Thursday, March 16, 2017

How do I stay published with lackluster sales?

I am a published author (4 books published by major houses) and have a poor sales record. My agent has shopped my last two manuscripts without any offers or real interest from editors. Is it me, or is it my manuscripts? When editors are pitched books by authors with lackluster sales, is there any hope? Or would it be advisable to pitch the book under a pseudonym, as if I were a debut author?

The first rule of Real World of Publishing is this:
Selling a book is easy; Staying published isn't easy at all.

I repeat this to disbelieving interns and agents every single year. After they've been in the trenches for a couple years they slink into my office and  hiss "yanno, I thought you were just an old curmudgeon, but you really were right about that." Then we have a drink. Or ten.

But I digress.

Since I know your work, and like it, it's not your books.
It's your sales record.

A new name is only going to help you once, if that.

You are now at an important junction in your professional writing life.
How hard are you willing to work to stay published?
If you only want to write books and not do a lot of marketing, you're going to take a different path than if you want to stay published by a large publisher. Think of it as stepping down to the minor leagues to keep playing baseball, or retiring from the majors.

To keep playing in the majors you're going to need to build your market.

If you resent this, and think it's not fair, I don't fault you. It isn't fair. But fair plays no part in success. If life were fair, every child would be above average and health care would be free. [And Colin Smith's eldest daughter would be my live-in pastry chef while she attended the conservatory.]

It's incumbent on you to SHOW editors that those lackluster sales are a thing of the past.
You build a mailing list. You build a robust public presence. You have articles in other outlets
that build your name recognition.

Lackluster sales plague 85% of the published authors. If you want to get out of that crowd and stay published, it's doable. It's just YOU have to do it.

Generally you'll start with a marketing plan plan (oops!).  Marketing is not something you need to devote an hour a day to for five years. 10-20 minutes a day will work just fine. The trick is consistency.

One of the most successful writers I've ever met is J.A.Jance. She worked her way to the top of her category, and right on to the NYT Bestseller List through her own indomitable efforts. I have the utmost admiration and respect for her. She was a relentless networker.

My very favorite JA Jance story takes place on one of her  book tours in Portland. I casually mentioned a new Barnes and Noble was opening at the Tanasbourne Mall in a week or so. Well! Nothing would do but that we trekked out there, knocked on the door, introduced her (well, me too) and inquired if they had her most current book. Well, yes they did, and sign she did, and thus when the store opened to the public, autographed copies of her book were on hand.

I saw the tour book she kept. It had the name of what seemed like every bookstore up and down the I-5 corridor, the name of the manager, the book buyer, the event planner. She knew EVERYONE. And those bookstore people knew her too.

Now, that kind of hands-on bookselling and touring doesn't take place much any more. The networking is largely on social media. BUT there's no substitute for personal contact, and if you've visited the 50 bookstores nearest your house, introduced yourself as a local author, picked an indie to be your home store (the one you direct people to for signed copies etc) you're well on your way to jumpstarting your career. No, it's not writing. It's not plotting. It's not making sure your characters are three dimensional. But it IS as necessary to a writing career as a terrific novel.

The only question now is, do you want to do this?
Or rather, I know you don't want to do this, cause hardly anyone does, but are you WILLING to do this to keep your career from ending?

It's a tough question that requires some real soul searching.
No one can answer it for you.
No one can guarantee the results.
And it's not failure to decide you want to spend your time and creative energy doing things a different way now. 


RKeelan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, but I'm in head cold hell and can't string sentences together. That said, this post is amazing, and "marketing plan plan" made me giggle. Please keep it and say it was intentional!

Theresa said...

Wow, to get to the 50 bookstores near me, I'd have to travel across a couple of states! Still, at least I know what to aim for the next time around.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I read "marketing plan plan" as intentional... Love it!

And this post is above and beyond excellent. It could also fall under "be careful what you wish for."

I'm inspired. And so appreciative of your time, Janet.

DLM said...

One of the things we pre-published authors like to do is straddle the razor of thinking-too-far-ahead/burying-our-heads. On the one hand, it's FAR too soon for me, for instance, to be planning my tour of individuals, writing communities, churches, and universities with which I have connections, discussing the salient points of my novel. OTOH, it's a good idea for me to be thinking about those outlets where I have connections, and being aware of any new connections I might make going forward. From where I sit, it's dream time - dreaming of the local bookstores I can network with, dreaming about whom they can get me to to go farther, dreaming of the places that might be good for readings or participating in larger events. But not quite planning time.

