Thursday, July 28, 2011

Writers Who Don't Care About Sales

I sat there scratching my head. Why is this person trying to publish? The email read something along the lines of: "I've finished my book. I want to publish, but can't afford the $5,000. Where can I get a grant to do that? I don't really want to get involved with sales, and I don't care how many copies it sells. I just want my story published."

No, that wasn't one isolated, remarkable, weird email. It's one of several I often receive. Seems a lot of people love the writing, want the book published, but do not want to get involved with sales.


In one situational email, the author actually landed a small press traditional contract. He wanted a grant to write another book. His publisher was not happy with sales of the first book and not willing to sign a contract for another. The author had presumed the publisher would make sales happen. Guess what? No sales. He said he was not getting involved with being a salesperson, and he wanted my help finding another publisher. I declined to help, doing my level best to explain how he'd abused the publisher, and probably cost the entity some serious bucks.

I frequently receive emails from individuals who state they are disabled, retired or financially unable to participate in travel, speaking or sales. They usually want a grant to write, publish, or hire someone to sell the book - or all three. They tell me that if they could only get the book in print, others would buy it for the wonderful message contained within.

I'm pained, frustrated and saddened at these writers, and I ponder how many people are out there who think like this.


Of course the writing is more fun. Duh! But if you do not want to break a serious sweat to sell the book, do NOT ask anyone else to get in bed with you. That means no grant, no agent, no traditional publisher. Save up your money and print how many you want to print, and satisfy that urge to hold your story. Go to Kinko's. Hire iUniverse. Check out CreateSpace. Go to Lulu.com . But do NOT expect others to cover for you, pay for you, promote for you.

Writing is a give and take venture. The more you want, the more you must contribute of yourself. Give and ye shall receive. Don't give and don't expect your book to leave the ground, much less take off and sell.

14 comments:

Sioux said...

I read the first paragraph and thought, 'Go to Kinkos' but of course you had the same advice at the end.

If we're a published writer and don't have at least a few copies of our book in our trunk, on our backseat "just in case," we should be drummed out of the business. Period.

Cera Daniels said...

There's been all kinds of doom and gloom about profit in the publishing industry. My realistic mindset is that as a writer, I might not make much. What I make, I'll probably have to turn around and use on promo. Having that reality check in place allows me to plunge after my dreams without starving to death from lack of a steady paycheck while I pursue the writing, and eventual publication.

"It's not about the money", to me, doesn't mean I don't believe in me, or that I'm not willing to sell my words (everyone must know my characters! And come back for more!).

Though it's difficult for an introvert, selling myself and my skills is how I got my day job, a technical writing position that didn't exist at the company before I applied. Even if I didn't know how to sell my books, I'd learn. Even if the publisher has a lovely promo budget.

How can someone get published, then not go that extra step to make sure those readers know about it and pour through the real or virtual doors of the bookstore, first in line for the adventure?

BECKY said...

Hope, I totally agree with you! I cannot imagine the mind set of someone actually saying and believing that junk. And the nerve to want a GRANT?! Geeez!

I, on the other hand, cannot wait to get out there and sell my book!....as soon as it's completed and printed, that is! :)

Thankfully I do have a small press whose owner believes in me and is going to print my book! AND I am fully aware that it's up to ME to make the sales.

Karen Lange said...

Well said, Hope.

Catherine Al-Meten said...

DEAR HOPE, JUST FOUND YOUR BLOG, AND READ THIS POST FIRST. ONE THING I DID WHEN I KNEW I WANTED TO WRITE FULL TIME IS I WENT TO SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, AND GOT A MENTOR. THE MENTOR WORKED WITH ME INTENSELY FOR THREE MONTHS, AND HELPED ME GET A HANDLE ON THE BUSINESS END OF WHAT I WAS DOING, HELPED ME FORMULATE A REALISTIC PLAN FOR SUPPORTING MY BUSINESS AS A WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER. I THEN BEGAN ACTING AS AN MARKETING AGENT FOR FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES WHO WROTE AND WHO WERE PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS. THIS GAVE ME NOT ONLY THE VISION AND REALISTIC BUSINESS SENSE OF BEING AN ARTIST, BUT ALSO THE PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING OF ALREADY ESTABLISHED ARTISTS/WRITERS. IT'S HELPED ME TAKE MYSELF SERIOUSLY ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT ANY INVESTMENT IN MY WORK INCLUDED FACE TO FACE, COLLEAGUE TO COLLEAGUE CONTACT AND SUPPORT. THANKS FOR POSTING THIS QUESTION, YOUR RESPONSE AND THE THOSE OF THE OTHER WRITERS.

Fiona Leonard said...

Being old, retired or disabled is no reason for not promoting your book. I'm based in Ghana, West Africa and promote my book worldwide. I've sold a lot of books locally promoted through readings and radio interviews, but the rest is done online. I do online interviews, use Facebook and Twitter and blog.

The way I see it, authors have to be a story teller AND a story seller.

What these authors don't realise is that they're actually missing out on one of the great joys - getting out and connecting with readers. It's one thing to enjoy seeing your words on paper, it's a whole other thing to have someone tell you they were glued to the pages of your book for two days, or to have them speak of your characters with the same sort of weird love that you do!

