Wednesday, July 26, 2006

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

I wanted a cookie when I got up this morning but I settled for a rice cake with peanut butter on it. Let me tell you, not the same. At all. Healthier, but not the same.

We had a man walk on the moon! Is it so hard then to make a rice cake taste like a cookie?


Speaking of things that are different (but perhaps just as sweet), let’s continue our conversation about Chick-Lit while bringing in all the other examples of sub-genres that y’all feel are getting too big for their collective britches and shelf space (paranormal romance, urban fantasy, historical romance, erotic romance—poor romance!—etc). Susan Adrian had this to say about yesterday’s aforementioned glut: “I think it will turn out just fine in the end, though--like chick lit, the cream will rise to the top, and readers will still be interested in the good writers even if the genre bandwagon fails.”

An idea that I totally agree with except for the sad, but true, fact that there are some really great books out there that just don’t catch the eye of the public. How do you prove you are not like all the pink confectioned goodies out there but something new and interesting? How do you get someone to pay attention when they’ve been blinded by all those who come before?

You could have written an amazing (fill in the blank sub-genre) novel, but if the critics are just tired of reading them, if the public is just tired of the same derivative covers, if the marketing department just wasn’t on the ball, and if a bookseller didn’t read it on their off time and realize that this is obviously the hand-sell of the century, then your book could still sink away into oblivion. These days books have about six weeks to prove their worth before they’re yanked off the shelves, factor in some delayed reviews (or a lay-down date that got moved up), a slow to start word of mouth chain, and lack of up-front store time and your book could be off the shelves before anyone has realized it was there.

I could be even more depressing, but my rice cake was the cinnamon-sugar variety and I have no desire to bring about someone’s suicidal tendencies. I’m just trying to be a realist. On her blog, HelenKay asked her readers to talk about their likes and dislikes when it comes to online ads and excerpts, as well as author created doo-dads and book marks. The responses were many and varied with most people saying that they never clicked on online ads, preferred to follow reader generated feedback, and that they really liked excerpts.

Does this mean that online ads are worthless? No, setting aside the response from the small sample size, some of their comments were telling in that they said they took notice of the ads. Chances are you aren’t going to get people to click the ads themselves, but they will act as a place holder in a person’s memory. When the book is mentioned again (whether on a reader blog or in print or just seen in another ad) it will reinforce the placement. And then when they see the book in the bookstore maybe they’ll pick it up (I seem to remember three being the magic number in advertising).

What about the reader generated sales? How does one create that? Good question. I’ve seen book giveaways with the caveat that you’ll review the novel you win. I’ve seen reviewers who review rewarded with more books. I’ve seen authors who go out and search for any and all reviews to create their own review database.

But don’t you have to have some sort of buzz to get someone to be interested in the book to begin with? And what about those doo-dads that I spent so long designing? When do I give those away?

Thoughts, anyone? I suddenly realize that I need to leave for work. Look forward to reading what you come up with to finish this.


Kathleen Dante said...

>(I seem to remember three being the magic number in advertising).

I've heard seven and twenty. The answer might fall somewhere in between. But an author, particularly a debut author, has to do something to get and build name recall.

Regarding promo giveaways, the advice I've received is 1 to 2 months before publication date. I suspect that's to allow build up of name recall.

Susan Adrian said...

[the sad, but true, fact that there are some really great books out there that just don’t catch the eye of the public.]

I thought of this when I made my comment (having been a bookstore manager myself), but decided to blithely ignore it in favor of wishful thinking. I'm not ready to drive myself crazy quite yet...

Anonymous said...

Six weeks.... Wow. I'm grateful to know the reality though. The promotional push has to be early and strong, then. Put all the cards on the table. There's no time to ease into it.

Radthorne said...

One can manufacture hype, but you can't manufacture buzz. (It we could, all of our books would be best sellers) :o) There is no sure-fire way to make buzz happen, other than trying to do all the things that reach as many people as possible and cross your fingers that you either A) hit that one golden person who manages to start the train rolling, via having the right connections, or B) hit so many people that through sheer weight of numbers you manage to get at least somebody saying to somebody else, "Hey, have you tried this Radthorne guy's book? Is it any good?" ("Yes!" you yell at the top of your lungs. No wait, that part probably doesn't work quite so well...) I've run the gamut: bookmarks; keychains (those actually work quite well, with cover images on them - cheap, but high perceived value); book signings; multi-author panels in bookstores; genre conventions; website (with complete first chapter of the first book in the series, in PDF format; this has also resulted in eventual sales); postcards; reviews (hard to get unless you're with a major house); my own forum at a major genre-specific message board (SFFWorld). I haven't tried baking cookies, but I've heard that works well too (better than rice cakes, I imagine...). While I've had good feedback on the books from readers, and some nice reviews, "buzz" has not happened. But all one can do is just keep at it!