Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shameless / Introducing 'fifty shades of Spain'

‘How’s Miniatures doing?’ asked my wife...

‘Terrible,’ I replied, going into autopilot – my answer to most How? questions these days invariably being, ‘Terrible’. But for only the second time in my life, I was not exaggerating. Mikiatures – “with a K, darling” – took me about one year to write, two months to edit, three months to record, and several years to “promote”, ha ha, via hundreds of invisible blog entries on umpteen worldwide websites. And, since its launch on Amazon six months ago, it has sold a staggering, wait for it, zero copies.

That’s right: Not a single person has bought the sodding book. I think that bold type was justified, don’t you? It was either bold or capitals: NOBODY, NOT EVEN FRIENDS OR FAMILY, WILL BUY MY SODDING BOOK. Hm, I think I prefer the bold. What do you think? The capitals make it look as if I’m angry when in fact this is quite possibly the happiest day of my life (this week), but more on that later. So, anyway, you get the idea: Mikiatures has been a monumentally unqualified failure even by my own diabolically low standards. (For me, “success” means I get an enthusiastic email from a satisfied customer in Blackpool or Boston every six months or so. Dream on…).

So, what went wrong? Well, obviously there’s nothing wrong with the content, so that only leaves the title and cover to consider:

As I’m sure you’ll agree, Mikiatures is an absolutely brilliant title, playing on “Mike” and “miniatures” to produce a unique gem of a word. I then googled the title, just in case some clever clogs had already swiped it, and proceeded to register the domain “” for a bargain $9.95 in anticipation of massive reader interest in years to come. After that, I scoured the net – great word “scour”, isn’t it? – in search of an equally brilliant cover photo, and eventually stumbled upon the perfect picture: a colourful combination of flowers, globes, computer mice, Ws... It had everything Mikiatures was about: travelling the world, reaching out to others, being at one with nature, fighting with technology… it even had the Ws which could be read as Ms, or Ms which could be read as Ws down under. Yes, this was the one!

So I bought the photo for a bargain 20 euros – I’m so legal I still pay for my multimedia products despite living in a pirates’ paradise – and added a couple of final touches: the Spanish, British and Basque flags to show what a global citizen I am (a friendly wink to my huge Basque fanbase); the perfectly positioned Mikiatures in Trebuchet size 54 dark green font to match the Ms and/or Ws in the picture… and Bob’s your uncle!

Finally, I added:
50 stories . . . of 200 words . . . in 5200 seconds

a novel audio book

by Mike Church
 (the ‘dayrealing’ dude)

How I sweated over those 200 words in every story! Boy was it hard to make those audios exactly 5200 seconds! (Impossible, in fact: the audios came out to 4274 seconds, a truly naff number if ever there was one. Anyway, I hope you can keep that little secret?). Whatever, my adoring readers needed to know that a LOT of thought and British brain cells had gone into this work.

Moreover, I reckoned if Randy Ingermanson could call himself “the Snowflake Guy”,  there was no reason why I shouldn’t be “the ‘dayrealing’ dude”, assuming – mistakenly of course – that sales of my debut novel, dayrealing, would be shooting through the roof by now. Yes, I was well pleased with the result. This was surely a megahit in the making? Well, nearly. “Megashit” was the word because – did I tell you this? – I still haven’t sold a single copy of my masterpiece.

It’s a terrible title, and those flowers do nothing for me,’ said my wife, who has never been known for beating about the bush. Or flowers. Whilst no self-respecting would-be-writer will ever admit that his wife knows, er, – how can I put this? – more about writing than he does, I decided to swallow what’s left of my pride and follow her advice. Besides, in the meantime, my wonderful publisher had decided to give dayrealing an overhaul:

OUT went those silly upside-down balloons, cleverly representing a topsy-turvy surreal world together with the main character’s eternal dream to learn to ski in the Swiss Alps; and out went that silly title too. Ouch! I loved that title! Hey, I lived that title!

IN came the churches, in came the schools; in came the lawyers, in came the rules. Hang on a minute, that’s Dire Straits, isn’t it? I’ll try again… In came a picture of a good-looking young man, together with a far more sophisticated title: Huh?

‘How the foog do you pronounce Oog?’ asked my wife.

‘Yes, something like that,’ I replied before adding, ‘Or, better still, buy English for Monosyllabic People, coming soon to an Amazon near you.’

