Twitter. Take the advice of Bret Easton Ellis‘s friend, who reportedly told him at the Vanity Fair Oscars’ party: “You need to get off Twitter. People think you’re crazy”

So, some quick thoughts on this:

  • Why can’t literature be ‘marketed as a commodity’? People have to pay for it, don’t they? I don’t really understand this.
  • Writers can’t ‘assign themselves a PR detail’ because writers cannot, generally, afford such a thing.
  • Why is it so toxic to retweet compliments? I’ve seen others say this, but they never say why it’s such a bad thing.
  • Does anybody seriously disagree that a Twitter profile that is just retweeted compliments would be a trifle dull? Is this really that insightful?
  • ‘Have a personality’. Is that an instruction? Don’t I have a personality already?
  • ‘Refrain from unleashing themselves on Twitter if they lack the skills to operate it’. What are these skills? Can I get a licence?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about self-promotion online in the year I’ve been doing it, it’s this: you don’t need to be nearly as squeamish about it as you think you do. There is a fine and noble tradition of writers-with-books hawking them at every opportunity – if you don’t believe me, take a look at Nick Cohen’s website and twitter feed since You Can’t Read This Book came out. He’s at it all the time. He’s relentless. He’s also fantastic.

I put this queasiness about self-promotion in the same box that I put queasiness about authors doing events ‘for free.’ There was a similar flurry about that a few months back, with some distinguished writers saying they thought it was wrong. But what those distinguished writers don’t understand is the same thing that those attacking self-promotion don’t understand, and it’s this: without an audience, a new writer is nothing. Anything that can grow that audience, even by one, is probably worth doing. There’s a very simple equation: if I can do something that grows my audience, I should do it, at least when starting out.

Which means self-promotion is fine until it’s not fine. By which I mean: don’t self-promote to the extent that you drive away the audience you already have. That’s the only rule that matters. If we’re talking Twitter followers, the calculus is brutal and elegant: if your human followers are growing in number you’re doing something right, if they’re going down you’re doing something wrong. Simple as that. End of story. Not rocket science. The same goes for your Facebook page and your blog stats and your email list – are the numbers going up? Then all is well.

You can do it with charm. You should do it with charm. You should be yourself (unless there’s a problem with you being yourself, in which case social media is going to be a miserable experience for you). If you’re creative, be creative (see what Joanne Harris does, brilliantly, on her Twitter stream – she uses it to tell stories). Don’t be squeamish. If you’re British, don’t be British. Well, be a bit British, because that’s what makes you British. But always be aware of your Britishness, and recognise that, in this, it can hold you back.

And as for those commentators who think there is something impure about writers hawking their own wares – well, fine. You spend a year writing a book, and then you put it out there into a world where hundreds of new books come out every week, and you do nothing to promote it, and you see what happens. I wish you the best of luck.

Now, I’m off to promote my new book, in between talking about the Papal conclave and my dog’s strange DNA results. See you online.

That brilliant picture is from Flickr account unwomenasiapacific. Rights reserved under Creative Commons.


Tumbling book lists

I love Tumblr. I love the way you can have an idea to make something and it can be there, in front of you, within minutes. The type of thing which fifteen years ago required major investment, rounds of meetings, hours of Powerpoint and weeks of arm-twisting can now happen in the time it takes to drink a beer.

I love lists of books. Not just any old lists. I love lists from institutions, from teachers, from experts. I love hearing answers to questions like “what are the best ten books on particle physics for non-scientists” from scientists. One of my favourite books is called The Best Books and basically consists of lists of books on every subject, compiled by people who know that subject.

So I decided to combine those two affections into one: a Tumblr called A List of Book Lists. It does what it says it does: compiles lists of the best books arrived at either by expertise, public acclaim or cultural importance. Already up there are the top 100 books according to the French, William Gibson’s favourite SF novels, the best New Jersey novels. Take a look, and maybe even submit your own in the link at the top.


