What I'm reading: Heaven on Earth by Lori Avocato; Untraceable, by Laura Griffin.
I'd received an alert that a local author acquaintance, Beth Groundwater, was going to be doing a program at one of the branches of the Pikes Peak Library District. I figured it was time to mingle with people interested in reading and writing, and plugged the address into my GPS. With only one or two moments of uncertainty, I arrived at the library.
First, I was impressed. Not only was it a large, modern building, but it was busy. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when you'd think people would be out adventuring. On the drive in, I noticed the first parking lot said, "overflow parking." I did find a slot in the main lot, but on the way out, both lots were full and cars lined the access road.
The second surprise I got was that this wasn't simply an author doing a program. It was an entire 6 hour mini-conference, an annual "Mountain of Authors" meeting. I knew I couldn't stay all day, but I found Beth, who introduced me to some of the library folks, and I felt like a writer. I picked up information about local writing groups, and chatted with people about writing, doing programs, and participating in their groups. I'd almost forgotten how warm and welcoming writers are.
The first panel was on "How to Get Your First Book Published" with a panel of an agent, an editor, and a first-time author. Although I'm not exactly an unpublished author, the discussion brought out the pitfalls and vagaries of the publishing industry. I sat beside a woman who was trying to get a book published, and she seemed impressed that I had already "made it." But that's not the case. In some ways, I'm in worse shape than an unpublished author.
How? Why? I have four books in print, with a fifth on the way in July, and a sixth scheduled for June 2011. Of these six, five are also available as digital editions.
I'm not going to ask for a show of hands here, but this is the business side. No guilt trip intended. How many of you have actually gone out and bought one of my books? My guess is very few. Lots of reasons. Price. Not your genre of choice. You read the 1st chapter on my website and were less than impressed. But what if I write the sort of book you do like to read. What are the potholes?
Bottom line, they're hard to find and require special effort on the part of the buyer. I'm no different from the next guy—if I go to the bookstore for a book, I'm a hundred times more likely to pick up something that's there rather than mosey up to the customer service desk and ask, "What's a good (insert genre here) book that you'd recommend, even though I'll have to wait a week to get it?" A tad more likely, but still remote, would be, "Do you have anything by author X; I've heard her name but don't see any books on the shelf."
Mail order via the mega-stores like B&N, Borders or Amazon is a little easier, but it's still an extra step. And almost everyone who I meet who seems interested in my books will say, "Is it at the bookstore?" The answer, "Yes, but only if you ask, and even then, the store might not want to order it," is honest, but doesn't sell books.
The above potholes lead to the jacknifed semi that closes down the highway. Using my case as an example: I'm published with small-press publishers. Two of them target the digital market first, and one the library market. Say I approach an agent and say I've written 5 books, they've been well received by reviewers, and have come away with some awards. Is that an instant in? Not hardly.
(Picture copyright 2007 Hopnews.com)
The first thing they're going to do is look up the number of sales of my books. Low numbers equate to a death knell. Or at least an extended stay in ICU. So, landing an agent, who will then have to sell the book to a publisher who is also going to look at those numbers—it's an uphill climb. Same goes for those who choose to self-publish thinking it's a foot in the door. It can be, but not without some solid numbers demonstrating good sales.
So, as I sit and wait to hear from the agents and editors who have my two manuscripts under consideration, I have to understand that even though the books might be what they're looking for (and that's another story, because what I'm writing targets a very tight market with countless well-known authors already taking up most of the slots), the fact that I am already a "failure" by publishing standards can come back to bite me.
Am I ready to call it quits? Not by a long shot. Being surrounded by writers at all stages always inspires me, even if the marketing side is a challenge. And I'm happiest when I writing. I'll be posting more later in the week.
Tomorrow, my guest is Robie Madison who's going to talk about transformation. Be sure to come back.
As always, if you've found this interesting, please share.