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The Banana Road by Andrea Montgomery

As it’s almost 18 months since publication, I thought I’d share what’s been happening with sales of The Banana Road.

The last time I talked about the memoir on here was my virtual launch day which happened quite near the start of a 10-day pilgrimage through Northern Spain following the Portuguese Way of the Camino de Santiago. It was also right in the middle of our relocation back to the UK, a time fraught with domestic activity. All in all, not great timing for me.

Re-reading that blog for the first time in a year, I’m struck by my enthusiasm and seemingly unshakeable faith that I had made a good start on sales that day.

I really didn’t have time to think much about whether or how successfully the book was selling for quite some time after its launch, copious workloads keeping me fully occupied on all but the scantest of social media posts. So it was with some trepidation that I opened the royalties email that dropped into my inbox at the end of September.

Royalties on Sales of The Banana Road

I remember reading an interview with Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves) way back in 2004 in which she says something along the lines of: before I got my first royalty cheque I didn’t know if it would be enough to buy a new biro, or a new car. Obviously, in her case it was enough to buy a new car, and then some.

Unfortunately, royalties from sales of The Banana Road sat considerably closer to the biro side of that conjunction.

It’s fair to say I was disappointed in what I received, not least because I knew that, unless I put a great deal of time and effort, and probably some money into the marketing, the sales immediately following the launch were likely to be the best I was going to get. And that has proved to be the case.

It’s now almost 18 months since I launched The Banana Road, I’ve had three royalty cheques, and I’ve earned back around 20% of my initial investment.

What could I have done better?

The obvious thing I could have done a lot more of is marketing. Apart from an initial flurry of social media posts, my marketing input has been almost non-existent. I tell myself it’s because I’ve been so busy with ‘the day job’ and to some extent that’s true. But if I’m honest with myself, I don’t feel any real ownership of its marketing process.

There are a few things that frustrated me with the partnership publishing approach to marketing The Banana Road. The first was the press release that went out at the launch. When I saw it, I was horrified. It was like they were launching some tacky, Carry On-style comedy. I tried to fiddle with the wording to tone it down but with hindsight, I should have torn it up and rewritten it myself.

Unsurprisingly, no major publications took up the offer of an advance review copy or wrote reviews.

The second thing that I found difficult was the lack of direct control. As I’m not the publisher, I have no control over the content of the Amazon listing which I think is hugely important and which I don’t think is right for the book.

I did request an ad campaign on Amazon which the marketing department responded to immediately and enthusiastically and it apparently ran for a month in July last year but I didn’t see any marked improvement in sales ranking as a result.

What do I see happening in the future?

I assume sales of The Banana Road will gradually decline to a rate where the publisher no longer feels it’s appropriate to publish. Hopefully at that stage all rights will defer back to the author but I don’t think I have any guarantee of that.

Do I regret going with partnership publishing?

Yes, in a way I do. I went into it with my eyes wide open and I gained a lot of marketing know-how and editorial instruction from the process as I hoped I would. I think the book looks and feels professional, as does all the marketing material that was produced. But my royalty fees, which are an impressively high percentage rate of the retail price, largely come from sales via a distributor to whom the books are sold at a 50% discount, a fact I was not aware of when I signed the contract. My earnings are therefore half of what I was hoping for.

I’m happy to chalk this one up to experience, take what I can from the process, and move on. As I begin drafting outlines for future novels, I know one thing for sure… I won’t take the partnership publishing route next time.


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