In the age of the internet, where everything is fed at us in overwhelming amounts, there’s a common tendency to treat checking social media like fidgeting – a nervous habit done most of the waking hours without conscious participation, driven by an underlying fear of missing out. And in the world of authors talking about fast-releases, and a book every 30 days as the way to get to the algorithms to promote your material, it can feel like not rushing along blindly at full speed must be a path to Certain Doom.
It’s not, though. I take days, sometimes weeks off social media, and all it does is make my life more relaxed, less stressful, and quieter. Sure, sometimes when I check in, I find I’ve missed a few things – but do I really need to be all up in my friends’ and acquaintances’ business every day? No. I’m an introvert; I build friendships that can survive months of not talking.
But, the fear whispers, won’t the readers forget who you are?
It’s a legitimate fear, especially when there seems to be so much overwhelming competition for eyeballs. The reality, though, isn’t as bad as you fear. After, remember, the first rule of marketing is that word of mouth is the most powerful tool out there. The second is that nobody knows how to artificially create this – and those that claim they do because they managed it once? They can’t reliably replicate it.
Remember that all marketing advice is “I did this, and it seems to be working for me, on this, right now as I write this. It may or may not be for the reasons I think, and doing what I think I did might net similar results for you, or it might not.”
So let’s look at some examples I know because we chat across the dinner table.
1. LawDog. LawDog wrote up stories on his blog. Years later, many years later, he ended up with a contract to republish them. Life has been truly interesting and stressful to him, and as a combination of events and IP rights reversions happened, he’s ended up with The LawDog Files and The LawDog Files: African Adventures out in both paper and audio, and if he could get four bloody months of the world not blowing up in his face, maybe he can get the ebooks republished. But not yet.
On the fiction end, instead of slightly anonymized tales of his life and law enforcement, he’s gotten one story out in the CalExit anthology back in 2017. Will the readers remember him?
2. John Van Stry. John is a wonderful friend who’s spent the last year escaping California, settling into Texas, dealing with a massive lawsuit against book pirates, and plenty of other things to eat into his time. (including puppies!). It’s been over a year since his last book release on the highly popular Portals of Infinity series… will the readers still be there?
3. Jon LaForce. Our own MGCian Jonathan’s had an interesting few years, including dealing with rights reversions (so none of his prior books are available for sale), as well as moving a growing family across the country, and the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. He hasn’t published in the last few years, or republished. On top of all of that, he’s moving into a new genre. What could possibly go wrong, in trying to find old readers and attract new ones?
4. Myself. It’s been 2 years since I got my second book out. Would anyone remember me?
5. Then there’s Jim Curtis. Jim’s finished his Grey Man series, and many of his readers haven’t followed from the contemporary westerns (cowboys and small town deputies vs. drug smugglers) to his scifi. He’s started writing a classic western, and wondering if they’ll follow.
Turns out, the answer is… Yes!
Not all of them, and of those who like your stuff, not all will notice right away that you have something out, but word does spread.
Example 1: Peter Nealen put together an anthology in his universe – near future thriller, not unlike CalExit, but set in his Triarii sandbox. Jim Curtis, LawDog, and Jon LaForce have stories in there, along with Mike Kupari, Mike Massa, Larry Correia and others.
SpotReps is getting reviews like – well, this one I pulled off Amazon, because Failbook is terrible at finding older posts.
“Most are fantastic, especially Cowboy Up by Curtis, Baizuo by Correia (what a sad story), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon by LaForce, and Chopper Was a Dolphin by Massa (hilarous).”
And just like that, the guys are back. There are people buying this book on the strength of authors in it, and then going on to read the rest of the Triarii series, which they’d never picked up before. Go Peter! There are also readers seeking out other stuff by the authors. When they get more out, there will be readers out there who remember them.
Example 2: Going Ballistic.
Did I sell as many as I had two years ago, in the release month? No, but I didn’t bomb. Thanks to friends mentioning it was out (thank you, you know who you are, and I’m grateful), and readers here willing to give me a chance (thank you; I’m grateful, and glad you enjoyed it!), and some marketing, I made more than enough to recover the price of the cover art in the first two weeks.
