Today is the official publication date of Almost Love. It is almost midsummer and the sun is shining; the cuckoos are still here, though they’ve changed to cuk-cuk mode now (it’s been a particularly good year for cuckoos in Yorkshire this year). It’s a complete contrast to the day on which In the Family was published, when the leaves had fallen, the shooting season was in full swing and we were heading for the winter solstice. November seemed a good time to publish then, because it was still far enough away from Christmas for the book to feature (as I know it did, and am grateful) on some Christmas wish-lists. June also seems a good time, as I’m hoping that at least a few people might want to take Almost Love on holiday with them.
Some authors talk about their books as if they’re babies. This particular baby, although it’s been born today, is still in the incubator. The books were delivered to Salt and its distributor yesterday, but have yet to be despatched to the shops; this will happen on Monday. Yet I’m not impatient or disappointed that I don’t yet have a copy in my hand; on the contrary, I’m profoundly grateful to both Chris and Jen at Salt and to TJ International Printers of Padstow for pulling out the stops so quickly after MPG Printers went into receivership just as Almost Love was going through the press. Thanks to their Herculean efforts, the delay has been minimal – much slighter than we’d feared. And yesterday’s blog-post attracted so much interest that I feel that it acted as a ‘virtual’ launch. Thank you very much to everyone who read it, spread it or contributed comments.
Thinking again about The English Bookshop and Jan’s explanation of why he chose Almost Love brought home to me the crucial role of Advance Information (AI) sheets in helping authors and publishers to sell their books. AIs have improved tremendously over the years. They started out as Gestetnered sheets. (Does anyone remember Gestetners? They took ages to set up and usually suffered a paper-jam within five minutes; you got ink all over your hands and, if you were unlucky, your clothes. The only good thing about them was the pink correction fluid, which could give you a temporary high if you applied it when standing in a confined space.) These were sometimes almost illegible and contained little except the ISBN, a two-sentence blurb and the publication date. There was no picture of the jacket. However, by no means all publishers used to produce AIs. Those who didn’t often sent out spares of the actual jacket with the date of publication stamped inside. Booksellers therefore never received a complete set of information: you either got an insubstantial blurb with no jacket, or the jacket and not much else.
By contrast, today’s AIs – at least the ones that Salt produces – are works of art. Author and publisher work closely together in order to wrest benefit from every centimetre of the space on a single A4 sheet. They include a fine picture of the jacket and all the information that the bookseller needs, yet can be read in less than a minute. Sometimes several hours are spent on developing an AI.
I thought that you might be interested to see the AI that was used to sell Almost Love into the shops, so I’ve included it here. I hope that you will like it.