Monday, November 16, 2009

Blunt Conversations about Royalties part 3

We drunk writers love a good theory. Get us drunk and we will get righteous about our beloved theories. And my royalty statement seems to prove one of my favorite theories and has given me a new one to get righteous about.

My favorite theory is that there is nothing a harlequin writer can do to promote oneself that truly truly makes that much of a difference. I've had books get amazing reviews, I've had books get sucky reviews - they sold the same. For some books, I've done lots of guest talking on blogs - I've sent out lots of books and for others I've done nothing - again, about the same. And while covers are important - unless they're truly truly awful - I'm not sure they make a huge difference either. My best cover - Worth Fighting For was also the third book in a series and it sold considerably less than the two books before it. Around 14,000 in the US, while the others were around 18,000. Now, this is also during the worst economic situation in decades, so really, who the hell knows. But I'm not going to let that stop me from my theory.

Now, as we speak, my website is displaying my Christmas message from LAST year - so clearly, I like being lazy. And that said - I think the way for me to bust out of the middle of the pack is to perhaps be a bit more diligent in some basic promotion.

But the books that have sold well, I believe have sold well for a reason. Publisher support. I've been really lucky to be involved in promotional giveaways that introduced a lot of readers to Baby Makes Three (the first in the series) for FREE. My numbers for the second book are the best I've ever had - around 22,000.

I think the other reason some books sell well and other tank is the use of hooks. Everybody wants to groan and roll their eyes (myself included) at the cookie cutter of nature of Presents and now Desire (as someone said somewhere - Desire is now Presents II- the Revenge. Funny) This is what sells. You want to make money selling series romance - don't stray too far from the well-worn path. The books of mine that have had a flash on them like A Little Secret and Single Father - sold way better than the books without the flash. My December 08 book had the secret baby flash and from the numbers you wouldn't know that it too came out during the heat of the economic meltdown. August O8 - no flash, bad numbers. My Feb 09 book about the son of the President of The United States - miserable miserable miserable.

Aim for the flash. The average Harlequin buyer is racing through the grocery store or pharmacy, they have about three seconds to dedicate to buying a book - if they don't know your name - they're going to know that flash. And how to get that publisher support? Write the best book you can and be the kind of author your editor wants to support. Play nice. Work hard and be realistic and smart about the conventions of the line you're aiming for.

Those are my lessons from this royalty period. Now, back to work on my cowboy book....


Maureen McGowan said...

don't you mean your single father cowboy and a princess with a secret baby book? :-)

Eileen said...

So far, my best selling book is one that I referred to as my secret baby/cowboy/reincarnation book. I don't think it was marketed that way, but that's what it was.

I vacillate on the question of whether or not we can affect our sales. I think to really make an impact, you have to be a tireless self-promoter and you have to do it for years. I know one author that I think really affected her sales, but the energy she puts into promotion exhausts me when I just look at it. Plus, she's good at it. I don't think it's a skill set that we all have. I certainly suck at it.

So I'm with you, Molly Dearest. Write the best book you can, then cross your fingers that somebody buys it.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Eileen - I think you hit it right on the head. Of course we can effect our sales - relentless book signings, blog tours, giveaways, mailings - those things can help if you have the time and inclination to do them. For the writers that do - they deserve every single reader they win over - without a doubt. But, if you don't do those things - or you do only half, or do them sometimes, I think the numbers fall off so signifigantly that it makes little difference. I do think taking care of the readers you have is something that successful writers do - I just am not sure how.

Maureen - don't you mock my single father cowboy. Someday he's gonna buy you a beer.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, I mock because I am jealous. :-)

And from everything I've seen and learned in this business (although can't share first hand experience...) promotion helps, but is no guarantee.

I heard a quote from an advertising guru once. He said something like: I'm sure 50% of all the money I ever spent on advertising was wasted. I just have no idea which half.

Eileen said...

I also think it grows a little on itself. A few years ago, I finally caught the attention of the guy who covers books for The Sacramento Bee. I have no idea how many press releases I had sent him. 10? 15? Something like that. Suddenly, he does a huge article on me. From that article, I got a bunch of interview requests and some speaking invitation that led to some more articles.

Then I sort of dropped the ball. I just didn't have the energy to pursue more. Maybe I could have turned it into even more publicity, or maybe I'd tapped out what was available. I just know I couldn't do anymore, write and manage my life.

Sinead M said...

Promotion takes time, as does writing, but what would be left afterwards for life and Tv and movis, the stuff that gives us inspiration for more writing.

I also need 8 hours of sleep, and I can't seem to whittle it down to less without getting grumpy..

Stephanie Doyle said...

See I've always thought that promotion is a thing we do to impress our publishers with how hard we're working. Then maybe they'll say... Wow look at that author. She's really out there we should help her and...bang! Real promotion that works. Like co-op space.

The authors who made it big that I used to read in category... Linda Howard, Nora Roberts... they didn't promote. They wrote quality books over and over again and built readerships.

I really think it's all you can do. Although the Web and review sites are probably gaining a little attention.

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