Groan. (Sound of muttering to myself). Another groan. Is there anyone who loves the business side of writing? Certainly it isn’t me, despite the fact that I may be the only person in the publishing world who loves my promotion team. They have done an amazing job. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have no team at all, although I know plenty of people who do it.
It’s not that I’m lazy. Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty zippy. But the things you have to do on the business side of writing are so detail-oriented. (Note the use of lofty language here. What I really mean is, it’s nit-picky, exasperating, mind-numbing and frustrating).
Even worse, the business side of writing is full of unknowns. Some examples of what seems to be the unknowable:
1) How many books have you sold? How many were printed?
2) What works best for promotion—book tour? Facebook? Goodreads? Twitter? Other social media? Some combination?
3) Does getting blurbs for your book from well-known authors really do anything to sell your book?
4) How much does a good title do for your book? A good cover?
5) Does it matter what time of year your book comes out?
6) What format is best—epub, hard cover, trade paper, mass market paper, audio?
7) Do blog tours bring in readers? How about physical bookstore tours?
8) How does an author go about getting that elusive element called “buzz?”
9) Short of a $10,000 ad in the New York Times, is print advertising dead?
10) Do giveaways sell books? Handouts? Post cards? Bookmarks? Contests? Standing on street corners singing about your book?
Anyone who thinks that last idea is preposterous hasn’t faced the reality of the “business” of selling books. The author spends copious amounts of time doing work other than writing—work that no one can say is actually useful for selling the books.
For any “normal” product, the business of writing and selling books would seem ridiculous. Can you imagine a company continuing to manufacture widgets if no one knew how many they had sold, what kind of advertising worked, who bought the product and how they used them? Whether a buyer used them and passed them on to others? Whether they took them to a used widget store to resell? Whether they borrowed them from a widget-lending place?
We writers of books are a strange clan. The bottom line (note the business terminology) is that the writing of books and seeing them in print, or hearing them on audio or reading them to people--having people appreciate them however they manage to get their hands on them--is why put up with the strange and frustrating “business” end of our endeavors.