Whether I self-pub or get an agent, I see similar outreach as my own job; and either way it will be hard, but periodically fun (I like people, most of the time!), and hopefully *fruitful*.

(I'm with Susan and Melanie on the marketing plan plan; it has an insouciant logic!)

Amy Johnson said...

Oh, Janet, you so have my marketing wheels a'turnin'! Thank you very much for your post. I can do what you said. This soft-spoken gal can indeed do it. Hey, I manage to psyche myself up enough to belt out solos at church, and I have to keep seeing the people I sing in front of every week. (The prayers have helped immensely, I'm certain.) I can visit bookstores. I can talk to people. I can spend some time online building, building, building. This morning before reading here, I was thinking about my name. I think it may have to go. I've been thinking that for years, actually. Yeah, I know about Dan Brown. But still. ;) The wheels! And I'm talking the good kind--not the hamster kind. Marketing actually sounds like fun.

Donnaeve said...

Yes you can can.


"Selling a book is easy; Staying published isn't easy at all."

This is the one factoid that gripped me like my Mama's hand when I was five and declared, "well, I'll be damned!" (She loves to share the stories of when I cussed)

Of course I've talked about my "weird" promo. It could be classified as overreach. (Remember? Sticking my bookmarks in the envelopes when I paid my bills?) I also introduced myself to all the local indie stores here - but no way did they total that big a number! More like around...ten. Here's what is odd to me - as you know, DIXIE was a Next Indie Pick for Nov 2016. It DID NOT result in the local indies beating down my door.

What I've learned from this, getting significant recognition doesn't = automatic shoo in. Some will reach out, some won't, but I plan to be sure they know me, and my work.

Amy Schaefer said...

So once I push this boulder to the top of the mountain, I'll just have to do it all over again tomorrow. And like it. Okay, good, got it.

Colin Smith said...

Hey, everyone! I just had the most horrible dream. I dreamed Janet's blog was about how hard it is to stay published, and it quoted a writer who had been published four times and was struggling to get interest for their next novel because of poor sale... AAARRRRGGGG!!!!!!

I know this is the Real World. We can't all be Veronica Roth or Stephen King. Well we could, but then we would all live in a dystopia occupied by Dauntless blood-sucking ax murderers chasing us relentlessly so they can make books out of our skin, and we would all be Amity, so we couldn't fight back. So I guess we gots ta do what we gots ta do.

Seriously, though, some aspects of promotion sound like they could be fun. I mean, signing your book in your local bookstore? Meeting potential readers, and seeing their slightly bemused faces to actually meet a real published author? Watching your pastor smile as he picks up your book (though you tell him to skip chapter 15 because... well... you know... that bit)? ;)

I presume the author is not totally out on their own with this stuff, though, yes? I mean, their wonderful agent will be available on the phone to bounce ideas and provide encouragement and whatever support they can... yes?

BTW, Janet, you know it would be FirstBorn's dream to be your personal pastry chef if it means being able to live in NYC. :)

DLM said...

So Amy S, you planning to change your last name to Sisyphus? :)

Donna, I think it's OSUM (spelling courtesy of my younger niece, who Shall Not Be Challenged).

MAHudson - I am still in the planning to plan phase. It's possible this is easier and more fun than the executing a plan phase, but I'm willing to find out. *Diving back into the WIP - I've got a date with Cassiodorus*

Dianne said...

I've been following the blogs and podcasts of UK Indie author Joanna Penn ( Even though I hope to go the traditional route with my mystery, Joanna and other independent writers are excellent examples of data-based marketing practices that all authors should look at.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yeah, I am far more worried about staying published than getting published. Probably silly for an as of yet unpublished, unrepresented author. Still, at this year's WD conference in New York, I will concentrate on the segments involving marketing and publicizing my book.

I hope others from the Reef might attend as well. I really would like to meet the lot of you.

And I am, of course, looking forward to seeing my daughter then. Maybe Colin's daughter will also be in NYC by then.

Unknown said...

This was an eye-opening post -- I knew about marketing but not Marketing. As to your question, Colin, I sure hope you're right that an agent will chime in with some ideas and encouragement.

If I ever get even one book sold, the first purchase with any advance money will be a new set of tires.

Timothy Lowe said...

Yeah wow. Tough to read but good to know. Sure puts rejection at the query stage into perspective. One thing I'm learning is that I have to keep thinking bigger.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

My head is reeling with thoughts... But I have to tell you all a funny story. Some of you may or may not know I'm the author of three nonfiction books about the animals who have found their way to our sanctuary. My first title came out back in the dark ages (2003). Waaay before social media and receiving email was still fun.

