You have spent years writing your book and now it has been published by a traditional publisher. It took a while for the publisher to bring it to market. But it is finally out there. Dreams have been realized. You. Are. A. Published. Author.
But then the sales reports begin to appear. Sales have floundered. There isn’t any buzz. No one is even commenting on your Facebook page. It’s a disaster. A failure. A nightmare.
Here are the two most common reactions:
Blame the Publisher
This is the default position. The marketing department didn’t do their job. The PR department didn’t get you a booking on major media. The publisher chose the wrong title. They created a terrible cover. They botched the editing.
Blame the Agent
Your agent should never have sold the book to that publisher. The agent didn’t ride herd on the publisher to make sure all the marketing was done properly. The agent didn’t fight for a better cover design. You need to fire your agent because the disaster is their fault.
The Harsh Reality
Either of those complaints sound familiar? I’ve heard them first hand at conferences. I read them in blog posts.
The blame game.
The reality isn’t that simple. There are so many mitigating factors. I remember talking to an author who was scheduled for a major media interview in New York. She arrived early to the studio to find that she had been canceled because Michael Jackson died so her interview was no longer of any interest. Or what about Jerry Jenkins’ novel Hometown Legend that released on September 10, 2001. Or the book by financial mogul Jack Welch, Straight from the Gut that released the next day on September 11, 2001.
Or one of my clients had a publisher insist on releasing her book in November 2012 claiming that would be the ideal launch month…forgetting that it was the U.S. election season and the media only wanted to talk politics.
Another writer’s book launched but a major big box retailer (like a Walmart) forgot to unpack the pallets of books and left the case lots unopened in their warehouse. Upon discovering the shipment the retailer returned all 8,000 copies to the publisher.
One of my clients had their publisher sell 9,000 copies of her book to a retailer…who declared bankruptcy the next month and never paid for her books.
You might want to dismiss those as aberrations, but don’t be too quick to dismiss them. There are other things that can happen. You might have your own tales of woe.
Never forget this solemn principle. A new book release is much like launching a new business. Unfortunately, many new businesses fail. Think of it as a metaphor. The concept (the book) might be great but the location is wrong. Or the marketing budget is too small or placed in the wrong place. The social media efforts are pitched wrong. Or the product just isn’t well received.
Could it be that the book itself isn’t as good as you think it is. (Ouch. I actually just wrote that.) Was it the book itself that didn’t deliver? But that can’t be true. Can it?
Maybe not. But some soul searching does come into it. And that can be healthy. It should galvanize you to make your next book even better. That’s right. Your next book.
Don’t be a one hit wonder. Keep writing. You never know what can happen. So many artists are “overnight sensations” when they have actually been creating for years. It may be your sixth book that is the one that gains a huge readership.
If you haven’t already, create a plan for the launch of your book. If you are traditionally publishing, use this as a tool for coordinating your efforts with your publisher. The combination can be fantastic. A tremendous tool can be found in Tim Grahl’s Book Marketing 101 Checklist. This free list is a good place to start. And then take a look at Jim Kremer’s new edition of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book. (Make sure to buy the 2016 edition, not the 2008 edition. I’ve linked to the order page for the 2016 print edition which has 650 pages of ideas).
As for writing your next book? Go to a conference. Take a class. (visit The Christian Writers Institute) Read a book on craft. Become a continual student. It’s never too late to learn something new. Practice makes perfect.
The first time I water skied I kept signaling the boat to go faster. I didn’t know the tips of my skis should not dip below the water when crossing the wake. I woke up floating on my back in the lake wondering what happened (a face-plant at high speed is not recommended). Needless to say I should have taken things a little slower and learned what I was doing before going 35mph.