Jun 30

Reasons Why I Am Buying / Not Buying Your Book

book blue 300I’m buying your book because:

  • You are my close friend.
  • You are my former student or client.
  • The subject interests me.
  • I’ve read the first page and want to read more.
  • I’ve got the cash on me.
  • I want to encourage you to write more.
  • No one else is buying it and I’m embarrassed for you.
  • You’re selling it at a discount.
  • I was present at your reading and enjoyed the reading.
  • A pity purchase might put me in your good graces.

Jun 18

When Is It Right to Give Someone Your Book?

In the interest of mental health and wanting to be a class act, I ask, "When is it right to give someone your book?" Some provisional answers, from experience:

1. Give it when the recipient will care about it. You have friends who don't care a fig about your poetry. Do not attend their birthday parties and, with shining eyes, gift them with your poetry book.

2. Do not give it as a prize or premium, or instead of compensation for services, or as a thank-you, unless you are thanking the recipient for somehow helping in the book's creation or promotion. Do not withhold the book from anyone who helped.

3. Do not give your book as a substitute for a real gift, or as an act of charity unless the charity solicits it.

4. Do not try to impress a non-writing romantic interest, or his or her parents, by giving your book. If you are female they will say behind your back that you are siddity (stuck-up, think you are too good for them); if you are male they will say the writer thing is okay but he'll never make any money with it.

5. Yes, give your book in exchange for another writer's book.

6. Give it to a potential reviewer, but when no review appears, don't pin her to the wall and demand to know what happened.

6.5. Don't give it to people you ignore except when you want their attention for your book.

7. Don't give it unless you give it with all your heart. If you'd really like money for it, tell them you'll sell it to them for cost. Really. Or the transaction will embitter you.

8. Don't give it to someone who really should buy it, such as a stranger chatting you up at a book signing.

9. Give it to a famous writer if you like, but do not expect it to be read, because he or she gets handed books all the time, and do not expect thanks. Hope only that he or she glances at it and says, "Doesn't look bad," or "That'd be nice to read if I wasn't so busy writing."

10. Give it to someone who will share the joy of it with you.
May 13

E-Books Outsell Paperbacks for the First Time

The Association for American Publishers announced last month that during February, more eBooks than hard-copy paperbacks were sold. Here are the numbers. I am quoting the AAP Monthly Sales Report for February 2011, released in April 2011:

"Other highlights in the February 2011 report (all February 2011 vs February 2010 unless otherwise noted):

Digital categories:
E-Book sales were $90.3 Million, growing 202.3% vs February 2010. Downloaded Audiobooks were $6.9M, an increase of 36.7%.

Trade categories:
Adult Trade categories combined (Hardcover, Paperback and Mass Market) were $156.8M, down 34.4%. [that's Catherine's emphasis. ]Children’s/Young Adult categories combined (Hardcover and Paperback) were $58.5M, a decline of 16.1%

*Year-to-date 2011 vs YTD 2010: E-Books increased by 169.4% while all categories combined of print Trade books declined by 24.8% . . . .

The AAP monthly and year-end sales report represents data provided by 84 U.S. publishing houses representing major commercial, education, professional, scholarly and independents. Data on e-Books comes from 16 houses. The report does not include all book and journal net sales but provides what’s acknowledged as the best industry snapshot currently available."

The report says that the spike in E-Book sales is credited to people receiving Kindles & other E-readers as holiday gifts. (Have one yet? Remember 2008 when Kindles were new and $399 and now they're going for half that?) E-Book sales have been slightly lower in subsequent months. But you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...Those of you with books, how will you rethink your sales strategies?
Feb 10

When Three People Show Up...

Wednesday night when it was 9 degrees outside I and two other audience members got to question the heck out of Bobbi Smith, author of 54 books with over 5 million copies sold. Her story about the best writing advice she ever got: She wrote her labor-of-love first novel in her basement and writing it had been so much fun it made her truly sad to come to the end. At work (at a bookstore) she was shelving psychology books while crying about this. Her boss asked her what was wrong. Bobbi told her. The boss said, ""Write another one, stupid!"

Wearing her trademark rhinestone pin saying "Bobbi," Smith sat with us, read us some early efforts and told us she writes Westerns because NYC says no romance fan wants to read about the Midwest, or even any Western state except Arizona or Texas. Wyoming does not cut it. We talked about digital, about vampire books, about agents. I don't think I've ever been so close to someone so creative as to invent 54 full-length novels, even if they're not the lit'ry kind I read (exclusively, mind you!). She said a romance-writers convention had once held a Hunk Contest, and the winner got to be on the cover of a romance novel, and it happened to be Bobbi's, and she did her book tour with him, drawing tons of fans smitten not with the novel but with the Hunk.

Above all, she said, "You have no control." Luck. Publishers' and agents' whims. Audience whims. Cultural and technological shifts. Her new book is digital only, and not by her choice; by her publisher's.

If you have ever sought an audience, doubtless the little-to-no audience has happened to you. I have seen a poet at a bookstore bravely reading to empty chairs. Once I read poems in a restaurant on a night raining cats & dogs. There were no diners. The audience: a friend from work and a man who had a crush on me (note: I later married this guy). I have given "workshops" on the topic of, say, writing tone and style, and had two people show up. I have taught classes of two (who stuck with me after others dropped out). Each time I doggedly went through with it. Slightly sick at heart, but it was my own expectations that did that. This happens at last to everyone. But show up and do your job (or your show). We can control only what we do; we can't control results.
Jan 13

Sneaky Self-Promotion for Idiot Authors

Dying to get their books into bookstores, or sell bookstore stock, authors actually do these things:
  1. Artificial Insemination: After printing colorful card-stock promotional bookmarks featuring the title and purchase information for one’s own book, an author sticks these bookmarks into store copies of bestsellers.
  1. Disturbing the Universe: A writer in a bookstore surreptitiously moves her books closer to the front, or turns them from spine-out to face-out, or re-distributes the bookstore’s stock of her book among several subjects or shelves. She doesn’t realize that the bookstore is a business, that she is not the first writer to do this, and that the bookstore clerks know the shelves as they know their own faces; after all, they have arranged the books, often to specifications given and paid for by the publishers. It is their job eight hours a day to maintain this order.
  1. The Secret Book Signing: A writer enters a bookstore, finds his own books and secretly autographs all the copies, knowing that autographed books are considered defaced and cannot be returned to the publisher, and hoping this will force the bookstore to keep all copies on the shelves until they are sold.
  1. The James Frey Awards: A writer has golden medallion-type stickers printed with the name of a fictitious award, enters the bookstore and sticks them onto his book covers hoping this will attract attention.

Not yet dead of embarrassment and shame? Pretend you are not the author, and sell a copy of your book to every used-book dealer in town. At least it’ll be shelved in a bookstore. (A tip found online.)