This week I designed a poster to promote the new book ‘Cruel Tide’ in bookshops around Cumbria. I used a template provided by an on-line printing company, which was generic and didn’t prompt you to include a price. I uploaded the cover image and some text and the ISBN number and sent it off for printing without including the price of the book.

In the middle of the night I woke up, realising what I’d done, or not done, and cursing my own carelessness, as I often do. In the more rational light of day I reconsidered, and wondered whether the lack of a price on the poster would seriously affect anyone’s willingness to order it. I’m not sure it would.

For a start, there have been three previous books, all at the same price of £8.99, and a potential buyer might correctly assume that the price will stay the same, which it will. Second, if readers who tell me that are waiting for the new book are really keen to buy it, the price is not as important as the publication date. Some people have been pestering me for the next one since about two weeks after the last one came out. I’m not sure they understand how much work goes into writing and producing a book. Some of my readers may wait to buy it from me direct at one of the many meetings or events I do, and I usually offer a discount for direct sales.

Amazon offer a cheaper price, as usual, but the shortfall is consumed by the cost of postage and packing, so there’s no advantage of cost or even of time, as we fufil our own orders, which normally takes a day or two longer than Amazon’s immediate turn-round. The Kindle version is slightly cheaper than the paperback, but the pleasure of a well-produced book is still a factor for many people.

If you don’t want to pay for a book at all, there’s always the library. If you do want to buy one, it will cost in this case the same as fish and chips for two or four cups of coffee. For the pleasure they can give, I reckon books are still a relatively good deal.

So instead of price being the key factor I have decided to use the cover image as the come-on. After all the agonising I did about this image, I’m really pleased with it now. It’s mysterious, arresting, relevant, and adds in a quite extraordinary way to the pathos of what lies between the covers. By next week the posters will be printed and arriving in the many bookshops served by my distributors, Hills of Workington. And as soon as I get home I’ll be taking them round to outlets where my books have sold before. It’s been nearly 18 months since the last book, and I hope previous readers haven’t forgotten about me. I also hope that I can pull in new readers too. I want this book to be widely read, because it makes a contribution to the current media storm about historical child abuse and is a timely reminder of how things were only a few decades ago.

When I can work out how to include the cover as part of a blog post, I’ll share it, so you can see what you think. Watch this space. Maybe I could offer a deal for the first five pre-orders, or something. I’m new to all these ‘sales techniques’ but I might be able to work out how to manage them, before I get back home from my trip and launch into thinking about the next book. That should keep me busy through the winter months.