The Legacy of Old Gran Parks’ Book Tour wrap up

First, I would like to thank Faye Rogers for her efforts in organising this book tour and all those book bloggers who read my book and wrote some fabulous reviews. The tour has had its highs and lows. Here are my reflections:

When a new book comes out, it is the job of authors and publishers to go on the hunt for reviews. The more the better and the one place we want them all to end up is on Amazon, because Amazon counts reviews and based on the number (not the quality) it will activate its own internal promotion of your book. We need 20-25, or better still 50, to be taken seriously. Less than 10 looks sad. To make matters even harder, Amazon splits the reviews up, so a review posted on the UK site or the AU site does not appear on the US site. Dedicated book reviewers will take the trouble to post on all three Amazon sites, cos that’s what it takes these days, and every book blogger worth their salt knows this.

In the past, when I’ve had a new book coming out, I have written hundreds of individual emails to book bloggers soliciting reviews. I’ve trawled the internet on the hunt for reviewers, joined Facebook groups and kept my eye on Twitter. It’s exhausting and the average take up rate is about 5-10%. On the blogging side, book bloggers are swamped, the good ones especially.

To take the pressure off authors and publicists, some bloggers have set themselves up as book tour organisers and for a fee they will organise a tour. When I started to investigate these service providers I was hesitant, but I began to see it as the only way forward. I would still solicit reviews, but at least some of the strain would be off my shoulders.

I had no idea what to expect when I hired a book tour organiser to set up a 14-stop review-only tour. I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment. Despite the organiser’s best efforts, out of 14 bloggers, 2 chose to post an extract and 4 chose to do nothing at all. That has left me with 8 reviews and out of that 8, only 6 have so far shared their review on one of the Amazon sites.

However, all is not bad news. Those reviewers who did read my book wrote honest reviews and there are many delightful comments peppered throughout their paragraphs. I’m grateful to each and every one of these bloggers, and to the tour organiser, who cannot be held responsible for the actions of those book bloggers who agreed to be part of the tour and then failed to follow through. Here are some of the highlights:

“This was my first time visiting the mind of Isobel Blackthorn, and it certainly wasn’t boring! The dark humour, gritty scenes and unusual characters all combine to make an entertaining read….Like the recently successful Jane Harper (author of The Dry and Force of Nature), Blackthorn knows how to convey the sinister nature of the Australian setting, making blistering heat tangible, the seaside seem lethal, and the all-encompassing forests claustrophobic….Overall, this is a darkly humorous tale expressed through brilliant prose and intriguing characters!”

Get Litty –

“This is the first book I have read from Isobel Blackthorn and it won’t be my last. It is such a well written book that I was gripped from the first few pages.The strapline of the book is ‘A Dark Comedy to Tickle Your Spine…’ and it lives up to your expectation.”

Helen Loves –

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks has a wonderfully dark, nasty feel to it…The legacy of Gran Parks is a legacy of fighting back against abuse, and taking responsibility for dealing out your own style of justice.”

Liam of Book-worm-hole –

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a very unique, very fascinating but ultimately savage and dark read that I very much enjoyed. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies, you are more than likely going to enjoy this book which starts out a little bit eerie and odd and then turns violent and dark. It was a book unlike any I have read before but I actually really loved it.”

Faye of Big Little Books –

“showed me an insiders view of rural Australia which I easily pictured even though I’ve never been.”

Parchment and Quill –

“The Legacy of Old Gran parks—is one of the rarest piece of story I ever read. It was unique and got an eerie exotic feel. A truly remarkable, and an unforgettable piece. Highly recommended to everyone.”

Bibliophile Angel –

“I really enjoyed the writing and plot ”

Read Between the Scenes –

“a marvellous read and I’d recommend it to anyone who asks.”

Infinite Pages –

If you want to review any of my books, I will give you a free electronic copy.

If you want to buy any of my books, visit my bookstore for links to external sites.


The BentoNet book revolution

Something exciting is happening in the world of small presses. It’s called BentoNet, and it’s a way to purchase books online and collect from your local bookstore. My publisher, is among the first to join.
There aren’t too many participating bookstores as yet, but it really is early days. The point is that you can buy a title online via the BentoNet website and collect it from your local bookstore. How amazing is that! You’ll be paying the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) as set by the publisher and shipping is only a couple of bucks, about a 1/4 of standard postal rates.
BentoNet helps to give small presses a share of the market. Bookstores, swamped by the large press catalogues, don’t have the time or energy to check out the book catalogues of small presses. BentoNet gets the books published by small presses right under the bookstores’ noses. And of course the bookstore has made a sale. 
Small presses using the ethical Print on Demand business model currently have to run at a loss to get their books stocked in bookstores, because traditional book distributors take such a huge % cut of the RRP. BentoNet gives small presses a chance to distribute their titles to customers via bookstores, keeping costs to a minimum.
The other thing most don’t know about the book industry is that bookstores run on a sale or return basis. Those unsold books, usually shop worn, are returned to the publisher and then pulped. It’s unethical and the only way to make the business model viable is for publishers to go for large print runs (so that the unit cost is small) and focus on best sellers to spread the risk.
Small presses can’t do a large print run, they’d go broke, and because small print runs and Print on Demand pushes up the unit cost, they can’t absorb the risk of the return of unsold books – it’s just too costly. They also don’t have the market clout to ram titles down our throats and make them bestsellers by swamping mainstream and social media.
If you are in with a bookstore, go nag them about this! Let’s make a revolution happen.
I sound like an advert, but no one is paying me to say this. I currently have 3 titles with Odyssey Books and a 4th due out next month. So call it enlightened self interest.  All I know is that I’m really excited about this new venture. I hope it works.

