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The long hard road from anonymity…

Guess what.

My book was published at the end of January and I’m not famous yet.

I know!

Seriously, though, I’m sure we all know by now that selling books comes down to more than a matter of having a book out there. First and foremost, it has to be a good book. If you would like it to sell well, it also has to find wide appeal (and sign a movie deal). Now, that sort of thing is hard to predict. It’s a matter of giving the world what it wants when it wants it. You can’t guess this based on what’s been selling. By the time you finish your book, the world will very likely have moved on. So we come back to the good old: Write what you want to read and hope. It’s all about hope.

There is one thing that will help your book sell (once you’ve already written a good one): word-of-mouth.

But how do you get it under the noses of the kind of people who will talk about it? The obvious answer would be to approach reviewers. They have a ready-gathered audience of interested readers and they aren’t shy about singing the praises of a book they love (and they’re gonna love yours, right?). If you’ve done any research into book marketing, you’ve probably heard about Amanda Hocking and her success after sending her book out to book bloggers. Magic.

OK, so email a few bloggers, ask them (nicely) if they’d like to read your book… and listen to the resounding silence.

Yep. The reality is that book bloggers are incredibly busy. So busy that most won’t even reply to say “No, thanks.” In my experience, you might hear back from about 30% of the bloggers you approach. The good news is, most of the ones who take the time to respond do so to say “Yes”. Don’t pay off all your outstanding bills yet, though… it could still take them months to get to it (they already have a huge to-be-read pile), and they might even forget… (How could they forget? My book is awesome!).

I know, I know. Your book is awesome. They’re gonna love it. It’s hardly going to be a chore to read, it’ll be pure pleasure.

But they don’t know that until they commit to read it… but they’ve already committed to reading 100 other books, and it would be rude to put your first – all those other authors asked nicely, too.

We can come back to the other piece of advice when it comes to selling books: It’s not enough to have one great book, you need to have two, no three… no, many, many good books… then you’ll make yourself a living wage. But, yeah, I know how many years you’re going to have to commit to living in squallor (and keeping your family there) before you’ll have that kind of catalogue. Far too many. But that is what art is about. We all love to do art in one form or another. The difference between an artist and others is what the artist is willing to give up for the sake of their art. Just don’t give up your family. They’re probably the only people who will love you even if you haven’t had a pay cheque in ten years… they might gripe about it, but they do it with the love. L.O.V.E.

Ultimately, it all comes down to doing it in whatever way works for you. It is hugely important that you keep penning (or typing, of course) your next tale, and the next one… It might (No!… sadly, yes) turn out that your first effort really wasn’t all that awesome. But the great thing about writing (as with any craft) is that you tend to get better the more you do it! So keep writing.

If you’ve been finding some success with your first reviewers, then perhaps you really do have a book people will love, if only they knew about it. So certainly keep finding noses to slide it under. It’ll be disheartening. It’ll be tiring. It’ll feel like a waste of time. Until that first review comes in, and (eventually) the next… and the next…

Simple fact is, people aren’t going to come looking for you until they know you have something they want.

So keep giving them what they want (who “they” are will come down to your preferred audience… likely people who like the kind of stuff you like…), and keep trying to find “them”… If you want this (well, not this… I don’t have a this for you to want… just think of your own “this” and–), go get it!

9 thoughts on “The long hard road from anonymity…”

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. I haven’t managed to read yours, yet. But I’m working through my TBR list as quickly as possible to get to it! But thanks very much for your support.

    • Yes. It’s a long road, that’s for sure! I wouldn’t mind so much if the cost of living didn’t keep overtaking us! But it is the path we choose if we wish to do art.

  1. I don’t think there’s much more to be said really. You covered all that needs saying. There are probably thousands of pages written about how to be successful, but when it comes down to it, all that counts is writing great books that people want to read, and making sure as many of them as possible know about them.

    • Thanks, Jane.

      I think all of us are going to harbour dreams of super stardom off one book. I mean, we love writing, right? Wouldn’t it be awesome to actually be able to afford to do it full time? Besides, no matter how rare it may be, we seem to hear about it all the time… every other year or so a new literary (or not) star appears… It could be me, or you, this time, huh?

      It’s fair to dream. But we need to remind ourselves of the reality often. If you’ve got a goal to make it, though, nothing is going to beat hard work.

    • That’s right, Marlene. The reason to make art is because we can’t not make it.
      But it’s not unreasonable to hope the art you have made might pay a few bills so that it might get easier to make more! I am hopefuly, but realise it might be a few more years of pain before any sort of comfort sets in.

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