Why It’s Okay to Publish a Book That Probably Won’t Sell

 

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No, this article is not about to tell you that it’s okay to use a stock cover, do your own editing, and ignore proper formatting rules.

I’m talking about genre, story. The best-selling indie books tend to be erotica, romance, mystery, and thriller. What if you have an idea for a novel that doesn’t fit anywhere in these popular categories?

Neither traditional publishing nor Hollywood are known for taking on risky projects. It’s understandable, really, because there’s typically a lot of money at stake and there’s a lot to lose if you gamble on an untested type of story. Unfortunately, that’s why there is such a glut of superhero movies and sequels. Slap the word Marvel on a film and it’s guaranteed to make big bucks, and a sequel to a bad movie is likely to make money if the first one did. With traditional publishing, the number one priority of agents and publishers is producing a book they really believe will sell well. Again, this makes good business sense, but it also results in a lot of repetition, severe lack of originality, and little room for passion projects.

Enter self-publishing.

We indie folks are all about passion projects. We don’t have to wait for someone else to tell us we’re allowed to write and publish what we love, and we can afford to take risks. If you publish a book traditionally and it doesn’t sell well – and quickly – it’s going to get yanked from the shelves with no second chances. If you thought it was hard to get traditionally published the first time, good luck getting a second deal, EVER, if your first book didn’t sell well. I was listening to one of Simon Whistlers’ podcasts recently with host David Gaughran, author of Let’s Get Digital, and they were discussing the fact that there are no asterisks in publishing. Even if your terrible sales record was completely beyond your control ( for instance, your book was released on 9/11, or your publisher suddenly pulled all its advertising of your book to focus on another hot release) you’re still going to be blamed for sluggish book sales. Your career could be over before it’s begun.

The worst-case scenario for a self-published book is that you’re disappointed that your book didn’t sell well, then it’s on to the next. You can even leave your book up for sale indefinitely in the hopes that it could still take off someday. And why not? The book is still part of your backlist and could still get sales as you slowly build your following.

You can slowly build your following.

And there it is – one of the coolest parts of being an indie author. Your career doesn’t have to take off like gangbusters right away. Realistically, how many endeavors are successful immediately? Almost everything worth doing takes a lot of perseverance and hard work.

So if you’ve got a book that you just love and don’t want to let go of – DON’T. You can’t expect it to make you a lot of money (though it could), but you can expect to be really excited and proud of it. That passion shines through, and you’ll probably find at least a handful of readers who really love that book of yours that means so much to you. Isn’t that what being an author is all about? That special relationship between reader and author?

I wrote a middle-grade book called THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX. It’s about baseball, which I love. It has lots of humor, which l love. My eleven-year-old, baseball-playing son loves the book, and I love him.

I can’t market the book, which is targeted at boys and girls aged 9-12, on Twitter. Those little people aren’t old enough to be on Facebook, and it’s not too likely they’re going to sign up for my email list anytime soon.

This book is likely not going to be hugely successful for me.

I wrote this article – Self-publishing Means Never Having to Say Goodbye – all about how sad I was that I that I was never going to publish that middle-grade novel.

Yeah, well, I’ve changed my mind.

It probably won’t make much money. So what? I don’t have an agent or a publisher breathing down my neck for big sales numbers. The publishing company releasing the book is WANNABE PRIDE publishing. MY COMPANY. I’m the boss, and I approved this project.

No, it won’t sell a ton of books, but maybe it will make a few kids laugh. Maybe I’ll get to give a talk at a school about it at some point. And, as proud as I am of QUEEN HENRY, my super-gay, pro-equality LGBT book, I know it’s not for everyone. I don’t mind talking about the book, but when someone who is uber-conservative asks me about what I’ve written, I kind of inwardly roll my eyes. Just don’t ask. You’re not gonna like it.

THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX is perfectly acceptable and appropriate for all ages. Knowing the kind of racy stuff I usually write, I’m not going to be able to say that often. The book is about a woman, Konnie Mack, who loves baseball but hasn’t played the sport since her beloved father passed away. It’s against the law to get mad in the town of Joyville, and her punishment for having a hot temper is to coach the local Little League team. The kids have never played baseball, so it will take a lot of patience for her to teach them without totally blowing her top.

Once this book is released, I’ll always have a book that my friends and family can read and promote to others without blushing. I can send a copy to the old orthodontic office where I used to work, and if I’m chatting up old ladies in line in the supermarket, I can recommend they buy a copy for their grandkids. I might only sell a handful of copies, but I will get to share my story after all.

And that’s pretty cool.

So if you’ve got a weird, crazy, potential-flop of a tale you really want to tell, DO IT. Go ahead and greenlight the project and make it happen! You’re the boss and you’re in charge. Don’t invest your life savings in a super-risky project, but don’t let the fear of failure stop you from pursuing something that you truly have a passion for.

The only real failure is that risk you didn’t take.

  • Linda Fausnet

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Why Authors Should Answer Their Fan Mail

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If you’re new to self-publishing, it may be hard to imagine that someday you might have actual fans – people who really love your work and are excited to read more. It will be really exciting when some of those fans are passionate enough about your work that they actually reach out to you, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or even in an email.

It may tempting for you to play it cool. You might be jumping up and down with excitement that you’ve actually got some fan mail, but perhaps you decide not to answer, preferring instead to act like you’re too busy and too important to answer back.

I don’t recommend that course of action.

As a newly self-published author, one who has spent over twenty years wallowing in obscurity, I treasure each and every sale that I get. It makes me so happy when someone buys my book, or even downloads it for free. I’m honored that people take the time to read my books, and if a fan ever contacted me, I would be more than happy to write back. I realize that it’s easy for me to say that now. I don’t have people sending me emails every day, so of course I could respond easily to anyone who contacted me.

As authors, we’re always bombarded with so much information on marketing and social media. Ya gotta advertise on Facebook! Tweet five times a day! Use Pinterest and Linked in! It’s easy to forget the SOCIAL in social media. It doesn’t work for me to have you throw marketing in my face and walk away. If I’m a true fan (which is what you want, after all. That’s why you’re marketing), I might want some kind of personal response.

My advice is, if a fan writes to you, write her back. You can wait 24 hours if you don’t want to appear overeager. Of, if you’re fortunate enough to have lots of fan mail, write back but make your responses quick. Even if a fan writes you a ten-page love letter, you can still write back with only a few sentences, and you don’t have an obligation to keep the conversation going after that. Fans should understand that you’re busy, but it’s not too much to ask to get some kind of response when they send you a nice message about your work.

Sean Platt, one of the authors and self-publishing gurus behind Write, Publish, Repeat (a great resource for indies if you haven’t read it) wrote me back and answered my question about publishing middle-grade fiction. It really meant a lot to me and I never forgot it.

And guess what? I never would have plugged his book as I just did if he’d ignored me. I wouldn’t hold a grudge I guess, but I would have been disappointed and wouldn’t go out of my way to promote his work.
I had a similar situation with an indie author whose books I LOVE. I’ve only read two so far, and I couldn’t put them down. They were just the type of book I love to read – sweet, sexy, tender romance with an excellent plot, so it’s not just lovey-dovey stuff. I loved her first book and made it a Wannabe Pride Book Pick of the Week. I just read her second book and did the same thing. I loved that book so much that I deliberately read it slowly so that it wouldn’t end. I said this on Twitter and tagged the author. To be fair, she did answer back on Twitter to say thanks.

She has a Contact Me email address on her website, so I did. I wrote her a nice email and told her how much I loved her books, and how I admired her for her success. I told her she was an inspiration to me. She somehow managed to get a review in The New York Times of her self-published book, and I asked how she managed such a great accomplishment.

As you can probably guess, she never wrote me back. I’m not gonna lie; it kinda broke my heart. I really don’t have the enthusiasm for her work that I once had. I loved her books – she was really my favorite author – but now when I see her books, it kinda bums me out. I’m not trying to be petty, but I just don’t have much interest in reading her stuff anymore. So I haven’t read any more so far.

