“It has never been easier to publish that book you always said you’d write. The hard part is finding an audience for it.” –Molly Gaudry, The Lit Pub, interviewed in Luna Park Review
It’s a fascinating interview and I encourage you to read it, but those two sentences stood out to me as an essential truth. The last statement gets to the heart of every published writer’s struggle, but especially those of us who are decidedly unfamous. I mean, if you’re a good writer, you can be published. But just because you’re published doesn’t mean you’re going to sell your book. (Trust me.) So how do we overcome it?
An obvious answer would be to look at today’s most successful authors and trace their careers backward. What happened when J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book came out? How did Stephen King market Carrie? I saw a movie trailer for Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook the other day and I wondered, what sets these stories apart? What helps them reach our hearts and somehow set them apart from the rest? Nicholas Sparks himself said in a speech at a writers conference I attended that “Quality rises to the top.” That sentence stuck in my mind. Yes, I thought, and I write quality stories, so it’ll happen for me…someday.
So surely if you look at how the most successful novels of the day were marketed, you’ll be able to figure the trick, right? Trace it to the root and you’ll know the secret, the only ad campaign you’ll ever need. But it’s really not that easy. And I can only think of one reason why.
Sometimes magic happens. Sometimes a story captures our imaginations in such a way that we can’t just let go of it. We have to share it. We have to tell other people about it. It happened that way for me the first time I saw Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. I made my poor husband take me to see that movie no less than three times in the theater, and this was at a point in our lives when we didn’t have a whole lot of money to go to movies. And no, the magic didn’t just come from Johnny Depp in a sexy pirate suit (although that didn’t hurt). It was the whole story and feel of the movie. Like it could take me into another world and change me into something more special. I couldn’t stop talking about it, and it turned out I wasn’t the only one.
J.K. Rowling wrote seven books absolutely filled with that magic. Stephen King, Alice Hoffman, Nicholas Sparks, Stephenie Meyer have all conjured it. Quality may eventually rise to the top, but magic is what sends it shooting, foaming over the rim of the glass. So how do I get it?
I’ve only come up with one answer. Keep plugging away. Keep writing, and write what I love to write. One of these days, maybe somebody will read one of my books and find themselves so lost in it they can’t stop talking about it. Maybe they’ll tell their friends and maybe across the nation, somebody else will do the same. Maybe a lot of somebodies will find it in themselves to take that leap of faith and pick up one of my books, become lost in my world for a while.
One last note. Next month’s HONEOWP charity is the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Because I want to.
Michelle, sometimes magic really does happen and even though it is easier to publish these days, it is, as Molly Gaudry stated, harder to find an audience. In our tech savvy world, where Facebook, blogs, websites, Youtube, Linked In, Twitter and a whole host of other networks out there so you can get ‘out there’ it is that much more difficult to find readers who will take that chance on an unknown.
And, if you think about it, who do writers market to? Mostly, other writers. As writers, there are so many of our friends wanting us to purchase their books, it’s hard to get them all or to be able to afford them all. It’s also hard to find those folks who are not writers that you can market to that will not think you are just a salesman.
As a writer, I have a hard time asking my non writer friends to pimp my wares (Come to think of it, i don’t asks my writer friends to pimp my stories). It just feels awkward and I hate that.
I think, for us, the unknown, we have to find those outside of our niche to market to. That, in and of itself, is a difficult task.
I love your work and I think you are a wonderful writer and I will continue to pimp you out and cross my fingers for you.
Thanks, AJ, and ditto. I agree that you can get lost in the shuffle of the tech world. I’m trying really hard to cross over from marketing to other writers to marketing to readers. It’s tough. Most of my Facebook friends are writers and Twitter is much the same. But what it really comes down to is that magic element that every now and then is just within the grasp of a writer. Just have to keep grabbing until we catch it!
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It is our mission to connect readers with authors, and it’ll be interesting at the end of our first month to see how much of an impact we had beyond the already-existing books communities. Heck, it’ll be interesting to see that at the end of the first year, which might be more realistic.
But it is our mission — to get these indie titles into the rest of the world. We believe in the indies for so many reasons, but one very relevant one for this topic is that the indie publishers are able and willing to accept manuscripts that simply “touch” them, a single individual, rather than have to meet the needs and demands of a multi-million-dollar corporation like one of the Big Six (Random House, Penguin, etc).
We have big plans, but it’s one step at a time. Thank you for the link, the thoughtful post, and please come visit us at TLP. We need all the readers and word of mouth that we can get. . . .
It’s an admirable mission and I’ll support it any way I can. I’ve already bookmarked your site and plan to visit it often. Who knows where that next magical story will come from? I hope you find it.
Thank you. 🙂
This is so very apt … and timely, Michelle. It’s a noisy world out there, and publishing should be more than just a case of being able to shout louder than anyone else. You’re right: it is more than just hawking. It’s doing what we love, the writing, and someone somewhere sometime (sooner is better) will fall in love with it.
I’ll bookmark and check out TLP, thank you!