When Is a Book a Success?


My first two novels, Found in Translation and Lost in Dreams, both came out in 2011. They were Barbour Publishing’s first venture into Young Adult literature, and I’m sure the  advance I received for each of them reflected their confidence in my books’ success.

Although I didn’t have a contract for a third book, I was already 30,000 words into writing one when Barbour informed me that they were doing away with their young adult line. Consequently my books would be going out-of-print and they had no need for the third book.

What had happened? 5,000 copies of the 10,000 print copies of Found in Translation had sold, and 2,500 of the 5,000 print copies of Lost in Dreams. Not enough, apparently.

Although I hadn’t gotten much feedback from teens, what I’d received was encouraging. An upper teen I met in a restaurant said, “You wrote Found in Translation? Wow! I loved it!” Even better, however, was an email from one young lady who said she’d been inspired to start reading her Bible and going to church again.

A number of adults loved those two books as well. Even just a year-and-a-half ago, my surgeon’s nurse emailed me, asking if I was the author of the Altered Hearts books. A reading group she was in had just read them, and she wanted to know when would the next book would be coming out. I hated to tell her it wouldn’t be.

The Devil and Pastor Gus came out in 2015. Although its fifty-four Amazon reviews have a 4.1 star average, Pastor Gus hasn’t sold large numbers.

I revised Rosa No-Name, which has always been my wife’s favorite, paid for editing and a professional cover, and self-published it. Despite its fourteen Amazon reviews and 4.9 star average, it’s not a best seller, either.

I finished writing the third Altered Hearts book, Overshadowed, uncertain what to do with it. But then Barbour gave me the rights to the first two books, and small publisher Winged Publications was happy to release all three. (We changed the name of Lost in Dreams to A Season of Pebbles.) Winged Publications has also published three of my quirky romantic novels. We’re struggling to boost sales.

Going from a big-name publisher like Barbour and reaching so many readers initially and then going to a small publisher and a questionable sales record might make the average person say, “You’re not a very successful author, are you?”

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that way, too. I never hoped to become a New York Times bestselling author, but I’ve never given up the hope of being “successful.”

After all, God gave me whatever writing ability I have, and He’s inspired all of those novels. I don’t mean to say He dictated them to me, but He’s certainly helped me to write each book to the best of my ability, always striving to do better than the one before.

I consider Him my most critical reader…and my biggest fan. If I’m pleasing Him with my writing, what greater success could I ask for?

Still, I do want my books to sell. Not because I care about making money from them–I would like for my publisher to earn something, though–but because I believe they have something important to say and they say it in an entertaining way. That’s why I like to sign books, “May this both bless and entertain you.”

I’m learning. Too slowly at times, it seems. The success of a book–one of mine, anyhow–won’t be determined by the numbers sold, but by the souls touched. And I will probably never know the extent to which a book has done that until I arrive in Heaven.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

          

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Rosa’s Facebook Release Party

Non-writers aren’t apt to realize that most of the marketing of a book falls on its author. Even the largest traditional publishers don’t do much marketing for their authors. Uh, except for the really big money makers. The 20% who’ll pay for the 80% of authors who don’t sell sufficiently well to justify helping. Unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.

And there are no guaranteed marketing strategies. What works for one person or one book will fail miserably for another. If there was one sure-fire way to guarantee book sales, everyone would hop on it and everyone would have a bestselling book. Hmm. Life doesn’t work that way.

I’ve mentioned–probably too often–that I’ve self-published Rosa No-Name, the prequel to Found in Translation. That means I don’t have a publisher to provide even a minimum amount of marketing.

So, like every other author, I’ve been trying to do everything I can to promote Rosa.  During the next month, Rosa is being featured on five different blog interviews or other promotions. And that’s good. At least additional people will learn about my book and perhaps even feel motivated to visit Amazon and check it out more closely.

But there’s one tradition I both love and dread: doing a Facebook release party. It’s easy enough to set up an event, in this case from my “Roger Bruner (author)” page. Since my wife, Kathleen, was helping, we both started inviting all of our Facebook friends. Between the two of us, we had a fairly large number. So I was about halfway through my friends list when Facebook told me I could only invite 500 people. There’s no limit on how many people can attend, but I could only specifically invite 500.

Okay. We’d both shared the news about the party on our individual Facebook pages. Hopefully enough people would see it. We knew only a small number of our friends and family would actually attend. People forget. Or they have something more important come up. Or they’re non-readers. Or they aren’t good enough friends to be supportive. Maybe some of them have attended a Facebook release party before and know how confusing they can be.

Planning a Facebook party sounds like it should be uber-simple. Buy a few items to offer as giveaways and hold drawings to, uh, give them away. Oh, but a release party should take longer than five minutes. The host/hostess needs to stay right in the middle of things, asking questions, making comments, and providing interesting information. Anything to keep the party in motion.

At least a Facebook party doesn’t require real food.

Kathleen and I did my release party this past Thursday night.  Several days earlier, she spent no telling how long writing a suggested script for the evening and sent it to me. One of the many wonderful things about Kathleen is I can edit and add to her suggestions without offending her. She’d made a GREAT start, but I had additional ideas that took about two-and-a-half hours to put into a Word document.

Then we hashed through it together at lunchtime, and I made a few additional changes. We were as ready as we were going to be.

Who would come? Only God knew. Would we retain our sanity while trying to inspire and entertain party goers? Only God knew that, too.

I’m happy to say we survived the party and enjoyed “talking” with our six attendees–four other authors and two “civilians.” We gave away four prizes. Fortunately, the non-authors both won something as well as two of the authors.

Was it worth it? Hard to say. Will we do a party for the next book? Probably.

Jesus may not have been talking about book sales when He said, “You don’t have what you want because you haven’t asked God for it” (Bruner translation of the Bible). Nonetheless, we’re praying with as much faith as we can muster, “We want Rosa No-Name to bless as many lives as possible. We’re asking You to help sell thousands of copies. We’ll do whatever marketing You want us to do, but we’re depending on You for the results. P.S. Not our will, but Yours be done.”

Have you ever attended a Facebook event? What did you think of it? How about leaving a comment?

 

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger