No not the Dodo – read on!
When it comes to that book we as writers have spent many months working on, sooner or later we are all presented with the same conundrum. Will it sell, bearing in mind that this business is extremely fickle?
Daily I see countless writers both new and old, endlessly talking/blogging about spending not only a considerable amount of time and effort, but also their hard earned money, on a book they wrote some time back that simply isn’t selling, in the vain hope that what they’re doing will increase it’s chances in today’s saturated market. In short we’re talking about idiots!
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until the day I die. If your book doesn’t work, no amount of spending money on changing its cover or having it properly edited, together with purchasing a number of copies of the new version from your publisher to give away in a book store or writer’s convention in the vain hope of promoting it to an already jaded public, will make one iota of difference in the end. What you are doing is flogging a dead horse!
Despite what so many still foolishly believe, the fact that you have availed yourself of the services of an editor and maybe even a publicist, or perhaps you have spent money having it’s cover, hook and link added to one of the countless number of book advertising web pages who demand payment for your doing so, spending your own money before the first sale has even taken place. Or maybe you even shelled out yet more money by employing a professional reviewer to help kickstart your book’s chances. Even then, using all of these options still doesn’t guarantee sales. No marketing strategy ever does, no matter how professional it may appear to be to the average man or woman.
There is no magic formula for literary success.
In the end, the only thing that does matter when it comes to sales, is whether or not the story in question actually appeals. It’s immaterial that you and your immediate family circle and close friends loved it. After all, you and they are too close to it to be objective.
So, what might the discerning reader be looking for? I can’t speak for others, but when I am perusing the millions of books currently available, first of all I narrow down my search to the genre that has appealed to me my entire life. Next, I totally ignore the often gawdy covers, if I want to look at pretty pictures I’ll buy a glossy magazine, published for air-heads who don’t read!
Instead I begin with a book’s hook. If what I’m reading intrigues me, bearing in mind that as a successful science fiction writer, I am extremely hard to please these days, then and only then will I read the first few pages. If I feel that the story appears to show promise, I’ll buy a copy. If not, I move on to the next one.
Oh, and before you ask – no I don’t take any notice of a particular book’s reviews, no matter whether they are good, bad or indifferent. Unlike the vast majority, aka ‘The Great Unwashed’, I prefer to make up my own mind. The other thing to remember is that having enjoyed reading a specific work, when I see another by the same author, I will always seriously consider it.
What do I mean when I say does a book appeal? There is nothing mysterious or complicated about it. If a story has been carefully thought out. If it builds towards a climax, with the odd red herring thrown in for good measure. If the characters and their relationships with one another are believable. Then and only then do I consider that any given book appeals/works.
There are a few other things to remember. In this business, to succeed you have to gain a reputation as a storyteller – not an easy thing to achieve. To do that first you have to have written several books, preferably honing your skills with each one. Normally your first few won’t do it for you. Secondly, you will find that even though your book or books are beginning to be read as a result of those free giveaway promotions, (more often than not by tightwads) there is no guarantee that you’re book(s) will actually sell in their thousands, meaning that you will earn serious royalties. Even if they do sell, the chances of more than ten to a dozen copies per year is slight, no matter how much time, effort and money you may have put in to promoting them.
Only one of mine ever became a best seller. Because of it, I earned that most elusive of epithets from my fellow published writers – consumate storyteller.
At the risk of repeating myself – unlike so many of you today, never once have I pinned my hopes on whether or not any of my covers appeal. What ultimately matters is what’s contained within any given book’s pages, and whether or not the story actually appeals. Remember, in this game you are only as good as your last book…