Do you know, when I first started writing aeons ago when cave men used pigments on stone walls, people kept telling me, “If you want to be published, write a good book.” Quality, according to them, was your only concern. If your book was good, someone would buy it. I’ve been on writing panels where I hear writers spout that same wisdom. Do I agree? Bull Pucky!
I’ve met wonderful writers who knock their heads against the Great Wall of Publishing. Why? Publishers are concerned with making money. Can’t blame them. They can’t keep their profits afloat each time a child believes and claps his hands. It worked for Tinker Bell, but businesses have to pay attention to the bottom line. I understand that. I just wish publishers embraced mid-list writers a little more. Everyone’s looking for the “BIG” book these days. Or the latest trend. I used to be perfectly happy buying a lot of mid-list authors.
Mid-list probably still wouldn’t help me sell. I seem to be one of those writers who’s always writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. There are authors who hit the hot trend at its upswing and ride it to success. I’m not one of them. I’m one of the writers who gets notes from editors who say, “love your writing, but can’t buy this. The market’s glutted.”
I’m not trying to pierce anyone’s balloon, but if you write what an editor has too many of and the market’s shrinking, it doesn’t matter if your writing’s topnotch. No one’s going to buy your stuff. That used to be the end of it. You tossed your book in a drawer and gave up on it. These days, you can try your hand at self-publishing. That’s what I did, and I’m happy about it. But…here I go again…if you go that route, you’d better be ready to learn some marketing. Because there are a LOT of books on Amazon or smashwords or Barnes & Noble or wherever it is you decide to try. And if your field was glutted with publishers, it’s going to be even more glutted online. So you have to figure out a way to help readers find you. My stab at marketing? I started this blog, made an author’s Facebook page, made a webpage, and joined twitter. Did it help me find readers? Darned if I know. Did it make my sales go up? Not that I’ve noticed. But I’ve made lots of online friends whom I enjoy and appreciate AND learn from. I still had to turn to some advertising sites, though, to promote my books when they went up…with mixed success.
Another truth, some people are going to dislike or hate whatever you do, and it rankles and hurts at first, but it’s okay. You can’t please everyone. Some writers say your novel is too bland if a few people don’t trash it. But hopefully, eventually more readers will find it who’ll appreciate it.
Things I’ve learned:
1. I should have started with a series. And I should have put up three books in that series in quick succession.
2. Book covers matter. Make yours good! Make them fit your genre, and make each book in a series have the “feel” of the other books in the series.
3. It helps to post things more often than not to remind readers that your characters are doing interesting things that they’ll enjoy. Some writers post novellas between their books just to keep their readers happy. Or they post out-takes from their novels or short snippets from a minor character’s POV. I’ve tried that with my webpage. I’m not sure how successful that’s been, but then, I did everything wrong, so doing a few things right isn’t going to take right away.
4. Marketing is essential. Twitter helps, but I can’t say that I’ve sold a lot of books because I tweet. I have, however, learned a lot from other generous writers on twitter–things that have proven helpful. I love writing my blog, but I’m not sure it’s helped me sell books. Again, though, I’ve met some interesting, wonderful people. My author facebook page is still a mystery to me, but I’m getting more comfortable on it. For the first time ever, I sent out an e-mail newsletter to people who signed up to receive it, and my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if she’d have heard all the cussing involved in setting up my account and campaign on MailChimp. I’m no computer guru, and every time I have to learn something new, it’s a challenge. MailChimp felt more like torture, but I love the results. Too soon to know if it’s effective or not, but it’s my attempt at reaching READERS.
5. Writing a good book might not help you sell your first book or find a publisher or an agent, but it WILL help you sell the second one in the series. Readers know quality when they meet it. So make your book the best it can be.
This isn’t an all-inclusive post. It’s an end-of-the-year look back at what worked and didn’t work for me. I hope 2014 was good to you, and I hope 2015 is even better. Keep writing and good luck!