Or How Readers Can Help Writers
If you’ve been following my social media postings or reading my newsletter, you know that I have a second mystery, Marry in Haste, coming out in November, and I recently launched an e-book novella about my Endurance detective called The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney.
I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to rely on my book sales to pay my bills, but many writers do. Recently, an article came out on social media about the abysmal proceeds authors make from their writing. You may read it here. We’re not talking here about prolific authors like Stephen King or Jeffrey Archer or Louise Penny. Thousands of writers work hard for meager incomes and often need a day job. They join the ranks of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe in the 1800s in that respect. Sad, huh?
I’ve been very lucky to have two books that have a publisher, and I’m extremely grateful. I’ve also self-published a memoir and a novella at my own expense. What you may NOT know is that my publisher, Five Star/Cengage, has recently announced they are dropping their entire mystery line, a decision that puts many, many mystery writers in a difficult position. At the same time, Penguin discontinued many of their mystery series. Rarely do other publishers pick up a series in the middle, so I, and my fellow writers, are scrambling to find publishers who will do so.
Here is an inside scoop about the writing business: Publishers often look to see what kind of following a writer has on social media, and how many previous books the writer has sold. With that in mind, I thought it might be wise to put out an appeal to readers about what you can do to help your favorite writers keep their publishers and also keep writing.
First, write a brief review on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com. I can hear you now. Me? Write a review? My recent novella is a manuscript of 25,000 words. I know you can write twenty. Amazon loves reviews that consist of twenty words minimum. I’ll bet most people who read books can write 20 words about a book and add so many stars out of a five-star total.
You may say, “So what good does this do?” I am told it can increase sales, and it may make or break finding a publisher. Recently, I read that if fifty reviews go up for a book, Amazon increases their promotion for that book. So, consider writing a brief review for any authors whose books you like. Seriously, it does make a difference, and we are grateful.
Second, word-of-mouth is powerful. In recent years, many of the highly-rated and widely-read books that hit the New York Times Bestseller List did so because of word-of-mouth. Some did so after being rejected again and again by traditional publishers. If you like a book, tell your friends and neighbors. Shout it from the rooftops.
Third, speak to your local bookstores and libraries about books you like. They want to know what their customers are reading. Better than that, in my case, if you like a book you have read, message me on Facebook or on my website at www.susanvankirk.com, and I’ll be glad to mail you some bookmarks or postcards to take to your local library or independent bookstore. They might say “no,” about displaying them, but most don’t. And if they do say “no,” well, hey, you have lots of bookmarks to use for your own books.
Fourth, buy a copy of a hardcover or paperback you like and donate it to your local library or give it as a gift to a friend.
Fifth, if you belong to a book club, consider reading a book and inviting the author to come and join the discussion. Many authors who live too far from you might agree to do this on Skype.
And last, post on Goodreads, Facebook, and/or Twitter about books you’ve enjoyed. Let your reader friends know about it. If you regularly check an author’s page on Facebook, share their posted news about a book release on your own page. Never underestimate the power of social media! Sharing takes their one announcement out to all of your friends (and their friends exponentially) who may be readers.
Of course, I can’t end this without thanking all of my own readers for being so helpful and encouraging. Writing is a very solitary pursuit–and an expensive one–culminating in a book that might be loved or hated, and only a small percentage of writers can do it without the help of their readers. You make a huge difference.