Just after my box of comps arrive, my publisher called. They'd scheduled a reading/signing at B&N in the big, big, city of Sarasota, FL. We'd had no prior discussion about marketing, sales, signings, or little ol' me leavin' the farm. And I was painfully ignorant about all of this.

Speak? In front of an audience? Yeah. Um, no. When I sputtered out a negative/terrified response to this event, my dumbfounded publisher asked how in the world I thought I was going to have any sales if I didn't "get out there." I responded, "I didn't think about that. I just wanted to write a book."

Allow me to reiterate how ignorant I was. But I went to the signing, nearly threw up in the parking lot, found the moxie to book more signings, and slowly began to understand this journey I was on.

When I booked a signing at an Indie store in the mountains during the height of autumn tourist season, I was determined to make it a huge success. I convinced the editor of the local paper to do a full page story about the sanctuary and my upcoming signing. The bookstore was only going to order 20 or 30 copies of my book. I wanted him to order 100. I told him about the article that was coming out and a few other publicity ideas I had, he ordered 120.

I will never forget the exhilaration of seeing that line of people spilling out the door and down the sidewalk, and the feeling of accomplishment when we ran out of books. I didn't set out to be in the limelight and I'm not comfortable in large groups of people. I was a nobody from rural FL. I'm still a nobody, but now I live in rural GA. And absurd as it sounds, "sales" weren't on my radar.

But something profound and powerful happens when you realize people want to read your words. Whether they are seeking comfort, an education, laughter, escape, or heart-stopping thrills, it's an extraordinary feeling and it changes your life.

I made a little meme yesterday and put it up on my FB page: "No dream ever came true without believing it would." Get writin' y'all. Right now I got donkeys braying for their breakfast. When I get back in the house I'm diving back into my WIP. Peace out.

Amy Johnson said...

Speaking of a horrible dream, Colin, one night last week, I had a dream about a (fictional) flash fiction contest here. I was having an awful time trimming my story to 100 words. What a nightmare!

"I was hoping 'marketing plan plan' meant we only had to plan to plan some marketing..." MA Hudson, that really got me laughing.

Amy Johnson said...

Wow, Melanie Sue Bowles, that must have been wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing that story.

Colin Smith said...

Dianne: I've watched some of Joanna Penn's interview videos, and they are informative. Clearly, she's mainly giving help and encouragement to self-published writers (or writers considering that route), and given her own success, she has a lot of advice to offer. The thing to remember, though, is she has an English accent. If you have an English accent, you evoke authority just be opening your mouth. People will buy your book simply because you say, "I have a brilliant new book, and you simply must buy it. Now!" It's the perfect marketing strategy. Put that on your list: "Hire an English person to promote my book."

Perhaps I should arrange to do pitches instead of querying my next novel...

AGENT: Hello, uh... Colin? Nice to meet you! So, tell me about your book.
ME (in my best English accent): It's fantastic. You want it.
AGENT: Wow. Ummm... okay...
ME: You want to offer representation because my book is brilliant. Amazing. The best thing since Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton, and Dennis Wheatley.
AGENT: Let me see if I have an agency contract...

See how that works? ;)

Elise: FirstBorn might be in NYC again in November. I don't think that works out with the WD Conference, unfortunately. Sorry!

Jill Warner said...

When you start to think about everything that authors have to worry about in addition to writing the next book, it's even more incredible that so many do go back for seconds (or thirds or...)

Colin Smith said...

Jill: I guess that's one of the things that makes a writer a writer: writing despite the odds.

Feel free to quote that back at me from time to time. :)

RosannaM said...

I can do ten minutes and plan to plan. I can, I can, (and now I am spinning off Seuss-like).

Great post, and so much to mull about.

I love your story, Melanie, and happy for you that you sold out!

Colin, you are right. Especially if it is 'oh so proper British' accent.

Cindy Williams Schrauben said...

Thank you for the wise advice. I'm planning ahead and ingraining my mind with realistic expectations. Writing is the fun part, but there is more work to be done.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just jumped on, at work, no time to read comments BUT this is a lot like dieting. Take it from a celery eater, it's EASY to lose weight, keeping it off is hard. I lost 100 five years ago.
Success is hard. It's all about what you want, bon bons or best sellers.

John Davis Frain said...

Melanie, what a great story. Loved every word of it.

This post was tough to read and great to read at the same time, starting with "Selling a book is easy; Staying published isn't easy at all."

