By David Nemeth
Last month I wrote a post here called "No One Wants to Read Your Book" and today is a variation of that theme, if you are part of the small/indie press scene, getting your book read is a difficult thing, maybe an impossible thing. Last month’s post got its genesis from J. David Osborne’s interview with Mark Sellinger, this podcast was about a lot of things but one of the big topics was pricing paperback books at extra-ordinary low pricing, what Osborne and Sellinger called Raman pricing.
A week or two later on Osborne’s JDO Show, he interviewed former publisher Ben LeRoy who had started both Bleak House Books (2001) and Tyrus Books (2009). This interview is a must listen to if you’re a writer or fan of small/indie press crime fiction. There is a lot in this podcast, but one of the takeaways is that trying to get your book read is nigh impossible. You might be able to get your books into the right hands but after that . . . . you just don’t know. The books can become dust collectors in a messy office somewhere in Delaware, a chew toy for an overgrown Labrador puppy, or they could be pilfered by an intern and sold to a used bookstore. What's definitely going to happen is that no one is going to read your book.
At one point in the podcast, LeRoy asked Osborne to give his “bummer talk” which he gives to writers when Broken River Books accept a manuscript. This talk ain’t pretty. Trust me. Osborne has some specific ways he groups his authors, but the result is always the same: in the end, your book will not sell.
LeRoy brought up one of the biggest problems writers (and even book critics) face, we live in a social media echo chamber. One’s popularity on Twitter and Facebook does not correspond to book sales at all. Piercing your own bubble and getting out of your own comfort zone may be the first step in trying to get more sales. But, probably not. With the release of King Shot Press’ Nasty!, edited by Tiffany Scandal, Michael Kazepis and the book's various authors are doing special events throughout the States from Los Angeles to an upcoming show in Philadelphia. They are going all out to get the word out and get the books in front of people who might not normally see it. Will it work? Who knows?
But let’s say you and your publisher have limited resources, i.e. all your money is going to silly things like rent, clothes, and food. Look at the work Alex Segura is doing for the release of his new book, Blackout or the work he did last year for Dangerous Ends. Spend some time looking through his Facebook posts and Twitter feed, the guy is a monster in getting the word out of his book. Eryk Pruitt, the author of What We Reckon, is storytelling at The Monti and producing a true crime podcast, none of which have anything to do with his books. Will it help? Who knows?
But another thing Pruitt and Segura both do is that they are always ALWAYS promoting and recommending other people’s work. If all you do is promote your own work, I’m turning you off. A great example of a writer who out there hustling his own work and work of other people is Gabino Iglesias. If you follow him on social media, he’s always writing essays about books and writers, and he’s tweeting reminders that he’s got a book out called Zero Saints. You might get a bit tired of his Zero Saints tweets, but at some point, like I did, you will end up buying his book because he spends so much of his time promoting the work of other people.
Hell, Chris Irvin is probably going to start selling baseball caps with Maurice, one of the characters from his most recent book, Ragged; Or, the Loveliest Lies of All. And Chris Dewildt needs to sell white t-shirts with SUBURBAN DICK in bold letters on it. I’d buy one, okay, you got me, I'd buy two.
But none of this is a guarantee that your book will be read. As LeRoy said, "You can’t spend on social capital." Being popular on Twitter does not equate to book sales, it’s just another tool to try and sell books. Both Osborne and LeRoy agree that getting one’s book published is not the end, it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more work to do. And just a reminder and I'm paraphrasing Osborne here if you gave a shit about making money, why the fuck would you enter the book publishing world?
In a recent blog post by Dietrich Kalteis at 7 Criminal Minds – or is it Criminal Minds, someone please let me know –, he laments over the fact that he is spending valuable time at promotion rather than writing. Kalteis does a lot to promote his work such as “ speaking engagements, writer events, interviews, podcasts, book launches and tours. Updating my website, writing blogs, soliciting reviews and keeping a presence on social media are all part of it.” But he also writes:
Where do I draw the line on marketing and promotion? That’s easy. It’s not just about making money, but of spending time. If too much of my focus is on marketing and promoting then who’s writing the books? So, while I do my bit, I avoid becoming distracted by anything that keeps me from writing. And that’s the best effort of all, writing a book worth marketing and promoting, earning some good reviews, building a body of work and gaining an audience.In a perfect world, Kalteis would be right, but this isn’t a perfect world and sacrifices need to be made if you want people to read your book. If the writer, especially in the small/indie press world, isn’t going to go balls to the wall at promotion, how do they expect to find readers? As LeRoy says many people write to be heard. But if no one reads your book, have you been heard?