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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Selling books

I noticed a post on Facebook today that stated that for a literary agent to show an interest in a self-published book, the author should be able to present sales figures of around 20,000 copies.

I have news for that literary agent … if I can sell 20,000 copies of my books, I don’t need her services. 

Let’s face it, some books fly off the shelves, because of the name of the author while others gather dust because the author is a nobody.  Does that make the books of the big name authors any better … I doubt it.  I’m sure there are excellent self-published novels, while some stories of name authors never should have been printed.

Take J.K. Rowling latest effort for instance.  To say that it gets mixed reviews is putting it mildly.  Some critics rave about her writing abilities, others are less than enthused.  Fact is, A Casual Vacancy was a best seller before it was even available.  Proof that readers care about a name, not a story.

Personally I don’t put much stock in what critics have to say, I’d like to see for myself. 

On the one hand A Casual Vacancy is brilliantly written.  Rowling paints the picture of a cute little town and strips away all the veneer to show its inhabitants in all their disgusting glory.  The question is … do readers want to be confronted with such reality?

The story holds an “interesting” variety of characters, but there’s nothing likeable about them.  I don’t know about you, but if I don’t like certain characters I don’t care about  them, and if I don’t care about them why would I want to know what happens to them?  Why would I 
care about:

A heroin addict
A teenage town whore
Two perverted boys
A man who is abusive to his wife and children
A wife who is a doormat

In my opinion, if a nobody had written A Casual Vacancy, nobody would have shown any interest.  But because the book is of the hand of the great J.K. Rowling it turns into a bestseller. 

But back to self-published books.  What they mainly lack is good P.R.  If nobody knows about the book, how is it ever going to sell?  Robin mentions a few interesting strategies in her blog post

Meetups, writers’ groups, book clubs, volunteer organizations. All of these are places to meet people, talk to people, and mention your book.

Good advice Robin, but who has that kind of time?  Most people have jobs and when they come home there cooking and cleaning to be done.

Send a review copy to your local stores. If they see it, in their hands, and look at it, they might take a chance on you.

Another good idea, but here’s the thing.  I did that and was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm, until the store owner found out that my book was self-published and suddenly I was cold product.

In suburbs where book stores are privately owned a self-published author might have a chance, but where I live (Toronto) the book industry is monopolized by Chapters Indigo and they won’t touch a self-published author with a ten foot pole.

Organizing book signings is a tricky situation.  Let’s say that an author does manage to get a signing, he needs to invest in a certain quantity of his work.  That requires not only financial resources but a car.  Have you ever tried to lug around + 50 books?  If they sell, great, if not you’re a few hundred dollars out of pocket.

It all comes down to money.  If you have money you can enlist the help of a P.R. firm, you can stock your own books and you can devote all your time to blowing your own horn.  If you don’t have money … well, you’re pretty much on your own.

Still, I’ll take some of your advice and I’ll let you know what happens.

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