A Breakthrough? 10

Murder in Samarkand has sold remarkably well for a book that has been almost entirely confined to a single spine-on copy, on the bottom shelf of the politics department. To date it has sold about 15,000. But given that, for most readers, the material it contains is eye-openingly explosive about the behaviour of government in the Bush/Blair “War on Terror”, that is not anywhere near the potential. That is especially so as all fifteen customer reviews on amazon.co.uk so far (some under paperback and some under hardback) have been five star.

In today’s book market, it is only really possible to sell more if you get in to the front of house promotions in the chain bookstores. I have been working desperately at that for a year. So you might imagine that this cheered me up. My publisher has just sent me this email:

” I’m very pleased to report that continued sales efforts have resulted in Murder in Samarkand being selected for Waterstone’s 3 for 2 Summer Reading promotion. This means that in the top 260 Waterstone’s branches, the book will be displayed in the promotional area at front of store. Waterstone’s have reordered over 900 extra copies to ensure greater visibility. This, coupled with the 3 for 2 offer, will increase sales, which continue to repeat well across the board. The Waterstone’s promotion started on 17 May and runs for one month. If sales are good, it will continue beyond mid-June.”

With John Reid musing about a State of Emergency to round up “suspects”, to virtually no media outcry, I think it is never more urgent to get over the naked and shocking truth about the “War on Terror”; the poor intelligence it is based on, the underlying agenda of its supporters, and the harsh machiavellianism of the government. I think, from readers’ reaction, that Murder in Samarkand gets that through to people’s hearts and minds, through a personal story, in a way that distinguished academic or journalistic surveys don’t always achieve. That is not to decry the other excellent books out there, particularly Moazzam Begg, Robert Fisk and Stephen Grey.

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10 thoughts on “A Breakthrough?

  • Craig

    Incidentally, ref my post below on paranoia, the email from my London publisher arrived with a "received" timing of 22.58 on Friday night, which seems somewhat improbable.

  • case

    Craig – I came across this interesting and successful PledgeBank pledge (link is on my handle, above) which might be an interesting way for you to help the ol' book sales. It says:

    "I will arrange for my MP to receive a copy of Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion" but only if 645 other people (one per UK constituency) will do the same for other MPs"

    Might Murder in Samarkand be dropped into a similar model?

  • kazbel

    hasty advertisements now appear at:

    and, though it's somewhat unlikely, at

    Not all readers are well off so I suggested second hand copies and libraries as well. For a site that definitely has North American readers (not all of whom will be knowledgeable about politics), I added links to a couple of North American on-line booksellers – Indigo, the Canadian site, is probably best for new British books but I don't know if there's any problem with shipping to U.S. addresses.

    Good luck – and I hope this helps.

  • Craig

    Many thanks. Any bright ideas others have to help are very welcome too.


  • quasimodomouse


    I work for Powell's Books in Portland, OR. I've been reading your site for quite some time and very much enjoy the insights you provide. I also have the utmost respect for your stand on the Samarkand issues.

    We have a difficult time getting copies of books that aren't carried by US distributors. I'm trying to put together an order so I can display your book as a "staff recommendation". If you look at the website it says we can order the book but only for shipping or prepaid in-store pickup. I would rather have actual copies in the actual store though.

    Thanks again for all the hard work.


  • Strategist

    Wait till the movie! Then the very same system will be working in your favour…

    The Michael Winterbottom film about Daniel Pearl (starring Angelina Jolie) is certainly getting rave reviews at Cannes…

    I'm currently reading "The Great War for Civilisation" by Robert Fisk, which you mention as one of the good books out there at the mo. I'd like to endorse that – it's a humdinger at >1,000 pages but it is utterly, utterly, essential basic information about the Middle East over the last 40/80 years that we should all know. All visitors to this site should be aware of the book, but please know that the story told is truly horrific and mindbogglingly depressing, and profoundly shaming to anyone in UK or US who has not previously bothered to look too closely into what our govts has been doing in that region over the years.

    I'm currently up to the bit where, after he was beaten by refugees in Afghanistan, he was looked after by the Pearls in Pakistan. I don't know if Fisk appears in Winterbottom's movie, but I hope he does! Have you ever met him, Craig??

  • topulatis

    >With John Reid musing about a State of

    >Emergency to round up "suspects", to

    >virtually no media outcry, I think it is

    >never more urgent to get over the naked

    >and shocking truth about the "War on


    if it hadn't happened it would be hard to believe that the main news on BBC1 last night reported the lasted wheeze – stop and search without the need for suspicion of anything – in such brevity and with such nonchalance.

    then again, perhaps it would be quite easy to believe after all…

  • brucewhitehead

    Waterstones on Princes St Edinburgh said they had 5 copies on display; I found one and it's on its way to a relative in the US. I will be requesting that my local library buy it too.

  • Nyrone

    Dear Craig,

    I had been putting off reading the book for a while…but after hearing your brilliant and passionate speeches at a number of anti-war rallies, I bought it a few days ago and am currently on page 103…..Craig: This is a bloody amazing book! I can't understand why it has not sold better, posibly because of the over-saturated marketplace, either way….I was laughing and simultaneously pulling my hair out this morning on the train at Clapham Junction while reading it! You have an incredible style as a writer, and I just want to say THANK YOU for exposing them, trusting your feelings and giving us this account, I have huge respect for people like yourself that have stood up for what you believe in, and I see that people like Harold Pinter and John Pilger agree…

    I also want to commend you on being so honest about beautiful women! Most 'serious' political writers are too dry, this made the book so much funnier and enjoyable, because I empathise with you so much more because of it! Congratulations again, and I hope you will continue to write and truly serve your country…


  • Craig


    Thank you very much. Your lausghing and simultaneously pulling your hair out at Clapham Junction is a great advert for the book!

    It was a calculated risk to write in such an open style, and expose my weaknesses as well as my strengths. But I think the lesson – that a very "ordinary" person, not a moral crusader, could not stomach what the government was doing – is important. It does seem to have worked. I still feel desperate over sales, though.

    What page are you on now?

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