Mark Terry

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Selling Books

October 18, 2006
I had a lengthy post on what I'm reading now, but Blogger spat up a hairball and didn't publish it and it's gone. (I hope it doesn't happen again today. I'm having enough techno problems for one day).

Here's what I'm reading, no comments, too lazy:
What Terrorists Want by Louise Richardson
Death Match by Lincoln Child
Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell
Successful Television Writing by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin

Anyway, on a different topic, I was thinking about all the things I've been doing to promote/market THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK. I sent out flyers to booksellers and libraries, I paid to have the website redone, I've got this blog, my publisher paid to have me on AuthorBuzz (which from Monday's hit counter would suggest it's worth the money), I'm offering a contest, and I'm driving all over town visiting bookstores and signing copies.

I commented on the AuthorBuzz hits to my agent and her response back was, "Hope some of them buy books."

Ah, well, Irene does have a way of nailing things down, doesn't she?

Does any of this stuff actually sell books? I now understand the gentleman who handles the marketing for his wife's books, who commented to me, "I've figured out how to market books, but I haven't figured out how to sell books."

Are they different?

Well, yes and no. Yes, clearly getting your name out there in one way, shape or another will lead to name recognition, which will help sell books. But I don't think there's a direct link. I mean, I'm on a number of author's list who send me postcards and e-mail newsletters and my awareness of them doesn't always, or even most of the time, translate into me going out and buying their books. Far worse, and probably far more important, my awareness of them doesn't even necessarily result in my standing in the aisles of the bookstore, mind blank, looking for a promising read and picking up their books and buying them. Why?

Some just aren't my cup of tea. People sending me postcards for cozies are probably wasting their time. I read some and I enjoy them, but they're not books I search out, generally speaking. I might very well pick up the book at the bookstore just on the basis of their postcard or e-newsletter, but something--some really, REALLY intangible thing--had better catch my attention.

And I don't know what that is. It helps if someone says, "That book's hilarious," or "I really loved that book." A great cover helps, preferably something shiny and bright and potentially lurid. A good title will help. Even an author blurb might help, although I'm increasingly skeptical about those I read. What else?

I don't know. If I get that far I'll read the first line or paragraph. I rarely read a lengthy synopsis of the book, or even the entire synopsis if it's more than a paragraph. Just enough in the first sentence to see if it catches my attention. Is it the character?

I'll tell you what it is sometimes. It's the author's voice. Right there in the first line or two. And if that doesn't work for me then I probably won't buy it.

So many books, you see; and so little time. I was in 5 bookstores yesterday and while I was there it occurred to me that--wait for it...

There are a hell of a lot of books here.

In fact, if the publishing industry were to fold today, I could buy a book a week from Borders or Barnes & Noble or even much smaller stores, and not make it through the books in one of those stores in my lifetime. Probably not even close. Sometimes it seems to me that we should all just stop publishing books now in order to save some trees.

Ah, but an infinity of stories? What a great thing. What other proof can there be of a God except an infinity of stories?

But how do I get people to buy mine? Hmmm?

Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

You're right about being able to judge a book's suitability from the first few lines. It's kind of weird, but I can tell immediately whether the book might, potentially, interest me or whether I just won't get along with the author, period.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

It is a little weird, but I don't assume I'm the only one who picks books that way (I think editors and agents do, as well). It's also not like there's a shortage of things to read and we can't be fairly choosy.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Ron Estrada said...

As soon as I return it to the Oxford Library, you can check out their copy of Making of a Bestseller. It's one of those things you skim through. Thoughts from editors, agents, and authors on marketing and such. It's always the same punchline, though: write a damn good book and hope people talk about it.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Uh, Ron... shouldn't you have bought that book? :)

10:01 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Well, I found JA Konrath through and artical he wrote in Writer's Digest. I've read all three of his books and wait anxiously for the next. I found you on his blog. And I've seen your posts on Gregory..whats the middle name...Browne and found what you had to say here and there intereting. Today I ordered your book from the local B & N. So I think your Blog and the network it creates is part of your marketing process. But I'm a writer so I seek out what other more successful writers have to say. Hopefully when I'm finally published I'll know a thing or two about the process that i learned from you guys.
Thanks Mark!

12:07 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hope you enjoy Pitchfork & thanks for stopping by.


12:55 PM  
Blogger Angie said...


I actually found you through AuthorBuzz and you're practically in my back yard! That said, yes, people do actually buy books by being seen through AuthorBuzz. :) At least one person. Suzanne's great at getting the word out, I'm sure this will be a big help for you!

Keep it up!

5:58 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hi Angie,
My PR guy, Brian, will be thrilled to know that AuthorBuzz works. I've been keeping him updated on my website hits as a result. And thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy The Devil's Pitchfork.


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