Jennifer S. Wilkov said...

Cheers, Hope! I concur completely.

Writers have to understand there are two skillsets to learn and master as a writer: the craft and the art & science of marketing what they've crafted.

It's nice to write a story or book. It's great to have something you think the world will love. But if you, the creator of it, won't get behind and champion it, how can you expect anyone else to?

It may seem as though you can hire anyone to help you...but if you're not 100% behind your own work and willing to be a significant part of the team to get your work out there so others can find it, don't ask others to get involved.

I think you hit it, Hope, when you said the author in your article abused the publisher.

Be a collaborator, not just a writer, and you'll find others will rush in to join you and get behind your book.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

I agreed with you -- until you lumped in disability as just another excuse. This reminds me of a video I saw recently where the man said he had no idea how little support there was for disabilities or how hard it is to navigate the world until he had a kid with a disability. When a person has health challenges or mobility issues, how are they supposed to do book tours like a normal person?

When a person has 15 minutes or an hour a day of enough energy to write or market, which do they choose? If they write, their work doesn't sell. If they market, they produce no new work to bolster their body of work and so cannot make themselves more visible as a multi-book author.

And when the inevitable backward slide in health happens (because a disability is never static) and the person is in hospital or cannot do anything beyond eat, see docs and therapists, and sleep for weeks or months, what happens to the marketing plan if they have no help? It goes kaput. When that happens during writing, it's hard but can pick up where left off, but if during marketing, will have to start all over.

You can be 100% behind your own work and want to sell, but if your body says no, what to do? According to what you all said, you can't ask for help because you can't participate.

Diane_Holmes said...

LOL. I've always belonged to a professional writers' organization, so the idea that you pay to get your work published (not in the sense of owning your own publishing company, but in the sense that you do all the work and pay, then they give you 5 copies) is so illogical that it's hard to remember that some really nice folks actually believe this.

As the Founder of Pitch University and as a career writer, I champion learning career skills. In fact, this week we're running a series of posts on creating a business plan for writers.

http://www.pitch-university.com/

As to the disabilities issue, I think Shireen is right. Having a disability is completely different than "being retired," and it creates obstacles that others can't "get."

I have both a nagging chronic issue and a progressive vision issue, so I understand this more than most.

But, it's NOT an issue of not being able to writer or act like a career writer. It just means that you have to be MORE CREATIVE in how you do this.

If you can't travel, then don't. Find another way to create the relationships you need with readers, media, publishers, etc. If people can't understand your speech due to disability, then interact in writing only.

Writers are being told (and are telling each other) that you HAVE to have a blog or do X. There are a hundreds things you HAVE to do.

No, not really.

What you have to do is figure out what career-building activities you can do really well, just a few things. And then do them.

:)

I do with there was a national/international career-focused writing group devoted to writers with disabilities. Just the way that women banded together to change the face of the male-dominated mystery genre and created Sisters In Crime. (And they did change it, of course.) Anyway, there are special challenges if you're a writer with disabilities, and having a group to share resources and ideas would be awesome.

Hope Clark said...

Diana

You are absolutely right. Actually someone disabled can point at a retiree as having more options. They are two different worlds. However, a writer, regardless of his status, cannot use any of these as a reason not to sell. There is a wide array of methods, means and opps to sell, so when someone tells me they can't due to one of the reasons I listed, I know their heart isn't in selling. But, regardless, selling is part of the package. If you don't want to sell, don't pull other people into your publishing process, They need to make a living, and if you don't do your best to sell, or have little intention of making a big splash with your writing, then don't pass the burden onto someone else. Writing must be promoted. Period.

Diane_Holmes said...

Absolutely agree, Hope. There's no excuse that is valid for not creatively embracing the pieces of work needed to pull off your own dream.

There's an air of victim-hood about folks who kinda write something (oh, noes, don't want to learn writing, don't want to study, don't want to re-write, don't want to perfect the craft or figure out the career....), and then have the entire world just show up and say, "Wow, you poor thing, you just sit there while you become famous."

The only thing I can think to say back is "Behind every dream is 100% focus, years of work 'of the undiscovered', courage out the wazoo, and the professionalism of a CEO... because you're the CEO of your own company."

Debra Shiveley Welch said...

Amen amen. If you're not willing to promote your work, then just self publish and give it as a Christmas gift.

Many authors think that, just because they've been published, they're going to sell a kazillion copies and get a movie contract. Uh, no!

The publisher/author relationship is like a marriage. Both must work for it to be a success.

Joni D. Brown said...

I have numerous disabilities and I know that my way of doing things has to work around my disorders, around my good and bad days. I know it will take me longer to reach my goals. However, working for myself is a hell of a lot better than working for a company or government agency. I have discovered the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) and the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is a load of crap unless you are rich and do not mind spending years going to court.

If you want to be a writer bad enough you will find a way to accomplish everything that goes with it.

Joni

Hope Clark said...

What a great attitude, Joni. Yes, you tackle it best you can, with a vengeance, with goals, with an eye on that dream.