Today Utrecht, Tomorrow the World

My agent, god bless her, sent me this the other day:

This from a blog reader in the Netherlands to me today:

Walked into the biggest bookshop in Utrecht at the weekend to find Jeff Somers’ The Electric Church standing centre-stage on the main display rack. Read the first page and was completely blown away. Bought it immediately.

Thinking back on the way my first novel, Lifers, disappeared under the waves years ago, to have my book sitting on a shelf in the freakin’ Netherlands is pretty cool. To have people in the freakin’ Netherlands buying my book after reading the first page feels almost hallucinatory. Thank god for heartless capitalist conglomerates that rule the world with a rusty iron fist! Or something.

Lifers was published by a tiny, tiny company, of course, which offered exactly zero marketing and PR support. They sent out review copies (heck, the New York Times reviewed it) and put it in their catalogs, but that was about the limit of their support. I knew that going in, and thought I’d be able to do a lot of homespun promotion. I did my best – I put together a little reading tour which was pretty successful as far as those things go, I got some press. Still, I think at the height of my efforts you could count the number of bookstores stocking the novel on two hands, and as you can probably guess, Lifers-mania never exactly swept the nation.

The difference between rubbing yourself raw dragging yourself from bookstore to bookstore to do readings and beg for shelf space and waking up one morning, pouring yourself a nice cup of coffee and bourbon, and discovering your book is in a store halfway across the world is startling. And pleasant. Carry on.


  1. Paul

    It is well deserved publicity. As I’ve said in a previous post, it was a great novel.

    Think about it this way… this sort of publicity for TEC will, in turn, give YOU publicity. I.E.: people who read (and like) TEC will be looking to read other things by you. (Hopefully) They will read your sample chapter of Lifers, and VIOLA!… added sales. 🙂

    P.S. – Is that post about 50% off, for direct purchases, still active?

  2. jsomers (Post author)

    Hey Paul,

    Thanks again! As for publicity, let’s hope so, if only so I can sell the few hundred copies of Lifers I still have in my attic.

    While my sad memory doesn’t recall the exact offer you mean, I stand by all my drunken offers, so: Yes! Whatever I said I’d do still stands. Just remind me.


  3. Paul Riddell

    Look at the bright side: at least Lifers got published. Not to sound overly cranky, but I had a two-book contract with the same publisher, and he sat on them both for two years, repeatedly lied to me about release dates, and was generally too busy editing two magazines and preening for publicity photos for both to do anything. You learned something about publicity, and I learned something about what happens when you let fanboys play editor. And so it goes.

  4. jsomers (Post author)

    Mistah Riddell,

    I definitely look on the bright side–“Lifers” did indeed publish, it actually got printed, it got reviewed and it did sit on shelves for a while. The Barnes & Noble on 23rd street in Manhattan actually had 2 copies on its shelves until 2006. I know because I went there every day at lunch and checked each time.

    Sadly, I think you learn something new (and unpleasant) with each publishing adventure. By the time you’re wise enough to negotiate the perfect deal, you’re likely too old to write.

    With “Lifers” the tiny publishing company was just entering a chaotic death-spiral when they published me, transforming into a shady vanity press in an effort to pay bills. I got the first 1/3 of my advance right on time, but then nothing for a year or two. My wife took to calling the president of the company every day for like two months, and finally we got a check in the mail.

    And the kicker was, after they finally went out of business, they contacted me and asked if I wanted to buy extra copies of my book for 75% off cover price, or else they would be mulched. So I bought a few hundred for posterity, thinking myself wise. A month later, they offered me more remaining copies–miraculously unmulched–for $1 each. I didn’t bite because I now had 300 copies sitting in the attic, which I figured would last a lifetime. Then, a month or so after that, they contacted me again offering copies for 25 cents apiece! So even as the cold hand of death dragged them down, they were screwing me over. Sigh.

  5. Diamat

    Feel the love from Library Thing:

    I just finished this book last night. I picked it up in part because of the cover art. I kept it at the top of my reading pile because of the web site ( I felt it lived up to the hype. One detail I particularly enjoyed was his fragmented chapter titles. I look forward to more from Jeff Somers.
    User: redheaddread | Oct 23, 2007

  6. jsomers (Post author)


    I love the love. Living up to the hype is, indeed, one of my goals in life. Thankfully, on a personal scale, the hype is actually kind of subdued, so I don’t normally have a problem there.


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