Folks hate it when I tell them writing is hard work.— Krista D. Ball (@kristadb1) February 7, 2019
I love my writing community. It’s filled with intelligent people, many of whom I’m lucky to know in real life. The ones whom I seem to get along with best are writers with the same experience of writing: it’s hard work.
And we all have stories of talking with non-writers, or not-yet-writers, who have stars in their eyes about the magical, romantical power of being an author. Krista Ball tossed up a tweet early this morning and it caught my eye, not least of which because of recent Twitter-fuelled writing advice given by privileged people with bad ideas such as: quit your day job to follow your dream; and find someone wealthy to finance your pre-submission edits (and your whole writing career, if possible). I don’t need to drag this advice, since others with much larger followings have already done a very fine job indeed.
The truth remains: writing is hard work. Plus the addendum: luck plays a huge role in publishing success. Addendum 2: it depends what you consider successful when it comes to publishing.
There. I said it. I even wrote it down for you. Work hard and hope for the best. For those of us who aren’t as privileged by dint of race, connections, social standing, etc., the work hard part is SOP. We do our best because that part’s the only thing within our control. The system isn’t built to lift us up.
“How do you get your book into bookstores?”
Have you written a book?
“No, but I want to make sure I do everything right to get into the bookstore.”
Just assume you aren’t getting into the bookstore.
No, seriously. Assume you won’t get into the bookstore. Next question— Krista D. Ball (@kristadb1) February 7, 2019
I laughed at Krista’s follow-up, too, because…
I once had a bookstore liaison, a young-enough-to-be-my-child person who looked me up and down at one point and used their best fake I-regret-to-inform-you voice: “I’m sorry. I don’t have space right now to carry your books past today’s signing event.”
That’s okay, I said. I almost felt bad for them. They looked so perplexed I wasn’t taking it harder.
But it really was okay. I didn’t want to leave my books at that store—and not because the consignment manager was snotty and insincere. Their attitude is not about me, frankly. But their lack of experience was showing, and for the most part, I prefer to work with people who understand how things work in our industry.
To wit: self-published (and I believe, small press) titles are placed at the discretion of each store’s manager-in-charge-of-such-things. (This was a national chain.) At that particular store, they place such titles upstairs under Local Interest. These two (ok, maybe three?) shelves face the opposite direction of the only point of entry—literally hidden from view if you’re coming up the escalator or exiting the elevator. So no one just browsing will ever make it over there. You have to know to search for it. As well, fiction is mixed in with all sorts of non-fiction like hiking trails and local histories and gardening guides. I don’t recall any of the books placed cover-out, either; too many to cram in on too little shelf space, I would guess.
And I know, from asking at every one of these national chain stores I go to, a similar out-of-the-way placement for self-published titles is par for the course. Though I need to shout out to Stacey K., and any others like her bucking the system, who made a point of showcasing local authors at the front of the stores! It’s definitely not the norm.
So, it doesn’t matter if I get my books placed on a shelf at that particular store (which I have done, in the past). What matters is that my books are listed in their system. Which is why I did book signings at these chain stores. So now, anyone in Canada can find my titles in this chain’s online store or at any of the in-store kiosks and they can put in an order. And I can tell people who ask, that if they don’t happen to be in certain cities (Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver) where local indie booksellers carry actual physical copies of my books, then they can order online via Amazon OR via this national Canadian chain, if that’s their preference.
I figured all of this out and put a plan into action to make it reality.
That’s me putting in the hard work.
Where luck comes in is whenever someone chooses to buy my books. And if (when?) I break out to be an international best-selling author…
So anyhoo, Happy Lunar New Year everyone! It’s the Year of the Earth Pig and I, for one, plan on being my piggy best.