No more sock puppets please

A bunch of distinguished authors and reviewers put out this very good statement today on sock-puppetry and fake reviews, and although I wasn’t asked to sign it (nor would have expected to have been), I support it unreservedly. The picture below is by the brilliant cartoonist Matt Buck

These days more and more books are bought, sold, and recommended on-line, and the health of this exciting new ecosystem depends entirely on free and honest conversation among readers. But some writers are misusing these new channels in ways that are fraudulent and damaging to publishing at large. British author Stephen Leather recently admitted that he used fake identities online to promote his work. The American bestseller John Locke has revealed he has paid for reviews of his books. The British author RJ Ellory has now confessed to posting flattering reviews of his own work and to using assumed names to attack other authors perceived to be his rivals.

These are just three cases of abuse we know about. Few in publishing believe they are unique. It is likely that other authors are pursuing these underhand tactics as well.

We the undersigned unreservedly condemn this behaviour, and commit never to use such tactics.But the only lasting solution is for readers to take possession of the process. The internet belongs to us all. Your honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving,­ can drown out the phoney voices, and the underhanded tactics will be marginalized to the point of irrelevance. No single author, ­ however devious, ­ can compete with the whole community. Will you use your voice to help us clean up this mess?

Linwood Barclay, Tom Bale, Mark Billingham, Declan Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Tania Carver, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, N.J. Cooper, David Corbett, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Stella Duffy, Jeremy Duns, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Helen FitzGerald, Meg Gardiner, Adèle Geras, Joanne Harris, Mo Hayder, David Hewson, Charlie Higson, Peter James, Graham Joyce, Laura Lippman, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, Roger McGough, Denise Mina, Steve Mosby, Stuart Neville, Jo Nesbo, Ayo Onatade, SJ Parris, Tony Parsons, Sarah Pinborough, Ian Rankin, Shoo Rayner, John Rickards, Stav Sherez, Karin Slaughter, Andrew Taylor, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Martyn Waites, Neil White,  Laura Wilson.

via No more sock puppets please | David Hewson•com.

I Spotted A Sock Puppet. Matt Buck.

Does Camille Paglia really talk like this?

I missed this exchange while on holiday – Letters of Note reprinted a clattering of faxes between Julie Burchill and Camille Paglia. I’m no Burchill fan, but Paglia’s tone is so staggeringly egotistical and bizarrely sinister that I’m giving this one to the Englishwoman, on points. Here’s a flavour of Paglia’s odd attitude:

As the years pass, it will become clearer and clearer to everyone, perhaps even to you, that this was a pivotal moment in your life. You had an opportunity to move forward and to grow by making an important alliance. But instead you chose to dig in your heels, clamp down, and sulk at the new girl invading your turf. You have behaved childishly.

I could have helped you far more than you could help me. I am read and translated around the world from Japan to South America, and the basis of my fame is not just journalism but a scholarly book on the history of culture. You are a very local commodity, completely unknown outside of England, and you have produced nothing of global interest. It is you who began this fight, and it is you who will pay the price for it.The more vicious you are in print, the stupider you will look.

via Letters of Note: The Battle of the Bitches.

Alliances? Fights? What is this, literature or cage-fighting?

Is the 80-20 female-male fiction ratio just the Snark?

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found

Not a button, or feather, or mark,

By which they could tell that they stood on the ground

Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

While writing a post on three books by female authors I’ve read recently, I tried to track down exactly where the oft-asserted figure of “80 per cent of fiction is read by women” comes from. I haven’t been able to.

Which is odd, because it does seem to be an established belief. People quote it pretty loosely (I’ve done so myself, and often) – but no-one ever sources it.


Here’s some links I found while trying to find this particular literary Snark:

– a 1998 Princeton paper on called “Why Do More Women Read Fiction?”  I’ve not read the whole thing, but even the title seems a bit lazily suggestive. Presumably it means “more women read fiction than men.” But it could also mean “women read fiction more than non-fiction,” which would be something very different.

– a 2006 blogpost with a link which no longer works to a dissertation that apparently said: “Women are more likely to read fiction and borrow from libraries than men.”

– an old Ian McEwan thing in the Guardian in which he tried to give away books in the street, and the only takers were women. From which he draws possibly exaggerated conclusions.