So I'm at the foot of the mountain. Query stage is back there in the air-conditioned hut where they still serve hot chocolate to soothe you when you stepped outside and realized how friggin' cold it was.

And, oh, this mountain. Time to keep climbing...

BJ Muntain said...

The closest local indie to me is over two hours away in another city. It's a really good indie, but it's not as 'local' as I'd like it to be.

So, do I move, or what?

Yes, my pre-caffeine brain is getting hopped up on coffee, and my thoughts are flying. If I don't have a local indie, maybe I could adopt a few non-local indies. The one a couple hours from me would help, but it's as far from the next indie as it is from me.

But I have a friend near Portland I can visit, and I have a friend in NYC that I often visit... perhaps Powells, in Portland? And I'll have to ask around to find the best one in NYC to adopt... Oh, and I do go to the greater Vancouver area once a year...

Of course, first I need to get published.

Gah. There's always a hitch.

But marketing isn't as much of a problem for me, I think. At least online. I've got experience in marketing/online communications from my last job for a nonprofit. I've learned how to put myself out there on social media (that's actually what got me doing the social media for my employer then) and I've learned various strategies for getting in touch with people. I've also learned what not to do, and how not to do it. (There is some marketing advice out there that I find completely suspect, bordering on spam, that seems to be 'industry normal'. I think there are better ways to do it.) I could probably be okay speaking in front of people, though readings are going to take a lot of courage at first. And talking to people? I can do that. I'm good at listening, too. As long as I'm not always expected to be coherent - I've been having some problems with that recently. Put me at a keyboard, though, and I'm usually at least comprehendable. Though I often seem to ramble. Nah. Really?

Thank you for that story, Melanie. And I saw your meme. It really is inspirational (both the story and the meme.)

I remember when Joanna Penn first started out on Twitter. She wasn't as much into self-publishing as she was into editing and such. If my memory is correct, she was still very much in the 'traditional publishing' trenches at the time. I haven't been following her lately, because a) Twitter has grown remarkably and so has my feed, and b) I'm not interested in self-publishing at this time. Also, c) she was doing a lot of self-promotion on Twitter for her services, and that can get a bit tiresome. If I do get interested in self-publishing, I'll start following her again, because she does have good information. However, the information right now may not be the same as when I'm ready to self-publish, so I'll wait until I'm ready to be 'current' on the self-publishing scene.

Sorry for the long ramble. It's just my poor pre-caffeine brain trying to make sense of life, publishing, and the universe at large.

RachelErin said...

I'm not going to lie, I'm at a work conference on social media and marketing that's more advanced than I need for my job...partly to learn what I can and bring my department forward, and partly to tuck away for "when" my debut comes out....(no I don't have an agent).

Major lesson of the day for you all: facebook paid advertising is awesome for targeting particular people. Say you have an event in a city, you can target just the people in that city who like books/reading/literature/the bookstores you will be at. Apparently $10 can go a long way towards filing seats, because you can target the right people. ($10 assumes a fairly large town/city).

Back to work....

Kelli Mahan said...

The Immovable Object and I (why, yes, I AM the irresistible force!) like to do mini weekend road trips to go exploring. Our agreement is that every other trip is devoted to seeking out bookstores where I can go in and start making friends with the staff. I buy a few books, ask them about carrying the work of authors I network with, and we talk about my as-yet unpublished status. I buy enough books from them via email or snail mail to keep my name in front of them, and we circle back around to them three or four times a year for face time. It's one of the most fun things in my marketing plan plan. :)

BJ Muntain said...

RachelErin: Yes, Facebook ads are great for targetting. Google ads are also good that way - and they wind up in more places than simply on Facebook. Both have very strict ad policies, though, so it's important to read them (and keep up to date on them) every time you're about to post some ads.

With Facebook, you can also choose whether to pay by view or by click-through. Sometimes click-through is the less expensive choice, though the ads may show to fewer people.

With Google, you need a special account. I didn't have one of those, though I did write copy for the ads. We hired a company to put our ads onto Google, so they had the account. Google's ad guidelines are even more stringent than Facebook's. And Facebook's are fun enough.

For folks who are uncertain about public speaking, here are some handy tips from author John Gilstrap at The Kill Zone blog:

Public Speaking Tips

Unknown said...

Yes, DLM! As a pre-published author myself (that's way better than "unpublished!"), I'd also like to add that we're great at worrying and obsessing too soon. When I dream about being published by one of the big houses, I always worry that I'll end up in the same boat as the OP, unable to sell another book due to lackluster sales.