I botched the release – I thought Amazon was going to be slow approving the book, and it’d come out the Tuesday after a three-day weekend. Instead, it came out over the weekend, when many people were away from their computers. However, it didn’t flop and die with a whimper; it sold at a steadier, lower, but more consistent volume for about two weeks instead of a release week spike. And I started selling my other two books – I was getting readers who hadn’t read me before, but had heard of me for the first time, and then after reading the third, started working their way through my backlist.
When you consider it’s only the third book out, and all three are stand-alone instead of series, and it’s been two years since my last, conventional wisdom says I’m doing everything wrong and it should have failed utterly. Instead, I sold over 300, and had more KU reads than sales. Not exactly enough to live on, but a whole lot better than I was expecting!
And Example 3: Portals of Infinity: Consequences
John released the book yesterday, and before it’s even been linked into the rest of the series, days before Amazon ever sends the new books to people who follow him and actually read the promotion emails…
He’s already got 3 reviews, and is #1,228 in the kindle store.
They like your stuff, John! They really, really do! Congrats!
So, dear writers, don’t worry. The readers know what they like, and they have certain skills honed by years of haunting the libraries, books stores, and gathering spots online, with the common cry of “But I just want a good book to read!” They can find you.
I’m half kidding. I have a few authors who are “must buy” (and the trad pubs are *not* good at letting me know they’ve got stuff coming out!) and the rest fall in four generalized baskets:
Didn’t he do the the thing? Positive reaction, but pretty untethered to specifics.
I don’t think I’ve seen letters in that arrangement. Neutral. I haven’t encountered the author, or don’t remember doing so.
Do I feel lucky?Uneven authors that sometimes write great stories, and sometimes wall-worthy stinkers. e.g. Greg Bear, Charles Stross… (Check your local library!)
Oh. Him again. Guaranteed inane or insulting. See also: puppy kicker.
I buy more books from the vaguely positive and neutral than the “must buy”. Exposure is key
Since I’m pretty sure I’ll be gone when I die (or worse, stuck in Wisconsin for the entirety of the existence of the universe), being remembered now is the best thing I can do. The future can handle itself.
Well, that one star review helped kickstart the sales on the anthology… LOL And backlist is key to keeping folks interested, along with getting ‘something’ out every few months, even if it’s a .99 short.
I sometimes worry about it too. My last publication was a year ago. Working on some new stuff, but this stupid year is not making it easy. At least I have the consolation of knowing that a few of the anthologies I’m in are now in libraries.
I’m starting to find Customers Also Bought more annoying than helpful because I’ve already read everything in that set.
Portals sounds like something I’d like. Just picked up the first one. Does that count as “word of mouth”?
I tend to lose track of authors when I catch up to the latest in a series. I usually stumble onto them again later and catch up, but I don’t have a list. Although I am waiting impatiently for the latest Joseph Kosko (or whatever his name is; don’t remember the series name) book. So how will I know? Because things such as this remind me to go look. It’s the Destiny’s Crucible series by Olen Thorensen and book seven is not out, yet.
Another example, I have book one of The Forever series marked as “read”, but I have no idea what it is. Looking up the above, I saw there are now six of them. I’ll restart book one and see if I read it when it came out or didn’t care for it and stopped.
On the author-income side of things, I usually pick KU if that is available. However, if I re-read something, I usually buy it the second time around; certainly the third, if there is one. Some of you have gotten twofers like that from me.
I have Jonathan LaForce’s non-reverted books. I enjoyed them A LOT and hope you write more, Jon! And get those rights back too!
Also, is it evil that I get a huge kick over the genre and who wrote them?
This is one case where “also boughts” being all weird worked in someone’s favor. All my steamy romance purchases were on my Nook (at the time) and my Amazon suggestions should have been science fiction. And there were these *covers* with simply So Much Skin and a name I didn’t recognize. ;P
I think I mentioned it to someone, as in, this is so weird. And they said, oh, that’s Jonathan.