Perhaps the greatest misconception most new authors have is that once they are done publishing the book, there is some train they can get on to take them to Successville. Successville is of course populated with adoring throngs who are just dying to buy your book, celebrities who have been holding their breath until they can tweet about it, talk show hosts and reporters who can’t wait to interview you, and bookstores who have been clearing space on their shelves for this fabulous new book.
If you’re like me, this description of Successville sounds a lot like Ralphie’s daydream in A Christmas Story of how his teacher and everyone else would respond to his theme on why a Red Rider BB gun is the best gift for Christmas. If you’re playing the scene in your mind right now, don’t stop. Go right on through to the part where he gets it back with a C+ and a note that says (as every adult from mom to Santa Claus told him in the film), “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Now fast forward to the end. Do you remember what happened? He nearly shot his eye out. (Can you tell I always watch at least 3 or 4 of the 12 times TBS runs this movie every Christmas Eve?)
You could say that my job is to try to keep authors from shooting their eyes out. If, like Ralphie, you live more in a fantasy world than in the real world, you are far more likely to shoot your eye out. Even in the real world, there is always the risk of getting stuck looking like a deranged Easter Bunny! I’m a dad, so I will be the first to tell your mom you look like a pink nightmare.
The bottom line with books is that you need an audience to sell them to. That’s it. No magic, no miracles, no luck; you just need an audience. Easy, right? Well, not really.
Just like it takes a lot of target practice before Ralphie could realistically expect to defend his family from Black Bart and his gang, it takes a lot of work to build an audience. You have to meet people wherever you can. One by one or group by group, you literally need to meet thousands of people if you want to guarantee success for your book. Sometimes all the trappings of Successville come along with it, and sometimes they don’t. What will happen if you work to meet those thousands of people is that some (not all, mind you) will buy your book. And some (again, not all) of those will tell others to do the same. And some (say it with me now, “Not all”) will actually do so. The longer and harder you work at it, the more likely you are to reach success — and possibly Successville.
Some authors hear this and completely get that there is work involved, but their response is one of the following:
“That’s really messed up.”
“I had no idea getting into this that there was this much work.”
“You should have told me I would need to do more than write the book.”
“I thought it was going to be different than this.”
“Isn’t that someone else’s job?”
If you’ve found yourself there, don’t worry. Many have, and it is no sin to think these things. It is only a sin to dwell on them. All of these thoughts and those similar come floating to our brains from Successville. It’s fun for Hollywood, the media and even Amazon to tell the end of the story, where all the great things have happened. But they don’t like to tell the hard work part. At least Amazon’s article hints at it when it points out that the author who has sold millions of eBooks “by himself” had 6 books and 70 short stories published before he ever struck out on his own. For all his talk of “trusting readers to find the stories they’ll like”, he had to have had thousands of followers before placing that trust, and that gave him a leg up.
And good for him. I love to see a good, hard-working author succeed. The point is that he didn’t get there without work. There is nothing magical about Amazon’s plan any more than there is about any publisher’s plan. There are almost 11 million books in print with an average of a million new ones a year over the past 4 years. It stands to reason that the authors who work will rise above those who don’t. Becoming a known author is not much different from becoming a known actor or musician. People have to know your name.
Before you get too far into the new year, sit down and decide how much time you have to invest in building your name. If you have a good marketing rep, they will tell you how best to invest that time so you don’t shoot your eye out. Make sure your marketing rep is part of your planning. If you don’t have a marketing rep, feel free to contact the publisher I work for, Tate Publishing. We’ll see what we can do to help you.
Now go upstairs and take that bunny suit off so you can get outside and practice with your Red Rider.