Great post, Janet! I'll file that away for some day when I've got a book to promote.

Unknown said...

Donnaeve--bookmarks in your bills! Love it!!

RosannaM said...

Oh, and Janet? I love J.A. Jance. I met her many years ago at a book signing of hers I stumbled upon on a trip to Leavenworth, Washington.

It couldn't have been a very big bookstore because most of those stores are pretty tiny. It was Christmastime, and magical.

For those of you who don't know, Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town in the mountains, very popular at Christmas and Oktoberfest. Picturesque and quaint. Hmmm. Maybe that little bookstore is still there.

Unknown said...

I don't know how much this helps with book promotion, but I've been reading a lot about blog promotion lately. Maybe some of those strategies could be helpful here? If the author has a blog, networking online with other bloggers, doing blog interviews, getting other bloggers with a strong social media presence to share your posts, etc. I'm pretty new to this arena, but those strategies have helped me promote my blog at least.

Susan said...

Melanie: Your story makes me so happy for you! And for the sanctuary!

Colin: "If you have an English accent, you have authority just by opening your mouth." You crack me up. This also seems to be irrefutably true.

Coming in from an indie author background, I look at publishing as a snowball effect. That is, the more (quality) books you produce, the more traction your sales will get because you'll be able to market not one but two or more books. Marketing standalones as an indie author can be difficult because you have to build the publicity yourself, but it's again all about building up your fanbase and pushing any backlist. I think we see this in the traditional market, too, wherein an author has a breakout novel and then readers gravitate towards their backlist, shooting those up the lists. I'm pretty sure this happened to John Green when The Fault In Our Stars came out.

In indie publishing, every book matters in that it builds a foundation for the next, for the fanbase, and should help to carry that into forward momentum. If one book underperforms, authors can readjust their marketing strategy for the next book or continue to push older books. That's the optimistic way I like to look at a body of work, anyway. It keeps us working towards the next.

Donnaeve said...

RachelErin You're joggin' my memory.

I have used FB ads and yes, they do their job - like you point out. Posts that would typically get 20 likes got something like 75 to 100. IMO, that's pretty effective.

I've also invested in a Goodreads campaign. Sidebar: On FB the other day I posted my "writer head" moment. I'd gone out to Goodreads to check on my campaign and couldn't understand why are there were no clicks - AT ALL. ZERO! I was like, boohoo, nobody likes my ad! *Then I realized - the campaign hadn't started yet.* Oops.

And a couple more ways with getting attention on one's books! Two actually. One is easy, one might be harder.

1) Run a Goodreads giveaway and give away copy/copies of your book - everybody likes free stuff and it's EASY to do! I have one running right now. :)

2) Try to get your book as a Featured Deal on Bookbub. Bookbub is very selective - but let me tell you just HOW effective this is...when DIXIE was put up for a day as one of their featured deals (think it was November 19th) that's when the book shot up to #1 on Amazon and hit a couple best seller lists. Yep. That is true. Someone at Kensington submitted it and got it listed as a Deal.

Now, I don't know how this works - and the price control thing is not in my hands, but here's a link for future reference.

Bookbub Deals

Donnaeve said...

Melanie AWESOME story!

Joseph S. said...

Great post today even if it caused me to wince in emotional pain. Great comments. I had never thought of Facebook or Google ads. I assumed they’d be too expensive.

I find myself recommending other people’s books. And I’ve had people thank me after they read a recommended book or author. I’d think if, every time someone who comments on this blog publishes a book, every reader here recommended the book to ten people who might like it, it would help spread the word.

I noticed that in music. When I lived in Austin and Houston, a group of singer-songwriters would mix the others’ songs into their performances and mention the other songwriters onstage. After a few years they all seemed to rise up in popularity together – Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark. Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle. Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock were all part of that group. (I think Townes Van Zandt is more popular now than when he was alive).

If I ever get a novel published I think I would do well in public speaking. My preferred hermit lifestyle has been offset by being a teacher. Focusing on the topic and the listener made me forget I might be boring everyone. The downside is that, unlike teaching where you see the students on a regular basis, you only have one shot to make a good impression when meeting the public.

Book signings would make me nervous since I hear sometimes nobody shows up.

I like ‘marketing plan plan.’ ‘Marketing pain plan’ would be good, too. Or even ‘marketing plan pain.’

Julie Weathers said...

I don't know what the answer is. I've been scarce lately because I've had my head buried in trying to actually finish the book.

