As an author, I get several invitations a month from my publisher to participate in library and book conventions. They all come with a price tag, some of them reasonable and some of them out of this world. None of my previous publishers presented me with this “opportunity,” so I’ve made a few investments. I have no idea whether or not this marketing has any punch, but I’ve dipped my toe in the water to find out.
The traditional way of pitching books – once publishers stopped supporting their authors – is to depend upon word of mouth from friends. But that doesn’t get a writer far. Friends might recommend your book to one or two others if it comes up in conversation, but that’s as far as the promotion goes. This “friends” talk is called a “pocket audience” in the trade. The sales stop after Aunt Minnie is Kansas asks her local library to purchase your book so she can read it. Pocket audiences represent anywhere from 1 to 400 books sales.
Do the math. A writer with a good contract gets 10% of the book’s retail price. A $16.00 book pays a royalty of $1.60 under this scenario. No author who lives in the “pocket” world ever makes money because it takes a lot of $1.60s to cover the cost of mailing books to reviewers, paying to participate in book fairs and being foolish enough to hire an editor (Blog 4/13/16) to make sure the work is of standard quality.
Still, word of mouth is important, so I’m willing to try one or two of the strategies my publisher recommends. I’m not holding my breath, though. As yet I’ve found no successful way to attract an audience on a large scale. Lightning has to strike.
Today I got an email from a friend who just finished my new novel, Ballet Noir:
I started reading your book 2 days ago and truly couldn’t put it down. You did such a magnificent job!!! I loved it, and not just because you’re my friend. I read a lot, so I’m pretty picky, and I just thought this book was wonderful. The characters were believable and easy to relate to, the dialogue was convincing, and I just loved all the mystical elements…
Okay, I’ve admitted she’s my friend. But I’m making a point. Where I need to see these wonderful words isn’t in my email but on Amazon, Good Reads, and Barnes & Noble. Writers dream of making new friends and old friends are vital in helping us find them.
(Originally published 5/16/16)