After publication, an author enters into a satellite world with a new set of concerns and projects. It is an unwelcome diversion from the devotion of writing, but in order to be a professional author, you have to encourage the sale of your books. So you can write another one.
When I was wallowing in innocence, I took seriously the advice from those “10 Ways to Sell A Million Books” articles. From this vantage point, five months after the release date of my book, most of those articles are looking ridiculous, or maybe “craven” is the better word.
Below are my reflections on what works and what doesn’t, but I will give you my final conclusion first. The world has not changed as much as we think it has. People buy a book because they hear good things about it from people other than the author. As my good friend, the author Joan Price puts it, “People hear about you once, twice, three times, and finally say ‘Hey, I have to get that book.’’”
So if you are on seven radio shows, make a dozen bookstore appearances, and have five or six articles about you, that may be just the first few touches. The best results will always come through people telling their friends they liked the book.
The most fruitful place for connection for me has been Facebook. The first thing I did was narrow down the focus of my contacts. I wanted to be sure that I really wanted to hear what each contact had to say. So now I have more contacts, but they are more interesting and productive.
The author page is even further focused. I feel free to indulge in more purely literary discussions and post things of interest to bibliophiles.
On Facebook I can comment on other peoples’ work and help and encourage them in their projects. I can provide information and updates, and in return can ask for information or advice myself. The Facebook community flows in two directions.
Not as many salespeople try to “friend” me on Facebook as try to “follow” me on Twitter. Most Twitter “follows” are people who offer to provide a marketing service. Most “friends” on Facebook have something in common.
I have dismissed the advice to “post often.” One fellow author sends me two or three notifications per week on Goodreads or elsewhere. It feels like harassment. I have subscribed to a publicist’s once-a-week posts, and they have become predictable and repetitive. They do usually have a morsel of good advice, but I have to balance the value of that morsel against the time it takes to read introductory paragraphs about her dog, her recommendations of Webinars by fabulous presenters who (I have learned, after following her leads) bore me to death before I reach the useful nugget. She is probably making a cut of what the presenter makes, so all of her recommendations ring hollow. Then, finally, I get some useful information.
On the other hand, there are some people, like my fellow author N. West Moss (blog, The Writing Life) whose posts are rare and wonderful. Every time she writes, she has something to say, and says it beautifully.
Amazon reviews don’t appear to have lifted sales. I have to play the Amazon game up to a point, but the game itself is smoke and mirrors. I give credit to Amazon for being one of two sources which give an author an idea of how well the book is selling. The other source is NovelRank.com, which will inform you how many books you have sold on Amazon. Amazon itself will only tell you where you rank among other authors in your category, not how many books you have sold. Ranking high in a small category means you are selling far fewer books than someone who ranks lower in a larger category.
I am a few weeks away from my first royalty check. Until I receive that, I will not know how many people have wandered into book shops across the country and bought this book, or bought them on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or sites other than Amazon. At the moment I am left ruminating upon the fact that my book is number 24 in its category on Kobo, while I am 1,034,000th among overall books on Amazon. What does that mean? One day I was 1,335,00th overall on Amazon. Then NovelRank indicated that I had sold one book, and the next day I was at 335,000th. That math is just weird.
I feel more than ever that one must just do good work, follow the bread crumbs, and enjoy the journey.