Thursday, February 26, 2009

Happy Accidents

I’ve spent the last week or so immersing myself in some of the wonderful books that were recognized by the Newbery Committee this year, notably The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, and it occurred to me that as a marketing or promotional coup, pretty much nothing beats the Newbery. There are few things that can do more for your sales numbers than that.

And yet, there is not a single thing the publisher or author can do to arrange that any given book of theirs wins that coveted prize. Which then led me to a fascinating marketing fact: all the really amazing promotional opportunities happen by accident. Seriously. Every single big-bang, promotional bonanza is something completely out of the publisher or author’s control.

The truth is, I’ve spent money on advertising and sent press releases and done all sorts of things—all with minimal affect on my book sales. The things that have most affected my sales have been completely out of my hands. Or even my publisher's hands, if truth be told. Being selected for state reading awards, being featured on television shows, all these happy accidents were because someone—usually an independent bookseller or librarian—has loved one of my books enough to become it’s advocate.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we give up on doing anything for our books; you never know which of the things you did attracted the attention of that person who ultimately played advocate for your book, but it does help to keep a sense of perspective in what you’re doing: you’re seeding the ground, you’re getting the word out about your book to as many readers as possible, never knowing which faceless soul will nominate it for an award or bring it to the attention of a talk show producer or tells their father it’s their favorite book ever and could he please make a movie of it.

It’s also why we talk so much here about writing the most amazing book you can. That single thing wins over more advocates for your book than just about anything else.

Here’s wishing you many happy accidents in your writing career!


Yat-Yee said...

Yet another reminder that the attitude of letting go is one to adopt.

Dharma Kelleher said...

Another factor is consistency, according to Seth Godin.

With few exceptions, most non-celebrity authors achieve recognition after consistent quality efforts (both in the writing and the marketing efforts).

Mary Hershey said...

Great post! Yeah... writing the BEST book you can. And, do everything you can to enhance your skills. Lord, I don't think we can hear that often enough as writers.

Thanks for the reminder, Robin!

Anonymous said...

Another wonderful post I just had to link to.

--liquidambar, aka writerjenn

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

You took the words right out of my head! Amazing! ;-D