Hi, Ivory here. Rivka’s off sick again so I thought I’d step in and fill the breach. I thought I’d write something about selling books. It’s honest enough to make me out to be insecure and sometimes jealous, but it’s the truth and I’d guess it’s familiar to a lot of authors.
I talk a lot to my readers about the process of writing, but I realised a couple of days back that I don’t ever really speak to people about the process of publishing and selling. We talk a lot about it at home, but away from home I don’t know that many authors, so I don’t get to speak to them much about the genre-specific issues of publishing.
While the actual process itself is easy enough (you just upload your cover and document and off it goes), that in itself is the biggest challenge. It’s so easy that thousands upon thousands of authors the world over are doing the same thing every day. Getting noticed in all of that is next to impossible. There are days when I want to give up. I get so jealous of the success of other authors because I don’t know how they did it. I want to sell enough books to be able to quit my day job and devote my life to writing. The fact that I can’t is frustrating and depressing in equal measure. I hate that my joy is squeezed into small two hour blocks, whenever I can fit them in.
I hear so many people say that there is no substitute for good writing and while I agree absolutely with them, relying on writing alone to sell your books and build your brand is a slow process. You still need that initial rush of people to read your book and then go and tell all of their friends, who tell their friends and so on. There are so many books out there to choose from now that people rarely download something that hasn’t been personally recommended to them. So how do you get the initial rush?
When I asked Rivka, she said it was blind luck in her case. She just happened to be in the right place at the right time. She put a book up for free promotion and had 20k downloads in 5 days. A lot of those readers told their friends about it and word spread. There was no way she could have predicted it and it’s the only one of her books that did so well after a free promo week. When I tried it, I got a lot of copies downloaded, but then they tailed off pretty quickly. We have a similar star rating on Amazon, so part of me wonders if it’s just the difference between (vanilla) romance readers and erotica readers.
The other thing she suggested was approaching some blogs with ARCs. A lot of them have large follower numbers and their readers trust them to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s a great way to get noticed, or at least it should be. When I published ODF, I approached 7 different blogs that read and review erotica. Not a single one of them bothered to even acknowledge receiving my message. While I can laugh it off now and even totally understand and appreciate their position, at the time it was totally crushing. It’s like so many things – you just need someone to give you that little leg up, the one person to break the ice. I know they get dozens of emails from hopeful authors like me every week, but you can’t help wanting to be the special one and you can’t help feeling helpless when every way you turn is a brick wall.
What broke it for me was a friend of a friend reviewing ODF on her book blog. It wasn’t one of the ones I’d originally approached, but it had been mentioned to her and she loved it. Her followers read it and suddenly it was selling almost double what it had before. I’ll be eternally grateful to all the girls at TRC for taking a chance on me and for everything they’ve done since.
I have to admit to wondering if publishing, like so much other stuff, is more about who you know than anything else. Without Rivka’s experience and contacts, where would I be now? It makes sense why so many SP authors spend as much time networking as they do actually writing. You have to ask everyone for a leg up, from the authors that have made it, to your friends that have blogs, to the friends of friends that might know someone who could write a post for you.
If, like me, you’re not naturally comfortable with going cap in hand and begging favours, it’s a difficult process. It also takes a lot of time. I won’t cultivate friendships purely to get ahead. If I make friends with someone who happens to be an author, I actually make friends with them. I can’t just be a mutual back scratcher. Even then, nine times out of ten, I can’t bring myself to ask them to promo my books. It feels awkward. Maybe too much independence can be a bad thing.
I’m not typing this to discourage anyone. I’m looking back at a year where I published 2 novels and 2 novellas and even made it into the bestseller lists a couple of times. It’s been a year where I changed so much on a personal level that I don’t even recognise myself as the girl who cried most of the way through writing Darkness Falls. Part of me wonders if I’d get a different answer if I went back to those blogs with all these five star reviews and such a close-knit readership under my belt, or if I still wouldn’t get an answer at all.
I know Darkness Falls was never a cookie cutter kind of book. I know the ending threw a lot of people for a loop. I’m still not sure I really understand people’s fascination with Gabriel – it’s like everyone has amnesia about the fact that the book opened with him stalking Noelle and that was something I found difficult to accept on a personal level. It’s difficult to see people falling for him the way I fell for the real life one when all the warning signs are so blatantly there. For all of these reasons, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
But for those of you who did love it, spread the word. Tell the world. If you know bloggers, pass it on. Please. Because I’m too shy to! And maybe, just maybe, with a little kiss of luck, if you whisper a word in the right ear, I might finally get my dream of writing for a job and bringing you books at double the speed…