We Love You This Big!

Ever wondered how much you’re loved as an author?  freelance-writing

More than a decade ago, I partnership-published a couple of novels and my publisher told me how many books he expected me to sell. I was shocked at the low number, and I do admit to huffing and bristling. If I’d had hair on my back I’d have looked like a spooked kitty. He explained that we have a personal reach, immediate family, friends, and co-workers. For the sake of easy numbers, let’s say that reach is 400 (although he said the average number is closer to 250.) He said of this 400, not all would buy the book, but somewhere in the vicinity of 25% would actually buy. That meant 100 confirmed sales. Yikes!

Hold on to your hat! That was a long time ago. There was no big publishing house backing me, it was pre-indie publishing, pre KDP Select, pre the big Amazon publishing machine, and the long, long reach of social media. Back in the day (or as my kids say, before the wheel) I had a website, no blog, and I did speaking engagements at libraries and women’s groups, and book signings in real brick and mortar bookstores. Imagine that! I did no online marketing. Everything I did was face to face.

In today’s market, we authors stay at home and blast the internet. I think now we have the opportunity to build contacts that far surpass what would be considered our normal reach; however, I sense the people we reach out to in the social media forums are inundated with other authors also reaching out to them. All of the grabbing hands and ceaseless voices whispering: “Buy my book.” Sometimes I feel like I’m speaking into a void, or shouting above constant chatter. But I also know, speak too softly and you’ll get overlooked, and speak too loudly and you’ll get overlooked. I often question if I must continue, unpleasant as it is, to be one of the grabbing hands and whispered voices.

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I do think the initial 25% of my readers who liked my work have stayed true, and maybe now my reach has grown a little. With KDP Select I saw good sales with book #1, but I had to give away 20,000 free books to achieve that. There are now way too many free books flooding the market and KDP has changed. I know for sure that I’m more selective of the free downloads that are available. Are you? At first, I had so many books on my Kindle I couldn’t find those I’d intended to read and review. Sadly, I began to skim first chapters and delete. I don’t want to be an author who readers delete.

That brings me back to the question, how does one build a genuine readership in this age of super-big, super-fast, disposable everything? How do we retain our readers? I don’t think social media is the whole answer. It’s so easy to click a like and move on, or fire off a tweet and move on, giving the semblance of caring. So what is an author supposed to do to get the word out? I know, I know…write a good book, and then another good book, and so on. Seriously, it goes beyond that, because I’ve read some fabulous books and wondered why they never caught fire. I might be crazy, but I’ve decided to slow the merry-go-round, build on face-to-face contacts, develop friendships, and have fun. In the meantime, I’ll be super-happy with my faithful readers. I want readers to look forward to the next book with a sense of pleasure.

But I suppose, if I’m really, really honest, I do want them to say: We love you this big! : ) Talk to me. What do you think about all of this?MP900227520[1]

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16 Responses to We Love You This Big!

  1. Beats me! I wish there was a magic potion for this portion of writing our books.

  2. Dee J. says:

    I slowed my merry-go-round a long time ago. I try to do the face-to-face as often as I can, but how often do those chances really happen? I think the success is writing the next (good) book. We have to keep putting fresh material in our readers’ hands. That’s what they want. Look at your best-selling authors… do you see them all over social media all the time? I don’t. That’s cause they’re using their time to write. I need to try it sometime. LOL.

    • robena grant says:

      Yes, I agree, Dee J. But those face-to-face opps like book signings also cost money to attend, flight travel, etc. And best-selling authors have in house marketing getting their backs. So, what does the little gal do? Social media, along with a gazillion other authors. Or internet promo, but that also costs money. It’s hard to know where best to place your promo dollars, isn’t it?

