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Thursday, October 9, 2008

One Book at a Time

My friend Angie Fox told me that she read this startling statistic in USA Today: 85% of all Americans want to write a book.

Wow. That's...that's just an enormous number.

I've been thinking a lot about how to make this blog special. As many of you know, I also blog over at with six other writers of craft cozies. That's a pretty free-wheeling blog, although we often write about our crafts.

And I contribute to the InkSpot, which is a blog written by a group of Midnight Ink Authors.

So...what can I do here that will be unique?

I think I'll chronicle the day-to-day work of a debut author. If you really want to write a book, you need to know that your work doesn't stop when you sign a contract. Contrary to popular belief, your work really BEGINS with the contract. You see, the contract only marks the end of a phase. That phase is the publisher's acceptance of your book.

What really matters--in my humble opinion--is the public's acceptance and interest in your book. Because unless you get the word out, and unless people start buying your book, your career is over, fini, done, stick-a-fork in it and take it out of the oven.

With that in mind, what have I been doing since my book Paper, Scissors, Death was released in September? Well, I've been trying to hand-sell (that is sell by personally suggesting) my book to as many people as possible. That might seem pretty hopeless. After all, that's pushing these puppies into the market one book at a time.

But I recall a moment sitting in a bar in Florida with Robert Crais. (Yes, he really is that dreamy looking.) A group of us mystery writers and author wannabes (myself included at that point) were sitting with him and talking about sales. He pointed out that in the early days of your first book, because print runs are generally small, your efforts can have great impact. For example, if your print run is 5,000 and you get out there and hustle so that your efforts cause you to sell 500 books, you've sold 10% of that run BY YOUR OWN EFFORT.

Crais went on to say that as you move up the food chain (I call it the food chain, he didn't), the print runs get bigger. So your individual efforts don't matter so much.

Right now I have this small, golden window of opportunity. If I hustle, I can make a difference in sales. So far, here's what I know I've accomplished:

* sold 400 copies to Archivers and now they've placed a chain wide order. With 45 stores, and assuming they buy at least a box each, that's 1620 books. Add the initial 400 and that's 2020 books.

* working with Barnes & Noble. Got Paper, Scissors, Death modeled here in St. Louis. That means the local stores will stock at least two copies. Next up, I want to sign at as many B & N stores as possible. My goal is to sell a box of books per store. I figure there are four, maybe five stores in the area. That would be 180 books, and if I can have an impact on regional sales, I think they might model the book chain-wide.

* sold books at Borders event. I handsold 28 copies. That's actually better than it looks because when you move that many books in an evening, you prove to the booksellers that your book has legs.

* sold books at Left Bank Books. I figure we sold 18 copies or more. Again, the value is in introducing the book to the booksellers.

* sold books at The Mystery Company in Indianapolis. See above. Curiously, the number seems to hold steady. Since the average number of books sold at a signing is 4--and no, I don't know where that number came from or how true it is--I'm doing better than average. I know the booksellers have been pleased.

* sold books at Main Street Books in St. Charles. See above. About the same number sold.

* I've been going from independent scrapbook store to independent scrapbook store, and I have events upcoming on their schedules. This is the wild card. A box of books here and there can really add up.

* I have a full calendar of conferences, etc., to attend such as The Big Read in Clayton MO this weekend, the Kingsport TN News Women's Expo next weekend, The Manhattan Mystery Conclave the weekend after. My goal is to always have more than one "event" per location. Otherwise, I might be wasting my time driving.

What I really miss in all this, besides the sleep!, is the time to write. Writing is my escape and my sanity. I did some work on Book #3 yesterday while at the hair salon. Bless my stylist's heart, he was kind enough to work around the computer! When I finally had to close the file, a felt a tug at my heart.

I miss writing. I really do.


Nicole Humphrey said...

Joanna, I so wanted to come see you in Clayton this weekend, but alas I am forced to actually attend another event (it will be fun!) so I think I am going to have to wait until your Kathryn Linneman signing since its actually closer to my house. I cannot BELIEVE I missed McClay last night - we went to the library last night - it was uhm... Spencer (but I forgot last night was your signing so I'm SO sorry!).

Anyway, guess we have a date on November 13 :) That'll be when I see you next with 5 kids in tow.

And yeah I fall in those 85%. I swear someday. Articles get annoying and time consuming when all I'd rather do is let my protagonist come to life!

Take care!

Vickie Sheridan said...

Just finished your book and since it's midnight I guess you can say I couldn't put it down all day!!! It was great. I was hoping Kiki would get a backbone and she really came through. I'll be checking back to see what events you will be at....if the above post is correct.....The Linnemann library in St. Charles I will also see you there. I live very close.

I have had your scrapbooking books for many years and have learned a lot from them. Looking forward now to your mystery books, please keep them coming!