Friday, January 8, 2010

Art vs. commerce

So I got my first royalty check last week. Yeah! Well, sort of. It came with a certain amount of stress and the idea that we should be selling more books. I hate even thinking about book sales. I hate to stress over it. I hate to have unreal expectations about it. I do have obligations though. Obligations to my publisher who took a chance on us and has taken the leap of faith to put out a book which is no small investment. To my co-author who I wish success on in some ways even more than myself.
How to sell more books? Who knows? In truth, no one. I have seen first hand really dedicated authors pushing so hard to sell books and making some headway but not as much as the effort deserves. I have seen lavish praise heaped on books but still they languish in obscurity. On this, the day of Friday's Forgotten Books , there is evidence of so many books that mean so much to a select few but never find a mass audience.
For me, it is so not about money. I'm half tempted to just frame the check and not even cash it, just to prove later in life that I did this at one point. Hoping this won't be my only book but until the next one sells it's all I have. It is so much more about getting a story out there that I believe in and one that I think people will truly like. So far the response has been fantastic. Thank you all who have written to say you liked it. (we could use more Amazon reviews if you're so inclined) I just want the book to find the people who would enjoy it. But, hey, don't we all.
I went through a long period where I barely read at all. Bookstores were just too intimidating to me. I would walk in and see shelf after shelf of books and not know where to begin. They all have blurbs telling you it is the best book of the year, etc. so how can you trust that? So I know how difficult it is to try to get your tiny little book to stand out among a very crowded field.
I still remember it was A Simple Plan that got me back into reading and really that turned me almost exclusively to crime fiction. It just hit the target dead-on for what I was looking for and made me realize exactly what my area of interest was.
So now, in the thick of trying to get the word out on One Too Many Blows To The Head, which will hopefully sell a few copies and reassure my publisher that they made a good decision to release it and also build a reputation for Jennifer and I as good writers, together and individually, where to go from here? Back to it I guess. Into the scrum with all the others.
Surprisingly, I have found other authors to be very non-competitive, very supportive and generous with their time. It would be so easy to just hunker down and defend your own beach head but so far, everyone I have met in the book world is kind and giving. Very different from the TV/movie biz.
So I will try not to stress about sales numbers while at the same time accepting that it is a part of my job as an independent author. It is a new world of publishing and only a grass roots approach will make our voices heard.
I need to get better at weaseling my way into the conversation more. I am a terrible self-promoter but that will get me swept away with the tide awfully quickly in this line of work. And with that check, no matter how tiny it is, it moves from a hobby to a job. Sure I made more at my real job during my commute this morning but the book exists and I have a product to sell. Even when I worked in retail I never did sales. Guess it's time to learn how.


books,coffee,etc.... said...

Hi! Eric,
Congratulations! are in order...on receiving your first royalty check from the sale(s) of your book...One Too Many Blows To The Head. .

Eric, I'am already on Chapter four of...One Too Many Blows To The Head. ...So, far your book is "stacking" up to be one very interesting read.

By the way, I deleted one of my book blogs in order to concentrate on authors and their at this website...exclusively!

However, this is one interesting post...Thanks, for sharing your thoughts about the difficult that is associated wit being an author, writer, etc, etc, etc... with your readers.

DeeDee ;-D

Mike Wilkerson said...

Eric, this was a really good post. Trust me, just getting yourself published is huge and beyond what most of us have achieved. That's saying something. Hell, that's saying everything.

However, it's also about longevity. Look at James Ellroy. He was six books in before he recieved real recognition. It was also around this time, when he started to talk more about himself as a person, what he'd gone through, etc.

Now, I realize that Ellroy is an over the top example. But I also believe it was during those first books, when he began to plot his future course and understand the importance of self promotion. Look at where he is now.

Eric, I would say weasel your way into every conversation you can. Promote the shit out of yourself. You've worked hard to get here, now it's time to let everyone know it!