– an NPR story which says “men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain”, but then doesn’t say what that means or link to any surveys. Gah!

– a really interesting study into the so-called “literary gap” between men and women, which looks at empathy, education and social factors – and is also unable to track down the source for this “80-20″ assertion

– A pretty good Guardian summary of the spat earlier this year which pitted Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult on one side – arguing that review pages were dominated by books by white male authors – and Teddy Wayne on the other, who claimed that male authors were at a financial disadvantage because, yes, you guessed it, 80 percent of fiction is bought by women. Wayne linked to some places in support of his assertion. But hang on: do they assert anything of the kind?

First up is a mid-2011 report from the Book Industry Studies Group on Consumer Attitudes to E-Book reading, reported on by Tomorrow’s Book, which says:

The BISG says most eBook power buyers — that is, someone buying an eBook at least once a week — are by and large women (some 66 percent), who mostly buy fiction. Out of the entire eBook market, power buyers make just 18 percent of all buyers, but they buy 61 percent of the eBooks.

Where’s the 80-20 rule then? Not here.

The second of Wayne’s links is a Seattle Times piece from September 2010 by Mary Ann Gunwin. She quotes a report from Bowker, which says this:

Women make 64 percent of all book purchases, even among detective stories and thrillers, where they buy more than 60 percent of that genre.

80-20? Not here, guv.

In other words, I’ve not been able to find the source for this oft-quoted stat. Does anyone know where it can be found?

Reading Girls: Jubilee, by Shelley Harris

It’s sadly true to say that I read a lot more books by men than books by women. This is probably the case for a lot of men, and it’s an interesting and to my mind relatively unexplored phenomenon. I don’t know what my personal ratio is, but it’s probably something like eight books by men to two books by women.

Which is sort of interesting, because according to the oft-asserted wisdom, 80 per cent of fiction readers are female (see this related post for more thoughts on this possibly fictional statistic).

I’ve read three very fine novels by female authors in the last few months. Two I’ve already written about on this site: Girl Reading by Katie Ward (whose title I plundered for this post), and The Somnambulist by Essie Fox. The third, which I finished last night, was Jubilee by Shelley Harris.

Full disclosure: I met Shelley at a literary dinner in Windsor earlier this year and liked her very much, and she bought my book and asked me to sign it, so I felt I should buy her book and ask her to sign it, which is probably a bit naff, but there you are. Then my wife read Jubilee before me, liked it, and then I got my hands on it.

And I liked it. A lot.

Brief synopsis: Jubilee tells the story of a group of people whose photograph was taken at a Silver Jubilee street party in 1977. The novel describes the events which precede the taking of the photo and the ripples they create through to the present day. The central character, Satish, is a Ugandan Asian whose family escaped Idi Amin and moved to England, and who in the present day is a successful doctor. Back in 1977, he’s a a gawky pre-teen living in a family trying to carve out an identity for itself in a country, England, which has yet to come to think of itself as “multicultural”.

The book’s full of delightful nostalgia for the period, which directly appealed to me because I reckon Satish and I are exactly the same age. But it’s also got horrors in it, and here’s where we come to “reading girls”, because the horrors Shelley puts in her book are of a kind which I think a man would struggle to write. One character in particular is, not to put too fine a point on it, a bitch. But Shelley draws her bitchiness in a way which doesn’t judge it, and I think a man would struggle not to judge a character who behaves so badly.

Shelley is deft and skilful in suggesting a world of fierce emotions bubbling beneath the surface of a dinner table. A bowl of coronation chicken can become astonishingly significant. She describes the world of cooking, of kitchen conversation, of families coming together with a warmth and a depth of realism which I’d struggle with myself and which, I think, would be unusual in a book by a male author.

Not all male authors, of course. I think Ian McEwan is particularly good at this kind of stuff, which is perhaps why he’s so successful in a market now allegedly dominated by female readers (and why Martin Amis, perhaps, has gone off the boil a bit). The book I’ve read most recently by a male author which comes closest to what Shelley has pulled off here is Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles, which is equally brilliant and also successfully conveys deep horrors dancing beneath the surfaces of domestic life (although, in Will’s case, it’s a particularly male, obsessive-compulsive sort of domesticity).

