Danger All Around


Writing is one thing; selling books is another.  Many writers finally get their book published and “out there,” feel like they’ve finally climbed the mountain, and turn around only to see an even higher peak lying right ahead of them. There are grizzlies in those mountains and dangers all around.

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William Kay Blacklock, A Quiet Read, 1900

In the world of self-publishing, one little ebook will not necessarily get attention—or buyers. The skills a writer hones so carefully over time to produce his or her book are not the skills s/he needs to bring it to the attention of the world. My humble self was no exception and, frankly folks, I still don’t know much.  Here are some of the traps.

Danger #1 Doing nothing.

If a Alice Author takes the stand that she is a writer, not a marketer and her precious gem should stand on its own merits, Precious Gem will sink like a rock. If she’s lucky enough to have a New York publisher behind her, it may sink slowly, but without her effort it will still sink.

Danger #2 the Watercooler

Alice already belongs to a writers’ group. When she alerts her colleagues them that

Watercooler_Wikinews-112x300 Author's Blog Writing

By photo by Jason Pratt

Precious Gem exists, they will be supportive. If she plunges into social media and extends her facebook page by joining various book related groups, she will find even more support.

The danger is that the majority of these folks are also writers who also have gems. Another recommended technique is to “tour” blog sites. Alice may get spots on the blogs of other writers to discuss her writing.  As is often the case, Alice has become stuck at what Kristen Lamb calls “the watercooler,” hanging around talking shop with other people that do that same things.

Danger #3 Driving her friends away

If Alice’s sales pitch consists primarily in “Buy Precious Gem; it is wonderful,” and she repeats it over and over, friends and watercooler colleagues get tired of the message quickly.  Apologies to all of you who think I already do that.  Fewer, cleverer messages peak interest much better.

Danger #4 Exhaustion

There are only so many hours in the day. If Alice spends her time wandering social media like Demosthenes with his lantern looking for readers she may not have time to write. If she devotes every hour to writing blog posts and creating memes, she may forget to write. And if she finds herself buying and reading the books of all the other writers she may make friends and lose her own voice, her muse, her creativity and be unable to write.

As I suggested, I still don’t know much. However, in the year since Caroline Warfield (the author persona of Carol Roddy) built this Web site, created facebook page, and began to tweet, she has learned one or two things.

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Painting by Gerard ter Borch

—The most important marketing tool is to write the next book. I heard this first from Donna MacMeans, a friend from Central Ohio Fiction Writers, and then from Debby Gilbert, founder and chief editor of Soul Mate Publishing. If readers like one, they’ll read another. If your second sells well, readers will pick up your first.  In order to do that you have to stay in touch with your characters and their lives. You have to keep their voices in your head.  A novel featuring Glenaire, friend, rescuer, and nemesis of Andrew and Jamie (from the first two books) will come out this fall. A holiday novella featuring his friend Will Landrum, Earl of Chadbourn will appear in an anthology in November.

—You win more friends with fun than sales pitches. My friend Jude Knight  hammered that home to me. Events, games and giveaways attract readers. So does a playful sense of your characters and your books.  When we planned a blog for the Bluestocking Belles, we decided the world had enough blogs about writing and/or about research related to writing. We decided to create space for writers to post short fiction in the voice of their characters. Teatime Tattler is a Regency era gossip rag. Most of the posts are darned funny. We also created a Facebook page that is play space, Mrs. Marlowe’s Bluestocking Bookshop. Anyone can bring an existing character or create a new one and join in creating fiction on the fly: duels, police raids, blackmail, and monkeys loose in a bookstore are among the ones so far. If Alice would write in the voice of her characters, or about her hero or heroine in the voices of secondary characters, she might interest people in Precious Gem faster.

Now, about that exhaustion thing—I still have a long way to go.  Back to work.

5 thoughts on “Danger All Around

  1. Wonderful post, Caroline. And a prudent reminder to us all that getting published is only the first in a long line of steps toward becoming a success.

  2. Interesting post.

    I am only a reader…not a writer and I have wondered how some of these bigger writers keep it all juggled? I read some authors that seem to do it all so very well…..and some who do it awfully.

    As a reader I have been disgruntled at times because it seems like I have done all the following to find new books (and debut writers) without any real leading going on by the author. Finding the new good author seems very illusive at times.

    I do really appreciate good current modern websites from all romance authors….with email updates possible. I know it takes time and skill…..but there ya go. Probably part of the whole writer problem. It certainly can be a problem and time consuming for any small business person.

    I never pay serious attention to your fellow writer recommendations or chit chats about the other writers “great book.” I don’t trust them enough.

    If I really love, love the author doing the recommending….I might check out a recommendation for story line and see if I want to chance it.

    There are some catch phrases in reviews that clue me in on what I would like to read or absolutely will not read…I already know what I like and so does everyone else. I just gotta find it.

    Variety is good for everyone….but I am not reading just everything if doesn’t appeal. Description of book is important….so the author should make sure they like the posted description too.

    I try to give probable story lines at least one chance. But fail with me and it is over….I can’t spend the money there again.

    Writing a quality well edited book does count. I have a “never do that again” list…..and I always check it.

    Also as a side note….personally I never write a bad review. I don’t have the heart for it. If it bad….it is just bad and I let others be negative about it. I only do a review for author if I loved the book.

    I think writing with success like everything must be a good business model that is run well. You must be a good writer of course and keep busy at it….because as a reader I want my favorite authors to be as prolific as possible with good material…..I want to read, read, read it.

    But to free up the writer….if you don’t multi-task well. You probably need a staff (possibly family) that thinks just like you do, who confers with you often, loves you madly, would never hurt you and keeps your sentiments in type on blogs and websites. Or trained professionals…..and I know they can be expensive.

    Honestly I don’t know how some to the “biggie” romance writers do it without lots and lots of help?

    • Becky,
      Thank you for the thoughtful comments. Never say “just” a reader! Readers are why we do what we do.
      I strongly suspect that the bigger authors do indeed have staff to handle social media and/or pr firms. Most of us don’t make enough money to hire people. If we are lucky, we have family who help out.

      At the end of the day, though, the writer’s most important job is to put out a quality product and hope the right readers find it. No book is for everyone. I am happy working with Soul Mate precisely because I do have quality editing. No book should go out without it!

      Again, thanks for commenting.

      PS If you want updates from me, my newsletter is fairly short and comes out regularly.

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