Where’s my book? – Part 2

I’m adding an addendum to yesterday’s blog post as I’ve become a little strident about the difficulties facing small presses.
If ever there was a model of how the corporate world has an industry stitched up, book publishing is it.
A book publicist mentioned to me in a Facebook comment words to the effect that the Penguins and the Random Houses supply bookstores with reading copies of their new releases at least four months in advance. Four months!! Let’s not be naive about this. That’s a lot of $$ outlay, working on long lead times.
The large publishing houses have whole publicity teams working on promoting new releases. Terrific for those authors propelled along the conveyor belt towards celebrity and bucket loads of prestige. I call them ‘the in crowd’ as there’s no better way to describe it.
Nepotism abounds in book publishing as does elitism. What matters to the corporate publishing houses is in large part who the author is and how she and her book might be marketed, not the quality of her written word.
That is not to say that vast numbers of Editors and staff working for such corporations are not dedicated to the discovery and the promotion of quality material. I fully acknowledge and respect their efforts. My grump is not with them.
The world’s major publishing houses are oligarchs. They are in the business of swallowing smaller imprints and dominating the market. They have become so huge it’s breathtaking. They’re up there with Murdoch and Monsanto.
As I said in yesterday’s post, the large publishing houses overwhelm bookstores with their presence.
The big houses fund literary prizes, help select judging panels and therefore influence which book (one of their own perchance) will win.
They can afford or have already bought copy space in literary review sections of major newspapers and the like.
In other words, the Penguins and the Random Houses are in the business of dictating to the public what to read.
I’ve heard it said that only cookery books are making money in Australia, that numbers of readers are dwindling making it hard to sell fiction.
I disagree with the logic of this view as it omits the fact that marketing and advertising shapes public taste. When will SBS, for example, advertise some works of fiction?
Fortunately for the switched on reader, there’s an alternative, a way to opt out of the factory-style book industry, a way to make a statement of protest against the oligarchs, or simply a way to show support for those struggling to survive alongside it – by buying a small press title.
Such an act is no new thing. I recall buying Virago (now owned by Little Brown) and Women’s Press books back in the 80s based on the imprint as much as the author. I saw it as a political act.
At many small presses, publishers are dedicated to discovering fresh quality writing. They take risks on unknown authors. They keep the whole book industry alive with innovative, imaginative, passionate works.
And they cannot compete with the big guys.
Which is why it is my belief that small presses and their authors need to link arms to help make their presence felt more strongly in the book reading community.
In my view small press authors especially need to come together and take a stand. Many already are. I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t already seen much evidence of the alternative model in action.
More and more I’m seeing my own literary career in political terms – the politics of globalisation that is.
Globalisation has always equalled centralisation (mergers, corporate empires and so on), and the emergence of alternatives out on the rim. I’ve already pitched my tent.

Where’s my book?

Some may wonder why they are not seeing Asylum in their bookstore.

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That’s partly because bookstores are caught up with having to stock the Penguins and the Random House books (if they want to stock a bestseller, they are compelled to also stock x y and z)

Often bookstores don’t have the time to pay attention to the title lists of small presses. They are flat out choosing from the big corporate’s catalogues.


Then there’s the matter of returns. Bookstores return unsold stock to the publisher at a cost per book. The big publishers can absorb the $$ loss. They do large print runs, and often pulp that returned stock. Bugger the planet.

Thankfully print on demand services have provided a different and more ethical business model. Only those books purchased are printed so generally there’s no pulping.

But the problem of returns remains and is prohibitive for an emerging small press, who cannot afford to take the risk of having to buy back stock. If suddenly a whole bunch of titles were returned en masse the small press would go under.

So how do small presses sell their titles?  – Online, at book expos, and in any other way they can think of.

Of course, much of the selling of a book comes down to the author. We can’t kick back and let the royalties roll in. Unless our name is Rowling we have to get out there and spruik.

Many bookstores demand from authors that they carry their books on consignment. So the author ends up wearing the costs of delivery, collection of unsold stock and chasing the proceeds from sales. It’s often a thankless process.

Authors have come up with all sorts of other book-selling strategies, from book giveaways to market stalls. It’s all time-consuming and tiring work and detracts from the task of writing but there’s little choice for most of us.

Well, that’s the demystification over. It is what it is and I for one am very happy with my small press.

So, where’s my book? Asylum is available in ebook and paperback formats in all online outlets, and, better still, can be ordered direct from Odyssey Books, or from me, if you want a signed copy. Just send me a message.

You can order Asylum from any bookstore too, worldwide.