But even those books by male authors have less of the warmth of Shelley’s book, and maybe that’s where the difference lies. I detected a similar warmth and appealing sensibility in Girl Reading by Katie Ward, whose title I garbled for this blog post. Like Shelley’s book, Katie has enormous sympathy for her characters, such that one’s judgement is always suspended and one is forced to listen to them and try to understand them. Be more like a woman and less like a man. Katie’s book spans historical, literary and science fiction and is fiercely ambitious, but the female characters at the heart of the book are all drawn from enormous wells of compassion and sympathy. To repeat: I’m not sure many male authors have access to those wells.

The third book I wanted to add in here is The Somnambulist by Essie Fox. Again, bad things happen and there are bad people doing them, and Essie’s story has extremities that are pretty Gothic in their intensity (in a good way, mind). When I wrote about it, I said this:

More than that, this was the most intensely feminine story I’ve read in a long time. Essie describes the physical sense of being a woman really, really well. She describes clothing, washing, eating, sleeping and other more intimate stuff in ways which I think a man could never manage, and it left me with a real sense that Phoebe was living and breathing.

That’s another aspect of Reading Girls, I think. Female characters in books by male authors are often totems rather than individuals. My favourite character in any book is Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, and Isabel is the totemic totem, the character who is mysterious and downright infuriating even to her own creator. So to read a book by a woman is to have women described without that pervasive air of mystery, and Essie’s book in particular is very good at that.

I don’t really have a conclusion, or a point to make, other than this: if it is an effort for men to pick up and read books by women, it’s an effort that’s almost always worth the candle. It’s a patronising truism to say men don’t understand women, but it’s also at least partly true. Reading a good book by a skilled female writer at least makes our ignorance a little less wilful.


Give it away give it away give it away now

What’s the best thing an author can do to promote their work? I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit, prompted by the realisation that the Facebook Page I set up as an “author” page was a complete waste of time (or, I was doing it wrong, which is quite possible). Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of things an author can do, as opposed to anything a publisher or agent can do, to get their book into the public mind:

  • write something that people want to read (see, for instance, my post on Fifty Shades of Grey)
  • get well-known authors and celebrities you might know to say they like it (difficult if you’re starting out and don’t know anybody)
  • get onto Twitter (essential, I think, or at least it is for me – a public platform where you’re visibly active and easily available)
  • write a blog (as opposed to just “having a website”, a blog which is updated often has more chance of attracting links from other places)
  • attend events (something I’m trying to do a  lot more of, and am getting better at)
  • have a pitch (again, something I’m trying to do better, and something I was rubbish at. It’s vital to know what your book’s about, know how to describe it succinctly, and know how to make it sound exciting)
  • give away copies, personally

It’s the last one I’m thinking about today. I’ve given away quite a few of my complimentary author copies of The English Monster, and am beginning to think this method might be one of the most productive things an author can do, in the long term?

Why? Because it puts the book into people’s hands. And if they read it (a big if, still), and if they like it (an even bigger if) you’ve just sent an advocate for your work out into the world.

Buzz, word of mouth, whatever you want to call it, these are the things which make a book live over time. I’m convinced of it. Amazon recommendation algorithms, front-of-store positions and all the other dark retail arts are essential, but in an oddly indirect way; they simply serve to make more advocates possible, by virtue of more books being sold.

If your book’s good, and if you have confidence in it, my recommendation is to give it away, personally and with a signature and with thanks. And build out your army of advocates.

PS: This is not the same as demanding your book be heavily discounted on Amazon or elsewhere. That may help, again by putting it into people’s hands. And it will happen anyway. The author can’t do much about it. But he or she can give their book away, to the right people at the right time and in the right way.

PPS: If I’ve given you a copy of my book, it’s not because I’m a cynical bastard exploiting your propensity to be nice to me. It’s because I wanted to. All I’m saying here is that this has nice, long-term effects. I love you. I really do.