It has happened. I released my debut novel, Preppy Little Liars, as a trade paperback last Friday and as an ebook this past Thursday. So far, I’ve had a whopping three sales, none of which counts because they were from friends and family. The thing that I was dreading upon releasing this novel has become true: no one cares. I am officially in that increasing number of self-pubbed authors who can’t find an audience for their work. And for those of you (well, at least one of the three of you who’s actually visited my website—get off the computer, family) who tries to tell me, “But Amber—your book just came out last week. Give it time. You’ll get the book out there,” to that I say, “Bah!” Trying to comfort a fiction writer with logic and reason is futile.
We live in a constant state of fear. Fear that our writing’s not good enough; fear that we’ve wasted precious time doing something that no one else will “get;” fear that we’ll never obtain the fanbase necessary to convince a publishing company to take a chance on us and our work. And the fear and self-doubt are now going into overdrive for me.
I didn’t have unrealistic expectations for this book. I thought it would come out, maybe get a few sales from some people who expressed early interest, and then hopefully start building word-of-mouth sales. I’m aware I don’t write in a genre that’s popular. One of my three readers may say, “But you write YA! That’s very popular.” True. But that’s more of a target audience than a genre. The big selling genres, what’s hot and flying off the physical and virtual shelves these days in YA fiction are dystopian novels, or paranormal romances, or fantasy and sci-fi adventures—I write mysteries. And not the kind that involve the supernatural (although I have a fun idea for one of those in the future)—those sell. I write real teens in real settings with a bit of heightened reality, but at the end of the day, these stories are humorous, old school cozy mysteries. Preppy Little Liars is what would happen if Agatha Christie and Josh Schwartz had had a baby.
You know, if she wasn’t dead and all.
So I worried about that when I was writing and even after the thing had been edited and put to bed. Gone are the days of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. YA has changed.
Nothing has made that more clear to me then the day I logged into my CreateSpace and KDP accounts and saw the three sales I made. My heart sunk. At least ten people had assured me before I even started marketing this book that they would get it—they didn’t. Even the people who said they wanted to read it after it came out haven’t read it (and if Goodreads is any indication, I can’t even give it away seeing as though my 10 chapter ebook on that site has had a staggering zero downloads so far).
That little nagging voice, the one all writers have that spring up at the most frustrating times, started whispering into my ear: This book is a flop. You should have known. It won’t sell any more copies—this is it for you. Pack it up and go on home. You couldn’t even sell Girl Scout cookies as a kid or get your own job—what made you think you could sell a book, idiot?!
Then I started thinking that the voice was right. Maybe I should have written something else. Maybe I shouldn’t have written anything at all. Maybe if I’d put Meg on the cover of PLL in a flowing white dress with cascading, wavy hair and stood her on top of a mountain with a sword and crossbow in hand, people would have bought the book. Or maybe if I had given her some kind of supernatural love interest, like a vampire—no wait, vamps are out again – demons are in. Yes, I should have given her a demon lover! Or a zombie! Zombies are HUGE!—maybe then my book would be moving. That got me to thinking of other ways I could try and get sales.
- Appeal to people’s patriotism. Yeah, maybe my tagline on all of my forum posts should be, “If you don’t buy my book, you don’t love America.” Three readers, you’re probably saying to yourselves, “What does buying a book have to do with loving America?” Well, I’ll tell you. My name’s Amber. My name is in America, The Beautiful. Therefore, if you don’t buy my book, you clearly don’t think America is beautiful. You might as well be a socialist! (With this kind of logic, I should have been a politician.)
- Play to the public’s vanity. This is a good one. I know I can be suckered into buying things when people flatter me with high praise or tell me the product being sold will make me the envy of all around me (but that might not work for those who don’t suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder so I may need to rethink this one…). Anyway, here was my strategy: I figured, Preppy Little Liars has a pretty cover. I could then tell people, “Buy this book. If you do, you too will be pretty.” Because you see, having attractive things makes one attractive by proxy. And who doesn’t want to be attractive? With Pantene style hair? (Even guys want Pantene hair, I’m sure of it.) And the buyers of this book would be cool, I’d point out, because they’d be the first to have this hot new book that would make them instantly attractive with gorgeous, salon-style hair for a fraction of the price and everyone wants to be ahead of the pop culture curve.
- Spam the hell out of everybody. I don’t have many Twitter followers and I can’t say I’m a big fan of the site. (I’ve joined and quit so many times over the years, it’s hard to keep track of the handles I’ve used.) I’m very rarely on it. And when I am, I try to retweet the messages people ask us to retweet, though the same courtesy is never extended to me, and just generally get into the spirit of the site. It doesn’t work. Again, I just don’t have enough followers who give a shit.
But I do have a long list of people in my address book, a fact I was recently made aware of after someone hacked into my Yahoo account and spammed me and everyone who’s ever sent a message to me, or me to them—that certainly got my attention. So why not write up some book copy and spam everyone with the information? Sure, some people might delete the message, or block me, or slap me with a restraining order, but surely a few people might be interested in buying the book, right? Aggressive marketing never hurt PT Barnum.
No, at the end of the day, none of these options would work. Despite some people’s beliefs, the book buying public isn’t stupid. They’d see right through these little desperate ploys and my book would remain right where it is: at the bottom of the (metaphorical) barrel. So what have I resigned to do, you ask?
Nothing. I went hard this last month trying to get the word out about this book, trying to get people excited, passionate, about my story. It didn’t work. So I’m done promoting and exhausting myself over something that just might not ever click with the public. I’m going to get me a margarita (or four), some chocolate, some laugh-out-loud comedies, and sit back, relax, and get on with my life.
And I’m not going to hit “refresh” on my browser again. Nuh-uh….okay, maybe just one more time.
edited to add: the follow this blog widget I added to the site claims I have 34 followers. What? Where? Lies, I tell you!