A Tale of Two Books

I recently read two very different works which left me with two very different impressions.

The first had an eye catching cover design, a clever title, and an interesting author bio. The marketing campaign had been slick and the release date carefully timed. Obviously money had been generously spent.  In short it ticked all the self-publishing boxes. The only problem was that from very early on it did not engage the reader. The author was clearly dispassionate about his subject, his audience and his writing. This disconnection became more obvious the more one read. The content laboured carelessly on with as much enthusiasm as a wet rag and shockingly indifferent to the tedium it was inducing. Aside from sending them to sleep, it also cheated its supposed target audience as the external visuals and marketing effort had promised a lot more. In short, it failed to deliver.

The second book was far less polished than the first in terms of design and marketing. There was no witty title and the author bio barely made high school yearbook standard. It must have taken some effort to get it released. Clearly there were budgetary constraints too. Nevertheless, here it was and its presence at least demanded a cursory glance. An hour later I was still hooked. The author wrote without guile but with simplicity, passion and respect about something he felt strongly about. It both engaged attention and left the reader wanting more.

The moral here, of course, is that clever marketing is not a substitute for good writing. Producing a good book is not just about the motivation but the inspiration. The author of the first book may have considered it an attention-grabbing way to add to his credentials and had the money and wherewithal to make it happen. The second book was an opportunity for the writer to share his passion and humanity.  

The author of the first book had fully exploited any leverage marketing could afford him. Even reviews had been carefully courted. The author of the second book did, to a large extent, get lucky that someone randomly chose to peruse it. But with its apparent lack of promotion, minimal review status and poor visual appeal it risks seeing its potential for success significantly curtailed.  

Thought of the day: Clever commercial acumen does not make up for a lack of sincerity and enthusiasm when writing or for paying scant respect to one’s target audience. But unless you are a well renowned and established author neither does a book sell itself. Getting the balance right can weigh heavily in your favour.

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Mary Vaux-ClarkMary Vaux-Clark is a freelance editor, proof-reader and writer. Her areas of interest include current affairs, travel, history and sport. She has travelled widely and worked in Hong Kong as an editor and ESL teacher for over ten years.