I promised myself a long time ago if I were ever published I would make a donation to the schools I and my boys attended and the public libraries in Killdeer, ND and Odessa, TX. The public library consisted of a very small room with a couple hundred books when I was there. I would also speak to the schools to encourage children to follow their dreams.

I plan to hit bookstores and sign books, make friends with the staff and attend any local writer events, go meet librarians, etc.

Other than that, I haven't made any plans. I know I need to.

Never confuse movement with action.--Ernest Hemingway

Joseph S. said...

Thanks Donnaeve. I had not heard of Bookbub.

Wow, Julie. I would have thought Odessa had a few well-stocked libraries. (If you hit bookstores in the Birmingham area,you can stay at my house. I have an extra room (that I'd have to clear out).

The two most popular independent bookstores in the Birmingham area (Little Professor and Alabama Booksmith) are theoretically in walking distance from my home. (I've never visited Alabama Booksmith but checking out its website just now, I think I better get over there) (After years of being on one location, Little Professor recently moved (Little Professor conducted the book sales room at the Southern Voices Festival last month)).

A two-story Books-A-Million is half a mile away and a Barnes & Noble isn't that far away. (it is but it's near Miss Myra's BBQ so that makes it seem closer).

Lennon Faris said...

What an incredibly informative post. Thanks, Janet!

Melanie - I LOVED that story.

Donna - that was really helpful info!

Julie - I suppose, if you have to stay away, that is the best reason for doing so. Yay to actually writing :)

Craig F said...

So, when planning a plan to plan a marketing plan plan, does genre matter?

Since I am planning on a sci-fi plan can I plan to go to things like comic-cons? I talk some about a type of camouflage used there. I was going to have some of that pattern made up, hire a male and female model to draw people in and sign copies they get sucked into buying.

I thoroughly enjoy watching the weirdos at comic-cons, so it could be fun and profitable.

Melanie-Sue: You consider lovely little Sarasota a big town?

Beth Carpenter said...

The very thought of dropping into a bookstore and talking up my books to a stranger, much less a group of strangers, makes my heart race. But then I read Melanie's story, and realize I'm not alone in my discomfort. She did it, and if I force myself, I can do it too. Maybe if I keep repeating that to myself, I'll believe it.

Unknown said...

Just catching up after a few days away. I missed you all and loved just reading 4 days of comments at once! Too many ideas to type all, so I'll give two. Colin, all this time I thought your daughter was auditioning at restaurants to be a pastry chef! I thought it was so interesting that pastry chefs interviewed for jobs by auditioning, and assumed it meant making a variety of items in "real time" at a restaurant... For those of you needing public speaking encouragement, I am happy to help. We all have unique voices for a reason, and others need to hear them. Each. And. Every. One.

Colin Smith said...

kathy: Well, she could do very well if she wanted to pursue being a pastry chef. Maybe she can use those skills to support her acting career, selling fresh goodies to NYC literary agents... :)

Catherine Vignolini said...

This author and her husband engage in heavy self-promo. They kindly shared what paid strategies worked, and didn't, after a recent indie launch.
<a ref="</a>

Colin, good luck to your daughter! If you come back around to CMU give me a shout. I live in them parts.

Melanie, terrific story!

Unknown said...

Totally OT: Last night I had a very late flight and happened to be at the airport for a "fallen hero" ceremony. One of the air force pilots killed in a training accident in New Mexico was brought home to his wife and father. I can't shake the images and know I will write about them. Isn't this why we write? It's nice to get published and sell books (and yes, market them too). But sharing these life points is so powerful an end it itself. Tears streaked my face long after the hearse drove away with flag-draped casket, and a uniformed airman led the freezing, grieving widow back into the airport. I so badly wanted to say something to her from three stories up. How better to do that than through one good story?

DLM said...

I may be a little TOO familiar with the myriad British accents to buy in on the instant authority idea. :P Colin, it just sounds like A CUNNING PLAN to me ... ;)

Kelli, that is brilliant! And sounds like wonderful times as well.

Nicole: ask me if the glass is half full. :)

And now I know that Donna is EVIL, sharing the Bookbub link. I'd managed to stay away from there ... for a while ...

Also, I finished Dixie Dupree today. It stretched my lunch "hour" a bit out of shape, but as I have roughly 35 minutes of work for the rest of my day I feel little guilt. I also want a nap and to snuggle with G-TEC. A Bold Rock cider might be nice. Wrapped up in a paper bag.

BJ Muntain said...

Catherine's link:

Which paid marketing works and doesn't

(Catherine: you left off the link part - the part that turns blue! Yes, I've been known to do that once in awhile when typing up web pages.)

