(photo by Greg Puhl)
I recently attended Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD and the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. As is wont to happen when authors get together at conventions and conferences, there is considerable discussion (and grousing) about the capricious nature of the publishing industry. It got me thinking about why one author will shoot up the bestseller lists when another author with an equally well-written book lingers in obscurity. Over the years, I’ve also seen too many poorly written books take off, climb the lists, and make gobs of money for the authors who wrote them (50 Shades of Crap, anyone?) while fabulous books that should have become bestsellers never caught on.
|Mystery fans lined up, waiting to get into the Festival of Mystery|
I used to think an author’s success was tied to how much promotion her publisher was willing to give her books and how much effort the author put into social media. But I’ve seen books that had huge publisher support never take off and books shelved spine out alphabetically (meaning, no promo dollars were allocated to the author,) become the book everyone was talking about.
Same for self-promotion. I know a debut author who became ill shortly before her book was to be released. She was too busy fighting her disease to think about flacking her book. Her publisher did nothing for her. Her book wasn’t reviewed anywhere. Yet that book sold and sold well. Six years later she was still receiving royalty checks twice a year from her publisher.
Another author I know had a debut book come out at the same time. Her publisher also spent no promo dollars on her, but this author hired a publicist. She received some pretty good press coverage for her book, including fabulous reviews and a huge write-up in a major newspaper. She barely earned out her paltry advance.
Some authors are phenoms when it comes to social media. Readers hang on their every Tweet and Facebook update. Other authors who do basically the same thing have next to no followers, even though the books are worth reading. Why do readers gravitate to some of these authors and not others equally worthy of having followings? Why does word-of-mouth favor one author’s book over another?
And it’s not just in traditional publishing where you find this. Indie authors experience the same disparity. I know indie authors who write equally good books in the same genre and sell them for the same price. One sells hundreds of books a day while the other sells maybe one or two books a week.
I don’t have any answers. I wish I did. The only conclusion I can draw is that publishing, whether in the traditional arena or as an independent author, is a crapshoot. And success at publishing is even more of one. Roll the dice!
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at http://www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.