Friday, January 20, 2012

Don’t Wait For the Fairy Godmother to Sell Your Books!

I recently responded to a thread on a writer help site, Absolute Write, where people had asked about Briona Glen, the publisher of my first two mystery novels, A Memory of Grief and A Fall From Grace. So awhile back I posted a few times in the spirit of sharing information. Some took issues with things I'd said, or what they'd thought I'd said. A few were out-and-out idiots, who live in some sort of bizarro fantasy world. Some of these folks had posted hundreds or even thousands of messages on the site. I suggested they should rather attend writer conferences (like I did), and talk to actual working writers (like I did) to get their data, rather than form their beliefs based on outdated paradigms.

But a new posting asked how it had worked out for me, so I responded-- I said I was happy, because I've got my second good novel now out, and am selling books, doing what I want, working hard at promotion, and having great success. I said that as an independent, I'd easily make more money this year than the average lowball midlist advance from a NY publisher-- roughly $5000, minus 15% for an agent, leaving the writer with $4250 (before taxes). So to beat that, I only have to sell a couple of thousand copies, which we plan on doing this year.

Another writer who'd published with a different small press was incredulous that someone could make such kingly sums, since they obviously hadn't. So I explained how and why that would happen, that I was working to sell and promote my books.

And another poster responded thusly:
"Most authors don't have the time, money, or inclination to work that hard at promotion, and they need to rely on a solid publisher who has good contacts, puts a lot of time and money into marketing and promoting their titles."
--Wow. Right to the top of the stupid charts.

Money? I got none, so that's not even an issue-- unless you think an extra printer cartridge and a tank of gas or two is too much for you to spend on promoting your work. (Amazing what you can get done over the phone and Internet.)

So-- writers should wait for a fairy godmother to sell their books? This idiot mindset is what Barry Eisler and Michael Stackpole (Swimming Lessons for House Slaves: No one will swim for you) were talking about in their discussions of certain author attitudes, a sort of Stockholm Syndrome, and another mentality you can read about, on JA Konrath's site.

But this poster says that once an author passes off a book to a publisher, the author should sit back on their ass and wait for someone else to sell their books for them.
--So where are these legions of do-gooder, fairy godmother publishers scrambling to do all they can for lazy authors? Man, I would love for someone to put a lot of time and money into making money for me.
Volunteers? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Oh, yeah, that's I went with a small press.
Because fairy godmothers are damned hard to find in this biz.

Expecting that you need to do little to sell your books is akin to having a retirement plan that consists entirely of buying lottery tickets. It might happen, but the odds are rather against it, and it may not be the smartest thing to do. On the other hand, if you have a working plan and continue to work at it, it's a wee bit more likely to reach your goals than just sitting and wishing.

Brings to mind a quote by Edison: “Most people don't recognize opportunity when it comes, because it's usually dressed in overalls and looks a lot like work.”

Most of the people who expect someone else to do the work for them aren't going to go very far. And this person encouraging that mindset is doing a disservice. --But it may be even worse than that. The person posting might be a publisher, certainly looks like it from their profile. This goes beyond self-serving to the truly slimy. "Don't worry your pretty little head, author. We publishers will do all that hard stuff for you, so you can sit back and count the money rolling in."
Lot of self-serving jerks preying on gullible, naïve writers. Telling them they "need to rely on a solid publisher." --"Forget all that self-reliance crap, kid-- just sign with us. We'll make you a star!"

Writers do not "need" and should not wait for, a fairy godmother to sell their books. They "should" study the business, find out what efforts make success more likely, make a plan, and do the steps (and the hard work) required. Ain't no guarantees, but it's a hell of a lot more likely than expecting someone else to do it for you.

If that sounds hard, remember the quote from the Tom Hanks character in A League of Their Own-- "Of course it's hard! It's supposed to be hard! If it wasn't, everybody would be doing it!"

'Nuff said.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you, Dale. I promote my book everywhere I go. I'm also lining up my own book signings at local bookstores, and I have a contact with the local newspaper who is going to be putting my appearances in the Arts & Entertainment section of the Sunday paper. (Circulation is over 500,000.) It is a lot of work, but like you say, no one is going to do it for you. I use all the tools at my disposal to get my name and my book in front of potential readers. Great post.