I got an email recently from the VP of my publishing company, Belle Bridge Books, detailing the marketing challenges faced by smaller presses, like Belle Bridge, and relatively unknown authors, like myself.
The VP, Deborah Smith (a New York Times best-selling author, BTW), harbors a great deal of wisdom and a laugh-out-loud sense of humor. Her comments are worth sharing.
The email from Deb was in response to a question of mine about ARCs, Advance Reader Copies. ARCs are sent out prior to the publication of a book to get endorsement blurbs, the brief quotes you’ll often see on the front or back cover of a book proclaiming what a great read it is.
BelleBooks no longer employs ARCs. Deb says, “Our research shows that only endorsements from nationally known authors and reviewers have even the slightest effect on sales.”
Here’s the Catch 22: Unless you yourself are a nationally known novelist, you aren’t going to get an endorsement from a nationally known novelist. It’s not so much that big-name writers huddle together in their own private little cliques–most are outgoing, supportive and friendly–it’s that they’re so incredibly busy. They’ve got book tours, speeches and blogs to attend to. They’ve got novels and short stories to craft. They’ve got rewriting and editing to tackle. Some, like Brad Taylor (Days of Rage), even have outside consulting jobs.
Another hurdle faced by relatively unknown thriller writers like myself is that the genre is dominated by “brand name” authors. Those are the authors whose names you recognize instantly: Stephen King, James Patterson, Nelson DeMille, etc. It’s their names, their brands if you will, that sell their books, not necessarily the books themselves.
This “star domination” is not totally driven by the big bucks that major publishers toss at these authors, it’s furthered by the reluctance of thriller readers–more than the consumers of any other genre–to try new or relatively unknown novelists. It’s not a conspiracy. It just is what it is. If I were a romance writer, for instance, I’d find an audience much more willing to embrace an interloper.
So how does one of the authorial unwashed get noticed? Deb suggested I either date a Kardashian or blow up the Washington Monument. Well, if I dated a Kardashian, my wife would blow me up. And if a blew up a national monument, I’d probably kill myself in the process (re Wile E. Coyote).
Deb concludes: “I wish I could tell Buzz and every other author exactly what to do for success in this market [me: there are many other complicating factors at work in today’s publishing industry in addition to those I’ve mentioned here]. Off the top of my head, today’s guesses are: Write a new book every one to three months [me: I can’t turn out a blog every one to three months, let alone a book] featuring a) perpetually aroused 25-year-olds, b) perpetually aroused Special Ops soldiers [me: that’s Brad Taylor’s baby], c) perpetually aroused zombies/vampires/dinosaurs.”
Well, crap. I guess I blew it with Blizzard. I forgot the zombies, vampires, T-Rexs and snake eaters. And the only guy in the novel who’s semi-perpetually aroused is older than twenty-five.
Deb thinks it’s a “terrific book” anyhow.