BJ Muntain said...

Catherine: Thanks for the link. I read the article, and they have some interesting - but not surprising - results.

One problem I think they had was that they considered social media a marketing method. It's not. It's a networking method. It's a way to get people interested enough in YOU to read your book, and then recommend it. It's that recommendation you're looking for in social media, the 'word of mouth', which cannot be 'monetized' (as the marketing folks I used to work with would say). It can't be counted. Because you don't know HOW that word of mouth got spread. And as Janet has said a few times, word of mouth is the means by which most people will pick up your book.

(You don't know how many times I've had to explain to people that you can't objectively 'count' things in social media, because much of what you're looking for happens OFF the social media platform.)

Catherine Vignolini said...


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

MELANIE, and everyone, look how many people here LOVED your story.

That's what it's about folks.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: Don't worry, my accent isn't what it used to be. I'll have to practice before World Domination. ;)

Megan V said...


I am absotively posolutely jealous that you've met Judith Jance. My jealousy knows no bounds. She's a favorite author of mine--her writing is so blasted good that I packed up and moved to AZ. (ok, maybe she wasn't the sole reason for the move, but still...damn good writer. I'm looking forward to her next Ali Reynolds book).

It just goes to show how important good marketing and networking is. And I'd bet money that writers who choose twitter-spam and spam e-mail sink their ship faster than lackluster sales do. That personal touch of elbow grease is key to success.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I did the PR for my theater group and I've been doing marketing for about 25 years. I fell into writing TV spots after the experience of producing plays. The theater productions gave me enough credibility that I could sell video pieces.
My first TV spots for a local theme park boosted their out of state attendance so much they kidded me it was my fault they had to expand the parking lot. One spot I did for them was copied by Disney (it was shown at a convention of theme parks in Florida). Then I started doing tourism promo and I'm working on a new set of pieces for the marketing group that hires me. I bet I could do a good job of youtube and vimeo spots for a book. It would be fun.
My biggest hit as a writer so far is the audio tour I wrote and recorded in three languages. It gets downloaded thousands of times. Too bad I have no interest in writing local history. I could sell it.
I also got a lot of experience cold calling for my different ventures. I was inspired by a friend who designed a nifty wool hat and took it right to L.L. Bean. "Sharyn," she said (imagine a slightly nasal New England accent), "all they can say is no."
I would go around with my cassette player and sell jingles! So, sure. I could do it.

Julie Weathers said...


Odessa, TX has some very good libraries. Killdeer, ND does not. My fault for being unclear as I try to dash out the door.

I am dashing through again, so forgive my drive by posting.

JD Horn said...

Ugh. And I dropped by today hoping for a writing contest to help pull me out of my doldrums. ;)

Unknown said...

Alright JD! You want a contest, you got it. Best hundred words on smells. You can't use "the," "of," "smell," or "smells."

Or, you could just tell us why you're feeling down, and we'll help you feel better. (Personally, I think the smelly story sounds kinda fun! Not an official contest, but I'm sure our Reider friends could judge a good scent if they read it :)

Donnaeve said...

Diane I hope it was stretched in a good way - but yes, the brown paper bag. Sneaky Pete!


Bookbub is a great tool - for those tiptoeing around it. Like I mentioned, I've never submitted my own book for a "daily deal," but it looks like if you follow their guidelines (Susan P I'm looking you - any any other indie author I know out here), it can't hurt to see if they'll get you on one!

Donnaeve said...

geez. that would be, and any other...not the old any any. Like plan plan and can can.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

*Picks up kathy's gauntlet* I presume we can go fewer than 100, as per usual contest rules?

Dawn breaking. White canvas canopies over wooden tables. Plastic trays filled with ice. Knives wet, orange sunlight dancing off blades. Pulled from frozen slumber. Tossed like a rag doll. Caught by large hands. I face my executioner: a bushy beard and a smile. Life. It was good while it lasted.

JD Horn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD Horn said...

Here you go, Kathy- (A story and an explanation all rolled into one.)

An acrid indolence hung over his self-indulgent whining, though when pressed for cause, he blamed existential angst for his inertia. He sat hunched over his keyboard, trolling Twitter, foraging Facebook. Anything rather than holding his nose and diving back into that offal heap he called a manuscript. Had he even showered today? Yesterday? A tang wafting up from his torn discount store T-shirt bore witness against his personal hygiene.

Splendiferous prose? None to see. Odiferous author? No rose was he.

Unknown said...

