Friday, November 18, 2011

One is a Lonely Number

THEY are only going to read one of your books. THEY being your relatives, siblings, associates, fellow workers, acquaintances, folks you meet at the coffee shop, the paper delivery boy.

With earnest promotion THEY will expand to include fellow panelists, reviewers, other writers you meet at conferences, blogmates, librarians, and persons tasked with providing programs for local clubs.

The cold hard truth is that we can promote by every method known to man and beast, and if a reader doesn’t just love our book, he or she will move on to some other author.

That’s what I do. Sometimes it has very little to do with the quality of the writing. I’m enough of a writer/critic/editor to sometimes recognize excellence in books I don’t really like. I can admire the craftsmanship and skill involved, but for some mysterious reason, am not engaged enough to shell out real money for another book in that series.

Part of the rationale for going to conferences, participating in blogs, and pursuing social media contacts is the possibility of connecting with a real live fan. There’s no feeling like someone who rushes up and thrusts one of our books at us. The blessed soul wants us to sign it. They tell us they actually like or even love our books and can’t wait for the next one. They respectfully ask for an autograph.

It’s elusive, this reason why people just “love” an author. Frankly, it takes an unusual voice to entice me to buy fiction, because so much of my book-buying budget goes toward research books.
It’s disappointing when I recommend a book I’m nuts over and another person simply yawns.
Years ago, my agent told me publishers can’t hype a book onto the best-seller list. It takes buzz. And luck. Don’t forget about luck. Publishers try really hard. But all the publicity in the world can’t make a reader buy a book.

The industry can’t account for flukes either. As writers and readers we chuckle when editors are knocked flat by books no one wanted to publish. Harry Potter comes to mind. Who knew kids would want to read 800 page books? Who knew a really, really obscure tome, The Name of the Rose, would become a best-seller? Or that the nearly 900 page book written my a 90 year old woman, Ladies of the Club would stay on the New York Times list month after month.

All is not lost forever, if a series has tough sledding. Twice lately, I’ve read books in a series that were really, really good, but I didn’t just love them. Then the author wrote a knock-em-dead standalone, and I became a fan and spent real money for their next title. I tell friends and family until they feel hounded some times.

So we slog on hoping to entice a reader and delight in the possibility of connecting with a fan who will buy one, two, three books in our series. It happens. Publishing is not an arena for the faint-hearted.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

That one can keep building to 100, then 1000.