‘Piss off.’

‘That’s Lesson 20, “Let’s be rude!” ’

As if the total makeover wasn’t bad enough, Huh? has since sold considerably better than dayrealing, suggesting that my publisher knows even more about marketing than I do! [On a serious note, thanks a lot, Tim and Kathleen – great job! Do you think I should now rebrand myself as “the ‘Huh?’ hunk”?]

So I decided to do the same with Mikiatures. OUT went the brilliant title and superb cover art, and IN came a suspiciously familiar title, an inevitably Spainful pun, a few random tags and colours for Amazon (50, fifty, shades, grey, Spain, teaching, stories), plus a random cover photo which I liked and bought for a very reasonable €22:

Yes, I know: Shameless! You see, according to the experts – and there are loads of the bastards out there –, the whole point of the front cover is NOT to show what your book is about or how clever you are (or think you are), but rather to draw your would-be reader to the cover copy:

If you were hoping to find a primer on Iberian bondage techniques, you will surely be disappointed by this multicoloured collection of thoughts, anecdotes and stories about home life, school life and street life in anarchic northern Spain.

'fifty shades of Spain'
- a teacher's torrid tale in fifty simple lessons

by Mike Church
- 'Spanglish for Impatient People'

And the blurb’s objective is, of course, to get the would-be reader to buy your sodding book. Cover, Copy, Client! CCC! Sí, Sí, Sí!

Well, time will tell whether this new look makes any difference to my retirement plans but, in the meantime let’s try to carry on enjoying life as best we can, shall we? Oh, and here’s an extract:

The Ties That Bind

‘One of my students said she’d never heard of “identifying relative clauses”.’

‘Oh? Who was that?’

‘You know, the one who’s going out with the butcher’s assistant.’

‘You mean the bald bloke who works down at B and M?’

‘Isn’t that the supermarket where you give classes, Mick?’

‘No, that’s M and B. B and M is where Jill works.’


‘Yeah, Jill. You know, the new girl with the big, er . . .’

‘Big what, Dick?’

‘Never mind. Did any of you lot see that documentary last night?’

‘Which one?’

‘The one about those poor wildebeest that kept getting attacked by cheetahs.’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘Well, apparently—’

‘We’ve seen it, Dick! Every documentary these days is about some poor animal or other that gets ripped to
shreds by lions or tigers.’

‘Well, these were cheetahs.’

‘Or cheetahs. So what’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison?’

‘You can’t wash your face in a buffalo?’

‘Ha ha ha. Well, according to Wiki—’

‘Oh Lord! Is that the time? I’d better be going.’

‘Hey, remember that time you missed your bus and ended up hitching a lift home with that farmer?’

‘Which farmer?’ . . .

fifty shades of Spain, 38. The Ties That Bind
Thanks for reading J


  1. What an awful title!
    Nice one mate, this post alone will gather in the punters, I'd bet my breakfast on it... oh, I've already eaten it.

    1. Yeah, crap title, isn't it! I much prefer Mikiatures, but one thing I'm learning (mainly from Tim) is to keep things as simple as possible. Anyway, cheers for posting, Reggie, and enjoy your breakfast :)

  2. I want that tie...well I don't really...but maybe...still - good post the Bison line made me's a cracker.

    1. Cheers, George. Yeah, I'm a real sucker for awful puns too...

      Q. What did the buffalo say to his kid when he left for school?
      A. Bye son!

      Boom! Boom!

  3. Nice one Mike and I love it. Dayrealing was an awkward title but HUH I love. When you think about it look how many revamps my books have had. x

    1. Thanks so much for *everything*, Tee xxx

    2. I've just realised that "vampire" is an anagram of "I revamp". Fascinating, huh?

      And yes, your books, particularly Eye of Erasmus, have fared better
      since you revamped them, haven't they? x

  4. Well once again Mr Church you've sent my head spinning. Top blog post. Very unique. Glad to hear Huh? is doing well. But I still can't get my head around that title, and will always have fond memories of the upside down balloons.

  5. Hi Jacoba! Thanks a million for reading, and for all your support too. Slight correction: I didn't say 'Huh?' is doing *well*; I said it's doing *better than* 'dayrealing'. But we'll get there eventually! Yes, I loved those balloons too... x