I’m sure it’s no big deal to her if I don’t buy her books, but this loss of sale(s) could have easily been avoided. If she had taken the time to write me back- even two sentences – that would have been enough for me. As my readers know by reading Wannabe Pride, I have a real passion for helping other authors. I really feel that we need to look out for each other. If you’re ahead of me on the success ladder, I hope you’ll reach down, give me a hand, and help pull me up. It’s what I would do.

I also feel it’s a little unfair to encourage your fans to Contact Me if all you want is for us to tell you how great you are. Even with traditional publishing, gone are the days where the publishers do all the publicity for you. YOU need to be your own best advertising advocate. Taking your fans for granted is just not wise, no matter how successful you are.

Okay – one more rejected-by-an-author story. Through an acquaintance, I’ve met a  traditionally-published Young Adult author. I’ve met her once in person – when I attended a book signing of hers – and we’re friends on Facebook. I’ve responded to several of her posts on Facebook. They were posts about writing, and I commented about my own experience. She never answered back, even though there were usually only one or two other comments on the thread. I definitely get an “I’m better than you” vibe from her, though I could be wrong. After all, I drove to her book signing, listened to her talk, and bought a copy of her book (and not the Kindle version, either). This woman knows who I am and knows I have self-published a book, but she really doesn’t bother to give me the time of day. It’s frustrating, because if the shoe was on the other foot, I would have been excited to see what I could do to help her. Kinda annoys me, too, when I think of all the literary agents who will only considered a new writer if she is referred by a published author. So what happens when published authors treat you like garbage?

She has a three-book series out now. Guess how many I bought after the book signing? Again, I know I’m small potatoes, but a sale’s a sale. And she’s lost mine, and any other publicity I might have given her.

One last story. I promise.

Jodi Picoult is an internationally-renowned, traditionally-published, New York Times bestselling author, who has had several movies made based on her books. If you send her an email, she usually sends you a brief yet very friendly response within 24 hours.

Do you want to be a classy, humble, appreciative author, or play it cool and aloof, even when it means losing followers?

  • Linda Fausnet

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AuthorRise – A Great Resource for Indie Writers – is FREE This Week Only!

I’ve been a beta user for this emerging program, and now they’re ready to go live. There’s typically a subscription fee, but they’re letting people sign up free for the next week, so I recommend you take a look. The website is https://www.authorrise.com/.

Chris Weber, CEO of AuthorRise, guest blogged for Wannabe Pride a few months ago.
How To Create Your Social Marketing Strategy (for Writers) by Chris Weber, CEO, AuthorRise.

AuthorRise basically helps you navigate social media marketing campaigns for your books, and helps you track your success. It boasts the following services:

It can help you set social media goals. It’s so hard to know what to tweet and when, and this program helps guide you through the process. You can start slow – one or two social media message per day – then work your way up.

You Can Create “flyers” – These are like free, mini-ads that you can create easily. Flyers eye-catching, visual messages you can create by adding a brief message, a link, and an image (like your book cover). These flyers are shareable/ tweetable and take just seconds to create. I am utterly techno-phobic, and it was easy for me to do. Here’s what one of mine looks like:

Flyer

Helps you track book sales. You can easily track book sales with the program, and you even get an email notification when there is a spike in your Amazon ranking.

Helps you track the success and reach of all your social media outlets. I think this is one of the coolest aspects of AuthoRise. You can plainly see which social media messages work and which don’t. You can see how many people clicked on your website or Amazon page and what message sent them there. This is valuable information for any author to see which social media platforms work best and which messages garner the most attention.

So far, it seems like a useful service and the customer service help has been top-notch. Whenever I’ve had questions, Chris Weber himself usually answers back, and rather quickly. The folks at AuthorRise seem to really want to help indie writers, so it’s worth taking a look.

– Linda Fausnet

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