Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Selling Fiction

You start off just wanting to get published. No small feat. This can go on for years. For me it went on seven years. Ridiculous you think. Seven years trying to break into print, but then you finally do and that first goal of just getting into print is quickly supplanted with the second goal: you want to sell. Why this should be when you were so satisfied, so happy to just see your name on a book cover that you should suddenly up your goal to this much heavier weight to bear. But you do.

And now the writer is confronted with the marketplace. Strange amorphous beast who seems to not give a damn about you or your book. You have in your mind a great populace passing on your book with a whispered, read this, it's great. But you have no proof this is occurring just your own faith in what you have written. Shouldn't that be enough? A man who self published a book never misses a chance to ask me if I have seen the reviews on Amazon. I assure him I have. In his mind those reviews will push his book along unit the world has seen the reviews and read his book.

But of course the other million books are also crying our with their reviews. And those dismal Amazon rankings tell the writer of fiction he must do more. And so you do. You tweet, write, post, talk, push, review, you do what you have to do to get the word out. If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it did it really fall? Probably not. And this comes to the writers basic fear: obscurity. That you will pass along and your books will not be read.

In nonfiction the hook is easier. You can tie it to what is happening right now. Fiction is trickier. The story has to be tied to something current and that is tough. Because the times are always changing, but your book is not. Your story is a constant. So you have to break it down to who will read your story. You hope everyone, but the truth is certain people will buy your books. Maybe women, maybe men, maybe kids. And you have to go find them.

Giant publishers confront this daunting task every day and only succeed with a few of their books. The rest of their titles are lottery tickets they hope will be a winner. But we know the odds on the lottery. So the best thing the writer of fiction can do at the end of the day is write a really great story. That you can control. Chasing the market is a futile gesture and bound to failure. But you can impact that basic law of selling fiction: books are still sold by word of mouth. To have someone say at the end, that was a great book! Is the ultimate marketing plan.

Rocket Man 

Rocket Man is a hilarious, well written novel about one man's search for the New American Dream." James Frey, author A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning

Books by William Hazelgrove