Marketing, ebooks, and me
Posted June 20, 2010on:
When my first book first arrived in the world, ready for all the eager book-buyers to pounce upon it, I discovered something horrifying. Did you know that bookstores don’t stock all books, just because they exist? I actually had to go out there and try to get them to pick it up and put it on their shelves, with a notable lack of success, I might add.
Bear in mind that I didn’t set out to be an author. Well, I did set out to write the book, because the book told me to, but I didn’t think about being published. I wrote the book for my enjoyment. Only afterward did I even think about publication, so I started asking around, in my usual ham-handed fashion. With a notable lack of success, I might add. I had no idea of how to write a query letter (and still don’t) and could very well be unpublished to this day were it not for the direct intercession of the gods themselves, who brought me and Echelon Press together. But that’s another story.
So I walked into this whole enterprise blind and ignorant. I resolved my dilemma in the most direct fashion: Since the bookstores wouldn’t put my books on their shelves, I created my own bookstore and put my books on my own shelves. Thus was Author Guy the bookseller created. It suited me, to a great extent. As a bookseller, I have a role to play which allows me to interact with total strangers and urge them to buy my books. In my daily life, I have to engage those same strangers in conversation and hope that somehow I can slip a mention of my books in edgewise, without making it sound like that’s the only reason I started talking to them in the first place. It’s not hard to do if you’re paying attention, and when that isn’t the only reason you started talking to them in the first place.
But there was a fatal flaw to my plan, to wit, that I had no incentive to send my customers to a different bookstore to buy the damn books! I had a sunk cost to recoup.
Marketing was the solution, but marketing was also the problem. A lot of people don’t get this, especially when they find out I’m a philosophy major and a software engineer, but I don’t deal well with abstractions. Truth and logic and right and wrong are all real enough, but schedules and reports and budgets and money and populations are beyond my scope. I can sell a book in my hand to a man standing in front of me, but I can’t produce a marketing plan. Scheduled mailings and results tracked across regions and time…uh-uh. The whole subject gives me a headache. Literally.
In addition to my novels, I’ve got a few short stories in e-book form, and I’m about to have several more. So now I have to figure out how to get all of you lovely, strongly imagined and therefore not abstract readers of this post to go to my book site and check out my books. And not just my books, but all of Echelon’s books, as well as the Quake books for YA readers.
To quote the pithy wisdom of Lord Mark Vorkosigan, when presented with a problem completely beyond his abilities: “Help.”