Sunday, 28 February 2010

We have lift-off!

To my relief, the launch party on Wednesday night went well. About 25 people turned up, which was enough to make the room feel comfortably full – there were the usual late apologies for absence, but you have to expect that.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the event, and my reading, and – most importantly – I sold all 37 copies I’d brought with me. (Why 37? That was as many as I could carry in my holdall without giving myself a hernia.) Mind you, I only found out afterwards that my brother-in-law had been indulging in some creative marketing – two copies for a tenner, that sort of thing. I would have preferred it if he’d cleared it with me first, but I can’t really complain: as he said, the important thing is to get the book into people’s hands, by any available means.

So now the real marketing effort begins. I’ve got a book about marketing books which suggests that, once the book is published, you “apply the ‘one a day’ rule by doing something every day to support your book’s sales effort”. That sounds like sensible advice, and I’ll be doing my best to follow it.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tonight’s the night

Just an hour to go until the launch party for First Time I Met The Blues. I’ve done this before, for Grown-Up People, so I know more or less what to expect, but doubts still creep in. What if no one turns up (a wet Wednesday evening in central London - why wouldn’t you go straight home?), what if they don’t buy the book (though my crack sales force should see to that), what if they don’t like my reading?

I have at least taken the precaution of timing and practicising the extract I’m going to read (it takes just over 10 minutes, which should be acceptable), and I’ve always been good at this kind of thing. I could never act, but in productions from junior school right through to university, I was often cast as narrators of various kinds. And at school I was chosen to do readings at the Remembrance Day assembly and that kind of thing. So not too many worries there.

Anyway, better go. My hour in the spotlight beckons. More soon.

Monday, 15 February 2010

What Eric did next

First Time I Met The Blues is by no means a history book, but in the course of tracing the career of The Hornets, it does also tell a version of the story of British blues in the 60s and beyond. And, not least because the band’s guitarist, Des, is obsessed with Eric Clapton, old Slowhand plays a leading role in that story.

I’ve already written about the iconic place of Five Live Yardbirds in British blues mythology, and the next LP that Eric appeared on was, if anything, even more important to blues fans. The very fact that John Mayall, one of the godfathers of the blues scene, tinkered with the name of his band (brand?) suggests how important it was to him at the time. He named the album after the band, Blues Breakers, and changed the artist name to ‘John Mayall with Eric Clapton’. You can’t say he didn’t recognise the main attraction for record buyers.

Behind the famous sleeve (it’s sometimes known as ‘the Beano album’, after the kids’ magazine Eric is reading) is an LP that’s less guitar-heavy than you might expect. But Clapton left The Yardbirds for Mayall’s band (with a couple of detours on the way) because he wanted to play proper blues, not pop, and this is certainly a proper blues album, suffused with Mayall’s authentic-sounding vocals, harp and organ as much as it is with Clapton’s guitar.

You can hear that guitar to best effect on the Freddie King instrumental, ‘Hideaway’, and on the monumental ‘Have you heard’, which contains one of my all-time favourite guitar solos, a gut-wrenching effort where Eric gives it everything he’s got.

I won’t waffle on about it any more. If you don’t already own it, go and find ‘Have you heard’ on Spotify and listen for yourself. You might just see why Des was so obsessed.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Word is spreading

A quick progress update: my shiny new website is up and running – indeed, you may even have come to this blog from there. If you can think of a good reason to do so (or even if you can’t), please link to it from any site you run or contribute to. It all helps with the Google rankings, where I’m still all but invisible compared to David Williams’ book.

I’ve already had a couple of helping hands: David Eldridge has posted the cover (designed by his company) on the Two Associates blog, and those nice people at the London Writers Club included a picture and some kind words on their most recent email newsletter, which you can subscribe to from the website.