Saturday, June 1, 2013

"So, you're a writer..."

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.


  1. In my head I've known each of us go through the same uphill dance as we try to build momentum for our visions. You presented the process of that uphill dance most eloquently, and the challenges when we have to do the hardest part of being authors...promote ourselves. (I was taught it's not right to brag, boast, swagger, or strut my stuff...but an author HAS to do all those things.)

    JK Rowling never expected the explosive success she achieved. She is the rarity. Much like actors who never give up their day jobs, most of us never reach the point where our name is bolder than the title, like Nora Roberts writing as J.D Robb. (Her In Death Series.)

    I have read every one of your books Cyrus, and the power in your voice is breathtaking. You snatch the reader with your opening salvo, hold on tight and catapult the reader through until the very end...and even then, so commanding is you authors' voice, when we shut down our Kindles, or shelve our print copies of your books, your NADIA project series stays with us, like a little seed growing inside our brains begging for MORE.

    I am eagerly looking forward to the prequel to the stories I have already devoured. Thank you for being an author despite that uphill dance.


  2. As a newbie author, I really had no idea what all was involved in getting a book published. Even now, I'm struggling with understanding blog tours, branding, press releases etc., and I feel like it might be easier once my manuscript is edited and I have a cover to show off. But, I also realize there's much to be done before that happens.

    I do have a blog up and just had a first guest on it, however, I could't have done that without a friend's help. I feel like I'm on a mind-expanding experience, and I'll do my best to learn and grow from it.

    Thanks for writing this Cyrus, it helps to know that we all have a lot of hurdles on our way to achieving our goals as a published author.

  3. Thank you for the reminder that we writers are not alone, Cyrus. The funny thing is, before my first book was published I never thought about marketing my writing or building a presence, or worrying about sales. It wasn't about money, I just have to write--it's a genetic tick I can't unload. And that was fine. I wrote, morning noon and night, manuscripts piled up and I didn't even think to try pushing them out into the cold, cold world. Then, a friend pushed me into that mind bogging step. Then Lea, bless her heart, saw and liked and I became a published author. But the business side of writing is alien to me. So I was floundering here, not good at marketing, not good at tootin' my own horn. I'm a hermit, all I can and want to do is write. But, oh there is always a but, Lea had faith in my, my dear friends had faith in me, and I still don't know what I have faith in except I want to prove their faith is valid and uplifting. So thank you for reminding me that we are never alone, we all struggle and sometimes wander in the wilderness. And yet we still carry on, and that is a blessing in itself.