How many of you have had this conversation?
Me (to total stranger, in an act of shameless self-promotion): "Hi; do you like to read?"
Them: "Why, yes, I love to read!"
Me (Handing them a promo bookmark): Maybe you'd like to check out my novel. It won Best Thriller last year."
Them: "Really? You wrote this?"
Me (squirming in humility, while my ego inflates hopefully): "Yes, I did."
Them: "How's it doing?"
That's where I fall short. I know what they mean. They are curious as to how well it's selling, and in a sense, it's a valid question. I'm trying to get them to buy into my vision. They have a certain right to know if they should expect a high-quality work, and one of the indicators of a quality product is sales figures. But it's also like saying, "Oh, you're an avionics tech. How much do you make?" Which, of course, most people know is a pretty rude question. I'm not comfortable with the question, because to tell the truth, my sales numbers bely the quality of the work.
I even get the standard, "Oh, you must be rich by now!" At which point I kind of roll my eyes and say something glib like, "Well maybe after another million or two sales." Let's face it, Stephen King took a while to start making enough to live off of his writing alone. But most folks don't think about that. They expect me to be the owner of the Falcon 50 instead of the poor schlock trying to repair the faulty air data computing system, and all just for making it to the point where I got published.
But you know, we do ask for it, by putting ourselves out there for the world to see. We're not all JK Rowling, or even Richard Castle, for that matter. Not that I would turn down that kind of money. Hell, I'm struggling for each sale at this point. But I also have to remember, I'm a new kid on the block. I can't just throw my pebble into the marketing pond and expect my splash to be seen over the boulder that Random House threw in, because they can afford boulders and all I can afford are pebbles. But if all I have are pebbles, I'll keep on tossing 'em in.At least I'm making waves.
So, back to our conversation. At that point, I simply say to my new potential fan that I'm still new, but buzz is building. How many actually go to the Muse Website to check it out, or even Amazon or Barnes&Noble? I don't know. I have no way of knowing. So I keep making my bookmarks and keep handing them out to random strangers as I meet them. I host guests on my blog, and guest on others. I put out review requests that get ignored (or not), and I send out my press releases, 98% of which end up in the trash can at the newspaper office, radio station, or television station I send them to. I keep plugging away one sale at a time.
Because one day, I'm going to hit the right nerve. Word-of-mouth will start, and take off. And that's when the magic starts. And when the next stranger asks me "How's your book doing?" I can say, "Very well, thank you."
So let me ask you: Are you telling your friends about your favorite authors? Sharing their books? Can you write a short review? Because to an author, those are the highest compliments you can give.