  3. Hi Robena,
    I think word of mouth is the key and writing a really terrific book. The news will spread, but it’s a slow build now with so many books out there. And let’s face it, some would be readers, are playing Candy Crush instead. There’s so much out there to distract from buying and reading books these days. Hang in, sent out a newsletter and write the best book you can. 🙂

    • robena grant says:

      Good advice, Charlene. I have not created a newsletter. I was deliberately avoiding doing one. I blog at least once a week, and I’d hoped that would be enough. Now I’m thinking I must do something about ye old newsletter. ; )

  4. Sam Beck says:

    I’m aiming to take the opposite approach this year. I don’t know how to get people to buy my books, but for those who have, I need to find ways to show my appreciation! I do a book giveaway on my FB author page every Friday, (usually not my books, something in the same genre that I think people who read my books would enjoy, or something I read and enjoyed). I participate in a lot of blogger-sponsored giveaways. I keep a spreadsheet of people who Tweet me or leave a FB or website post saying how much they enjoyed one of my books and then, when the next book is ready, I contact them and ask them if they’d like a free copy, (either an ARC or simply a gift copy from Amazon or B&N). Robin Bielman and I did a joint “Reader Appreciation” giveaway involving…ahem…cupcakes. I’m always open for more ideas!

  5. robena grant says:

    That’s interesting, Sam. I had seen several of your giveaways that were not your own books. That’s a nice thing to do. I do giveaways on my own blog, but they’re my books or gift items. Hmmm. It’s hard to know what to do for readers, and to retain those readers. I’m also open to more ideas, and I love this one. Thank you!

  6. Maria Powers says:

    Hmm, I compare some of this to throwing a rock into a pond and then another and then another. The ripples move out and over lap. You don’t really know where any of them end up but perhaps one ends up somewhere and then… you’ve got a new reader or two or three or more. I try and do the stuff that is easy for me and that I like. Other than that, I just don’t do it.

    • robena grant says:

      Yep, you’re right, Maria. That is how it should work, but sometimes I feel like I’m wasting time, standing on the riverbank skipping stones and watching them sink. ; )

  7. Janie Emaus says:

    It’s so hard to build a readership. I often feel like a little pebble drifting downstream. I think we just have to keep on writing and writing and writing. And supporting each other.

    • robena grant says:

      This is what I hear the most, Janie. Keep on writing. I’m just uncertain about where to put promo dollars to enhance the journey of finding more readers. I wish there was a way to gain/view true results of my efforts. I try to remind myself of all small business, whether it be restaurant or book store, it’s about repeat customers and making sure they are satisfied and happy, and if they recommend the product to their friends. ; )

  8. Julie says:

    Personally? I totally love you this big!

    Also, with my own business, it’s difficult to get new people to read for. (They are overjoyed once the card reading is done!)

    I’ve recently hired a girl from our mall job to build some on-line ads. This might not work for writers, but I thought I’d share where I’m going with my search.

    It’s just very frustrating, because we KNOW that we’re good at what we do! We simply need EVERYONE else to know that, too.

  9. robena grant says:

    Thank you, Julie. : )
    It’s hard to know where to put marketing dollars to gain the best effect. We are a small business competing against those who have either more money to spend, or backing from a larger company. My feeling is we grow in small increments, and if the customer is satisfied, they return. BUT, it takes years. I’m thinking of the hare and the tortoise and that slow and steady wins out. For someone like me who wants answers NOW, ha ha, this can be frustrating.

  10. Hi Robena,

    First – I love you THIS Big…second, I love this post a whole heck of a lot as well. I’ve been having hard time with the online promotion biz, myself. How much is too much, how little is too little. How do I avoid being obnoxious and how do I engage with readers?

    Every workshop I attend I keep hearing the same thing…we need to sell ourselves, not our books when it comes to social media. Potential readers want to get to know US before they will hit the buy link. We need to brand ourselves, not our books. It feels very overwhelming to think of the number of books and authors out there and plus the amount of time available to spend on marketing. What are we supposed to do to stand out. Lately I just want to get back to the business of writing.

    • robena grant says:

      Thanks for dropping by, RoseAnn. I know what you mean, it’s a tough spot to be in. We’re proud of our work, our accomplishments, but how do we find that sweetspot where we can mention it without sounding like we’re asking for a purchase? I try to do a 7:1 ratio of one marketing to seven social posts, but seriously, my life is kind of boring and finding seven interesting things to post about is often a challenge. Ha ha.