Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Tao Of Spalding - Advice to US authors on selling in the UK

(Also posted at Kindle Boards)

Now, I don’t claim to be any kind of expert, but I have managed to sell several thousand copies of a comedy autobiography written by a complete nobody to the good people of the United Kingdom at a decent price, so I guess I might be a wee bit qualified to offer some advice about getting an audience in the UK.

Life… With No Breaks also has 14 five star reviews. Why not buy a copy for yourself and everyone in your family?


Anyway… I often see posts from US authors wondering how to boost sales in Britain and I’ve contributed here and there to them. However, because it gives me a thrill to be the ‘OP’, I thought I’d start a new thread with some pearls of debatable wisdom.

To whit:

Anywhere you have a link to Amazon US, also put a link to Amazon UK. The British are a fine, intelligent, internet savvy lot, but you’re going to get zero interest from them if you force them to click on the Amazon US page about your book. They can’t buy anything from it, and none of them will (quite rightly) bother to search the UK site for your magnum opus. They all have far better things to do with their time, like trying on new bowler hats and saluting the Queen.

Drop the hard sell. Seriously, drop it like it’s hot. It doesn’t work with us. We invented cynicism and can spot a needy indie author from a mile off. Make proper contributions to UK forums, not just spam promo blurb posts. It baffles me the amount of writers out there who expect people to part with their cash when they’ve not made any genuine attempt to communicate with potential customers. You’re a writer, so write something by thunder! Impress all those British types with your posts so much that they immediately click on the link in your signature (that goes to the UK Amazon site, right?).

Check your book for its international appeal. If you’ve written something heavily mired in Americana, there’s a good chance it won’t sell anywhere outside the US, let alone just in the UK. Change any relevant descriptions, references and themes accordingly. And if you’re not sure what those references and themes may be, and why they won't work in the UK, then do some bloody research, eh? Or don’t try and sell outside America, the choice is yours.

Covers. Hmmm…. how to put this tactfully. Go spend a constructive hour on Google comparing US book covers with UK ones…

Done? Good. Notice a difference? The UK covers look more subtle some of the time, don't they? Maybe more stylised and a tad less… er… garish? Even a bit esoteric and abstract, now and again? There’s a reason for this. It’s too long and complicated to go into here, but suffice to say it might be worth re-designing your cover with a UK audience in mind. Look at the UK covers of other books in your genre and take a lead from them. Oh, and regardless of US / UK differences, for God’s sake produce a professional looking cover. The British are even less likely to forgive a cheap looking cover than you Americans.

Be patient. You’re not going to sell tons of copies quickly. It takes weeks and months to get sales going – and don’t assume that success in the US means it’ll translate over to the UK. Our reading habits are very different. There are certain genres you’re going to struggle to sell in the UK. Cozy mysteries aren’t popular here from what I can tell, neither are hardcore American political / espionage thrillers. If you want to sell in the UK in any volume, you’re going to have to put equal time into promoting to and engaging with UK readers as you do American ones.

Everything I’ve just mentioned about the UK? Do the same for Australia, Europe, Africa – and everywhere else in the world. We’re all unique people who respond to different kinds of books and differing sales techniques. If you want to sell books to people around the world, you have to understand them and the market first. This is a lot of hard work, with the potential for very little reward. But you’re a writer, right? You should be well prepared for that! Basically, be aware of the world around you a bit more if you want it to give you its money.

Lastly, keep smiling. Even when some pompous Brit is drilling advice into you in an online forum, or another one is criticising you for bad grammar / unrealistic plot developments / terrible characterisation. NEVER be negative with a reader and never let them see you hurtin'. Keep it to yourself... and maybe go fire off a few shots in the backyard. That's what you Americans like isn't it? Guns?

All the best,



  1. Thank you, Nick. Good advice. Though what I'm about to say has nothing at all to do with my books, I would tell at least one person from England (, then) how much I love Top Gear, and how deeply offended I am that there is now an American version of the show. I wholeheartedly refuse to watch it. Top Gear without the hilarious commentary from the "boys" is a travesty.

    Oh, and... I'd also like to say that your television shows seem to be much better than ours in general, and I suspect that BBC America edits about 5 to 10 minutes of content from "Doctor Who" for the sake of commercials, which renders the show somewhat less satisfying than it must be in the UK. Although, I do love it.

    There. Sorry for the non-sequitor-post, but I'm glad I got all that off my chest. No one in America talks about these things.

    Thanks, Steve

    ps - speaking of you post, what do you think of my cover for the UK audience? The artist is an American painter, but she has a gallery in London, as well as one here in Los Angeles.

  2. Brilliant post, Nick! I have long noticed the difference between US and UK covers, but could never quite put my finger on exactly what those differences were. I think you nailed it: subtlety.

    Great advice on the hard sell as well!


  3. Wow, I think you hit every possible stereotype all in one post. Well done there.