Ooh, that's good, but I won't concede. Anyone else want to join us? You've got until 3pm tomorrow. Then, the rest can take a whiff and decide what they like. JD, anything particular you're fretting about in your MS, or just generalized writer's angst?

RosannaM said...

Eager for the comfort of a hot meal after being stuck in traffic for two hours, C.S. threw open the front door and opened his senses. Zucchini Alfredo? Pasta Primavera?

No, the air was heavy with a distinct mustiness, like the long-forgotten socks in his gym bag.

Damn! The woman had done it again. Two artichokes sat upon thrones of lemon wedges, butter glistening deep into the petals of the only vegetable he abhorred.

(not quite a story, but still)

Susan said...

Thanks for the tip on Book Bub, Donna! I'm so glad it worked out well for you! I spent the evening checking it and some other promo sites out, but unfortunately the fees are pretty hefty. Unless I'm misreading it/missing something, it looks like $300+ to submit your book to Book Bub for their daily deals. I'm sure it would pay off, but unfortunately I don't have a marketing budget at the moment (food, shelter, medicine is taking precedence). I'd be interested to do some more research for future consideration and see what the return might be. I like that they're pretty discerning with their selections.

JD Horn said...

Nothing particular. Just the usual imposter syndrome author stuff. :)

Alex said...

Is this author not the perfect example of someone who should seriously consider going independent? Marketing plans, email lists, these are all things that independent authors do.

If an author is going to take on the financial burden of marketing their work, seems to me it would make sense to absorb the production costs of the book as well because then they'll get a much greater return.

I suppose that would probably have a shift to mainly ebooks and away from bookstores, but given the sales are poor anyway and things are looking a bit grim, that does not seem like an unreasonable adaptation.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems bonkers for an author to fork out their own money to market their work when a billion dollar company (assuming these major houses are Big 5) is reaping most of the reward. Everyone knows you can hire Big 5 editors are cover designers very easily, so if a Big 5 publisher isn't throwing their marketing weight behind you, what exactly is the point of going with them?

Colin Smith said...

Alex: It's very possible the author has considered going independent. It's very possible they've decided not to. There are good reasons against self-pubbing, just as there are good reasons to self-pub. Clearly, you are an advocate for self-publishing, since--correct me if I'm wrong--but the only times you ever seem to comment are occasions when you can complain about the "billion dollar companies" supposedly reaping huge rewards for allegedly little effort while making the authors do all the heavy lifting.

Have you ever entered one of Janet's contests? Or engaged in other topics? Again, I might have missed those posts, but it seems rather bad form to come on a Literary Agent's blog (who, obviously, is invested in the success of traditional publishing) only to push self-publishing and put down "big publishing." Might I suggest engaging some other topics if you're genuinely interested in helping other writers? Again, forgive me if I'm speaking out of turn, and not remembering all the other topics you've commented on in the past. I just don't recall them.


Joseph S. said...

Totally off topic and either encouraging or discouraging news.

Local news featured a story of a local 8-year old girl named Nia Mya Reese who wrote a book titled

"How to Deal with and Care for Your Annoying Little Brother." It was published November 2016, and as I type this is number 71 on

Annoying Little Brother

Alex said...

Colin: You're right, I have only commented in regards to self publishing stuff. I realise that can come across as bad form.

I do actually really like this blog, precisely because it offers a different view point to the one I normally subscribe to. I suppose I like to mostly absorb the information and think about it. I don't mean to put down "big publishing", I just find the idea of the author doing their own marketing rather strange.

But you're right, there are arguments for and against, and I've made my point.

AJ Blythe said...

I would choose the work-your-socks-off-to-be-noticed option, no matter how scary that road was. While Opie's tale is rather terrifying the other stories are wonderfully lifting - thanks everyone for sharing!

Colin if FirstBorn ever wanted to visit DownUnder her pastry skills would be very welcomed here *wink*

Unknown said...

Putrid words drip, infecting my eyes, stinging like acid, unleashing a stench so powerful it summons nausea. Leaf by leaf, I heave bleeding, crumpled, maggot-filled pages. Every. Single. One.

Even in sleep, malodorous molecules pollute me. Rotting citrus. Burning rubber. Hot tar on a humid August night. It’s not literature. It’s fetid garbage.

I awake edgy, eyes burning, brain smoky.

“Morning, hon! Rough night writing, huh?”

“Don't remind me!”

“I cleaned up your trash, so you can start fresh. Come down for coffee. I made a fire.”

Seconds later, his words register.

“You burned my manuscript? My beautiful manuscript!”