Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crap shoot

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Skating On The Edge launches a week from today.  EEK!  A book launch brings with it lots of excitement and nail biting.  Before I started writing, I thought book tours sounded so glamorous.  The idea of people standing in line for hours waiting to get a book signed by an author was pretty cool.  Of course, that is before I got to know the business a bit better and learned that those lines are the exception to the rule.  More often than not, an author on tour hopes he or she won’t be sitting alone in the bookstore when the signing starts.  You hope someone – anyone – will come, talk to you and hopefully buy a copy of your book.  If not – well, that’s the way it goes sometimes.  Even for the big names.  Some days the line is around the block.  Other days there are crickets.

The same can be said for blog tours.  You write posts and hope that people who have no idea who you are read them.  Sometimes they do.  Other times it’s just your mother and other members of your family who click on the link and comment on what you say.

I admit that when I was just a reader, I never even considered how difficult it was for a book to make it into the hands of a reader.  I assumed a book was written, bought, edited and then every store in the country carried it.

Yeah—I was silly back then.

Getting a bookseller to carry your book even if it is published by a big publisher is a trick.  Some bookstores or chains don’t like carrying books by authors who don’t have a strong sales history with them.  Well, if you are a debut, or in my case a sophomore, author you haven’t had a lot of time to develop a sales history.  They only have so much shelf space.  They want it dedicated to books that will sell.  If you don’t have a sales history or you don’t live in the region – they don’t trust it will sell.

Tricky, right? 

So paying a visit to the stores, meeting the booksellers and letting them know you are more than a name on a page is important.  Since you can’t do this for every story in the country you have to pick your battles and know that most of the battles will never be fought.  You can only hope that a reader who wants your book will go into those unknown stores, ask for your book and order it thereby getting your name in front of the person who places the orders for stock.  Maybe they’ll decide to look your book up, think it sounds like something their other readers might like and order a few extra copies. 

Or not.

E-books are just as tricky.  There are price adjustments, free days, the hope that some miracle of marketing will help the book land on a list that will attract new readers since there isn’t a physical shelf to browse.

Face it—it’s all a crap shoot.  Physical touring, blog tours, advertising, tweeting, Facebook posts and everything else done to promote books are all crap shoots.  Some might work some of the time.  Others might not work at all.  And no one can tell you when and where those things will work for you.  Fun right?

That’s what’s nice about this blog where I can ask you—what works for you?  How do you find new books to read?  Do you pay attention to Amazon’s suggestions?  Do you take recommendations off of Twitter, this blog and Facebook posts?  Do you go into bookstores and look for the cover that attracts your eye?  What works for you?  I’m dying to know


  1. From under my writer hat, Joelle, I can only say, "Oh, yeah!"

    From my perspective as a reader, I don't pay attention to the emails Amazon sends me, but if I'm on Amazon, checking out another book, I do pay attention to the "If you liked X, you might like Y" a little bit. I do love to browse in bookstores, and the cover can catch my eye. If I like what the jacket says and the blurbs are by writers I respect, I will open and read the first page or so to see if I want it.

    But what sells me on books most is a recommendation from a friend or on a blog I like to follow or on Facebook or Twitter. The old standby word-of-mouth.

    Book tour events are another way I find books, but I go to so many for people I know that I'm usually reluctant to head to one for someone I don't. If something in the subject or publicity really piques my interest or someone I don't know is with someone I do, I'll find a new writer.

    I always try to get the books of authors I meet at conferences and really like. That's how I was introduced to your books, Joelle, and Katherine Hall Page's and Maggie's. It truly is a catch-as-catch-can business. Here's hoping SKATING ON THE EDGE catches big time, as it should!

  2. I read reviews, I like to follow specific blogs that seem to enjoy books similar to my taste, and sadly a nice cover can draw my attention to the book (I won't buy just for the cover, but if it has a nice cover, I will read the back and see if I want to read it!)

  3. I seldom go into bookstores anymore. I do buy books from my friends. I read a lot of books to review thanks to Simon and Schuster--but I'm finding I enjoy books from small presses just as much and sometimes more.

  4. I use the website www.stopyourekillingme.com and also look at the other books reccommended on Amazon underneath a book that I like. I also skim the shelves at my bookstores and read blogs like this one. Loved your book and wish that the others were a little easier to find in this series!

  5. Ye old worde of mouth it pretty much trumps everything else, doesn't it? I also pay attention to Amazon's "people who bought x, also bought y", cover art, and price. Although, now I can see that I will also have to also check out stopyourkillingme.com. Good luck on the release!

  6. I'm a sucker for a good cover. If it strikes my fancy, I'll read the back of the book. If I'm hooked by the marketing copy, I'll read the first two pages. If I like the voice and writing style, it reels me in and I buy it.

  7. Joelle,
    I do read your books and am looking forward to the new one. I usually pick new authors by the book's title and/or cover of my favorite genres. I know you can't tell a book by it's cover; however, I've found some terrific books that way. Also, I pay attention to Good Reads and I read Lori's Book Sense here on the Stiletto Gang.
    If a book looks interesting, I read the flyleaf and then decide whether or not to read the book.
    I'll be sure to come to your book signing whenever you come close to me.

  8. Margaret- I have just marked stopyourkillingme.com as a must read site! And yeah - because I'm not a huge name and the books are hardcover, it can be hard to find them. But stores can order them. AND good news is that SKATING AROUND THE LAW will finally be out in paperback in October from Harlequin World Wide Mysteries. SKATING OVER THE LINE will come out in May.

  9. Pam - Hopefully I'll swing your way at some point. If not with this book, then with the next! Let me know what stores are close to you and I'll try to see if I can arrange to be there so we can say HI!

    And so far it looks like covers still take the cake, although the recommendations are a close second.

  10. Joelle,
    I checked your appearance schedule and 3 October you will be in Cleveland, which is only 2 hours from me. I will be at the East Cleveland Library, awaiting your autograph.

  11. OMG! Pam, I can't wait!!!! It will be wonderful to see you there.

  12. Boy this won't make your job as a writer easier but my honest answer is that it all depends. Mostly I go to the library and I browse the shelves of the new arrivals first. Sometimes a cover will make me pick a book up, sometimes a title, then I will read the blurb about the book to see if it interests me. Of course if I know an author and like their work I more inclined to try another in a series or a new series by them. I take recommendations from friends and family, but I don't usually read reviews on Amazon for books (I do for products thought, go figure!). I write reviews, especially when I like a book or an author because I want to help in any way I can. I request books from the library and at bookstores in the hopes that it will let the publisher know that I want to see more of this author, type of book, etc. . .

    I don't know if that helps, but it is my honest answer of what I do. I read several books a week, so I consider myself an avid reader.

  13. I just checked your appearances section on your website and I see you are scheduled to be in NYC on Oct. 15th. Assuming things are okay with my health and I can find someone to stay with my elderly mom, I will take the train in from Long Island to come meet you and buy your book! I hope to see you there!